We left early on Saturday morning, May 10th, instead of the night before, to avoid the heinous snarled traffic that occurs every Friday night in these parts. We've learned to be very strategic in where and when we drive. (We've also learned that being very route savvy can determine whether we actually will ever want to return home after we drive away from the house in a car. Or, if we do make it home, whether we'll actually ever want to leave the house in a car again. Bikes are better!) So with two hours of Southern California Freeway driving to get past 20 million people, we set off. (But only after turning around after five minutes because some dingbat forgot his running shoes...)
Our first mountain objective was Boundary Peak in the far-west crook of Nevada and at the far north end of the string of the White Mountain Range. We took the long way to get there stopping for a pancake and bacon breakfast along the way...
...and to pet some baby goats.
We selected the Queen Mine approach on the north flanks of Boundary Peak for its shorter access road and shorter hiking route. But both are steeper (and more exciting!) than the eastern access alternative up Trail Canyon. The road up to the 9,000ft abandoned mine was rugged, but comfortable in a Jeep.
After leaving camp at 5am, we caught the sunrise from the first saddle.
At 13,146ft, it's no slouch. The route is well-traveled, but it is not in the form of a mainstream peak. The only reason this peak has seen so much traffic is because of the "high-pointers" that recognize its geographic prominence as Nevada's highest point.
It was hovering around 30 degrees at 5am when we left camp. It had warmed up to around 30 degrees on the summit by the time we got there at 9:30am.
Montgomery Peak lies less than a mile southwest of Boundary and is taller by about 300ft. But the California border runs across the saddle between the two.
We drove north that afternoon all the way up past Reno and found this perfect little Forest Service campground two miles off the highway nestled amongst the ferns, cedars, and aspens. It looked like it hardly sees much use (or maintenance) and we were the only ones there. We made a fire and ate tortellini with pesto. The full moon was brilliant. A deer walked through camp. It was perfect.
Leo was as excited to see Mt. Shasta as we were.
We cruised through town for four hours while our lonely neglected skis got some much needed prep work done after a year and a half of sitting in the shed. We didn't mind with the view like this.
The Vino Burger at The Goat
Another beautiful moonrise before three hours of sleep in the parking lot at Bunny Flats
A few hours into the ascent and a few thousand feet up Avalanche Gulch. The snow was firm. Really firm. Borderline ice. The skinning was efficient though and the ski crampons were holding us up!
We stopped at 5am at this rock above frozen Lake Helen at just over 11,000ft to change over from skis with skins to boots with crampons. The temp dropped to 28 degrees here which would be the coldest part of our day.
Climbing up an icy volcano at dawn with a full moon setting and the mountain's cast-shadow looming behind. This is what does it for me.
At the top of the 2,000ft slope of the Heart and the Red Banks at 13,000ft, the snowpack and melted out and revealed this pass-through along the ridgetop.
Misery Hill up to the summit towards the top-right
The final icy pitch to the sulfur vents and the summit pinnacle
Having her moment
After a year and a half, this is the welcome back to skiing I faced while staring down at 300 feet of lumpy, rock-hard, frozen ice pillows above the steaming sulfur vents.
Right back in her element. And this time, skiing off the top!
In the middle of a 7,000ft ski descent.
We had left the car at 1:04am that morning and had returned to the car exactly at 1:04pm. It took us roughly 9 hours up and 3 down including some time spent on the top. Since we had the rest of the afternoon to use, we took our time dismantling our gear, basking in the warm Shasta sunshine, and getting to know some new friends in the parking lot at Bunny Flats. Energy levels dropped significantly that evening, but we made it to the nice little KOA at Mt. Lassen for the night and slept like dormant volcanoes.
In the morning, it was finally time for a hot shower (the first and only one of the week), a deliciously strong cup of black coffee with sugar, and another long day of driving back down south to Mt. Whitney.
Our favorite campsite at the Whitney Portal Campground
Spring ascents of Mt. Whitney are fantastic. After arriving in Lone Pine on Thursday, we obtained only the 9th day-climb permit out of 100 available for the day from the Lone Pine Ranger Station 30 minutes before they closed. The snowpack was melting, but was still reaching down to the 10,000ft level on the trail. This snowfield at 12,500ft is way more fun to stomp up than the "99 switchback" summer route. We wore microspikes and carried ice axes.
Friday, May 16th, 2014. 12:10pm. Highest geographic point in the continental United States.
Mt. Whitney. 14,505ft.
The tiny high-altitude birds are not shy up here.
The summit hut
Looking northwest over the southern portion of the John Muir Trail.
The last two miles of trail to the summit are spectacular.
Putting on my big boy glissading pants
Yup, that's a Sequoia
Land of the giants
This is the amount of trash I picked up off the ground in the main camping zone. And this was only some of what I saw. There was much more littering the area that I just didn't have room for. I have never encountered such a prevalent and atrocious disregard for keeping ones trash contained in such a wildly magnificent place as this. Whether it is intentional or not, there clearly needs to be more care taken to keep it all contained and packed out by the person who packed it in.
Oh, and this message also goes to those people who consider it acceptable to leave their used "Wag Bag" on the ground next to the trail. I presume this is because they simply don't want to carry it with them while they are on their way up and are planning to pick it up on their way down. Well, sorry, but that's not how it works. Pack it away with you after you use it and then nobody else has to see it and you won't run the risk of "conveniently" missing it on the way down and leaving your **** up there in a plastic bag forever.
So on to better topics again...
The day was phenomenal. Beautiful weather. Again. It was 53 degrees on the summit with a slight breeze. Six hours up. Five down, including a good amount of time (+ 30 minutes) on the summit. We were back in camp by 5:30pm, cleaned ourselves up, made a fire, got a dinner going of tortellini with sausage and pesto, and rapidly proceeded into the grand finale of the day which included my poignantly brilliant 20 minute monologue describing why this trip worked out so well, while finishing up my celebratory bottle of sparkling pinot I had started 30 minutes prior, and topping it off with...
Another delicious pancake and coffee breakfast in the crisp mountain air at 8,000ft at our favorite campsite at the Whitney Portal campground.
And then it was time to go.