Well we didn’t bring Aphrodite on this trip but we felt it was definitely worthy of a post or two. This adventure is one for the books.
“An Epic Walk” started with an invitation from our friends, Joe and Mary, during a winter ski trip. Joe had summited Mt. Whitney (in California) 6 years ago and wanted to do it again. We were very interested in participating. Joe secured the climbing permits (which are only distributed via lottery) and a camp site at the Mt. Whitney portal. Now it was up to us to say “we’re in”–which (of course) we did!
Unfortunately Mary wasn’t able to join us, but she had a critical role–provisioning us for the trip.
A brief factoid on Mt Whitney:
Mount Whitney can be summited as a day hike or multi-day backpack trip on the classic Mt. Whitney Trail. Located on the eastside of California’s beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains, the trail starts in Inyo National Forest and enters Sequoia National Park, with spectacular views and access to trails that continue deep into the park wilderness. The summit of Mt. Whitney is the southern end of the John Muir Trail.
Starting at 8,300 feet above sea level at Whitney Portal, the Mt. Whitney Trail gains over 6,200 feet of elevation. Topping off at 14,505 feet.
Day One (Travel and Arrival Day)
We drove up from Westlake Village to the Mt. Whitney portal campground which is located about 15 miles outside of Lone Pine, CA. We arrived in Lone Pine and stopped at the Mt. Whitney Visitors’ Center to pick up our permits and wag bag. Permits are required to hike or camp inside the “Whitney Zone”. This is a lottery process which you apply for many months in advance. Joe took care of securing the permits. There are 100 single day permits issued per day and 30 overnight back packing permits. Within the Whitney Zone all human waste is packed out which is why each hiker/camper is given a wag bag (an unfortunate necessary evil to hiking there). We drove through Lone Pine to the Mt. Whitney Portal Campsite. Site 42 was our home. It was close to the creek (which we could hear all night), beautifully wooded and pretty quiet. We really felt like there was no one else around. We set up camp and then went to check in with the camp host-Lee. We learned all about the bear activity, heard the most fascinating campground stories, participated in the Ice Bucket challenge and then walked back to our campsite. Mary packed us a yummy dinner of pasta bolognese, salad and chocolate cookies. And, I must say, we slept great on our first night.
Day 2 (Warm Up Hike)
We woke to a picture perfect day and decided to start acclimating to the trails and altitude. We were camping at 8,300 feet and we wanted to do a piece of the trail to warm up our legs and lungs. Our friend Joe doesn’t live at altitude so we knew we need to acclimatize. We decided to hike the Lone Pine Lake Trail. It is a 5.6 round trip mile hike with a 1,700 foot elevation gain. We had previously decided to leave for the summit at Midnight and thought it would be a good idea to know a little bit of what we were going to face in the dark.
But first we needed breakfast. The Mt. Whitney Portal store is the place for breakfast if you are camping. It is known for very large breakfast portions to prepare hikers for the day ahead. The store is owned by Doug who is the definitive guide of all things Mt. Whitney. So, each day he holds court in the store as people gather around him to ask questions and listen to stories about Mt Whitney. I kid you not, I walked into the store at several different points while we were having breakfast and there were no less than 4 people at any time just listening to Doug. He has been there for many years and seen it all, and knows all about hiking the 22 mile trail in one day–which was our goal.
We enjoyed our breakfast and if you are wondering between the three of us we could not finish the pancake. In fact we didn’t eat until dinner that night since the breakfast was so big and quite good.
After breakfast we hiked and returned to our campsite to prep for our night and day ahead. Since we were leaving at Midnight we had to eat and get some sleep before 11pm. Next…Summit Day.