|Mount Whitney 7/7/02|
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Scott (MN, author)
Arrive in San Jose from MN and IA at 2:30 pm. Drive to Lone Pine via Tioga Pass in Yosemite. Arrive in Lone Pine at 9:30, seven-hour drive was a killer but Yosemite was beautiful. Checked into the Dow Villa, room was much better than expected in such a small town. Pizza at the Pizza Factory hit the spot.
Breakfast at PJ's. Picked up supplies (Gatorade, water, Power Bars, bananas, bagels, Snickers, Twix Bars, etc.) at Joseph's Bi-Rite Market, opens at 8:00 am. Picked up Permit at Ranger Station, also opens at 8:00 am. Drove to the Portal Trailhead, with stops in the Alabama Hills. We spent the morning at the Portal. Spent afternoon in Lone Pine, great movie location film history. If you're staying at the Dow Villa, asked for Room 20, John Wayne slept there. Went to bed early, 9:30 pm.
Up at 1:30 am. Drove to the Portal (8,360 ft) and started hike at 2:20 am. Hiking was quick early, most likely we were running on adrenalin. For clothing we were wearing long sleeves and shorts. Each of us carried about 2 to 4 liters of water and/or Gatorade. I took two Extra Strength Excedrin (Acetaminophen, Aspirin, and Caffeine combo), as I am a Diet Coke addict and if I don't have enough caffeine in the morning I'll get a headache. I thought the trail would be difficult to follow in the dark, but it was not a problem. Passed a group about 1 mile on the trail, my competitive juices made me push us faster to put some distance between them and us.
Made Outpost Camp (10,365 ft) looked like everyone was sleeping or on the trail already.
Missed the Mirror Lake sign (10,640 ft), it's on the back of a tree as you head up. Mark's headlight batteries die, spare batteries were in motel. Paul and I had AAA's, but Mark needed AA's. Only a sliver of a moon, so we put Mark in between us, worked fine.
Made Trail Camp (12,000) at 5:30 am, all were feeling good. Ate peanut butter bagel. Used the solar toilets, bring your own toilet paper. We filtered water for trip to summit and back. The wind started to pickup at this point, we all put on our windbreakers/shells. Check thermometer, 45 degrees. Started the famous switchbacks. To me, all that has been said about the difficulty of the switchbacks is justified. I didn't bother to count them. There was plenty of water flowing through the lower section of the switchbacks, one could have filtered at this point, and we did on the way down. One group of four passed us on their way down from the summit already.
Made Trail Crest (13,777 ft) at 8:25 am. Got our first view of the other side of the mountain range. The view is indescribable; you must experience it for yourself. Strong wind hits us from the other side of the mountain; windbreaker/shell was critical at this point. Altitude begins to affect the team, one of us hurls his Gatorade on the side of the trail. The window at the Trail Crest was not difficult/scary as expected. We push on for the summit; at this point it is a battle of personal will. Again we found the windows at the Needles to be easier than expected. There was a small section of snow just below the summit.
|Made Summit (14,497 ft) at 10:40 am. On top of the U.S., well at least 48 of them. There were about seven hikers on the summit at that time. Took several pictures. I scared one nice young lady as I stood on the edge to take pictures. Her concern was likely justified, as a strong gust of wind could have pushed me over the edge. There are several geo-markers on the summit; I wasn't sure which one to photograph. One hiker took our picture holding the Des Moines Register, "About Town"; section. My in-law's suggested we try it, the Register runs a photo once a week of someone around the world holding the section. While Mark took a nap, we chatted with a couple from San Francisco about the fastest route from the Bay Area to Lone Pine. They had driven to Lone Pine via Bakersfield and it took them seven hours. We needed to get Mark back to the San Jose airport for a 1:21 pm flight the next day (more on that later). We sign the register, plenty of blank pages. The Summit Hut seem strangely out of place, I can't believe someone hauled those metal doors and windows to the summit. We saw one marmot, several small birds, butterflies and a spider on the summit.
11:45 am started long trip down. While not as difficult as the trip up the mountain, the descent is no small task. Be sure to save some energy and fluids for the trip back down. On our trip down we met up with a 22-year-old suffering from the altitude who needed to turn back. While his brother pushed on for the summit, we kept him with us as we made our downward trek. We made the Portal at 6:20 pm and enjoyed ice cold sodas from the store.
On the road 5:00 am. We needed to get Mark to the San Jose Airport for his 1:21 pm flight. We drove back via Yosemite. Nursing stiff muscles, sore calves, and numb toes we made record time and got to the Airport at 11:45 am, unfortunately Mark had miss read his itinerary and his flight was really at 12:10 pm. Northwest had already given away his seat and put him on stand-by. Using his personal charm, Mark was able to significantly impress the ticket attendant with his Whitney adventure story that she gave him a First Class seat. With a mad dash through security Mark was able to catch the flight.
Don't underestimate the fitness and endurance required for this hike. I just completed Grandma's Marathon on 6/22 and benefited from the three months of required training. Don't underestimate the effects of the altitude. Don't be afraid to turn around short of the summit, there were plenty of hikers turning around and glad to be on the way back down.
Things carried to the top but not used:
5 Powerbars, compass, whistle, and matches. But as a former Boy Scout, I have always followed the motto "Be Prepared."
Items that proved to be critical:
Shell/windbreaker, Pur Guide Water Microfilter, Snickers bar, change of socks for the trip down.
Many thanks to Paul and Mark for sharing my mid-life crisis. Also thanks to my family for their support.
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