Our Mount Whitney Expedition

 

Hi, This is VJ and you have reached my website Ė intentionally or unintentionally! What you see here are pictures from our 14,494 ft. summit hike on Mount Whitney, Lone Pine, CA - Wednesday, October 13, 2004. (Trip length: October 10th thru 14th)

 

Mount Whitney is the highest point in the Continental United States. It is located at the boundary between Inyo County, California and Tulare County, California. These pictures are in sequential order with captions entailing what ensued:

 

photo

 

Death Valley, CA (en route to Lone Pine, CA)

 

photo

Death Valley, CA (en route to Lone Pine, CA)

 

photo

 

Thatís me!

 

photo

 

And thatís Andy!

 

photo

 

Comfort Inn @ Lone Pine, CA (nice view of Mt. Whitney)

 

 

photo

 

Comfort Inn @ Lone Pine, CA (nice view of Mt. Whitney)

 

photo

 

Nice view of Mt. Whitney

 

photo

 

photo

 

Karla & I @ Whitney Portal (our first snowfall at base camp) 

 

photo

 

Karla & Kamala @ Whitney Portal

photo

 

VJ & Kamala @ Whitney Portal

 

photo

 

Karla & Kamala @ Whitney Portal

photo

 

Our first night @ Whitney Portal (camp site #8). Andy and Karla (foreground) and Arrielle (background). This is the last place for campfires!

 

photo

 

Kamala Marshal looking at Andy working on fixing his stove

 

photo

 

Andy & Karla at the Whitney Portal campsite. Andy trying to salvage his new backpacking stove!

 

photo

 

Kamala's bivy and Karla's tent

 

photo

 

This is where Arrielle & VJ rested on that grueling night!

 

photo

 

Karla's new tent

 

photo

 

The group - enjoying the night and having our last decent meal before the grueling climb next day.

 

photo

 

Arrielle & Andy - Tuesday 10/12/04 (next morning). Preparing for ascent up Whitney - estimated time to Outpost Camp is 7 to 8 hours!

 

photo

 

Arrielle & VJ (yours truly) - Tuesday 10/12/04 (all revved up next morning). Preparing for ascent up Whitney - estimated time to Outpost Camp is 7 to 8 hours!

 

photo

 

photo

 

Going up the trail ... 

 

photo

 

Going up the trail ... VJ, Andy, Arrielle & Kamala (trying hard to smile)

 

photo

 

Arrielle @ Outpost Camp (finally)! There are two places to camp on the trail. Outpost Camp is the lower of the two, while Trail Camp lies just below a long series of switchbacks up a steep face. Permits are required for either day hikes or camping. These permits are in great demand, so reservations in advance are required.

 

photo

 

Karla @ Outpost Camp.

 

photo

 

Andy & Karla ... we were all so darn tired! You can see snow on the ground and some trees. We would lose all trees the next day when we ascend above the "tree line".

 

photo

 

Andy beaming next to a sweet 4-season North Face tent. And no, that's not Andy's tent ;)

 

photo

 

Yup, this guy was at Outpost Camp for 7 nights. He almost lives there ... after all he has a "home" ... better than our 3-season tents!

 

photo

 

Andy ... marking a spot to pitch his tent.

 

photo

 

These are Arrielle and Karla's tents @ outpost Camp.

 

photo

 

View from Outpost Camp ... just before night fall. FACT: One-day hike up Mount Whitney is extremely strenuous: hikers are advised to be careful of altitude sickness. People also hike the trail in two, three, or four days, sleeping at the camps on the way to the summit.

 

photo

 

FACT: The steep eastern side of the mountain offers a variety of climbing challenges. The East Face route, first climbed in 1931, is a classic easy climbing route of the Sierra; mostly Class 3, with the hardest parts at only 5.4 (YDS). Other routes range up to 5.10 in difficulty. The descent is normally along the "Mountaineer's Route", a Class 3 gully to the north of the east face.

 

photo

 

YDS=Yosemite Decimal System. The Yosemite Decimal System is a numerical system for rating the difficulty of walks, hikes, and climbs, primarily used for mountaineering in the United States. The rock climbing (5.x) portion of the scale is the primary climb grading system used in the US.

 

photo

 

Dinner @ Outpost Camp

 

photo

 

The YDS system divides all hikes and climbs into five classes: Class 1: Hiking. Class 2: Simple scrambling, with possible occasional use of the hands. Class 3: Scrambling, a rope can be carried but is usually not required. Class 4: Simple climbing, with exposure. A rope is often used. Natural protection can be easily found. Falls may well be fatal. Class 5: Technical free climbing. Climbing involves rope, belaying, and other protection hardware for safety.

