Tuesday, September 5, 2017

WA Mountains vs CA Mountains

Summit of Whitney - October 2015

Mt Hitchcock from the Whitney Trail
The 99 switchbacks on Whitney
Half Dome - September 2015
After I summited Mt Adams a few weekends ago, I got asked "What was harder, summiting Mt Adams or Mt Whitney?" I had to think about it, because I'm actually not sure what was harder. The two mountains are challenging in different ways. Longer distance vs steeper shorter mountain. Two other hikes I would categorize on my "harder hikes" list with Mt Adams and Mt Whitney are Half Dome and Mt. St. Helens. Here are some of the stats of the 4 hikes compared:
Mt. Whitney
Mt. Adams
Half Dome
Mt. St. Helens
Sequoia National Park in California
Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington
Yosemite National Park in California
Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington
Distance Round Trip:
22 miles
12 miles
17 miles
12 miles
Elevation Gained:
6,130 ft
6,740 ft
4,800 ft
5,699 ft
Tallest Point:
14,505 ft
12,280 ft
8,839 ft
8,328 ft

Things that you have to factor in are, time of year hiked, weather conditions, was it done as a day hike, or overnighted, and your fitness level.

For me, I did Mt Whitney and Mt Adams as overnighters, camping in higher elevations the night before summiting the following day. Both with good weather conditions. 

Half Dome and Mt St Helens were done as day hikes, both in perfect weather conditions as well.

I wanted to do Half Dome as an overnighter but couldn't secure backcountry permits at the time, 17 miles in one day is a very long day. All four of these hikes can be done as day hikes though, and I have witnessed people do Whitney and Adams in a day. For me, that's not enjoyable, personal opinion though. I am also not one that cares about how fast you can hike something. I like taking it all in slowly and enjoying every minute I have on trail.

Speaking from my own experience, 3 out of 4 of the hikes had snow on trail. Snow on trail for Mt. Whitney made it harder to hike, while I felt snow on Helens and Adams made it easier to hike, since once the snow melts on Adams and Helens, scree/loose gravelly rocks is what lies underneath, and it's hard to get good footing without sliding and feeling like you took one step forward, two steps back. Half Dome was completely snow free when I did it.

I also think California mountains are more rugged than Washington's volcanoes (Adams and Helens are both volcanoes). 

My ranking from hardest to easiest:
  1. Mt Whitney
  2. Mt. Adams
  3. Mt. St. Helens
  4. Half Dome
Out of the 4 hikes, I remember struggling on Mt Whitney the most. It was also my first big hike and the second time I ever backpacked. Maybe if I go back now, it'll seem easier to me. I just remember the struggle of going up that first day with a heavy pack, and the next morning hiking 99 switchbacks in the dark was relentless. Coming down for me is usually a little faster, but coming down Whitney, the snow slowed me down, and I was just plain exhausted from lack of sleep.

For more detailed write ups of my experiences on each mountain, refer back to my old posts. 

Everyone's experience on the mountain is different. You just have to make the best of the situation, know your limits, and know when to stop. Also know that your body is usually capable of doing more than you think. 
Good luck!
 View from top of Half Dome
View from the bottom of the ladder
Summit of Helens - June 2017
 View from top of Helens
The trail up Helens
Summit of Adams - August 2017
 Right below Lunch Counter
Sunset at Lunch Counter

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