DAY HIKE 11-11-17

Posted by: rdev

DAY HIKE 11-11-17 - 11/13/17 08:50 AM

Hello All-

Wanted to give a quick update on my day hike this past Saturday. Starting November one can walk into the station, like I did on Friday evening and get a permit and a WAG bag. If you cant make it to the station in time (5pm PST) then you can self-issue a permit at the gazebo outside the station. There was decent traffic on the trail but looked like most were camping.

Trail is in excellent condition! Amazing given its mid-November but there is almost NO ice anywhere. Water that creeps onto the path from streams has frozen over starting a little before Outpost Camp but it is totally navigable with no issues at all.

There was no ice around the cables on the switchbacks also. The huge block of ice below the summit (around 100ft below) has totally melted as well. So one can just walk through the talons / rocks.

If you are doing a day hike, the tricky part was the weather (since you may have to layer up and down as day progresses). I am fairly light weight so additional layering and weight (water bottles and not using the usual water bladder) made it hard work. Wind came and went but I was warm in my synthetic t-shirt, merino wool base layer and down jacket (lightweight one, not a heavy weight). Quite windy on the top (so sat in the hut, which i have never done before). Was told it was 25 outside but in the sun you did not feel it. Once you passed over trail crest wind was quite persistent and a hat or hoodie is important. Most people also had cloth / masks covering their face but I did not need that. Amazingly saw this little bird right next to the hut.

I actually had to take off my down jacket coming down from trail crest and just had my t-shirt and merino wool base layer and was totally ok with that. This might be different for others obviously.

All in all amazing trail condition but quite cold to start. Though once sun came out got much better. I had simple fleece gloves and they were just fine. Finally would recommend hiking poles going up, for support on rocks since some streams were frozen and in the night its better to have some support. I had packed my poles coming down. Also your phone / GPS battery will really run out due to cold. So my GPS was gone by the time i reached the top (and had some serious heart palpitations when my car key did not initially unlock the car when i reached the portal shocked ). Obviously all of the above would be invalid if snow hits, which can happen ANY time now....

Posted by: Steve C

Re: DAY HIKE 11-11-17 - 11/13/17 05:13 PM

Thanks for the very helpful report, rdev! Great note about the self-issue permits, too.

Your phone may have run out of juice searching for service -- that always drains them. I think I have seen that if you put it on airplane mode (or turn off the cellular access part), they will continue working far longer.

A note on the use of poles and icy stream crossings: What can look like just wet rocks in the stream can actually be glassy-clear solid ice covering a rock. Using hiking poles to cross those places is a really good idea. Several years ago, a group had to turn back at the first stream crossing, after one member did an ugly face-plant caused by wet-looking ice-covered rocks.
Posted by: rdev

Re: DAY HIKE 11-11-17 - 11/14/17 10:08 AM

Actually I did have my phone on airplane mode from the get go at the Portal. I use Alltrails and it works with the inbuilt GPS even on airplane mode.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: DAY HIKE 11-11-17 - 11/14/17 01:31 PM

Good to know, rdev. Maybe the gps app uses more power than average ...or as you wrote, the cold might have wiped out the battery charge.

For everyone: a NOAA storm warning is out for Wednesday and Thursday. NOAA predicts 2-5" of snow, Mountain predicts 13". We will see...
Posted by: Chaser

Re: DAY HIKE 11-11-17 - 11/16/17 09:24 AM

Hi Guys-

New to the forum. Let me start of by saying how helpful this forum has been. My girlfriend and I were planning to come hike Mount Whitney on Sunday. I'm certainly waiting to find out about the snowfall occurring today and tomorrow. We are both first timers to Whitney so I know this time of year isn't the best. What I will say is that I am an experienced trail runner, in fact I ran professionally for a few years. However that was about 8 years ago. I still run daily a couple miles.

My girlfriend and I have done the Mount Charleston (Las Vegas) summit trail twice in the last month. That is a 16.5 mile round trip trail, reaching 11,900 ft in altitude. I know the difference between 11,900 and 14,500 is very significant. During our most recent summit, the weather changed quickly, with a well below freezing wind chill that froze the tubes on our water bladders. It was so cold in the final half mile that ice froze on our clothes and faces. We ran most of the way back down the mountain and though exhausting, we felt pretty good.

All in all, I feel we have the conditioning to do the hike. My concerns with regard to attempting the Whitney trail are related to 1. the time of year and this recent snowfall
2. new hike to us-any new hike has inherent challenges with new terrain, unfamiliarity
3. Amount of ice on trail, from what I've gathered this can make some parts of the trail really dangerous and really slow down the hike.
4. While I am an experienced trail runner, my girlfriend is new to hiking, and while she has done great on the last 2 hikes, this is a different animal.