 

photo

 

The original Sierra Club grading system also had a Class 6, for artificial, or aid climbing. This sort of climbing uses ropes and other equipment for progress (e.g. climbing a rope up a sheer face with no holds). Class 6 is no longer widely used, however, and artificial climbs today are graded on a separate scale from A0 through A5.

 

photo

 

The increasing technical difficulty of Class 5 climbs led to the same "relative grading" problem that had caused the initial development of the system, so that class was subdivided in the 1950s. Initially it was based on ten climbs in Taquitz, California, and ran from "The Trough" at 5.0, a relatively modest technical climb, to "The Open Book" at 5.9, considered at the time the most difficult unaided climb humanly possible. However, advances in techniques and equipment have since led to harder climbs being completed.

photo

 

The first such climb was given the rating 5.10; the second the rating 5.11. It was later determined that the 5.11 climb was much harder than 5.10, leaving many climbs of varying difficulty bunched up at 5.10. To solve this, the scale has been further subdivided above the 5.9 mark with a-d suffixes. It is now an open-ended scale, with 5.15a the hardest climb having been completed (as of October 2003).

 

photo

 

Other Whitney Facts: It is possible to hike up Mount Whitney from Whitney Portal. The hike is 21.4 miles (34.4 km) round trip and 6100 feet (1900 m) of elevation gain. There are two places to camp on the trail. Outpost Camp is the lower of the two, while Trail Camp lies just below a long series of switchbacks up a steep face.

 

photo

 

More facts: To the south of the main summit there are a series of minor summits that are completely inconspicuous from the west, but appear as a series of "needles" from the east. The routes on these include some of the finest big-wall climbing in the high Sierra. Two of the needles were named after participants in an 1880 scientific expedition to the mountain: the Keeler Needle and the Day Needle; the latter has now been renamed Crooks Peak after Hilda Crooks, who hiked up Mount Whitney every year until well into her nineties.

 

photo

 

FACT: Mount Whitney rises above Owens Valley, which is just over 2 miles (~3300 m) in elevation below the peak. Mount Whitney is also near Death Valley, which contains the lowest point of the United States. The Badwater Ultramarathon is a 135 mile (215 km) running race from the bottom of Death Valley and ending at an elevation of 8360 feet (2548 m) at Whitney Portal, the trailhead for Mount Whitney.

 

 

photo

 

Some more facts: Mount Whitney was named after Josiah Whitney, the chief geologist of California. It was first climbed in 1873 by Charles Begole, A. H. Johnson, and John Lucas (fishermen who lived in Lone Pine, California.)

 

Okay, by this time some other hikers had trudged up Outpost Camp.

 

photo

 

Just about to lose the "tree line" now.

photo

 

Mount Whitney 101: Whitney, Mount, peak, 14,494 ft (4,418 m) high, E Calif., in the Sierra Nevada at the eastern border of Sequoia National Park; the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states (Mt. McKinley, Alaska, is the highest peak in the United States). It is connected by a scenic highway with Death Valley. The peak is named for U.S. geologist Josiah D. Whitney, who surveyed it in 1864.

 

photo

 

Karla & Arrielle - relaxing at Outpost Camp.

 

photo

 

Karla & Arrielle preparing dessert! Yummy!

 

photo

 

Sunset at Outpost Camp

 

photo

 

Nightfall @ Outpost Camp

 

photo

 

Next morning - Wednesday, 10/13/04 - On way to Trail Camp

 

photo

 

Andy, Karla & Arrielle - on way to Trail Camp

 

photo

 

Arrielle - en route to Trail Camp

 

photo

 

En route to Trail Camp - way over the tree line now

 

photo

 

En route to Trail Camp - way over the tree line

 

photo

 

Whitney Fact: A trail leads to the summit of Mount Whitney, and a toilet has been installed to accommodate its crowds. Registration is required to climb the mountain, and daily restrictions have now been placed on the number of climbers allowed. There is a very popular 8.5 mile trail to the summit via the Pacific Crest Trail.

 

photo

 

Whitney Fact: There are also technical rock routes of moderate up the 2000 foot East Face. If technical climbing from the "climber's approach" then you descend via the Mountaineer's Gulley, North then East down a major couloir (can be icy) back down to "iceberg lake."

