Mt Whitney Trip Report
Sept 4 - Arrive Lone Pine around noonish. Went to Subway and grabbed a sandwich and then headed up to Horseshoe meadow. Found a campsite, set up camp and relaxed.
Sept 5th - Leisurely morning. Had originally planned to do one day at HM and one day at OV, but once I had made camp at HM, little chance that I was going to break camp and then set up again someplace else. Ended up doing a hike to Cottonwood Pass.
Sept 6th - Broke camp and headed down to Lone Pine to get my permit. My Mom drove up to see me off, so we got to hang out and go shooting on the east side of Owens Valley. Had dinner at Seasons...yum! And I always like to start off a hike with a nice clean shower, so I spent the night at the Dow Villa.
The Portal to Consultation Lake/Trail Camp
Pack weighed in at 35lbs (with water). Not bad....I worked hard to eliminate anything that I didn't need. Next time, I hope to get it down around 30lbs.
Two other guys were weighing their packs at the same time...they took off about 3 minutes before I did. My official start time was 8:45am. We played leapfrog most of the way up to Lone Pine Lake and eventually just started hiking together. Nothing much of interest on the first day of hiking. Ran into a friend of Bob R's who worked with him at China Lake. Dick referred to him as "Rocky". Outpost camp was deserted. Maybe too early for people to be setting up camp there. Anyway, Mike and Charlie and I were all planning on staying near Consultation Lake so we picked a site that was relatively sheltered and set up camp. They couldn't believe that I had no intention of not treating my water, so they hiked down to consultation lake and filtered 3 liters of water for me....of course, they filtered water for themselves too. Meanwhile, we had decided to do a potluck dinner. So I started on the first course. I made homemade chicken noodle soup...and it was damn good! I got rave reviews from Mike and Charlie who both made sure that I gave them the recipe/instructions before I left. Charlie made some backpacker pouch pad thai and Mike made backpacker pouch blueberry cheesecake. I'll stick with real food.
The wind really picked up at night. So much so that I didn't get any sleep. Literally no sleep from the noise from the wind.. Mike and Charlie both ended up not sleeping either. I had to re-stake my rain fly at one point as it had come loose in the night and was flapping like bird. I ended up putting rocks on all of the stakes...just in case.
Since I take the "tortoise" role in the race with the hare, I wanted to start the day early. I had decided that if I woke up at 3am, I would plan my start at 4am...but, since I never had an sleep to awake from, I was still trying to atch a few Zzzzzs until 4:30am. I started making another pot of chicken soup for breakfast and here's where I like the idea of hiking solo comes into play. I like to get ready and go. Mike and Charlie tended to take their time. We didn't get out of there until 6:45am. Though it didn't seem too cold at camp, the wind was still very strong so it was cutting through light clothing. We all bundled up with gloves and various head coverage (my choice was the ever fashionable balaklava).
I was going to refill my water on the switchbacks, but they wanted to stop at the Trail Pond and pump/filter. And hey, as long as they are willing to do the work....
And up the switchbacks we go. There is PLENTY of water on the switchbacks. And in my opinion, the best water on the whole MMWT. It is melt water from the snow field right above it. No way can it be contaminated with anything. And as long as that snow field is there, there will be water. The lower sections were frozen, but the upper sections were flowing freely. I dumped one bottle of trail pond water and refilled with switchback spring water (the other bottle already had powdered Gatorade in it). Some guy had slipped on the ice on one of the lower spring switchbacks and dropped his GPS/Walkie-talkie. Hooked him back up with his GPS thingie and he and his friend joined our little group for a while. Cables doesn't have any snow, but it has a lot of ice. Stick to the outside part of the trail to avoid ice. Grabbed a couple of icicles to wet the whistle rather than reaching for the bottle. And on up to Trail Crest. In 2008 I got AMS just below Trail Crest, so I was kinda nervous, but I didn't feel anything adverse. While at Trail Crest I searched for a hidden treasure that I had left my son in 2008. Nowhere to be found. I suspect that the melt/thaw cycle moved rocks about. Oh well.
Wind really started kicking up again once we reached TC. I had shed a layer halfway up the switchbacks but quickly put it back on at TC.
Drank one liter of water up to TC. Had a snack of some GORP and a granola bar of some sort. Probably should have eaten more, but didn't want to slow things down. A group of four came back up to TC from the JMT junction and said that there was no way they would summit today because of the wind.
Headed down to the JMT junction. Saw a girl struggling on her way up to Trail Crest. Saw that she was wearing hiking sandals and socks. The sandals were in bad shape and she had already started duct taping them, but her mends had already failed. I offered my roll of duct tape so she could repair her sandals. she was near tears when I got to her, so she was very appreciative for the duct tape.
Lots of backpacks at the JMT junction and the wind was roaring. The wind will be a recurring theme. The windows were spectacular. I would normally be surprised that anyone would get nervous walking by them, but I saw the wind knock a couple of people into the rocks....if that happened at the windows that wouldn't be such a good thing.
