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how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?

Monday,  07/21/08  08:40 PM

Well, I did it.  I climbed Mt. Whitney yesterday, and I have the pictures (and the overall soreness!) to prove it.  I actually had no idea how hard it was going to be, or how dangerous; in fact, before this I had little comprehension of the difference between hiking Mt. Whitney (basically, walking up the trail) and climbing Mt. Whitney (actually, er, climbing, as in hanging from rocks with 100' of nothing below you).


hang in there, dude!

My friend Mark Elliot and I climbed up the "moutaineer's route" to the summit, and then descended the trail back to the Whitney Portal; overall it took us about sixteen hours.  I would not recommend trying to do this in one day, but we did it :)

Our day started at oh-dark-hundred in Lone Pine (actually, about 5:00AM); the peak of Mt. Whitney was barely visible in the darkness, framed by the moon.


moon over Whitney; that slight purple dot is over "the notch"
Whitney Portal (base) = 8,325'

After a big breakfast (!) and driving up to the portal, we began the hike around 0700; as we climbed up, the views back down the valley to the East were amazing.


not in Kansas anymore

After about two hours (and some rather, um, interesting climbing up "the ledges") we reached Lower Boy Scout Lake.


Lower Boy Scout Lake, Keeler Needles (and Mt. Whitney) in the distance
10,155'

The beauty of these high meadows is incredible.


wildflowers abound...


... as do waterfalls

After some serious climbing - and about 3 1/2 hours after starting out - we reached Upper Boy Scout Lake.  Here the foliage turns to rock, and the mountains really begin.


at Upper Boy Scout Lake, so far, so good
11,145'


Lone Pine is now way off in the distance

At this point the weather began looking iffy, and we weren't sure if we could make it to the top.  Fingers crossed, and much scrambling over the talus ensued.


mist shrouds the Sierra crown; Keeler Needles at left, Mt. Whitney at right

Finally, five hours after starting, we reach Iceberg Lake.  Now the serious fun began, and man I must tell you, looking up at those peaks is intimidating!


Mt. Whitney beckons...
some objects are further than they appear


Iceberg Lake panorama
(click to enlarge)
12,600'

We stopped here for lunch, taking in the scenery while refueling.  Fortunately we were not affected by the altitude; although people frequently camp here you are warned about altitude sickness.  We also met some of the locals...


A marmot checks us out; I can has cheeseburger?

Then onward; about 2,000' left, much of it seemingly straight up (!).  Now the difference between hiking and climbing really became apparent.  Making things even more fun, the East chute was filled with some icy snow.  Whoa.


looking up the East chute to "the notch"; note ice

Still we proceeded slowly and methodically, and made it to the notch.  After 6 1/2 hours, we are nearly there.  The views in every direction are unbelievable, and you must try not to think about the exposure.


yay, made it to the notch!  so far, so good...
14,100'


the view to the West - you can see for miles and miles and miles and...

Now there was a little matter of climbing the North face to the summit.  This is considered a "class 3" climb, but whatever you call it, this is serious.  It just doesn't do to think about falling.


the North face, just 300' to go - straight up

Fortunately Mark is an experienced climber, and a solid guide.  We took our time and he roped us through a particularly tricky section, entering the face.  I must say in retrospect this was the best part of the climb; methodically working our way from hold to hold.  There were some really cool sections, including a 'chimney' to wedge through near the top, and it was really fun.  I really like rock climbing, who knew?


Mark, in the route

That picture of me at the top of this post was taken by Mark, about halfway up the North face.  Woo hoo.  So after a very concentrated hour, we made it!  Eight hours after starting out, and 6,000' higher.


and you may ask yourself, "how did I get here"?
once in a lifetime
(same as it ever was)


2,000' straight down to Iceberg Lake

The feeling of vertical dimensionality you get, standing at the highest point in the U.S, looking down in every direction is hard to explain.  Of course I've looked out an airplane window, but this is pretty different.  The volumes of air are apparent, and the Earth looks curved.


maximum verticality


altimeter check
Mt. Whitney = 14,496'

After gazing for a while and eating and drinking, we took off back down the Whitney Trail; 11 miles of switchbacks.  The trail begins by heading South behind the Keeler Needles and Mt. Muir, before joining the Muir Trail at the "Trail Crest".


peeking down between the Keeler Needles


at the Muir Trail Crest; looking East...


...and looking West... Wow!

