Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pre-Mt. Whitney

A lot goes into prepping a hike up to the tallest mountain in the continental United States (14,505ft.).  Including, but not limited to hiking lots and lots of miles before hand.  I had decided the previous year that I wanted to do this hike and I was going to make sure that I had prepared well enough that not only could I do it, but it was an enjoyable experience all around.  
Mt. Baldy elevation plaque "Pre-Mt. Whitney" www.fuel4play.com
San Antonio "Mt. Baldy" training hike
The first and possibly the most important thing you need to consider is obtaining a permit. Without a permit the farthest you can go on the Mt. Whitney Trail is up to Lone Pine Lake and back. A permit is needed for both backpackers and day hikers. Obtaining this permit proved to be somewhat of a challenge for me with the lottery. I tried several dates and was denied. Once more dates were opened up after April I was finally able to secure a date and couldn't be more excited! My goals and plans were finally coming into fruition.  

The next thing that you need to do is to start thinking about all the logistics involved in conquering such a feat.  There is a local outdoors store called Adventure 16 that had a 3 part series on hiking Mt. Whitney that thoroughly helped me with many questions that I had and all around just inspired me and encouraged me to begin my journey.  I started going to their presentations before I even secured a permit!  REI also has presentations on hiking Whitney and if there is a store by you I say give it a shot!  

Once I got my permit and went to the lectures I figured nothing was going to stop me!  I started increasing my mileage on my hikes until 14 miles in a day was nothing to me.  I would go with friends, go alone, find new hiking spots or just tromp around my 'ol local hiking trail Runyon Canyon.  I hiked up to Mt. Wilson for a training hike that was sponsored by Grape Nuts and did Mt. Baldy(10,068ft) a few times with the gal that volunteered to hike Mt. Whitney with me. The most important things for me were getting in the best hiking shape possible and making sure that I got acclimatized to the elevation before my hike. One of the most serious issues you can encounter on hiking up to such high altitude is coming down with AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). That is why I went up to the Whitney Portal Campground (8,000ft.) 2 days before my hike to start camping.
Whitney Portal Campground "Pre-Mt. Whitney" www.fuel4play.coom
Whitney Portal Campground
I planned on camping 3 to 4 nights there and only planned on buying a couple of meals so this is what my food stash looked like:

Food for the trip "Pre-Mt.Whitney" www.fuel4play.com
My food for the trip
And this is what I packed for car camping and day hiking for those days/nights:
Everything I packed "Pre-Mt.Whitney" www.fuel4play.com
Lots to pack!
Whitney Portal Campground was a quaint place with 43 sites and the nicely flowing Whitney Creek that runs through it. This was my home base for the next 2 days and I was stoked for the chance to relax a little before what I was anticipating to be one the most strenuous days of my life. The first day that I arrived I got my campsite and then decided to try the hike up to Lone Pine Lake to test my legs at this elevation and just check out the scenery in general, which was no less than breathtaking. I also was going to be hiking this portion of the trail in the dark a few days from now so I wanted to get acquainted with it.  
"Pre-Mt. Whitney" www.fuel4play.com
Grand rock scenery
The next day I went down into Lone Pine to pick up my permit and was presented with my "wag bag". This is a "GO anywhere toilet kit" that they are required to give to all hikers on the Mt. Whitney Trail that makes it easier to go number #2. It has an odor absorber and once you are done doing your deed you hang it on the outside of your pack. At first the thought of such a thing was ridiculous to me, all these people with poop flinging on the outside of their packs, "Oh hey there Johnny, I see you've had a big one today!", but then after being presented with the facts and realizing that tons of human waste is removed from this area each year I was happy to oblige. The alternative to this system would be to see TONS (literally) of poop along the trail….um, no thank you, where my wag bag at?!
Go anywhere toilet kit "Pre-Mt. Whitney" www.fuel4play.com
Wag Bag
After I picked up my permit and my official wag bag I headed over to Onion Valley to hike up to Kearsarge Pass to further get acclimatized and kill my legs a bit more. I was so beyond happy that I came up early to this area so that I was able to do this hike and definitely have plans in my future to return here. After that day hike I was revitalized and returned to my campground relaxed and excited for my friend to finally join me and enjoy the next day together before our hike.

The next morning over the famous Whitney Portal Store pancakes that are bigger than our heads we discussed the bear that my friend had run into in the campground while driving around trying to find my campsite, yikes!
Whitney Portal Store breakfast "Pre-Mt. Whitney" www.fuel4play.com
Whitney Portal Store breakfast!
Although this was to be a day of rest before the "big one" she decided to show me a little shortcut trail up the mountaineers route as an option for the following day. She was planning on taking it but since it was my first time I wanted to do the trail in its entirety, no shortcuts for me! At least this time… 

After breakfast we headed back down into Lone Pine to explore the town, which consists of about 3 quaint blocks.  Lone Pine is located in Owens Valley with a  population of 2,035 people. We ventured in a few stores, including a nicely stocked outdoors store, Elevation, Sierra Adventure Essentials, that has an awesome staff. This was my second visit to this store in 2 days, just sayin'....
 Main stretch in Lone Pine "Pre-Mt. Whitney" www.fuel4play.com
Main stretch in Lone Pine
Then we headed to the Alabama Hills, right up the road from Lone Pine.
Rocks at Alabama Hills "Pre-Mt. Whitney" www.fuel4play.com
Rocks at Alabama Hills
Alabama Hills is an area that looks to me like a mini Joshua Tree. It is a site where many movies and shows have been filmed including How the West Was Won and The Lone Ranger. From this point we could see Mt. Whitney in the distance and it was awe-inspiring. Butterflies abounded in my stomach as I thought that in just a day I would be standing on top of this massive mountaintop. Anticipation of moments like these in your life is sometimes really what makes life worth living. And I was ready to live...
Alabama Hills scenery "Pre-Mt. Whitney" www.fuel4play.com
Trail in Alabama Hills "Pre-Mt. Whitney" www.fuel4play.com
Me with Whitney in the background   "Pre-Mt. Whitney" www.fuel4play.com
Me with Whitney in the background
Me ready to rock! "Pre-Mt. Whitney" www.fuel4play.com
Let's do this!!!
After Alabama Hills we headed to the Pizza Factory for an early dinner before heading back up the mountain to relax and hopefully retire early since we had a 4am wake up time….oh boy….it's almost time….
Laura and I in front of a waterfall "Pre-Mt. Whitney" www.fuel4play.com
Laura and I the day before the hike
Playing with food, fun, fitness and adventure,

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