Posted by Jim R 07-31-06

Mark, Tom, and I flew out from Baltimore on July 26, and spent the night at the portal campground after having a fine meal at the Pizza Factory. We hit the trail on 27 July. After reaching Lone Pine Lake and taking a short break, we debated heading up Thor's SE chute. However, at about 1230, we heard the thunder and saw the clouds move over the crest, so we canceled the Thor plans. By the time we got to Mirror Lake, we decided to put up our emergency tarp and wait the storm out. Folks coming down from Trail Camp reported "nasty" conditions up high, with lightning, thunder, rain, and hail. After things cleared out, we headed up to Trail Camp. Spent a comfortable night, got up Friday, and headed up the switch backs after a quick breakfast. Beyond Trail Crest, we could already see the clouds building up. By the time we got to Day Needle, Tom and I agreed that we were too tired to get up and back before the storm hit. Mark continued up while we headed back down. Got to the cables, and the hail began. We made it to Trail Camp, in light rain and hail, and waited for Mark. He arrived about 15 minutes after us, and as soon as he got there, the hail really let loose. After getting pounded for about 1/2 hour, it let up and we packed up and headed for Outpost Camp (what kind of pine trees are those at Outpost Camp? The ones with the red bark?). Spent a nice night there, got up early Saturday, and headed down to the portal for the traditional burger and fries. Although Tom and I did not summit, it was still a wonderful trip (as always), and we're already making plans for next year.

Some observations:
1) Did not take tents this year -- slept quite comfortably with a 32o bag, 3/4 length thermolite pad, and garbage bag ground cloth.
2) Surprising how many folks lost the trail at Outpost Camp. Two parties consulted maps, two asked me which way the trail went, and a few more wandered thru Outpost before getting their bearings straight
3) One guy told us he got shocked on the back side Thursday afternoon. Said his poles started to hum, and he dropped them but still received a shock comparable to house current. We also heard of two young women who were knocked off their feet in Friday's storms. Probably worth thinking about in light of some recent threads about hiking into storms. I won't do it, that's for sure.
4) 97th switchback was snow-covered and tricky for some. One guy pulled out an ice ax, jumped off the switchback onto the snow slope....and slid about 3 feet. Much too soft for a glissade.
5) Mild surprise Friday night -- it actually rained a little at Outpost Camp. Just slid my bag under a tree and everything was fine. Only lasted about 15 minutes or so.
6) Saw one family of 6 going up -- Dad and big brother carrying the bulk of the load (Dad's pack was 73 pounds!). Mom, the approximately 18 month old baby, little brother, and little sister were following. Plan was for baby to stay at Trail Camp with Dad while the others summited. Seemed like really nice folks. Hope they made it all right.
7) Lots of external-frame packs in use. Dick Kelty lives!
8) Strange sight -- 3 guys come up the main trail Saturday morning with day packs and ice axes. Came back down about 2 hours later. No idea what they were planning to do.
9) Amazing how many folks I saw above Trail Crest, going into the storm clouds, with only cotton T-shirts, Levi's, and one bottle of water. Hope they all made it safely
10) Didn't get a chance to chat with Doug ?, because while we were at the portal, he was in the middle of making about 15 burgers.
11) Got the chance to meet Dr. Ken Murray at the trailhead. He was doing the research survey he described in an earlier thread. What a great guy! Looking forward to the results getting posted in the near future. Maybe I'll get a better understanding of why I didn't make it this year (OK, I know why -- I didn't train hard enough, or acclimatize enough, and there's one other factor Ken and I discussed, which I'm working on...). Anyway, it's nice to have an MD on the board to help understand some of the medical issues that we hikers and climbers regularly face.
12) Saw several of board contributor Dennis Mattison's photos on sale at the Portal Store. Nice work, Dennis!
13) My digital camera failed. Took about 100 pics, and they're all terribly washed out. If any of you are experts, let me know, I'll email you one or two, and maybe you can tell me what happened.

Posted by Trailslug, 07-31-06
Well it sounds like it was a good trip for you. To bad about not getting to the top, but you did the right thing in turning back. Better safe than you said there is always next year. Enjoy

Posted by markjwpcp, 07-31-06
I will agree on #7 I saw more external-frame packs this year than in past years...mark

Posted by Bob R, 07-31-06
What I see a lot of this year, and rarely before this year, is people with little things in their ears. They seem to be staring into space, not at the scenery. And when I say "Hi," they seem not to hear.

Also, the hikers are getting younger with each passing year.

Posted by Bob K., 07-31-06
Jim, Thanks for the trip report. Re: "4) 97th switchback was snow-covered and tricky for some. One guy pulled out an ice ax, jumped off the switchback onto the snow slope....and slid about 3 feet. Much too soft for a glissade."

When I came to that point just before 8am on friday, I noticed that the group in front of us decided to go above the snow in the dirt and rock. I tested the footing of the path cut in the snow and it gave way. So I went above the snow to the left too. My concern was that I could slip onto the snow slope and slide and slide and crash. From your comment "Much too soft for a glissade" it sounds like there wasn't any danger? Bob

Posted by Jim R, 07-31-06
Hey Bob - can you post a link to your paper on the Ultralight Backpack? I weighed mine at the trailhead - 33 lbs!!!! I have no idea how it could have weighed so much. It felt light until I put the bear canister in...I need to shave a lot more weight (the fact that my pack is 5.3 lbs empty doesn't help either)

Posted by Jim R, 07-31-06
Bob K - I won't say "no danger," but the guy tried several times to glissade, and simply could not go anywhere. He finally walked down the snow slope using his axe for a self-belay. I guess that early in the morning or later in the evening it could very well be dangerous. The block in the middle of the snowy area was certainly icy when we came thru. Lots of folks had problems there.

Posted by dlhelming, 07-31-06
Jim R,
I am doing a 3 day hike on Whitney Aug. 23-25th. I loaded everything I will be taking from the portal in my pack and have a weight of 25.5 lb. That is with a BearVault cannister, 2-liters of water and food. My pack and shelter are from Gossamer Gear.

They have some great info on ultralight backpacking.

Posted by Bob R, 07-31-06
Jim R, is this what you are looking for? The Ultralight Pack.

I update this list as new and lighter gear becomes available. Currently at 9.3 lb including food, for a weekend, there is not much potential for additional weight saving.

Realistically, I usually do take a stove/pot/fuel, and if a bear canister is required, that adds more. Still, split among two or three people, I can usually stay at or under 12 lb.

Posted by Jim R, 08-01-06
Thanks, Bob. That's exactly what I'm looking for. I guess starting with an empty pack weight of 5.3 lbs, I'll never get down under 10 for a weekend! Maybe it's time to retire the Palisade.