I may have mentioned, I ain't the fastest hiker up there. I'm 5'11" and 240lbs (last Friday). So I have a little excess baggage. And I felt every single one of those extra pounds on the way up. Still, as long as I'm not puking my guts up or a storm isn't brewing, there is no way that I would not summit. Storm? Did someone say storm? Yup, some young guy on his way down pointed to the west and said "big storm brewing, better get up there and don't waste any time".....Damn. I renewed my effort and resolve to get to the summit. I was worried that this storm...or my legs might thwart my efforts. I came up with a mantra of sorts. I kept saying to myself "each step I take is the highest step I have ever taken". It seemed to work, before I knew it, I was no longer traversing, but now I was heading up. When the Summit Hut came up over the horizon I was ecstatic. I was going to make it. And I did. I made the summit at 1:30pm, Sept 8th, 2010. I didn't think anyone was behind me. My signature in the book reflects that ("maybe the last of the day"). Mike and Charlie beat me by about 30 minutes and they were hanging out and taking photos. It turns out that 13 people attempted the summit after I signed in. I know that 3 turned back and 7 made it, but I don't know about the other 3.
Didn't spend a lot of time at the summit. The clouds were coming in very fast and very dark and very mean looking. The wind was brutal at the summit. My estimation is 45mph sustained with 60mph gusts. I think the incoming storm scared the marmots, as there were none to be found anywhere. Had a couple of photos taken and then set a fast pace down the hill. Had a PBJ sandwich about halfway to TC. Looked back at the summit...couldn't see it....totally socked in. Picked up an abandoned wag bag. I saw more, but there's only so much of other people's crap that I am willing to carry.
A bit relieved to hit trail crest again. The wind died down immediately once crossing over to the other side. Mike has Glaucoma and the combination of wind and altitude was messing with his vision. So I went on ahead and then would wait for mike and charlie to catch up. Stopped at the switchback springs again. I only drank 1.75 liters of water from trail camp to the summit and back, but I wanted to bring a liter home (it's already labeled)
Walking by trail camp I saw a woman taking down her camp. She had obviously just removed the stakes from her tent and turned away to do something else. Right then I gust of wind turned her tent into a kite that flew about 100yards west and then up into the air about 100' and then south toward Consultation Lake. No idea if she ever recovered it.
Headed back to camp, ate a quickie PBJ and started packing things up. Mike and Charlie got to camp and decided to stay another night. Mike's eyes were bad enough during the day, but he would never be able to walk out at night without Charlie being his seeing eye....dude. Oddly enough, I had to do that two years ago with my aunt who has RP. The clouds that looked so ominous before were completely gone now.
Packed up and headed out....Was making great time all the way to LPL. A little bit past the log crossing I could feel my legs getting weak. In the dark, the last two miles of the trail are always painful for me. It doesn't seem like that great of a distance, but at night there are no landmarks to let you know how far you have to go until you hit the signs just above the north fork crossing.. I started paying more attention to things....like the big granite outcropping that is on the south side of several switchbacks and of course the traverse back over to the north side of the canyon. My legs really started giving out to the point that I felt like I was walking my uphill pace. Finally saw the signs and crossed the north fork and tried to pick the pace up....no joy. I was wiped out.
Got to the portal, went to make a deposit at the human waste bank...and would you believe that I was so spaced out that I couldn't figure out how to open the container....yikes!
Packing - I eliminated many unnecessary things. I got my pack down to 35lb I eliminated a change of socks, which was a mistake. I'll find a place for the socks next time.
Food - I took to heart that I should bring food that I like. I had decided that a hearty chicken soup would be just what I needed. It was spectacular. I did all of the prep work the night before and pre-packaged each ingredient individually. I had plenty to share with two people for two different meals (dinner and breakfast. My recipe:
-Mini Bowtie noodles
-2 chopped celery stalks
-2 chopped carrots
-2 cooked chicken breasts cut up into bite size pieces. Chicken breasts from Seasons restaurant.
-1 packet of chicken flavoring stuff from top ramen
-1 pre-mixed spices
-1 tablespoon of butter
Water - I started off with 3 liters of water. Carrying that much water is foolish until after you leave the switchback springs. In the future I will carry one liter of water with two empty and collapsed liter containers to fill up at the switchbacks. Even though I only needed 2 liters of water to the summit and back, I like to have a little buffer since there are no other sources. Also, the hard candies definitely helped to cut back on the water consumption.
Sleep - I have to figure out a way to sleep while it feels like my tent is going to do a Wizard of Oz tornado scene thing.
Training - I thought I was doing a lot with my 3mi a day...but it wasn't anywhere near enough. I have vowed to summit Mt Whitney again....but only after I lose 40lbs.
Equipment - My tent and my sleeping bag performed beautifully. My bag is an Ultralamina 32 (long). I never got cold...and it was cold that night. It was a little bit "snug" around the shoulders, so I will probably look for a bigger bag. Tent was a $90 (overstock.com) Alps Mountaineering Zephyr 1. Easy to set up in spite of the wind. I could never get my backpack to sit right. Too much weight on my shoulders. Time for a new one anyway.
Altitude sickness - I was a bit paranoid that I would get it again. The two nights at HM and one night at 12,000' seemed to have done the trick. Not sure how much of a role the diamox had in keeping it in check. Next time I will try it with no diamox.
Attire - The balaklava was the best. It may have made me look funny, but my head and ears were warm, even in the biting wind and cold. My fleece gloves were good too. My Lowa boots were great again. They never slip and were comfortable the whole time.
Mosquitos - None. Leave the deet at homeTDTZ Whitney Photos GPS Track