Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mt Whitney - 09-17-10

Mt Whitney – 14,495’Pictures -

CA - Inyo & Tulare County high points – 09/17/10

We had our “shake out” hike the previous day tagging the summit of Boundary Peak. After fueling up at the Pizza Factory in Lone pine we hit the sack by 9 PM. I was pretty beat from all of the time changes (I’d been in Ireland until the day before we left on this trip) and from the driving. I guess the excitement of this climb that I’d been planning for over 9 months was enough to make me feel wide awake when we rose at 3:00 AM. Eric M, Rod V, Dan V, Doug D, Robert M, and Richard B had all come from sea-level which left us all a bit nervous about the climb. All of us are strong runners and at least our fitness level would not be an issue.

The plan was to hit the trail by 4:00 AM and we were very close, heading off in the pitch dark at 4:08. It was cool seeing all of the headlamps ahead of us on the trail and fun trying to figure out where to look. We had no idea which way the trail would turn, we had a map and compass but had no need as the trail was clearly marked and well trod.

After 1.5 hours of hiking we began to notice that the sky was brightening and within another hour we were treated to a spectacular sunrise. The trail was very tame (much easier than Boundary) but we kept the pace slow to ensure that no one got into trouble.

I really enjoyed the climb until we reached the trail crest, after that I had two or three moments of worry on the narrow parts with serious drop-offs (sometimes on both sides). The trail was very good, but my fear of falling, or more precisely fear of hitting the rocks below, gave me a couple of intense moments. The entire climb went smoothly and we were on top in 6:25.

We spent 23 minutes on top taking pictures and refueling a bit (including a shared Red Bull) and then we were off. Conditions were ideal, with very little wind, bright sunshine, and moderate temperatures on top (although it was a bit hot on the way back down). Eric decided he wanted to do some running and he was out of sight on the descent. We all got together at outpost camp and Eric took off for the final 5 (?) miles. Richard and Rod joined me for a while at a slower run but eventually pushed ahead. Robert (who is a professional mountain guide) hiked with Dan and Doug.

It was pretty hot running but it felt good to be moving along knowing that the end would soon be in sight. I hit the trailhead 10:56 after starting (4:08 for the descent) and the other guys were a bit faster and a bit slower respectively.

We headed off to Vegas, which was about halfway to our next goal (Humphreys) and were treated to an amazing sunset in Death Valley. It was a very long day but well worth it!

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