Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mt. Whitney (2011 Recap)

Mt. Whitney is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 and it draws a crowd of hikers and climbers every year who seek to reach its high summit. Ashley and I had hoped to be among the number of people who made it to the top of Mt. Whitney this year, but unfortunately we did not get the chance to set out on the trail. We had put in for our permit and were one of the lucky ones that got a permit to climb to the Summit of Mt. Whitney. When Ashley and I got our permits in the mail that is when the excitement and reality of climbing Whitney set it. We were diligent and began our training locally in Orange County and then by hiking Cucamonga Peak in our local San Gabriels and Mt. San Gorgonio via the Vivian Creek Trail and the South Fork Trail.

The allure of Mt. Whitney as well as other mountains is something that most hikers understand. It is the sense of a challenge and adventure that calls. You ultimately never know what you are going to encounter when setting out to train for a hard climb. The unknown challenges, whether physical, mental, or something totally out of your control, are something that hikers face when trying to accomplish a goal. Both Ashley and I will agree, it is these challenges that confront you when hiking that have continued to strengthen our relationship and one of the many reasons why we hike together.

In training for Whitney, Ashley and I had the opportunity to climb Cucamonga Peak for the first time. Cucamonga Peak offered spectacular views from its summit (Picture Above) as well as rewarding us with the chance to see a herd of 10 Bighorn Sheep. We were both truly amazed at the beauty this hike had to offer and the rugged terrain that it presented. It was definitely more physically challenging than we both thought it would be, but physical challenges are all a part of the training process for Mt. Whitney. It was a good physically demanding hike.

Our next big hike was to the summit of Mt. San Gorgonio. Mt. San Gorgonio is a mountain that both Ashley and I have been on several times. Ashley and I knew, going into our second big hike, that the Vivian Creek Trail was probably going to be the hardest hike in our training process because we were throwing in the element of higher altitude. We were both pleasantly surprised at the quick time we made on the beginning of this hike. However, once we got to around the 10,000 foot mark the altitude began to take its toll and our pace slowed. This mental and physical challenge of hitting a wall is something that every hiker faces. It is moments like these when you can turn around (and rightfully so if you are suffering from acute mountain sickness or don't believe you can safely get to the top) or push through the challenge and head to the top. Both Ashley and I pushed through this mental and physical challenge and made it to the top for some of the best views I have ever seen on top of Mt. San Gorgonio (Picture above).

The following weekend we did Mt. San Gorgonio via the South Fork Trail. We were amazed at how quickly our bodies had gotten into climbing shape. The hike from the trailhead to Dry Lake only took us a little over 2 hours. It was at this point that both Ashley and I knew that we were ready for Mt. Whitney as we continued our climb on Mt. San Gorgonio. Unfortunately, we did not reach the top of Mt. San Gorgonio on this hike because of a beautiful summer thunderstorm that developed. We heeded the warnings of the developing clouds and turned around on this hike before we got above the treeline (About 10,000 feet). The thunderstorm provided Ashley and I with a free firework show for a couple hours on our way down the trail. A mountain thunderstorm is one of those challenges that you don't have any control over, but it was really nice to enjoy a lunch in the mountains and listen to the thunderstorm. Most importantly, it was at this point that Ashley and I knew were physically ready to climb Mt. Whitney the following weekend.

The weekend arrived to climb Mt. Whitney and we had all our things ready to go for the trip. Our campground was reserved, we had all the supplies we needed, and we were physically ready for the one day hike to the summit. However, one of those challenges, the type that is totally out of your control, happened when Ashley's small head cold took a turn for the worst the day before the hike. We were both disappointed that we were unable to climb Mt. Whitney, especially since we had put in all the hard work and were right there at the Whitney Portal. However, the unexpected is part of hiking. You never have any guarantees that you will have success in reaching a summit or goal. Looking back on our training for Mt. Whitney the whole experience reinforces my belief that the exciting part of hiking is not in the destination or goal that you choose. The exiting part of hiking to me is the sense of adventure, friendship, and the unknown. Sure, you may have temporary disappointments and not be able to reach a destination or goal, but the stories you share with people from the trip are of the adventure you had and the unknown you faced.

This blog post contains some pictures of our trip to Mt. Whitney. Both Ashley and I look forward to putting our name in next years lottery. As someone that has been to the top of Mt. Whitney, it is an amazing hike and I look forward to going back sometime in the future. For those of you that want some motivational pictures the picture above this paragraph and below are from my 2010 trip to Mt. Whitney, all other pictures are from this years trip and training hikes.

1 comment:

  1. Great Looking Site and photos of Mt. Whitney... I will be looking through your articles for idea's and inspiration. If we can ever be of help at -let us know


Ashley and I encourage and welcome our readers to submit comments about their experiences on the trails we have posted on our blog or about their own hiking experiences in general.