Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mt. Whitney - 7/24/12

After several months of intense training, we've completed our second dayhike of Mt. Whitney. Our five training hikes were specifically designed to prepare us for the altitude, length, and elevation gain of Mt. Whitney, but really, every hike is preparation for Whitney. There's something unique and exciting about each trail I've been on, but my biggest motivation for hiking regularly is to keep myself in good enough shape to climb my favorite mountain.
These were the training hikes:

1. Jones Peak, Hastings Peak, Mt. Wilson via Bastard Ridge
2. Timber Mountain and Telegraph Peak
3. Mt. Baldy, Mt. Harwood, and West Baldy via Register Ridge
4. Mt. Islip, Mt. Hawkins, Throop Peak, and Mt. Baden-Powell
5. San Gorgonio Mountain

Although this year's Mt. Whitney hike had some incredibly special moments, it wasn't really different enough from last year's climb to warrant another trip report, so instead I'll give you my best of and least-good lists.

The Best of Mt. Whitney Climb #2:

5. Remembering last year's hike

Not really a moment, but several moments, mostly on the ascent when I said "Oh yeah, I remember this part of the trail!" And a few times when I remembered which section of the trail came next, bringing back the same feelings of nervousness and excitement from the original climb.

4. The windows

As much as these freak me out and I'd almost rather wait until I get home and just look at the pictures, they're like the mountain's final encouraging push to help us get through the last section after all those exhausting hours of climbing. 

3. The view from trail crest

You've finally huffed and puffed your way up 97 switchbacks and you're considering the possibility of calling it a hike and turning back, when you look to the west and say "Holy shit, where the hell did all those mountains come from?"

2. Alpenglow 

In our case, alpenglow came a few minutes after we reached trail camp and turned the Sierra Crest into a fiery wall of granite. Don't look away; it only lasts a few minutes.

1. Sunrise over Lone Pine 

Last summer I saw the most amazing sight I'd ever seen and I spent a year waiting to see that sunrise again, partly worrying that my memory was an exaggeration and that it wouldn't look quite so incredible the second time around. But it managed to be even more spectacular this year.

The Least Good:

5. The Windows 

Yes, they're on both lists. They didn't scare me this time as much as they did last year, but it's still a 3000' drop on either side of a narrow walkway. There are actually parts of the trail between trail crest and the summit that are narrower than the windows, but the drop is only on one side of you and they're not convenient landmarks like the windows.

Don't fall

4. Nowhere to pee

The mountain hasn't suddenly sprouted trees out of the rocks at 13,000'. If you want some privacy, you're out of luck for the majority of the hike.

Good luck

3. Being afraid to sit down for fear of falling asleep

Some people hike Mt. Whitney in 3 days, others do it all in 8 hours, but at some point everyone has to take a break. If you're like us and hiking on 3 or 4 hours of sleep, you'll have to be careful not to let your snack breaks turn into nap breaks.

Perfect nap spot

2. The Pain 

My shoes don't fit quite right and my pants scrape the flesh off my sides, but even if you have all the best quality and most comfortable gear, you'll inevitably end up with sore muscles and probably a few blisters. Hopefully you make it through most of the hike without constant cringing, but mile 22 is unlikely to end up being the most pleasant experience of your life.


1. The Weather

Some people are unfortunate enough to be greeted by thunder clouds on their way up the mountain and they're forced to turn back prematurely, but just like last year, we ended up with perfect weather: no thunderclouds, no rain, clear skies. There was absolutely no chance we'd have to turn back for weather-related reasons, but that doesn't mean the weather wasn't a total pain in our already-sore butts. The sun is bright, the wind is crazy strong, and the summit was about 20 degrees when we were there, but it's a pretty good sign when the biggest complaint I have after 22 miles and 6000' of gain is that the weather was annoying.

Now enjoy a Mt. Whitney picspam.