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Jul 29th, 2019
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Sea to Summit (and back), sunrise to sunset
#57171 06/06/20 07:38 PM
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With all the red tape involved in obtaining overnight wilderness permits and the restrictions on campgrounds and hotels, I'm setting out to prove that you can have a great adventure without having to deal with all that. To up the challenge, I'm going to take the "day hike" term to an entirely different level by attempting to do the whole thing (both the drive and the hike) in one day, during daylight hours only.

The goal is to see the sunrise and sunset at the beach while spending the middle of the day at the top of a 14er. (I suppose the motto would be "surf at sunrise, summit at midday, surf at sunset", but I can barely surf). Obviously, the more difficult ones like the Palisades or even the "easier" ones like Split Mountain wouldn't be good candidates, so that pretty much leaves White Mountain and Langley. The closest beach to those mountains is Santa Monica, so I'm going to make that as my starting point.

It seems like every minute would count. Doing this earlier in the year around the solstice would maximize daylight hours, but doing it later in the year would mean better and faster trail conditions. In a lighter snow year like this year, I think the sweet spot would be in early July. Acclimation would be done by going on some easier hikes above 10,000' the week before, but I don't know whether that's enough if you're not sleeping at altitude. Hopefully, I'd be off the mountain before the AMS hits.

As far as the driving goes, the idea would be to minimize traffic and drive as fast as possible without risking a ticket or putting other drivers in danger. Doing the drive on Sunday and setting the cruise control to 75 would probably do the trick. My car can make it up to the Langley TH and back on one tank of gas, but doing White Mountain would require a short gas stop. Another concern with White Mountain would be the condition of that dirt road going to the locked gate - I drove a 4WD Ford Explorer from Patriarch Grove to Schulman Grove in half an hour last year, but driving that fast in almost any other year would pretty much have guaranteed shredded tires and possibly a tow-away.

Anyway, here's my draft plan for Langley on July 5:
5:48 AM - Sunrise, dip toes in ocean
5:50 AM - Santa Monica parking lot
8:50 AM - Lubken Canyon Road / Hwy 395 junction (205 miles from Santa Monica)
9:20 AM - Horseshoe meadows trailhead (20 miles from the 395)
1:30 PM - Summit Langley, most likely via New Army Pass - I'd rather deal with more miles than deal with the snow.
4:35 PM - Back to TH (7 hour hike/run time, plus 15 minutes for breaks)
5:05 PM - Lubken Canyon Road / 395 junction
8:05 PM - Back at Santa Monica parking lot
8:07 PM - Sunset, dip toes in ocean. Mission accomplished!

Alternate plan for White Mountain on July 5:
5:48 AM - Sunrise, dip toes in ocean
5:50 AM - Santa Monica parking lot
10:20 AM - Schulman Grove (275 miles from Santa Monica)
11:10 AM - Locked gate
1:20 PM - Summit White Mountain
2:50 PM - Back to locked gate (3.5 hour hike/run time, plus 10 minutes for breaks)
3:35 PM - Back to Schulman Grove
8:05 PM - Back at Santa Monica parking lot
8:07 PM - Sunset, dip toes in ocean. Mission accomplished!

Do either of those schedules even seem remotely realistic, and does anyone know whether something like this has ever been done or been attempted before? The FKT for the Whitney Main Trail is around 3.5 hours, so it seems doable on paper by a fit but non-elite athlete. As a reference, I've run 1500 meters (0.932 miles) in 4:45 earlier this year, and the winning time for that distance was 3:50 in the 2016 Olympics.

Re: Sea to Summit (and back), sunrise to sunset
Big Pine #57173 06/06/20 10:20 PM
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Big Pine, those round-trip hike times seem really ambitious, but you know your abilities.

And then traffic in SoCal can get really snarly, and that could put a big crimp in your time. Only maybe this year, with so many not working or working from home, maybe traffic isn't so bad.

That makes the Highest to Lowest I did with Bob Rockwell and his friends a few years ago seem pretty genteel. Rockwell planned it as a commemoration of Norman Clyde's trip 80 years before -- we started from the summit of Whitney (watched the sunrise after sleeping there), hiked down, and drove to Badwater. Took pictures, and then went back to Furnace Creek and had a great dinner in the restaurant.

Re: Sea to Summit (and back), sunrise to sunset
Steve C #57175 06/07/20 12:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Steve C
Big Pine, those round-trip hike times seem really ambitious, but you know your abilities.

