And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will that says to them hold on
People often ask, why do this? I asked myself that question quite a few times en route to the top of Whitney. I wasn't physically prepared for this hike, was weakened and ill from altitude and pretty much suffering the whole way. There were more whys on this trip than there normally are.
The reasons why are different for everyone. But most will agree that, when you reach the summit, you answer the question for yourself, and for anyone else who simply gets it. There's a rush of emotions- relief, happiness, satisfaction. Its practically inexplicable but for the sense that, somehow, it was worth it. Simply put, its your moment on top of the world.
This is located in a wonderful historical building. First I thought the hotel was still in business, but saw the sign and thought, how wonderful.
Located at 120 South Main Street, in the historical building of the Lone Pine Hotel. The hotel rooms now house small businesses.
Monday through Friday 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM
We are closed most Legal Holidays.
P.O Box 749 Lone Pine, CA 93545
Our Main Local Events:
Early Opener Trout Derby.
Wild Wild West Marathon
Lone Pine Film Festival
The Chamber Board Meetings are held at 7am the 1st Tuesday of each month at the Chamber Courtyard Conference Room.
Here begins the real fun of the ascent. I forget how far we had to go at this point, but it was at least 1,000 feet. This part is extremely steep with lots of loose rock and talus (small stones that make it easy to slip and fall). Once again, we were traversing, making this section longer than it would be going striaght up, but there didn't seem to be a direct route without falling and possibly sliding.
We had a rock fall above us that was a bit unnerving. Fortunately, the medium sized rocks did not impact anyone as we heard the sound and ducked for cover. When climbers dislodge rocks, they are supposed to yell "rock!" to warn those below. These seemed to move from their own volition as no one was above us. We had helmets on which should protect against anything short of a boulder avalanche. Still, this made everyone just a little more wary and we continued, a bit more cautiously, trying to cling to the sides of the gully behind the shelter of some of the larger overhead boulders.
As you can see in the photos, there are tons of loose rock up here. It is practically impossible to take a straight path upwards, especially earlier in the summer when there is more snow. We did a good bit of traversing- crossing back and forth at an angle as opposed to going sraight up. This made things easier, but also added to the length and time of the climb.
Favorite thing: Morning 2. Everyone was in good spirits. The weather was perfect. Slightly chilly but no wind and no clouds in sight. We'd shed our heavier coats while doing the morning chores and were commenting on what a perfect day for a summit it was. We were rested, we had "only" 3 miles to go and it was going to be a great day. Best of all, we didn't have to hike with those heavy packs.
It took almost an hour an a half to get to Iceberg Lake. After the rock field, we had to scale some good sized boulders. I could not imagine doing this whole section with a backpack on. Even with an earlier start, this section would be brutal if you're fully loaded. Anyone contemplating the Mountaineers Route should give serious thought to camping at Upper Boyscout Lake. It will make your summit day longer and will pretty much require you to camp a second night. But this is ankle turning, thigh burning territory up here.
Iceberg Lake was a bit more crowded than our secluded spot. Lots of people getting a "late morning" start and just emerging from tents at around 8 a.m. After all, its only 2 miles from this point.
Favorite thing: From Iceberg Lake, the first section you encounter is a steep uphill with some almost techincal moves. This section took longer than expected because we kept traversing (walking back and forth seeking an easier route instead of climbing back up.) We didn't rope up at this point and I doubt that many, if any, climbers do. But there were some sections where you have to navigate around boulders and it was quite easy to lose your balance. There are great handholds in these sections and its relatively easy if you keep your nerve. You wouldn't fall all the way down, but the steep angles can test your nerves a bit if you're afraid of heights like I am.
Favorite thing: Reaching the summit is always an accomplishment. Usually, its pretty exhilarating too. Maybe it was the 6.5 hours it took to get here, and it definitely had to do with the altitude, but I only have fuzzy memories about being on the summit. And no particularly happy feelings about it. That probably had to do with thinking about the long route back to camp.
The visitor center is an excellent starting point for a trip to Death Valley National Monument and of course for the Alabama Hills.
They give you every information you need. Like the temperature in Death Valley:-)
And of course maps, brochures, books.
