Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Alabama Hills && Whitney

First things first, stopping at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center to pick up permits
 Met Brenda, the famous face rock
 Alabama Hills, CA
Sunrise in Alabama Hills
 Mobius Arch
Alabama Hills
Whitney Portal 
 Part of the Whitney Trail 
 Entering the Whitney Zone
A little creek along the trail 
 Consultation Lake
 Our tent at Trail Camp
The mountains are calling 
 Reached Trail Crest right around 7 am for sunrise
 Mount Hitchcock and the Hitchcock Lakes
Peaking through the window
 The happiest moment, being able to see the summit house
 The views were terrible weren't they?
 Peaking over the peak
 Made it to the top!
 The Sierras
We almost pushed each other off the mountain 
 Snowy trails
 The chains on the 99 switchbacks
 Slushy trails 
The 99 switchbacks 
Goodbye Sierras!

Mount Whitney stats:
- tallest mountain in the contiguous US at 14, 508 ft
- 22 miles out and back on the Mt Whitney Trail
- elevation gain 6,130 ft
- time we took: 7 hours the 1st day from Whitney Portal to Trail Camp, 2nd day 19 hours from Trail Camp to Summit, and back down to Whitney Portal

The story of our Mount Whitney trip truly began in February of this year. Trying to obtain permits for the Mt Whitney Trail is not the funnest task. Since so many people want to hike the Whitney Trail, there is now a lottery system to obtain permits, so it's not even first come first serve, it's luck of the draw. Lottery window is open from February to Mid March, and then they announce the winners end of March beginning of April. Well we submitted, but we didn't win the permits... so onto plan B. After the lottery permits are announced end of March, on April 1st, they open up the window for first come first serve to all the permits that are still available that people didn't submit for. So at 7 am, the window opened and Tizzy and I frantically clicked away on recreation.gov to try to get permits, and after a nail biting 10 minutes, we got permits! And that is why we ended up with permits for October.... lol. Oh well, better than not hiking it at all this year!

So onto out actual trip, we spent 4 nights out in the Lone Pine area, the first night we camped Alabama Hills, second night Whitney Portal, third night Trail Camp at 12,000 ft, and our last day we got a room at the Dow Villa Motel, which was much needed after 3 nights of camping lol.

Saturday when we drove into Lone Pine, the first place we stopped was the Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitor Center. This is the place for you to pick up the Whitney permits, rent bear canisters, grab our WAG bags (you have to pack out solid human waste, meaning you poop in this bag and carry it out with you), and get some free maps of the area. We told the rangers we wanted to camp in Alabama Hills that night, and they handed us a brochure that had a map of the area and where we were allowed to camp. They also warned us that weekend was the Lone Pine Film Festival, so we might run into tour groups touring the area. Apparently a lot of movies have been filmed in Alabama Hills, particularly old westerns. Which gave us plenty of entertainment for the weekend with all the cowboys walking around town, and us getting stuck watching the parade because the street was closed and we couldn't drive anywhere.

Camping in Alabama Hills was awesome, we stargazed at night, each of us seeing a handful of shooting stars, and woke up before sunrise to watch the Sierras and Mt Whitney light up with the sun. The only downside of Alabama Hills, are no running water, so you need to bring a couple gallons with you, and no toilets, so you gotta squat between the rocks. Sunday morning we took a short walk to see the Mobius Arch where we ran into Forrest from Austin and Tom from Palm Springs. In which we ended up having breakfast with both of them at the Whitney Portal Store. Which btw, they've got giant pancakes, like 4-5 people can split one pancake and walk away stuffed.

Anyways, onto the main event..... backpacking Mt Whitney.

Sunday night we camped at Whitney Portal, they have a small backpacker campsite for $12/night, max stay is 1 night, so it's pretty easy to get a spot there (it is October though, I can imagine summer months being a little tougher getting a spot). We hit the trail Monday at 5 am, which was considered early since we were only going to Trail Camp, but it paid off because we didn't have trouble finding a spot to pitch our tent, while other latecomers were roaming around trying to find a dry spot to post up. We got to Trail Camp  by noon, set up camp and took naps. Pretty easy day compared to what we endured the following day. We ate backpacker food and went to bed around 6:30-7 pm. So following morning, after we talked to some other hikers about start times, we hit the trail at 2:30 am. Yes, I know, ridiculously early, but we wanted to hike in the dark for as long as possible while the snow was still hard so it's easier to walk on. We lost the trail within 20 minutes of hiking, but saw some hikers coming our way, so we waited for them. We ended up hiking with Chris and Kyle, a father and son, pretty much to the summit, and ran into them again on the hike down to the trail head. We hit the summit at 10:20 am. We had heard horror stories of other experiencing altitude sickness, which can cause headaches and vomiting, and not making it to the top, so we were mentally prepared for those things, but the high elevation never got to us. Hiking back down was tough, trekking through soft slushy snow, some spots holding over 3 ft of snow. We got back to Whitney Portal by 9:45 pm. We ended up hiking for 19 hours that day. We were pretty miserable on the march back down, but in the end it was worth it. We summitted the tallest mountain in the contiguous US. As we were leaving Whitney Portal for our hotel room, there's only one road in, and one road out of Whitney Portal and right when we were heading out, there was major road blockage, a rock slide had occurred minutes prior it looked. Tizzy moved some of the tinier rocks and we were able to squeeze through.

We met some awesome people on this trip, including Gen, a girl who I found on Instagram months before, and we bonded over Whitney when we figured out we were hiking it the same days and then actually running into her and her husband on the trail, the old man who shared his macaroons with us while watching the parade, and the two guys who we had breakfast with. In the end, you never know who you're going to meet, but there are still good souls out there. This trip was challenging mentally and physically, but we both made it out alive and we didn't rip each others heads off completely haha.

Until next time Lone Pine!

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