And then traffic in SoCal can get really snarly, and that could put a big crimp in your time. Only maybe this year, with so many not working or working from home, maybe traffic isn't so bad.
To be honest, I'd give the hiking/running part no greater than a 50% chance of success, and the driving part around a 75% chance of success. So roughly 3 in 8 odds at best that I'd be able to pull off the whole thing. While it would be nice to be the first documented person to have done this, I wouldn't mind living vicariously through someone else's trip report(s) if someone beats me to it.

I'm also wondering whether a first-timer (I haven't done Langley before) would find it easier to do the 7-hour round trip from Horseshoe Meadows to Langley via New Army, or would have a better chance with the 3.5 hour round trip from the locked gate to White Mountain. You can't really get lost on White Mountain or have problems with route finding, but I don't know whether the same is true for a solo first-timer on Langley. Maybe I'd have to scout out the route beforehand.

Originally Posted by Steve C
That makes the Highest to Lowest I did with Bob Rockwell and his friends a few years ago seem pretty genteel. Rockwell planned it as a commemoration of Norman Clyde's trip 80 years before -- we started from the summit of Whitney (watched the sunrise after sleeping there), hiked down, and drove to Badwater. Took pictures, and then went back to Furnace Creek and had a great dinner in the restaurant.
If Death Valley and the hotels were open, it would seem possible to do the entire Lowest-Highest-Lowest trip between sunrise and sunset. There's no LA traffic to deal with, so the 135-mile drive from Badwater to the Portal can easily and safely be done in less than 3 hours. With 14 hours of daylight in late July, that leaves 8 hours for the round-trip Whitney hike. Still tough, but not insane.

It'll be breakfast at Furnace Creek, sunrise at Badwater, lunch at the top of Whitney, sunset at Badwater, and dinner at Furnace Creek. What a day!

Re: Sea to Summit (and back), sunrise to sunset
Big Pine #57180 06/07/20 08:12 PM
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To answer your question, the White Mountain option seems especially difficult to pull off. The drive from Big Pine to the White Mountain TH alone is easily 1.5 hours each way, 2 hours with washboard and slowing down enough to not miss any turns.

Re: Sea to Summit (and back), sunrise to sunset
Ian B #57185 06/08/20 08:43 AM
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Big Pine,
It's doable. I live in Santa Monica and I have driven up and done Langley and come back in one day. I'm in pretty good shape and hiked TH to summit to TH in just under10 hours when the trail was virtually snow free. I did it via NAP which is a bit longer than OAP. I think OAP would make it a bit faster. This year the snowpack is pretty light and by early summer the days will be very long and the snowpack light. It took me 2hr45min to get to the trailhead from Santa Monica with one stop in Mojave. However when I did it I left in the dark when there was no traffic and I was driving well above speed limit.

When I did it, the whole trip probably took around 16 hours. 2hr45min there, 10 minutes to gear up, 10 hours to hike, 10 minutes to gear down, 2h45min back plus 10 minutes to grab food along the way and gas. Just comes down to your fitness...

Here's my strava:
https://www.strava.com/activities/1628329033

Last edited by BFR; 06/08/20 08:45 AM.
Re: Sea to Summit (and back), sunrise to sunset
BFR #57186 06/08/20 09:21 AM
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I saw some pics yesterday from a CMRG (China Lake Mtn Rescue group) member. They went up Old Army Pass, down New Army Pass. The pictures show steep snow on both sides, and they had ice axes and crampons.

Re: Sea to Summit (and back), sunrise to sunset
Steve C #57190 06/08/20 11:43 AM
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Thanks for the feedback and info, everyone. It looks like White Mountain is a no-go for this challenge unless I bike to within a mile or two of the summit (and even then, my chances look iffy).

So that leaves Langley. New Army will be melted out by early July this year, but Old Army might not. There'll be 14 hours and 20 minutes of daylight to work with at that time. Subtract 20 minutes for traffic and finding parking, subtract 3 hours of driving each way, and subtract another half hour for miscellaneous things like unloading gear, filtering water, and breaks for food and summit photos.

That leaves 7.5 hours of actual moving time on foot. It probably wouldn't be too hard to jog the part from the trailhead to the base of New Army or Old Army, but everything after that needs to be hiked at a steady pace unless you have superhuman levels of fitness and coordination.

Rough gameplan -
First 6 miles, TH @10,100' to base of NAP @ 11,100' - 1.5 hours, 15 min/mile pace
Next 5 miles to summit @ 14,026' - 2.5 hours, 30 min/mile pace
Next 5 miles back to the base of NAP - 2 hours, 24 min/mile pace
Last 6 miles back to TH - 1.5 hours, 15 min/mile pace
Total - 7.5 hours

Seems doable, but it certainly ain't easy!


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