Thurs – Venice to Red Rock Canyon – Left w no plan other than to be at the visitor center on Fri at 11am to try for overnight permit lottery. Feeling heavy. Made the good decision to camp at Red Rock Canyon (which I had never visited). A tiny off-highway campground. To avoid other noisy campers I chose the only walk-in site. Strung up antenna- did some radio. Played guitar. Cooked dinner. Had a cathartic few hrs before sleep. The magma below depression is not easy to handle but builds new ground to stand on. I feel so good in desert/nature. Living in SoCal is great in that regard!
Friday- Lone Pine visitor center to Whitney Portal to Trail Camp (almost) – Had no idea what a day this would be. 10 or more of us there for the lottery. No luck. Picked up the day permit I had (Thanks K6DJS). Rented a bear canister for dirt cheap (returning the one I bought- highway robbery). Decided to fuck all and hike in as far as I wanted and see where I get- how I feel- and sleep. The view from visitor center was powerful and exciting- holy shit Whitney is amazing to behold. Feeling some buzzing of excitement and anticipation but tempering it w idea I will just see what happens/no pressure. — Drove up to the portal- parking lot full- 8300′ warm- pack. Feeling good- feeling excited! Beautiful sheer walls of rock rising up above and a rushing river 20ft from where I stood. Start the hike- pack heavier than I prefer. (MUST buy water filter- I had iodine). Many folks on the trail young and old-ish. I ask some about their trip- did they make it- etc. Some hiked all night and seemed just fine. I would later remark on the incredible range of human ability. The trip would prove to be a serious challenge for me. — Beautiful- it just got more and more beautiful. I would come upon another epic scene and laugh with joy. A deer with spotted fawn stood near staring at me. Cue Grieg’s morning theme flute music…. The hike was hard. Losing steam often. Long breaks helped. At Mirror Lake I hit a small wall and started having “fuck not sure I can/want to do this” thoughts. The altitude was getting to me. Incredible sights. Snow into streams, waterfalls, trees, mountains, meadows. More than enough inspiration to keep me pressing on. I would not make it to Trail Camp by dark. I began losing my equilibrium and feeling silly in a steep section. Falling on my face was NOT an option. I stopped- assessed my situation and condition as clearly as I could and ate/drank/rested. I was beat. The next suitable crevice, nook, shelf, patch, spot I would sleep. Finally horizontal but next to the trail about 20ft away. Heart rate stayed high (altitude sickness), cold out but I was warm. I spent all night awake and watching the milky way, shooting stars, and the fascinating dots of light from hikers moving up the wall in the distance. Hikers heading up the 97 switch backs to Trail Crest and along ridge trail I would see brief lights between the pinnacles- WOW. Whitney was just out of view from my vantage. Coyotes. Hikers passing all night. At some point I started hoping to see light in the east. I was there almost 9hrs not sleeping- but resting.
Saturday – Trail camp to SUMMIT! — 545am Finally the light came and my thoughts were mostly resigned to heading back down. I rose- ate – and the sun finally warmed me. An alpine lake was glittering (Consultation Lake) and the procession and conversation of hikers proceeded. My gaze was fixed on the switch backs and the pull of the journey we were all on was palpable. I started feeling better and eventually decided to move forward. 730am Joining the exodus to the mountain top. — Switch backs. Slow. Walk slow. Stop often. Slow. Walking stick plant and pull. Plant and pull. Passing some. Stopping. Being passed. Slow- pass the same. A slow motion leap-frog procession at 12k’. See the faces, some blank, some tired, some content. Some heading down- summit in the night- on the summit at dawn. They made it! Slow. Tired. Inspired. — I was resting and looking up and down. Someone asked how I was doing- “I’m on the fence man- might head down” . More than one offered encouragement- “you can do it- you will make it- take it slow”. “you are welcome to join us” and I accepted and joined them. I could not keep up but felt a kinship and link. A couple heading down who did not summit- concerned with building clouds to the west. Many have died from lightning on Whitney- a serious matter. 30min or an hour later we were all at Trail Crest! 1130am The huge expanse that opened to the west was incredible. Now to follow the ridge trail 2mi/2hrs to the summit…… — The ridge trail was another journey- with the crushing climb and long breaks increasing. But as many times as I walked a few dozen yards and stopped for 10min- I always had more to give after. Slow- slow- rest- move- water- snack- deep breathing- move. I offered encouragement those I passed and congratulations to those descending. Finally- slowly- slowly- heavy- cross a patch of snow- move up a shallow slope- and arrive at the wide open summit. 130pm. I did not take much time to just soak it in- I was pressed to set up antenna before weather degraded. Spoke to friends 157mi in Los Angeles on handheld radio- good to hear and they were truly happy to hear me at the summit. K6DJS announced my arrival and frequency online and I made 8 fast contacts in less than 10min. Done. Packed up. Pics. Views. Overcome w emotion as I began to leave. 6hrs to get back to the trail head. 12 miles. Took a solid 6hrs. Was really jamming going downhill- altitude not an issue. My calves and knees were very sore. At one break I realized I had just come in on the trail the afternoon prior which seemed almost impossible! Such a long and full experience. The last couple miles seemed impossibly longer than I remembered. I referenced my GPS and ran into a man who was baffled as the massive parking and portal area was pitch DARK. I gave him a ride to his car and was on my way back to visitor center and to find a place to sleep.
Sunday – Lone Pine to Kennedy Meadows to Osa Meadow — Slept like a rock in the truck on Whitney Portal Rd and woke up with a great view of Whitney in the distance. Walking was very painful as my calves were incredibly sore. My knees were fine. Smashed my thumb in car door- thought for sure I would lose nail and have a serious injury as there were tiny blood spots under the skin. Iced it in cooler in ice/water and kept icing for hours to numbness. Never had swelling or further injury progression! Had a giant omelette and hash browns for brunch in Lone Pine. Headed down the road. About an hour down the 395 I was certain I was not ready to head back to Los Angeles. I needed some time to contemplate, unwind, digest, and appreciate what I had experienced. Horseshoe Meadows was above 10k’ as suggested by a friend but was over an hour away. (right where my day started in fact- DOH) I decided on Kennedy Meadows reluctantly expecting a busy over developed camping scene. I was happy to discover no such thing. A charming general store, small off grid community of 200 or so residents, and beautiful country laced with flowing streams and grand vistas. Hikers from the PCT stop in Kennedy Meadows. The gen store had a give/take box and signs welcoming PCT hikers. — I moved on looking for a place to camp. Got my feet wet in the south fork of the Kern River and spoke to a ranger at Black Rock Station. Eventually ended up at a wonderful place called Osa Meadow. I will be back there one day. Aside from very dry cold air had a restful night.
Monday – Osa Meadow to Bald Mtn lookout to Venice Beach — Up at dawn. Walk down to the meadow and down to the hidden stream. A small emerald green tropical looking frog escapes my camera. Marsh plants, grasses, gopher mounds of rich soil, a perigrine falcon sunning and preening in a tree in the distance. I stand still for a long time and listen. The sun finally reaches above the trees and warms me. Insects rise and fall over the meadow fueled by the sun. — Pack up camp quickly- but in the end it is too late and heading straight home would put me in rush hour traffic. Nope. Will take my time and take long road home. I pass and u-turn back to Bald Mt lookout road- when will I be here next? Why skip anything? I spend 3 hours talking to the lookout- a kindred spirit. Namaste my new friend. The landscape stretches out in splendor in all directions. Whitney sits in the distance almost 40 miles away. The sunset is warm and beautiful glowing brilliant orange and red.