Trip to Whitney
I am not comfortable with telling this story simply because I believe climbing onto the top of Mt. Whitney with a group of strangers, whom I’ve never met, seemed like it was very much like playing a game of Survivor. I am not going to mention any names, nor the guide company.
Got up at 3:30am to start driving to Mt. Whitney. In a car I just bought, which is 17 years old, I was worried it would break down. It has some issues but I was able to nurture it to my destination. First night, a Thursday, I camped at the Mt. Whitney Family Campground. That campground is very nice, the camp host struck up a long conversation with me, which I enjoyed, and was refreshing. She gave me two bundles of wood for the price of one, so I was able to start a fire and keep it going for a long time. But I went to bed early knowing I had to get up at 5:00 a.m. the next morning to hook up with the group and start climbing. I also had to be breakfasted-up before I hooked up with the group. In the camp that night at approximately 3:00 a.m. I heard noises a bear had entered the area around the camp host, and they chased him off. I saw him it was an ugly old looking bear, but I immediately got excited. BEAR!
Was up and awake by 5:00am the day the hike was starting. I had to meet the guides and other hikers at 7:30a.m. in Lone Pine, CA. I had camped at the Whitney Portal area the night before.
While I waiting I was looking for the hikers I met in an online chat, but all I was seeing people I never met before. Then a guide shows up, and it wasn’t the guide I met online. It was someone else, and she stated the original guide had transportation problems. So we waited, and waited and waited. The hikers I chatted with online never showed up the day the hike was to begin and neither did the guide I chatted with online. I was apparently going to be hiking with people I never met before.
We waited in Lone Pine, CA until 11a.m. waiting for the other hikers, but again they did not show up. Then I got impatient (keeping in mind I spent money for this trip), and stated to the guide what are waiting for? She said two other people.
Those 2 other people, the ones’ I chatted with online did not call nor reach out in any way as to their dilemma, but there is little to no cell phone coverage in that area. There is Internet in Lone Pine, CA on the main street, but little cell coverage.
At 11:30a.m. we finally decided to go to Whitney without those other hikers. At that point I was very frustrated and already tired.
We got on the trail around 1pm. The first mile was the toughest for me because my lungs and heart needed to adjust. But in that first mile is where I got my first taste of adversity. The guide was trying to tell me I couldn’t handle the hike nor the climb because I was too winded. I argued, no I just need to adjust. I had to defend myself no less than 3 times. That guide wanted me off the trail, but I asserted myself and won. After the first mile I was okay. After that 1st mile I had also learned that I left my GoPro camera and batteries behind, by accident, because I was so frustrated and frazzled by the waiting around and trying to deal with the guide’s personality. I was then really angry too, and just wanted to chill in the forest, but I had to keep up.
So we climbed and climbed and climbed. The first 2 miles are straight up, no switchbacks, a 3,000 foot climb to 11,200 feet from 8,600 feet. My pack weighed 50lbs even, which I thought was overkill because technically it is only 22 miles to the top of Whitney and back down, so I didn’t think I needed to carry so much stuff. When you hire guides through a guide company they don’t carry their own stuff they make the hikers carry the food stuffs up to the base camp, which I was not pleased with. I was expecting to carry my own stuff and not the items provided by the guide service or company. That was not explained in their rules and other hikers did not know that either. They also said they provide the water, which was wrong because we were able to water up every 500 feet with fresh water from the stream and various waterfalls.
We made it to Upper Boy Scout Lake at approximately 6pm. Set up tent and then I ate some food. I wandered around for a while but I was very upset my cameras were left behind, so I went off and cried a bit then returned to camp.
The next morning we were up at 4:00 a.m. to get started for the climb to the top. But there was another twist, two of the other hikers were getting sick from the altitude. The guide told them climbing while sick is not good, so they did not climb to the summit. It was now only 3 of us, but the guide was warning, we don’t have enough people for the rope team. I could clearly see the other hiker was not looking good either, but she kept on going like me. We climbed and climbed and climbed for hours. We did not need crampons nor an ice axe, it was just wet snow. Nothing boots couldn’t handle. So I had to assert myself again with the guide, I am NOT wearing crampons nor using the ice axe because, ummm, they weren’t needed. But I wore my helmet, but the other hiker did not.
During the hike we had to make two detours to an easier ascent because we couldn’t go on the rope teams because we didn’t have enough people.
At around 11 a.m. we had made it to the top of Mt. Whitney. I stood on the top for a few hours then went to Mt. Muir. I had walked over to another peak, which I thought was Mount Russell, but it wasn’t Mt. Russell; however it was another 14’er.
The climb down was indeed easier, and only took us a few hours. When we left Upper Boy Scout Lake it only took us approximately 3-4 hours to get down. When I was done, I didn’t even say good bye to the guide nor the other hikers. Simply because in the beginning there was so much adversity projected towards me, that I concluded the people I was with, I never want to see again. The 3 other hikers I hiked with whom I had never met online were all from San Francisco, and you know what? I would never work with people like them. After that climb I have also concluded that some races or ethnicities are more prone to altitude sickness.
I now know the mountaineers route onto Mt. Whitney and will now hike to the top alone in the very near future, just so I can record the whole adventure on video and in pictures.