I've received a permit for a Sept 8th attempt on Whitney. Now for the pre-hike logistics. I was thinking that I could camp in the afternoon/evening prior to the hike at Whitney Portal.
1) Is there shade in some of the campsites at W. Portal?
2) Can reservations be made for W. Portal campground(s)?
3) Is there any lodging there, ie. Cabin, motel, etc available for rent?
4) I have a day hike permit, I was thinking that I could start hiking at 12:01am, so that I might reach the ridge prior to first light and the summit by dawn. Will that be allowed?
Camping is shady and $8.00 last Thursday night at 7pm there were lost of sites. It is first come first serve there. We slept in a SUV thursday till 4:40 then walked. I never saw any ranger type looking for permits as you can at this time descent from the peak without one. The switchbacks are an easy walk, most of the trail is tourist,housewife friendly. I am not saying easy though! We stopped by the Ranger station on the way in and found out you can get trail camp permits the day before, get there before the office opens. Here's a little tail I wrote my friends.
I just did Whitney, Mountaineer Route, August 5, 2005. 14,496.2, I think, 17 Hours, I did not weigh my pack this time! I had nothing better to do and had a nagging feeling of unfulfillment from two weeks earlier. You can go on the sperm of the moment if you want. You don't need a permit because the trail is frequented by a hearty, few. You make a left after .8 of a mile off the Tourist trail, just before the North Fork sign. The tourist trail, you heard of, ....the leaving at some ungodly hour after getting up to the Sierras early enough to throw away money at some local motel for five hours. How about the 99 switchbacks? I am not going to say Mountaineer has no switchbacks, and I wonder if I could say I have really gone Mountain climbing? The climbing entailed negotiating these couloirs bottomed by either rocks of increasing sizes which either were the base for larger ones above, that loosened and rolled down on you or waited for you to confidently use them as a large stair step and then begin to slide down, a scary prospect either way. Some of these couloirs (french for the space at the curb where drainage flows if I remember my dialogues) are filled with snow, that's right August 5th, the South Half of California, foot and a half of snow, in which you either sink or lose your footing and slide down, which brings us to the Ice Axe(baby) I was convinced to buy for $25 used, where you self arrest by ramming it into the snow so you and your 30 pound backpack don't, like the cartoons, roll down the mountain, becoming a larger, and larger snow ball.
The side of these couloirs is where my first intro to mountain climbing took place. With a weighty pack which destroys your center of balance, climbing the still solid sides, trying to not climb back down after you have gotten thirty feet higher into mountaineering's surprising and deceptive cul-de-sacs, wedging available body parts into cracks, fissures, crannies, finger scooping dirt out to create a hand hold to get higher only to get as high as you or maybe anyone with or without your experience should expect to get, and then have to lower youself back the same way, forgetting where you stepped, or how you were able to heave yourself higher with what on the way down is a non-existant foothold, scrambling up to give your partner a hand, or she who has been in the Andes or Himayalas catching up to help you out of what looks to her to be barely a Fisher-Price predicament. Exciting, isn't it?
Mount Whitney....El Montano Contiguoso (don't you be correcting me mo' fo') imagine an irregular, pyramidal, conical, apex pointedly object. But just from the side we approached. Take some not so giant chicken wire, the graph paper kind. cut the segments into two square rectangles, PUSH THIS SCREEN DOWN OVER THE CENTER OF THE OBJECT(god I hate cap lock, WORD should have a 'things I always do wrong', hey I think it has something I can use, but does E-mail have it?), we will call it mount whitney and then push it sidewards, to create a pile of blocks, Have Thor's hammer or Zeus's thunderbolt knock it and half the mountain range of of "needles" and 'actual' mountains away to create a caldera, (caldera may be specifically something else) of curving mountain valleys totally devoid of trees except for some brush by the stream, sometimes the streams build up to create lakes which were ice even on August 5th. The non-hammer/thunderbolt side of the range is the child's blocks knocked over, quarry look of the whole section of the range; a real bear goes over the mountain torture, seeming to never reveal a tree, or tree-filled trail camp below,...hell to walk on a trail, for miles, an eternity it seemed, only to go down the infamous 99 switchbacks. Down is no bargain if you are tired and wobbly.
Started at 4:30 am, motored along with the experience of two weeks ago, recognizing trails, using one stick, better pack and poles from Gary! Got to u-bos-co real early (but I have forgotten the actual times through the haze of subsequent ordeals) as far as we went two weeks ago. Climbing faster than my partner, but being substantially older, I earned many rests, motivate by altitude headaches, shoe problems, food and water disciplines, exhuberence provoked fatigue...
The mountaineer 5 trail goes relentlessly up, from the sunken living room comfort of the Whtney Portal at about 8900 feet, I think, through balconies, ledges, tunnel-like waterworks, trails along the rising rock face, only switching when totally necessary after the onset. Up a succession of narrow, step-valleys getting starker and treeless and winterlike with snow melt lakes, Golf course sand trap sprinkling of snow spots, the final lake being the appropriately named, ICEBERG LAKE, accessible by a higher degree of climbing as the thousands add up. Then the 1831 feet of snowy couloir a similiar .8 to the top. But how different eight tenths of a mile can be. Garirox of all sizes, luckily ten to fifteen percent of them don't move. The one's that do do so in concert. I have never been in an earthquake where you can't stand up, or an avalanche, slipping out from below you; but the surface of the earth should be a given. Here it often is not. Being out ahead I chose a parallel couloir that shotcutted more than half the snow. I don't got no stinkin' snow boots. .8 equaled three hours!
By that time we had decided on the 11 mile tourist way out and the way people were gingerly negotiating the descent cemented our decision. At the notch we skirted the peak, (I will never do this again....AGAIN! ...HA!...Circling almost to the tourist trail; we climbed to....not the summit but what I will call the top, only the top was like a graveyard for broken sidewalk pieces,...it went on forever with a curvature of the earth sort of feel. It had a lost in a Sahara, twilight zone we have landed on another planet look, with nothing but the fluffy clouds at three quarters of the horizon. At that point of exhaustion it's total coolness was unnecessary. It went on forever! Did I mention the two guys scrambling down an hour ago with a paranoia thunder storm fear very much alive in their eyes? Well the flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air had some evil cousins in tandem. Mountain Goddess Michal gave me no rest at the top. Next time I will stay a while...NEXT TIME? HA
A fallen forest of mini monoliths, could they arise Fantasia-like to chase us down to those surley switchbacks. Just my magination...fatigue will get you....long before the end. So those strength sapping switchbacks sucked. Thank god for the hiking poles; I could have lurched off the side on numerous occasions and thanked God for the abrupt rescue. Facing south looking down at the trail camp; facing north looking down at the trail camp, I was told of someone who had slid down the mile long snowskid suicidal and self arresting. It took too too long; I would rather risk the mounaineer drop! When we got to the bottom it haled . The trail got nicer eventually; and dark again, but it never ended. God if there was only a Ponderosa steak house at the Whitney Portal and Rite-Aid sale twelve packs of St Pauli Girl for $8.99! Fatburger, Barneys Beanery burger dog combo, how about a gift certificate to Pirhana on Palm in Burbank! The kind of meal that would almost seem to fill those throbbing legs, push out the stomach obscenely.
Steve and Gary want to do this.they say..I want to do it with even less stuff, and run it !