Curious as to some of your feedback. I am wondering if White Mountain is a better option this time of year? I have heard it referred to as the easiest of the 14'. Also wondering if maybe anyone else is planning to do Whitney on Sunday or Monday?
Posted by: rdev

Re: DAY HIKE 11-11-17 - 11/16/17 10:38 AM

Hey Chaser-

I have not done the peak in Vegas but sounds like you both will be ok from an endurance / stamina point of view. The only tricky part is snow / ice on trail, given the time of the year. Looking at the webcam photo I would wait and see how much snow we have had on the trail.

The cold was manageable up to 25ish degrees with what I was wearing and personally I should have carried less water as well.

So it all depends on snow today and tomorrow. Most lower regions are ok but once switchbacks get snow then I don't see a way up ex the 'chute' but that will no longer be just a run up the trail.

Hope that helps and others might have more insight on this....
Posted by: Steve C

Re: DAY HIKE 11-11-17 - 11/16/17 11:24 AM

Web cams are showing snow sticking at 10,000'. So this hike just changed to a different animal. If you go over the weekend, you will be tramping through several inches of fresh snow. There is more of this storm coming -- it looks like a "tropical river" of sorts currently on the satellite images. So those several inches could add up to quite a few more.

You can certainly go, but you should take/wear gaiters (and extra socks), and if the snow has any depth, it will require a lot more energy. Be prepared to turn back if/when it gets tough enough that you can recognize that you couldn't make it in a day.

With the snow and cold, and the experience level of your gf, I think you have missed your opportunity to do the quick dayhike by one week this year.

As for White Mountain, I would assume, with this storm coming in, that Inyo N.F. has closed and locked the gate just before the Schumann Grove visitor center. They don't want vehicles getting stranded in the snow up there for the entire winter. Saw one up there like that a few years ago. You can call the White Mountain Ranger station in Bishop and ask about the road.
Posted by: Chaser

Re: DAY HIKE 11-11-17 - 11/17/17 10:44 AM

Thank you both. I really appreciate the feedback. I'm thinking we will do White Mountain Peak instead. Called the ranger station yesterday and they indicated road was still open and that it wasn't getting hit very bad by the storm. Likely will be closed next week.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: DAY HIKE 11-11-17 - 11/17/17 02:10 PM

Chaser, I hope it works for you! Please let us know what conditions you find.

Since that area is so remote, make sure you have enough fuel in your vehicle (higher-clearance recommended, the road is 20 miles of gravel) and there is no water up there. ...and take a shovel and maybe chains, just in case you encounter snow on the road.
Posted by: Chaser

Re: DAY HIKE 11-11-17 - 11/17/17 02:40 PM

I will definitely do that. Curious as to your thoughts of Mount Whitney from the Webcam now. We are set on White Mountain for this weekend, just curious to how you think the Whitney Trail would be right now.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: DAY HIKE 11-11-17 - 11/17/17 09:17 PM

Originally Posted By: Chaser
I will definitely do that. Curious as to your thoughts of Mount Whitney from the Webcam now. We are set on White Mountain for this weekend, just curious to how you think the Whitney Trail would be right now.

Gorgeous and dam Cold! I'd guess it got less than 6" of snow. If it is indeed that light, someone with lots of stamina (maybe several people so they could trade off trail breaking), could make a strong foray toward the summit. No matter how far you got, the pictures you brought back would be worth it.

Wishing I were younger and lived closer.

Here's the picture from noon today:
Posted by: wagga

Re: DAY HIKE 11-11-17 - 11/22/17 03:45 AM

1 Word. Beauty.
Posted by: JedHiker

Re: DAY HIKE 11-11-17 - 11/27/17 02:40 PM

Same battery drain for me: it did recover enough to keep tracking when I placed it inside all layers and it warmed up to 25% from basically dead.
Posted by: JedHiker

Re: DAY HIKE 11-11-17 - 11/27/17 02:59 PM

Any updates on your White Mtn plans?
I did a quick PSAR and summit a while back.
Completely doable in 8 hours r/t.
Huge exposure to weather change as there is no shelter from the wind and the entire hike (14 miles r/t) is above 11,800 elev. If you get AMS bad, it's a long hike down plus a long slow drive to get to relief and 8,000 ft.
Ed Rescue 18
Posted by: Chaser

Re: DAY HIKE 11-11-17 - 11/29/17 08:54 AM

Sorry for the delay guys. We hiked White Mountain Peak on Sunday, November 19th. The trail had a bit of snow, but not enough in my opinion to not hike it. However, the challenge is that the road up to the start of the trail is snowed in about 4.5 miles out from the start of the trail. For those of you that may have done the hike before, there is a sign at a fork in the road that says 4 miles to the start of the the trail to the left and continuing straight 1 mile to another location which I can't recall. Although the road was too snowed in for our 4 wheel drive Kia Sorento, a lifted truck or jeep would easily make it. There are only maybe 2 stretches of the road, that are heavily snowed in. However, it was easy to hike around that, as most of the time there were areas where the ground was visible or the snow was shallow.