 

photo

 

More Whitney facts: Interestingly, the highest point in the lower 48 states is only 85 miles from the lowest, Badwater Basin (-279 ft.), located in Death Valley. The distance is somewhat longer by scenic highway, but still requires little more than two hours of travel time.

 

photo

 

Okay, so finally we are at Trail Camp! Whew! This is Kamala filtering and filling up water.

 

photo

 

FACTS: There are other routes besides Whitney Portal which can be taken to reach Mt. Whitney. These routes start from less heavily-used trailheads, but require a longer hike to reach the summit. The High Sierra Trail begins in Giant Forest on the west side of Sequoia National Park, and takes a minimum of 10 days (round trip) to complete. John Muir Trail, which runs south from Yosemite National Park, and the Pacific Crest Trail, also provide access to the summit.

 

photo

 

Karla, Arrielle & Andy. This is where we put our crampons on. Crampons are a framework of spikes that are attached to boots to provide traction on snow and ice.

 

photo

 

FACTS: The peak hiking seasons are July and August at which time all the campgrounds are likely to be crowded. The weather is unpredictable during all seasons, and summer thunderstorms are common. Summer days can be quite hot at lower elevations while nighttime temperatures can drop below freezing throughout the year. Ice can be encountered on the trail year round.

 

photo

 

Beautiful shot of the partially frozen lake where we filled up water, just before our summit hike.

 

photo

 

Whitney facts: Some days are extremely crowded with 500 or more hikers on the trail. To minimize the impact of day-hikers on the Mt. Whitney backcountry, the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, who manage the Whitney Portal trailhead, have required permits since summer 1996. Now, everyone entering the Whitney Zone between May 22 and October 15, including day-hikers, are required to obtain a permit.

 

photo

 

Rules, Regulations, Recommendations: (1) Practice a strong wilderness ethic (2) Acquire all necessary permits (3) Make camping reservations (4) Leave no trace (5) Camp only on sites already impacted (6) Pack out all waste (7) Be respectful of others (8) Prevent altitude sickness (9) Avoid lightning (10) Avoid hypothermia (11) Be prepared for rapid weather changes (12) Be prepared for water purification

 

photo

 

Karla filtering water :)

 

photo

 

Arrielle adding on some extra layers of clothing

 

photo

 

Lesson learnt: You cannot filter water with thick gloves on! Thatís me.

 

photo

 

Pump it dude! When the air gets thin (at that altitude), pumping water becomes a task in itself! Everything was in slow-motion ... 

 

photo

 

Yeah, I signed my name on the snow :)

 

photo

 

And so did Arrielle!

 

photo

 

Now we are headed up to the (in)famous 97 switchbacks - on way to the summit!

 

photo

 

Andy: "Man, we climbed a long way!" Getting delirious already! :)

 

photo

 

Signature #2

 

photo

 

Water: Even if you intend to ascend Mt. Whitney and return the same day, carrying the necessary amount of water -- 1 gallon per day -- can make for a very heavy load. Should you be making the hike in 2 or 3 days, 24 pounds of water, in addition to necessary clothing, camping, cooking and food, is obviously way too heavy. There is plenty of water available, below 13,000 feet on the Whitney Portal Trail. Unfortunately, it must be purified before consumption to avoid disease. This can be accomplished by either boiling, filtration or iodination. Allowing water to boil 5 minutes should ensure safe drinking water at Whitney. Outdoor stores sell water filters, which can purify water of everything except viruses (i.e. hepatitis). These purifying filters can cost up to $100.

 

photo

 

Altitude Sickness: Everyone is affected by the reduced amount of oxygen at the elevation of Mt. Whitney. Some people with pre-existing medical conditions -- chronic heart condition, chronic lung conditions, previous stroke, chronic high blood pressure, sickle cell anemia -- should not attempt to climb Whitney without a physician's approval.

 

photo

 

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS): Most individuals will experience some form of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) above 10,000 feet. Children are more susceptible than adults. Symptoms of AMS, will vary greatly by individual and will not necessarily be related to age or physical condition. They include - Headache, Nausea, Dizziness, Fatigue, Yawning, Irregular breathing or Shortness of breath, Loss of appetite, Disturbed sleep, Anxiety Attacks, Hallucinations, Cyanosis (blue-tinged lips and tongues).

 

photo

 

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPES): This is a form of altitude sickness in which the lungs fill with fluid. HAPES is a dangerous condition that can result in death if not treated promptly. Individuals with severe AMS symptoms above should be monitored for signs of HAPES.

