On June 13, 2001, Rich, Eric, Dan, Todd, Jesse (only 13), and I arrived in 3 separate vehicles. Rich and I got rooms squared away at the Alabama Hills Hotel (climber friendly as you can park your vehicle there while climbing in the winter), and took care of the permit procedures with the Rangers. We then went to the library to make a copy for each member of the group.
On the morning of June 14, we headed up to the Portal (8,300 feet or 2550 meters) (located at 36 degrees 35 minutes 13.5 seconds north latitude 118 degrees 14 minutes 22.2 seconds west longitude), and started hiking from there. We broke into two groups and reasembled at Trail Camp, (located vicinity 36 degrees 33 minutes, 48.5 seconds north latitude 118 degrees 16 minutes 38.4 seconds west longitude). This is a large vast open rocky area where you can put your tent up just about any place that you wish, as long as you do not set up too close to the water (Ranger's rules). If you want to socialize with other climbers you have that option, and if you seek isolation, you can go that way too. We just wanted to stay away from the solar latrine.
Todd, Dan, Jesse, and I set up the tents at Trail Camp. (12,000 feet or 3,660 meters) Rich and Eric came up slower, which was actually the right way to enjoy the sites. I was under a lot of pressure from the spouse to get home in time for Father's' Day, and it certainly took away from the relaxation of the trip. We settled in at 12,000 feet and tried to enjoy the sites.
The next morning, Todd was really wracked with Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) which was a surprise since he was the single most physically fit member of the group. He was so over come that he remained at Camp. Note, he had not vomited or bled, so we knew he was safe, just very uncomfortable. Nothing short of a pack of half-starved marmots would finish him off in our absence.
We worked over the cables, a short (50 meters) icy section with hand cables on your right as you ascend, and got to Trail Crest (13,600 feet or 4,105 meters) (located at 36 degrees 33 minutes, 33.4 seconds north latitude 118 degrees 17 minutes 29.1 seconds west longitude), via the traditional switchbacks. Some people were still using the chute to ascend but we felt better using the switchbacks. We did experience some wet spots (snow fields about 50 meters long) and a falling rock that got our attention, but we did OK. We continued north from Trail Crest and finally made it to the summit (14,496 feet or 4,418 meters), (located at 36 degrees 34 minutes, 43.2 seconds north latitude 118 degrees 17 minutes 31.2 seconds west longitude). It was great to be back there a second time, and with a 13 year old teenager this time! We all felt bad for Todd, back at Trail Camp, but did radio him with our status. Note, you cannot see Trail Camp from the summit. After a half hour there, and the requisite photos with our work flag and log signing, we headed back. Upon reaching Trail Crest, we decided to glissade down to Trail Camp. We did so, to the enjoyment of most, despite getting some snow up our backs.
Upon reaching Trail Camp, we offered to have me leave the next day, and the rest would take Todd to the summit, but he was still overcome with AMS. Of note, I had a head ache most of the time above 12,000 feet too, but I did not experience the nausea like I experienced in September 2000. There is just no easy way to go from sea level to 14,497feet. Although I still had a head ache, my most enjoyable time was with the team at Trail Camp, the evening after making the summit. Chatting with the other climbers was educational and fun. We also met a team (couple) from Switzerland, and it was great to be of knowledge assistance to them.
The next day, we descended the Whitney Trail to the Portal. To our amazement, we saw a group headed up with stereo speakers on their back pack. We bumped into a number of Boy Scouts too. Most frustrating, was an athlete, well acclimatized as all he has was a water bottle, shorts, a T-shit, and a fanny pack.
I took a shower at the Portal Store. It was great for the long drive home.
We never employed crampons, ropes or helmets, but we did make use of our ice axes, especially for glissading. Hiking poles were of great assistance.
At the camp site, we used everything from bear cannisters, dehydrated food, snacks, a water filter, MSR Dragonfly stoves, pots, Lexan water bottles, and such.
Clothing employed was rather light, (mostly sun and wind protection) but we had some good cold weather clothes in the back packs, "just in case." Gaiters were very helpful.
We also had a GPS, lensatic compass, topographic map in a water proof case, several cameras, and such.
Our back packs were quite heavy, around 50 pounds, but we were genuinely self-sufficient, especially with three Emergency Medical Technicians in the group, and their combined medical gear.
We also had three UHF radios for two-way communications.
Our tents were a The North Face Ambition 35, a Marmot Sanctum, and a Sierra Designs version.
We saw marmots at the summit, and one was hanging around Trail Crest (13,600 feet), like a toll collector. We did not see any bears, anywhere. We saw a number of birds, but none as brave as in the winter. There were very few mosquitoes despite being close to a small pond/lake at Trail Camp.
This was the most relaxing and enjoyable of my three times on Whitney. I recommend anyone wanting to go there to plan three nights at 12,000 feet (Trail Camp), two for enjoyment and a back up in case of weather. The big problem for overnights on Whitney is the lottery process for permits. Please visit http://www.whitneyportalstore.com/reports/ and learn about how to get your permit there.
The folks at the Whitney Portal Store were quite busy, yet made time to chat with us. We cleaned out our wallets for souvineers and Portal Store Grub.
Good luck to all, and enjoy it!
No comments posted yet.