The hike was a blast. It was a cold night camping prior to the hike, though the hike itself was not too cold, ~25-30 degrees with a mild wind ~15mph. We left the campsite at about 7:30am in the morning. At 1pm we had just passed the small dome structure that was about a half mile past the Bancroft facility. I'm not sure how far it is to the peak from that point, but it didn't look like more than 1.5-2 miles. I decided to turn around at this point as my girlfriend was a little under the weather and hiking back through the snow once the sun started setting behind some of the mountains did not sound fun. All in all our hike was 15.5 miles. My garmin Fenix calculated the distance from the start of the trailhead (bathroom) to only be 2.75 miles to where we turned around. I find it hard to believe that the peak was still another 4 miles from that point as we could see it and the trail was visible. I will post pictures a little later to show where we turned around. I have read various estimates about the trail distance being between 5.5 and 7 miles one way. That would mean at a minimum we were 2.75 miles away from the peak. It's possible but that certainly did not look that far at all.

All in all the hike is very doable in a day, even with the additional 9 miles that are added from the road being snowed in. My girlfriend was struggling due to being under the weather and at one point it took us 2 hours to cover just over 2 miles. I have no doubt I could have made it to the summit by 1pm from where we started had I been on my own.

There was another hiker returning to his car when we arrived to where the trail was snowed in. He had summitted the mountain that day. With the additional distance it took him about 12 hours. I think if you are well conditioned, you can do this hike in 10 hours with the added distance. I will caution you that the additional miles make the hike down almost as challenging as the hike up. this is because those last 4.5 miles that are snowed in are basically rolling hills at altitude between 11,200 and 12,000 ft. The snow in some portions make it tough, but they are short stretches. For the most part you can find shallow snow or find patches of dirt to walk on.

What beautiful views of the Sierra Nevada! Looking across the valley I believe I spotted Mount Whitney and Mount Williamson. Even without knowing, taking in the beauty of the tremendous mountain range was breathtaking. I will certainly go back next summer and do the hike. Frankly I think that would be a good hike to do a couple of days before Mount Whitney.

Thank you all for your advice and recommendations. I am at work so I typed quickly and spelled out my thoughts quickly. Let me know if you have questions. I will try and get some pictures up soon.

BTW, with how the weather has been since my hike, I am sure the trail head is reachable in any 4 wheel drive car now.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: DAY HIKE 11-11-17 - 11/29/17 11:55 AM

Chaser, thanks for the report! Those distances in the mountains are really deceptive. Using Google Maps, and the "measure distance" tool I checked these distances.

From that little domed structure (small telescope/observatory, I think) to the peak, is 3.25 miles straight line. Tracing the actual (jeep) trail, it is 5.0 miles!

Tracing back from that observatory as starting point:
Research buildings: 0.4
Gate / restroom: 2.4

I think you started from the junction in the road where the right branch heads to the Patriarch Grove, and to the left, where you hiked, leads to White Mountain. (G.M. shows distance of 4.5 miles to the gate/restroom.) By my distance measurements, from there to the summit would have been a 24-mile round trip!

Regarding your gf not feeling well... You didn't say where you camped, but if you stayed at the car at that junction, you were at 11,200' elevation! That's definitely in the AMS zone. She very well may have had a touch of altitude sickness. If she's susceptible, the only way to help that is to camp a night (better yet TWO nights) at an intermediate elevation (8 to 10k), before going higher. I myself am susceptible, and I'd be taking some Diamox before attempting your trip.

Sure looking forward to a picture or two!
Posted by: KevinR

Re: DAY HIKE 11-11-17 - 11/29/17 12:02 PM

I've hiked White Mtn a few times. From the "usual" trailhead (toilet and locked gate), it's about 13 miles RT to the summit.

Once or twice a year the gate is open, and you can park at Barcroft Station. That will save about a mile (each way) and 1,000' elevation.
Posted by: emceegull

Re: DAY HIKE 11-11-17 - 12/01/17 01:24 PM

Does anyone have recent trip report or trail conditions for Mount Langley?