 

photo

 

High Altitude Cerebal Edema (HACES): This much less common, but much more dangerous form of altitude sickness involves a swelling of the brain. It usually only occurs when someone has spent a number of days spent above 12,000 feet. In addition to all other symptoms of AMS and HAPES, HACES sufferers exhibit a loss of coordination (ataxia). The drunk driving test of walking a straight line toe-to-heel is the best way to diagnose HACES.

 

photo

 

The only affective treatment for both HAPES and HACES is descent to a lower altitude. A difference of only 2,000 or 3,000 feet elevation can provide great improvement. These conditions worsen during the night, so once diagnosed, waiting till morning is unwise. It is never a good idea to continue a climb once the individual improves. Severe cases should seek medical attention to avoid complications.

 

photo

 

We finally reached Trail Crest - a whopping 13,600 feet!!!

 

photo

Another impressive shot of Arrielle & Karla @ Trail Crest - a whopping 13,600 feet!!!

 

photo

 

Just trying to prove that I was there too ... at Trail Crest - a whopping 13,600 feet!!!

photo

 

This is Scott. We picked him along the way to the summit. His hiking partner suffered mild symptoms of AMS and had to bail out on him. We acted as his mentors as he was an inexperienced hiker.

 

photo

 

Should we go back or climb up the summit??? It was the hardest decision I had to make - EVER!

 

photo

 

Heck, we could head down to the Ranger Station and "chill" with him! :)

 

photo

 

Believe it or not, we are now at the summit!!! Could not take much pictures from Trail Crest to the summit to save on time. This is the famous "hut" at the summit to protect hikers against unpredictable weather. "The hut" was sponsored and built by the Smithsonian Institute on the top of Whitney in 1909. It's a small, stone structure that looks inviting during a storm but people have been electrocuted in the past when they took shelter there from one of the occasional, afternoon storms. There is no safe place on top of Mt. Whitney in a storm and the Forest Service has signs posted saying that when it first starts clouding up, to make a hasty retreat.

 

photo

 

Karla "chillin" - literally! It was so darn cold outside that we insisted on staying inside for a while! Brrrr!!!

 

photo

 

I signed our names on the "rooftop"!

 

photo

 

See it now? Schedule an appointment with a good optometrist :)

 

photo

 

Okay, so it's on the top part. It says "VJ, Karla & Scott - Oct. 13, 2004"

 

photo

 

Scott & Karla resting!

 

photo

 

Trying to make a call from "America's rooftop"!

 

photo

 

Scott posing in front of the hut. See that metallic thing by his side? That contains the "official" register for climbers to add their names on this most coveted list! By the way, we had no idea of this till we got back to Trail Camp! Can someone please add my name to it if you ever get there? Thanks!

 

photo

 

Karla ecstatic!

 

photo

 

Scott & VJ posing in front of "the hut" at the summit.

 

photo

 

Karla & VJ posing in front of "the hut" at the summit.

 

photo

 

Karla sitting on top of that register! If only she knew what it was!!!

 

photo

 

On top of the world! Well, the continental US maybe ;) I've reserved Everest for a later date!

 

photo

 

This is the actual plaque on the summit put there by National Park Service.

 

photo

 

photo

 

View from the summit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

photo

 

Another shot from the summit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

photo

 

That is a view of "the hut" on Whitney's summit!

 

photo

 

This is on the way down - view of the famous "corridor".

 

photo

 

"Corridor shot". FACT: The key to a successful hike is to develop a consistent pace and donít stop "to rest" too often. The switchbacks can be tough if they are taken too fast, especially the famous "97" above Trail Camp.

 

photo

 

The Trail: It averages about 550 feet elevation gain per mile, an easy slope. There are a few shallow stream crossings with a couple of slippery logs and rocks. The trail surface is smooth in most places with some rocks up at the higher elevations. Even in the summer time small patches of snow/ice can often be found on a couple of the 97 switchbacks above Trail Camp.

 

photo

 

This is where we turned on our headlamps. By this time, we had spent all our water reserves! Without any water filters and no water source, we ate ice to keep our bodies hydrated!

 

photo

 

Coming back down on the 97 switchbacks! This trek down is extremely dangerous after sunset and is not recommended at all! Yup, we screwed up the timing on this climb, so please DO NOT attempt this!

 

photo

 

The trail was covered with snow and it was extremely hard to follow. My boy scout training came in handy when we got off track twice.

