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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Day 999: Mount Whitney Trail to Lone Pine Lake - Perseid's - John Muir Wilderness - Inyo National Forest

Lone Pine Lake

Day 999 * Hike #1294 * New Track #996
Mount Whitney Trail to Lone Pine Lake - Lone Pine, CA
Sunday August 11, 2013
My Tripometer: 1.75 Hours * 3 Miles * +1850 Feet

Mount Whitney, here we come! 

***CAUTION:
Before attempting this insane hike, it's important that you're prepared for the challenge.  One way to do this is to follow my blog day by day for 1000 consecutive days.  This I assure you will adequately train your body to tackle this beast.

Technically speaking, the Mount Whitney Trail is not a very difficult hike.  That said, it is a Very Long round trip and the elevation may play a trick on your mind.  There are many suggested warm up hikes to help you prepare for this big bad boy.

  • Day 929: Mt. Baldy  The longer loop trail that I took this day covered nearly 11 miles and climbed more than 4000 Feet in elevation.  The steep incline is actually more challenging than any of the switchbacks on the Whitney Trail.  You will gain 1000 feet per mile for four straight miles.  It's relentless!  Whereas Mt. Whitney inclines you 6000 feet over 11 miles (about half the grade).  Mt. Baldy will peak you at 10000 Feet, therefore it is a good warm up.

  • San Gorgonio Mountain - Wikipedia  This is the highest peak in Southern California at 11503 Feet.  There are several different ways to combat this trail and usually the best way to do it is to haul in the heavy pack to camp overnight at one of the lower camping spots.  Like Whitney, this hike requires a permit.  Obtaining a permit for this hike is much easier than gaining access to Mt. Whitney through the lottery.  Adam, who joined us on this Whitney adventure, attempted this trek a month ago with Nick, who also joined us.  Unfortunately they fell about 1.5 miles short of the peak due to a lack of water.  With no doubt I know that Nick would have made the summit but he hung back with Adam and others and missed the opportunity.  As for me, I've been wanting to tackle this beast but never got around to it :(

  • Days 976 - 978: Mineral King Loop  Last month I completed this 28 mile loop on a solo mission over a three day period.  Reaching elevations of nearly 12000 Feet, twice, you will climb over 8000 feet in total elevation gain to complete this mission.  With a 50 pound heavy pack on your back, this trek will surely adjust your body accordingly in preparation for Whitney.

  • There are many numerous hikes that will help you prepare for Mt. Whitney.  You can scroll through my blog and attempt some of my more difficult climbs or surf the web to see what you can come up with on your own.  In final, leading up to the day of the hike, I recommend you adjust your body to the elevation shock.  No better place than to visit where I was at yesterday: Day 998: Elevation Acclamation at Horseshoe Meadows

***Now, let's go for a hike...

From the lower overflow parking area - Here Comes Mount Whitney...

Directions:
From the Town of Lone Pine, turn up Whitney Portal Road from the 395 and take this all the way to the end.  Check out my visit last year for more pics and information around the trailhead: Day 578: Whitney Portal.

It was already mid afternoon when we reached the portal today.  Parking near the trailhead was completely full, thus we had to park in the lower overflow parking area.  No big deal, add 0.1 miles to your hike and 50 feet of elevation gain!

Trailhead - 8360 Feet
 That's Nick already powering ahead with no shirt on!  He is a machine when it comes to the trails.  Pacing behind him second is our new comer, Ian.  Over this 1000 day adventure I've hiked with all of these guys at least once, but no more than once.  For the most part, I hiked solo much of the time.  Prior to my 1000 Day adventure I probably went on ten overnight hikes with Nick and four with Adam.  Speaking of Adam, he would be my hiking companion for the majority of this adventure.  Thanks buddy for hanging with me...

The trail begins with a series of Switchbacks

Welcome to Mt. Whitney.  No, these early on switchbacks are not part of the infamous 97 but they will begin to wear you down, especially if you are wearing a heavy pack like us.

Cross Carillon Creek and then Lone Pine Creek

During the dry summer months, all creek crossing will be relatively simple.  However, I follow a guy on Facebook who trekked this mountain at the same time I was coming back from Mineral King.  Due to the monsoon in Mexico, the moisture made it's way up to the Sequoia's and this gentle creek turned into a raging white water rapid.  These guys started their day hike journey at 1:00am and did not reach back to this point until after sundown.  In the dark they linked hands with one another and safely made it across the creek, but it was not easy.  Their total round trip was 19 hours!

Officially entering the Joun Muir Wilderness - Inyo National Forest

The Mount Whitney Trail marks the end of the 200+ mile John Muir Trail.  Along the way we intersected several people finishing up this long journey.  The fastest guy claimed that this was his 12th day to complete the mission.  A family of three was on Day #15.  Their daughter had pulled her quad three days prior and was hurting significantly in effort to complete the long trek.  We also ran into a guy who was on Day #25, hey, that's more my style and pace...

Back to the trail...

The Lincoln Log Bridge...

Careful, the 2nd log is a bit loose but all others are sturdy...

Finally off the switchback and leveling out into the thin forest

2.5 miles in, Lone Pine Lake Junction (turn left)

0.1 miles from the junction, Lone Pine Lake - Elevation ~10000 Feet

The journey to this lake is between 2.5 to 3.0 miles, depends on who you ask.  I've seen some websites call out the elevation gain at only 1000 feet, but there is at least 1700 feet in gain.  Mostly up all the way there, with a bit of fluctuation I'm calling it 18000 feet, but this includes my quarter mile loop around the lake as well...

Setting up our tents


From the back side of the lake

Mt. Whitney is so White!  The granite mountain is so remarkably. white!  The entire mountain is like the top of Mt. Baldy, but there are so many lakes which do keep things interesting...


From the edge of the lake, looking out over Lone Pine
 
No Camp Fires allowed up here.  Moreover, with just 2 overnight permits we needed to keep a low profile.  We camped at the front part of the lake and warmed up our food on our miniature stoves.  Between the four of us we had three stoves, all under 1 pound each.

As the sun went down, the crescent moon rose and then quickly dropped again.  We needed to get some sleep ahead of our early departure time tomorrow.  However, the clear dark night sky was offering some of the best views of the Perseid's.  The meteor shower was brilliant!  The Milky Way appeared more fabulous at Horseshoe Meadows but tonight I got to see the most amazing shooting star ever!

It's like I had been waiting my whole life for this!  How many times have I gone out to see shooting stars to come up completely disappointed?  Well, not this time.  It was like Mickey Mouse waiving his wand for Walt Disney.  This pure white shooting star was thick, very thick.  It moved slow, like in instant replay slow.  The tail was like a pointer dog with no wag.  It was like drawing a line with an exploding star at the end, and then it was over.  It lasted a couple of seconds.  I saw the whole thing and when it did go away, it was like it was still there!  Ian saw the tail end of it, pun not intended.

A few minutes later, I saw another amazing site.  It was a much dimmer stream of light but it flew across 75% of the night sky at the speed of light.  Totally insane!

Anyhow, Nick and Adam were already snoring logs and with less than 6 hours to day hike departure time, Ian and I called it lights out.  Stay tuned, Tomorrow will be Day #1000 - My summit to Mt. Whitney!

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