Jackson and Scott bagged the highest peak in the lower 48 states – Mt. Whitney – this summer on a 10 day trip with 6 on the trail. This was our third summer of epic hikes (West Coast Trail, Philmont and now High Sierras). It all started with a conversation with Don Davidson – long time friend and hiking inspiration – around joining him on the third leg of his Pacific Crest Trail journey with Bill Pope – owner of the Mazama Country Inn. I asked Jackson if he wanted to join and he was all-in which made me very happy. As schedules morphed and we pushed back for a later start, we looped in Jackson’s buddy Aldo to join us as well.
We left for California on Aug 25th (my birthday!) and spent the night with @willshortt which included a tour of the University of Oregon and a ceremonial coming of age watching of “Animal House” (which was filmed at UofO in Eugene…). Next day was a long drive to Lee Vining, CA to camp out and get up early to get permits for the hike which was a critical variable (success! note – Lee Vining – Mono Basin is the northern most ranger station for this part of the Sierra’s and the least busy which made getting permits easier).
Next we connected with Don (“Dog Gone”), Sandy (“Extra Credit”) and their two PCT hiking buddies “Hike On” and “Fox Fire” at Independence, CA for a night in a motel prior to heading up. Don made reservations at a local restaurant that was supposed be slow, but really good called Still Water (locals call is Still Waiting). After getting some drinks and ordering from a single front of the house older gentleman who spoke just enough English, he comes over and tells us that the “Chef has left the building, there will be no food for you and we will not charge you for the drinks.” Wow. We were absolutely dumbfounded. So, off to the mini-mart for ramen noodles and beef stew.
Up early the next day to catch a 6am ride up to Onion Valley trail head. Beautiful vista’s on the drive up but we climbed from around 6,000 feet elevation to almost 9,000 feet elevation at the trail head. On the first day we hiked over Kearsage Pass which is over 12,000 feet. Needless to say, we were feeling the impact of gaining so much altitude in a single day with 6 days of food and gear on our backs. Fortunately, we acclimated quickly and were fine on the rest of the trip.
After a couple of days hiking including the highest pass on the PCT – Forrester at 13,200 – we arrived at Crabtree Meadows for two nights of camping and a 15 mile round trip day hike up Mt. Whitney. We woke at 2:30am and started hiking at 4am. We peaked around 9:30am and spent over an hour taking pictures, eating and breathing thin air at the top of the world. We finished the day with a great swim in Guitar Lake.
The next day was a long hike – 16.5 miles – to Chicken Springs lake and then a short 5 mile hike out to the car. 70 miles in 5.5 days in a beautifully rugged part of the country over 10,000 feet for most of the time.
The boys got some great driving time on two lane highways, we enjoyed some excellent camp food, spent time with friends, made some new friends and hiked like crazy. It was great!