Walks and hikes in Europe and California, posted sporadically as they happen… or as I reflect on them…

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Mt. Whitney Expedition

June 5, 2013: Healdsburg - San Francisco - Sacramento - Reno by car and bus, ca. 290 miles; 5 hours 30 minutes. Truckee.jpg We drove to San Francisco where I was dropped off at the Caltrain station. Megabus to first Sacramento, then Reno. We left San Francisco about 4:45, the bus nearly full of Giants fans. WiFi sketchy on the bus, and altogether lacking after Sacramento, but a convenient power outlet in front of me. Most riders in a party mood; much conversation. 6:53 PM in Sacramento at train station. Woman next to me has moved upstairs the better "to see the view going over the hill." Outside, a guy is saying he couldn't buy a ticket online because the bus was sold out — good thing I bought mine yesterday! At 7:15 PM we left Sacramento. Man across aisle from me — got on in Sacramento — shaving his chin with handleless safety razor. 8:53 PM, Truckee, nearly dark now. Man shaving begins to exhibit Tourette's symptoms. At 9:45 we arrive in Reno, across the street from my hotel, the Circus Circus casino. Ham-"Swiss" on a soft roll, coleslaw, bath, and bed.
June 6, 2013: Reno - Whitney Portal by car, 275 miles; ca. 6 hours.
Whitney Portal campsite - Whitney Portal store, 1 mile round trip; ca. 20 minutes; up 500 feet, down 500 feet.
MonoLake.jpg WhitneyPortal.jpg
Mono Lake
Whitney Portal camp
Woke up about 545 in the morning after a good night's sleep, maybe 6 1/2 hours. Wrote home; then breakfast in Americana Café: eggs, bacon, pancakes, potatoes and toast. No wi-fi, though. Better get used to it. The hostess entered from the kitchen door, walked to the podium carrying something in her right hand and sneezing into her left, which she then wiped on her skirt, laughing. Pavel arrived with Simon and Jesus promptly at 7.45. We stopped in at The House of Bread, but were quite unimpressed with what we found (apart from the enthusiasm and generosity); then stopped at a nearby Starbuck's for the morning cappuccino. Then we drove south on Highway 395: Mono Lake; Bishop, Lone Pine. Lunch in Bishop: taquitos and salad at Artoga's, really very good. Another stop in Lone Pine in another hour, for coffee and bear canisters at a nice sporting-good shop; then drove up to Whitney Portal where made camp, dinner. After dinner we walked from our camp to the trailhead store, at 8360 feet, for mosquito repellant. Climber there gnarly, wicked; had been to Patagonia. To bed, 9:22; pulse 75. 7850 feet
June 7, 2013: Whitney Portal campsite - Trail Camp; 6.5 miles; 6 hours 20 minutes; up 4,150 feet (to 12,000). Happy Birthday, Lindsey! Up at five after a fitful night with a few half-awakenings, dreaming questions: what's Italian for "bat;" what was Mrs. Imamura's first name; shouldn't the American Civil War be called, not The War Between the States, but "The War of the Southern Secession." And, finally, in the gathering pre-dawn light, the dreamed sound of a telephone bell woke me for good.
Simon runs back for the permits
A cold night, too; tonight I will sleep in clothes. Also, awakened last night, almost immediately after first falling into a deep sleep, by the smell of smoke, then firelight, from a huge flare-up in a neighboring campground. And the, middle of night, a heavy truck toiling up the road from Lone Pine, its headlights finally sweeping tent wall. (This morning, a little after four, a skunk, peacefully poking around camp.) After walking about a bit, writing this, pulse is 63; not bad. We left Whitney Portal at 9:00 am. My pack was surprisingly light, only 24 pounds. At the first creek, Simon realized he didn't have our wilderniss permit, required for overnight campers on the Whitney trail. He apparently thought he had left it back in the car, so volunteered to go back for it. Pavel and I went on; Nico and Jesus waited for him. They caught up with us within half an hour.
creek.jpg timberline.jpg
The trail is strenuous but rewarding. There are surprising creek crossings, fine if thin forest, and amazing boulders along the way. Before long we crossed the timberline, and distant vistas opened out to us, sometimes east across Lone Pine, a mile lower and fifteen miles at least away, toward the White Mountains. trailcamp.jpgWe arrived at Trail Camp, a nice site at 12,000 feet, at 3:20 after a strenuous hike, leaving me leg-weary and frequently winded. Nico was going to have to leave first thing in the morning, when the rest of us planned to summit, so he headed off for the top alone, leaving before the rest of us arrived. The others went down to the lake for water, which they filtered and treated with their sterilizing pens. Before long I discovered why my pack had been so light -- someone had removed my tent and sleeping pad from my pack, carrying them himself! Very sneaky, but very generous: these guys are bending over backward to put up with a companion pushing eighty. While they were off on their errands I struck up a short conversation with our neighbors, who'd set up tents at the next site, maybe thirty yards away from ours. From Poland, they were nice young people, two couples and a couple of children. I had freeze-dried beef stew for dinner, and it wasn't bad, but I couldn't eat all of it. Then it was time for post-dinner duties, and then to bed, quarter to eight and the daylight quite gone, my heart ticking fast for me at 84 beats per minute. The others stayed up until close to ten, keeping me half-awake in a companionable way; but soon they were all snug in the tents, three of them for the five of us, and a cold dark night drew around us, with brilliant stars overhead.