Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hike to Trail Camp at Mt. Whitney - 07.12.11

The last 13 miles is all uphill to the Whitney Portals.
In preparation for my third attempt to summit Mt Whitney, I decided to do a preview hike a month earlier. I picked this date because I knew there would be snow so I would not be tempted to summit and it was the day that the Badwater 135 was expected to finish.
Denni, Janet and Diana.
The winner's support vehicle at Whitney Portal.
My crew and I left Bakersfield at 6am and the ride went quickly for the most part. When we got Lone Pine we went to the visitor center to pick up our permits and we saw some BW135 support vehicles there as well. The center looks brand new and really nice but we were in a hurry to see the race finish and to get hiking. sadly they were not handing out the big individual permits but we did get our wag bags!

As we drove through Lone Pine and the 13 mile road to the trail head, we passed a couple runners and many of their support crews. We ended up seeing Oswaldo Lopez finish in under 24 hours (Sub 11 minute pace the whole way!). During the post race interview, we were amazed at how alert and great he looked.

135 miles in less than a day!
Seeing him was really cool and very inspiring and got me pumped up for my hike and future ultras. So we headed off for our adventure at about 10am with the sun shining.
A little over dressed at the trail head.
After weighing our packs (under 15 pounds) it was time to head off.
The first of many creek crossings.
For me the trail was a new experience, because I have always gone up it in the dark. It was nice to hike without any summit fever and being able to see where I was going. The first mile was covered in 30:30 and we climbed 574 feet and descended 47 feet with an average moving pace of 23:39. That works out to an average grade of 10% but it felt good and we caught a number of backpackers on the way up.
Never looks like much fun.
We covered the next mile in 28:24 despite a climb of 703 feet with average moving pace of 25:39. From time to time, I could feel the altitude but it was not bad. When we got to 10,000 feet, the crew was excited because it was the highest they had ever been and we were near the Lone Pine Lake (2.8 / 9960) but we decided to pass on visiting it.
A lot harder in the dark.
When we reached the Whitney zone, we saw our first snow of the day plus I knew the trail was going to get a lot harder. We had to climb 16 switchbacks to Bighorn Park (3.5 / 10340).
Look at those big paw prints by Janet's pole.
The trail becomes rocky.

What a view of Lone Pine Lake.
It was nice to see the crews reaction to the meadow. After our first taste of steep rocky trail, it is nice to see this beautiful place and enjoy covering some flat terrain to Outpost camp (3.8 / 10360). We covered mile 3 in 35:42 (AMP was 25:50) with a climb of 556 feet and mile 4 took 46:33 with 322 up and 12 down. At Outpost camp, we took a lunch break hence the slowish mile.

Diana leading the way in shorts!
After our lunch it was time for some more climbing. The next land mark was Mirror Lake (4.3 / 10640) but we had to climb 14 SBs to get there. Though this section is short, it gets your attention quick because the serious climb starts here. As we left Mirror Lake, we encountered the first snow on the trail as we climbed the 18SBs to the Whitebark Stump (4.8 miles).
Trailside Meadow
 Now we were above the tree line and there was a lot of snow off the trail. Trailside Meadow (5.3 / 11395) was covered in snow except for the upper part. The 18 SBs to get there are very rocky and I was getting dizzy at times as well. Mile 5 took 41:59 and we went up 681 and down 13 with an average moving pace of 33:00.
Lots of snow.
This last section to Trail Camp (6.3 / 12039) is the hardest. The 18 SBs are steep and very rocky and today we had snow to deal with. In some ways the snow is better than the rocks. When we finally got to Trail Camp it was about 2pm and we were glad to be done climbing for the day.

Janet and Diana

This snow field was pretty wide and we post holed.

Janet almost at Trail Camp.
We said we were going to Trail Camp and we did.
Need one of those UV light sterilizers.
The climb from Mirror lake to Trail Camp is the hardest part of the Whitney hike, I believe. The trail is steep and there are a lot of rocks. We covered mile six in 51:34 (Moving time  37:17) and went up 831 and down 48. At Trail Camp we were pretty loopy and won't pass a field sobriety check I bet. As we snacked, we got the laughs and were the life of the camp as we joked about post holing and just about everything else.

I sort of wanted to go up the switchbacks a bit but there seemed to be a lot of snow and the crew was ready to go downhill. So we said good by to the campers and headed back to the Portal (8360).
too be continued ...

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