Saturday, November 23, 2013

08/30/2013 Mount Whitney!!!

Friday, 08/30/2013

Mount Whitney Trail (22 miles)

Mount Whitney - 14,505 feet elevation

Up bright and early, still staying on East Coast time, which helped a lot...still dark out, but fortunately Lone Pine has the 24 hour McDonalds....not super hungry, but grabbed a sausage biscuit and a coffee....the Whitney Portal Road to the trail head is right in the middle of town at the only intersection with a stoplight...Started heading up the mountain to the trail head....noticed a small light further up the mountain, which turned out to be someone parked off the road taking photos of the sunrise....started seeing signs about bears, fires and finally some campgrounds....scored a parking spot in the overflow lot and got my gear in order....noticed I had a small drip leak with the bite valve of the hydration pack...bummer...don't know if I can fix the leak...only saw one other car pull into the lot as I started the 22 mile round trip trek to the highest peak in the continental U.S....there was a scale to weigh packs at the start of the trail....I had never weighed the day pack, so I was super curious, as my overnight pack weighs about 50 pounds loaded up...the pack weighed in right at 40 pounds with extra food, 6 liters of water and another 20 ounce bottle of Propel....The trail heading up was great, did not see another living soul until I hit the Outpost campsite, which is quite a ways lots of great photos of the sun coming up....passed two signs for small creeks, then the Official John Muir Wilderness trail sign......I was already acclimated to switchbacks after tackling the insane Shepherd's Pass trail the previous day...but the switchbacks are endless....the woods are sparse, nothing like the woods in the White Mountains and a lot of sunlight gets through...of course the "big trees" are scattered throughout the forest....there are patches of windflowers, where you can actually smell the fragrances hit your nose as you walk by....also some wild berry (huckleberry?  blueberry?)...there are spots where you can hear different bird calls that are new to me....There are exposed areas where the sun is beating down and I load up on sunscreen...Even after a long day of hiking the prior day, I feel really good going up and eventually reach the Lone Pine site.....things level off a bit and there is a lake or pond nearby....the woods really open up and then there is a sign announcing the Whitney area and all day and overnight hikers require permits to continue....the climb begins anew up some rocky terrain...I keep ascending and eventually reach another plateau where a small stream and a large meadow borders one side of the trail and the other side is smack up against a granite wall....the trail turns right and the Outpost Campsite is is around 10am? And there are still a handful of tents scattered around the site with some folks meandering about......I go through camp and another switchback climb begins....I am still feeling good and the sun is shining as I pick a nice rock to sit on in the middle of a switchback and grab a snack, (I think it was a coffee cake slice from the grocery store) with Outpost I strap the pack back on after giving the back and legs a little rest, I give another shot of sunscreen as the sun continues to beat down, the weather is perfect so far....I start climbing and finally meet two hikers coming down....they are surprised when I mention I started at the trail head and not Outpost....I also realize that almost every hiker I have run into the past two days is protecting their head and wearing a canvas hat....I continue up and see a few more hikers coming down....the other thing I begin to notice going up is an inordinate amount of trail trash strewn about, I pick up some of the smaller items, and make a mental note (and even GPS mark some) to pick up on the way down....the weather is beautiful and there really isn't a steep grade so far, pretty easy walk and feeling good....eventually hit a another lake, Mirror Lake, where no camping is allowed...another climb begins and more hikers coming down, including one solo female yelling, "hey bear!", but no bears to be seen today....start going up some rocky terrain and larger boulders where I get some nice photos of the two lakes below....I run into a ranger coming down with a shovel tool, moving rocks and checking out the trail....we chat for a while and he tells me the weather forecast may have lighting, but I'm making good time and should get to the summit before the potential storm hits....I tell him I'm from NH and I'm used to crazy weather...he mentions the wild weather on Mount Washington....I tell him I ran into Ranger Chris and did Shepherd's Pass the previous day....we part ways and the climb continues....I come to another meadow area with a small stream running parallel to the trail in a fairly level section....A bunch of folks are headed down and one Aussie with tons of tats asks how long to Lone Pine campsite....eventually the trail resumes it's climb....the views throughout have been spectacular and I stop often to take photos with my new Nikon Coolpix....I eventually come to a spot that levels out and see signs of campsites  near a small body of water, another piece of trail trash, sunglasses, and I'm on my way....I start seeing see more tents up ahead in an area that levels off, just beyond where the trail starts switchbacking once again...A ledge shows up on the right with a guard rail running along it...there are 3 guys taking a break and we chat for a ends up they started about 3 hours hours before me, so I'm feeling pretty good as I keep heading up....more lakes appear down below that were not visible from lower elevations....I pass a couple and the female is taking a break, lying down, not doing too well..I offer water and/or Propel but she says she will be fine, so I wish then luck and keep going....After many more switchbacks, a trail sign appears announcing the entrance of the Sequoia National Park...soon after amazing views appear as I reach the crest of the and words can't do it justice, but I felt like I was in the middle of two huge mountain ranges with spectacular views ahead...Soon a sign announces the summit of Mount Whitney is 1.9 miles away...This section of the trail is really cool....I pass lots of folks on this final push to the summit....I still feel amazing and the altitude is not a factor....The final push to the summit is great...After so much anticipation, I can't believe I am actually here and I soak it all in...Other than being slightly in the clouds, it's truly a wonderful feeling...The summit has a few folks hanging out...I hang out for a bit, then go down a few feet to shoot some video...As I start the long trip back to the trail head, I see the couple with the nauseous female making their way up the last 2 miles along with 2 of the 3 guys who were resting earlier.  Just as I was leaving the summit, some darker clouds were approaching, so I let them know to keep their eyes open for bad weather...The journey down was great, except for a small sunscreen mishap,,,,I will definitely have a canvass hat to block the sun next time as I managed to get some in my eyes, which was slightly irritating...There was one tricky spot on the way down near a campsite where a guy in front of me was having some trouble negotiating...I was able to get him back on track, then kept going...By the time I reached the car, my eyes were pretty red and bloodshot and now I know why some folks who I passed later in the day thought I was tired...I haven't had double cheeseburgers and a shake from McDonald's in over 10 years, but today was the day, they were delicious!!

08/30/2013 Mount Whitney Trail - 9600 feet elavation
08/30/2013 Mount Whitney Trail - Near Outpost Camp (10600 feet elevation)
08/30/2013 Mount Whitney Trail - Descent from Summit (14400 feet elevation)
08/30/2013 Mount Whitney Trail - Descent from Summit (14300 feet elevation)

Google Earth Image

Google Earth kmz file of hike

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