At that point the trail heads down and East, along a different valley to the one we climbed up.  The views back along the ridge toward the peaks were incredible; it was hard to believe we had been standing "up there" just two hours ago.


the Sierra crown: Mt. Muir, the Keeler Needles, and Mt. Whitney

The path down the remainder of the valley was long but amazingly beautiful in the fading light...


High Sierra beauty  


...still ticking, but winding down...

Six hours later, we were back at the car; no problem :)  So, eight hours of hiking climbing up 6,000' vertical feet to the highest point in the U.S., followed by eight hours of descending back down through some of the most beautiful High Sierra scenery imaginable.  Quite a day. 

And I may ask myself, how did I get here?

 

 

Monday,  07/21/08  09:30 PM

Okay, Whitney survived, mind cleared, and it is back to work, although without my voice, which somehow left me during the course of yesterday and has been replaced by a chorus of frogs.  Fortunately I was able to get stuff done anyway.  Meanwhile the world hasn't stopped spinning, let's take a look...

Charles Krauthammer: The Audacity of Vanity.  He nails it; the main reason I am recoiling from Obama.

A similar theme at the National Review: The Tautology of Hope.  ("Beliefs we can believe in..." :)

And the Onion outdo themselves: 'Time' Publishes Definitive Obama Puff Piece.  "Hailed by media critics as the fluffiest, most toothless, and softest-hitting coverage of the presidential candidate to date, a story in this week's Time magazine is being called the definitive Barack Obama puff piece."  Amid heavy competition, we might add...

Michael Barone thinks McCain should revisit 1976.

Think things are bad in our economy?  Well you might be right, but consider poor Zimbabwe, where $1B won't buy a loaf of bread.  I believe Monopoly money is more valuable.  That's what happens when the government raises incompetence to new heights ( or I should say, lowers it to new depths).  Wow.

I watched yesterday's Tour de France stage tonight (being otherwise occupied yesterday :), it was great!  A real shootout on the final climb, with an early breakaway staying clear, an unknown nearly winning (Danny Pate of the U.S.), plenty of spills in the rain (Oscar Periero fell over a guardrail 12' onto the pavement below, breaking his arm; later about 20 riders in two separate clumps hit the pavement at a turnabout, and on the final climb Denis Menchov fell while attacking, recovered, and ended up attacking again), and a dogfight among the leaders which closed up the standings so that six men are now within 40 seconds of the lead!  Speaking of Menchov, he looked strong...  stronger than Evans and Sastre.  Today was a rest day, but tomorrow there are more alpine fireworks, it should be excellent!

Was it really thirty-nine years ago the first men landed on the moon?  Yes it was.  Wow.  That was definitely one giant step for mankind.

Pete Worden, director of NASA, says "we're going back, and this time we're going to stay".  Cool!

William Tucker in WSJ: Let's have some love for nuclear power.  "All over the world, nuclear power is making a comeback.  British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has just commissioned eight new reactors, and says there's 'no upper limit' to the number Britain will build in the future.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel has challenged her country's program to phase out 17 nuclear reactors by 2020, saying it will be impossible to deal with climate change without them. China and India are building nuclear power plants; France and Russia, both of whom have embraced the technology, are fiercely competing to sell them the hardware.  And just last month John McCain called for the construction of 45 new reactors by 2030.  Barack Obama is less enthusiastic about nuclear energy, but he seems to be moving toward tacit approval."  Excellent!  This is really our only chance.

lego Stephen HawkingAwesome! - here we have a lego Stephen Hawking...

HP: 17 boxes for 32 pages of paperThis is pretty funny: HP shatters excessive packaging world record.  Seventeen nested boxes to ship 32 pages of paper.  That's pretty good, it might put the record out of reach.  Reminds me of the time IBM mailed me a big shipping crate containing only a smaller shipping crate.  But HP has topped that...

Well, looks like it is now possible to unlock / jailbreak your 2.0 iPhone or iPod Touch.  With the 2.0 software and the Apple App Store there is less reason to do so, but less is not none; some of the apps you can run jailbroken do things you can't do otherwise, such as continue to play music after switching to another app.  I might have to check this out :)

the North Sails VW TouregHere we have the North Sails VW Toureg.  I am not making this up.
[ via Sailing Anarchy ]

AppleWatch wonders what is Apple's mystery product?  "During Apple's fiscal third-quarter conference call this afternoon, CFO Peter Oppenheimer warned of falling margins for the next quarter and fiscal 2009. He gave three reasons, but one really stood out: a future product transition that 'I can't discuss today.'"  Huh...

Why does race matter for women?  GNXP reports "women care much more about the race of a potential mate than men do".  Huh...

 
 

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