 

photo

 

Sheer drop was 900+ feet on one side. Hikers have to be extremely careful!

 

photo

 

Coming back down to Trail Camp. This is last of the shots for that day. We kept hiking 5+ hours after nightfall just to get past Trail Camp all the way to Outpost Camp! Not recommended at all!

 

photo

 

Next morning - Thursday, 10/14/04: Last night was the most grueling ever! We hiked back from Whitney summit to Trail Camp to Outpost Camp - NONSTOP in the DARK! We were trying to conserve batteries by using only one headlamp - we had 2 (Karla & VJ had one each). Scott had climbed the Whitney summit without water, flashlight, headlamp, survival gear or a GPS unit - he was totally dependent on us. Scott almost slipped to death plus, we heard a ferocious bear on the way down too! Now that's shit scary - and well, kind of rock 'n' roll!!!

photo

 

This is Thursday morning, 10/14/04 at Outpost Camp

 

photo

 

Breaking camp at Outpost Campsite

 

photo

 

See that black box in the foreground? That's a "bear box" to keep food secure from bears! Just so they don't come crawling in your tent at night.

 

photo

 

Andy (Outpost Camp) - he was the first to break camp and get set - ready to roll downhill.

 

photo

 

Arrielle & Karla packing food in the "bear boxes".

 

photo

 

Andy overlooks as Arrielle & Karla pack food in the "bear boxes".

 

photo

 

Breakfast at Outpost Camp

 

photo

 

Getting ready to head back to civilization (Whitney Portal).

 

photo

 

Karla using 2 bear boxes as a tripod to take group pictures.

 

photo

 

Arrielle - happy that we are headed back to ground level and then party on in Las Vegas! She and Andy both had symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).

 

photo

 

Karla is happy at the mere though of celebrating our Whitney summit in Vegas! :)

 

photo

 

Did I mention that spa was also on the menu in Vegas?

 

photo

 

Andy packing up his stuff.

 

photo

 

Final pictures before we head down!

 

photo

 

Arrielle is going to filter some water and Andy is busy breaking camp.

 

photo

 

Karla breaking her tent

 

photo

 

Arrielle filtering water

 

photo

 

Kamala just got back from Trail Camp to meet us at Outpost Camp!

 

photo

 

photo

 

Arrielle packed and ready to roll! Our shoulders were so sore today! We were virtually living on painkillers.

 

photo

 

Kamala was not feeling well Thursday. We took turns carrying her backpack and bear box.

 

photo

 

On the way down to Whitney Portal, Karla helping a backpacker hiking up to Outpost Camp.

 

photo

 

Going down the trail to Whitney Portal

 

photo

 

On the way down to Whitney Portal, Karla helping a backpacker hiking up to Outpost Camp.

 

photo

 

That's me with my 30+ pound backpack and the bear box on top of it. That darn bear box was heavy!

 

photo

 

Back @ Whitney Portal ... FINALLY ... a moment of celebration!

 

photo

 

Andy happy to be back! :)

 

photo

 

Trying to zoom in on Kamala who was having a tough time coming down.

 

photo

 

Karla & Arrielle taking celebratory shots!

 

photo

 

Everyone wanted to get those heavy backpacks down by this time!

 

photo

 

Arrielle: "I'm tired dude! Where is Kamala?"

 

photo

 

Celebration shots!

 

photo

 

Kamala is back finally! We asked someone to take a group picture of all of us. Left to right: VJ, Kamala ("My shoulders hurt!"), Arrielle, Karla and Andy (at the back).

 

photo

 

These are the weigh-in stations @ Whitney Portal. Make sure you don't carry more than 30 lbs.

 

photo

 

Relieving ourselves in a real restroom was such a treat!

 

photo

 

This is the Whitney trail head.

 

photo

 

Trudging back to our rental SUV. Taking each step at this point became a feat in itself!

 

photo

 

Karla heading back to our SUV.

 

photo

 

Back at our Chevrolet Trail Blazer. "Trail Blazers" we were!

 

photo

 

Kamala just lay on the ground - for 15 minutes!

 

photo

 

Kamala finally got up and packed her stuff.

 

photo

 

Majestic view of Mount Whitney from a restaurant in Lone Pine, CA. We pigged out at this place. Gorged in 2100 calories each! :)

 

 

I live in the beautiful city of Mountain View, CA. It is half way between San Francisco and San Jose, California. For questions and comments, you may contact me at this email.

 

Pictures from my other escapades are coming soon, so stay tuned...

 

Google