Favorite thing: Most people who hike Whitney will tell you that it feels like an endless trail. One of the appeals of the Mountaineers Route is that its shorter (6 mi total vs 11 mi, for a one way trip). But the combination of altitude, pack weight and the terrain that you cross make this route seem endless. We took breaks every 90 minutes or so to drink as much water as possible have have a snack. Every time we did this, someone would check the altitude and mileage and discover that we'd gone a far shorter distance than we'd thought. But its still a pretty scenic rest stop, don't you think?
Favorite thing: This was one of the worst parts of the hike. Not because it was so long, but because it was like one of those rides at Disneyworld where you wait in line forever and, when you think you've gotten to the front, you turn a corner and are in another room filled with switchbacks. Everytime we completed a grueling uphill session, we'd be sure we were there only to find another few hundred feet of rocky uphill. We started hiking at midday, which was a big mistake but necessitated by my travel arrangements which had been changed to accommodate yet another South Florida hurricane scare. We were tired from the heat, the uphill and the altitude. And, mostly, from being fooled so many times into believing that we'd actually reached camp.
Favorite thing: After crossing the ledges, there was a brief level area which ended at a small lake. Once you cross the lake, you enter a small wooded patch and then come the boulders. This isn't like the granite torture of the White Mountains where each boulder moves as you try to walk. Most are stationary. But they are quite large and it takes a lot of high stepping to get over them.
Favorite thing: This was where the mind began playing tricks and objects in the distance were much farther than appeared. We all believed that when we made it to the bottom of this rocky hill, we were pretty much there. No one was prepared for the steep uphill over large slabs of rock or the next field of asteriod sized rocks we encountered after that. It became a then miserable and now funny game of, "we're almost there. Oh, wait. No we're not."
At the top of the gully, we found the ledges. The last 100 feet are still considered non-techincal Class 3-4 hiking. Many people do this section without ropes, in part because they don't feel that its dangerous and also because roping and belaying really slows you down. We roped up for this section and I'm glad that we did so.
As you can see from the photos, this wasn't vertical climbing. But it was steep enough to get your heart racing. The worst part for me was the wait on a ledge while the guide scrambled up to set up the next belay. There were no level spots up here and we ended up crouched on a slanted section of rock which made me feel like I was going to fall at any minute. Add to that the increasing view downward, the increasing wind and the altitude which makes you dizzy to begin with, and it was pretty nerve racking.
If you have no fear of heights, this part will not bother you a bit. The group was pretty relaxed and didn't seem to mind any of this much. But those of us who have the fear will end up taking some deep breaths and getting a little more shaky with each pitch as the ground is further and further below.
The summit is a pretty active and happy place. Most people are excited about the prospect of having made it up here and are roaming about, taking photos and even talking on cellphones (Verizon actually gets service up here, in case anyone's interested.) There is a lot of discussion about which route you took and how long it took, etc.
Most of the summiteers were walkups having taken the 22 mi roundtrip trail. We were one of the few mountaineers route groups. Since I went with an organized group, we were loaded down with gear- helmets, ropes, etc. and were quite a sight to the others on top of the mountain.
The photo shows the official plaque that marks the summit of the mountain. There is also a registry you can sign to make your visit official. Sadly, there are no bathrooms up here, or concession stands. Although, at this altitude, eating is pretty much out of the question.
I would have given anything to be able to walk down the other side and avoid the ledges, gullies and boulders that awaited. It seemed so much easier to just put one foot in front of the other and walk down a trail. In talking with friends who have done the one way walkup, many said the same thing about our route and their wanting to be down in 6 miles instead of the 11 that awaited them. I guess that, even on a mountain in the desert like Sierra Nevadas, the grass always is greener on the other side.
Our summit stay was brief as we still had to tackle the route down. To be continued....
Favorite thing: Descending the gully was a nightmare. It was much tougher picking our way down the loose steep rocks along the slope. Fatigue was beginning to set in. We were probably 10 hours into this hike and eating had been out of the question as the altitude made everyone queasy. We kept traversing back and forth, slowing forward progress considerably. The end of the gully didn't look that far away, but the painfully slow progress made this part of the journey extremely frustrating. I'd kept all thoughts of soreness shut down and really just couldn't feel my legs. But it was getting tougher to push past the fatigue.