Thursday, September 3, 2009

Climbing Mt. Whitney

We left Devils Postpile and turned south on 395 and were amazed by the beauty all around us. On the west of us were the Sierras and on the east of us were the "Alabama Hills" (filming location of the Transformer movies). The drive was through this valley and it's very hot and dry through here; the clouds get caught by each mountain range and don't dump rain in the middle. We went up to the Mt. Whitney portal. It was swarming with hikers. Even though the hike is 22 miles round-trip with 6,000 feet of elevation gain, topping out on Whitney at 14,497, it seems that most people opt to do it in one day! We, however, took two days to do it (I'll leave the one-day hike for another time).

Even with two days, one of the days has to be a long day as there isn't camping along the entire route. Here's what we did: we hiked from Whitney Portal (8,300 ft.) to Trail Camp (12,000 ft.) covering 6 miles and set up camp (picture of our little tent with our built out campsite). We actually hiked this in only four hours! This is when I started to feel beginning symptoms of altitude sickness. Jaimee felt fine, but I had the classic symptoms: headache, nausea and lack of appetite. It feels like a caffeine-withdrawal headache combined with a dose too many of NyQuil. And, since we'd hiked the first part so quickly, I had nothing to do but lie in the tent and rest and all Jaimee did was worry! Eventually, we cooked dinner, I ate some and went to bed hoping I'd feel better in the morning.

We set the alarm for 5:30AM so that we could get an early start. I was feeling a lot better. I didn't sleep super well, but my headache was mostly gone, although I still wasn't feeling very hungry. We were treated to the most incredible colors as the sun came up:

We drank some Coca tea that someone who'd visited Peru gave us (it's supposed to help with altitude sickness). We left camp with our packs only loaded with water, some food and extra layers. We started hiking around 6:15am and actually summited at 9:15am! So, for those keeping track, that's only 7 hours of hiking so far. Although tired, we both felt pretty good.

We snapped a few photos at the top, signed the trail register and headed down around 10am. Lucky that we left when we did; the clouds were ominously building up around the summit and lightning can be a real danger up there. We got back to our camp and made a quick hot meal as on the way up neither of us had been that hungry so we didn't eat much on the way up. Then we packed up our camp and proceeded back down to the portal area. Never have 6 miles seemed so long, but eventually we made it. We ended up hiking 16 miles that day, and as Jaimee likes to say, she thinks her shoes have a "12, maybe 13 mile limit" for comfort.

The thought of camping again, and especially eating camp food made both our stomachs churn so we went back to the town of Lone Pine, CA (elevation 3,700 ft.) and found a hotel and ate in a restaurant, neither of which we'd done much on this trip so far. We capped the adventure off with two frosty beers and a game of Scrabble.

Now, we're contemplating where to go next. We're going to LA next week, but we have the weekend without any firm plans. We're going to head over to Death Valley for one night at least since it's only 100 miles away, but after that we don't know. So, the adventure continues...

Here's the full slideshow of our climb:


  1. You should have left the tent poles at camp so you would have an excuse to change out of those comfort-depleted shoes and do another 12 miles in sandals! :-P

    Seriously though, looks like an awesome climb. Powered by Mate de Coca!

    I would be worried about feeling the altitude too. Please avoid future posts that need to be tagged with "illness"...especially given the insurance situation! ;-)

  2. wow. wow. wow.

    the 'couple gallery' only gets better.

    hugs to U2 from Seattle!



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