Tuesday, October 5, 2010
summiting mount whitney - part 1
monday, october 4, marked a defining notch in my life trajectory thus far: a successful summit of mount whitney!
at 14,505 ft. high, it's the tallest peak not only in the sierra nevada but also in the contiguous united states. located about 200 miles north of los angeles and bordering sequoia national park and the inyo national forest, the ascent is typically done in two days with an overnight stay at trail camp, 6.3 miles from whitney portal and at 12,000 ft. above sea level. this allows for acclimatization at high altitude and makes the summit very attainable the next morning. this was not the option we chose.
we opted to try it in one shot: a 22-mile beast of a hike that prognosticators pegged anywhere from 12-20 hours to complete. go big or go home, right?
arrived in the quaint city of lone pine, CA on sunday at around 3pm to pick up our day permits and get briefed on what to expect. a low of 23 degrees fahrenheit at the summit basically punched us in the gut. we were also handed wag ("waste alleviation and gelling") bags, which are basically compost bags for human waste in order to keep the mountain clean.
after checking in to our hotel, we decided to drive the 13 miles upwards to the start of our hike at whitney portal, just so we wouldn't waste time trying to find it the next morning. this was an eye opener, because even though we basically just sat there for a 1/2 hour at 8365 ft, one could feel the thin air and the shortness of breath when exerting yourself even minimally.
bottom left (above) is a handy scale that weighs your pack at the start of the mount whitney trail and to its right is a site we hoped to see again the next day - the finish line. we headed back down to the city for an early dinner at 6pm at the pizza factory - a rousing, social hotspot that puts lone pine on the map. i'm kidding.
returned to our room at 7:30pm, where we all strategized on how to pack our bags with enough food/water/clothing to leave us best prepared for our journey.
while pam & vim hit the hay at 8pm, i watch sportscenter on repeat, basking in the glow of my SF giants taking the division crown on the last day of the baseball season. tomorrow's going to be a damn good day...