Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Mt. Whitney, CA (with 4 club members) Photo Essay - 9/12/19

Mt. Whitney from the Eye of Alabama Arch in the Alabama Hills (Lone Pine, CA)

The Permit Tag

Dawn on the Peaks

Rocky Trail
 Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States and the Sierra Nevada, with an elevation of 14,505 feet (4,421 m). It is located in East–Central California, on the boundary between California's Inyo and Tulare counties, 84.6 miles (136.2 km) west-northwest of the lowest point in North America at Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park at 282 ft (86 m) below sea level. The west slope of the mountain is in Sequoia National Park and the summit is the southern terminus of the John Muir Trail which runs 211.9 mi (341.0 km) from Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley. The east slope is in the Inyo National Forest in Inyo County.

The summit of Mount Whitney is on the Sierra Crest and is the highest point on the Great Basin Divide. It lies near many of the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada. The peak rises dramatically above the Owens Valley, sitting 10,778 feet (3,285 m) or just over two miles above the town of Lone Pine 15 miles to the east, in the Owens Valley.

The mountain is partially dome-shaped, with its famously jagged ridges extending to the sides. Mount Whitney is above the tree line and has an alpine climate and ecology. Very few plants grow near the summit: one example is the sky pilot, a cushion plant that grows low to the ground. The only animals are transient, such as the butterfly Parnassius phoebus and the gray-crowned rosy finch.  ~Wikipedia

View Back down toward Owens Valley

Sun is Rising

Near Trail camp looking towards Trail Crest

Last water, near Trail Camp

Looking back down some of the 99 switchbacks to Trail Camp
The granite that forms Mount Whitney is the same as the granite that forms the Alabama Hills, thousands of feet lower down. 

On August 18, 1873, Charles Begole, A. H. Johnson, and John Lucas, all of nearby Lone Pine, were the first to reach this summit. As they climbed the mountain during a fishing trip to nearby Kern Canyon, they called the mountain Fisherman's Peak. 

In 1881 Samuel Pierpont Langley, founder of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory remained for some time on the summit, making daily observations on the solar heat. Accompanying Langley in 1881 was another party consisting of Judge William B. Wallace of Visalia, W. A. Wright and Reverend Frederick Wales.  ~ Wikipedia

An Icy part of the 99

Nearing the Top of the 99
Wallace later wrote in his memoirs that "The Pi Ute [Paiute] Indians called Mt. Whitney "Too-man-i-goo-yah," which means "the very old man." They believe that the Great Spirit who presides over the destiny of their people once had his home in that mountain." The spelling Too-man-i-goo-yah is a transliteration from the indigenous Paiute Mono language. Other variations are Too-man-go-yah and Tumanguya.

In 1891, the United States Geological Survey's Board on Geographic Names decided to recognize an earlier name Mount Whitney. Despite losing out on their preferred name, residents of Lone Pine financed the first trail to the summit, engineered by Gustave Marsh, and completed on July 22, 1904. Just four days later, the new trail enabled the first recorded death on Whitney. Having hiked the trail, U.S. Bureau of Fisheries employee Byrd Surby was struck and killed by lightning while eating lunch on the exposed summit. In response to this event, Marsh began work on the stone hut that would become the Smithsonian Institution Shelter, and completed it in 1909.  ~Wikipedia

Trail Crest Above

View over Trail Crest on the back side…toward JMT Junction

View Back along the Crest Trail

Looking back.  Yes, there’s a long trail across that talus.

A small patch of snow only…but it was deep.
Today's Story

Back in February, three club members put in multiple entries to the Mt. Whitney day permit lottery…and in April found that one was a winner, obtaining four permits.  So Larry Shahan, Chuck Stinnett, Laszlo Heredy and Brian Dodd left the Whitney Portal Trailhead at 0428 on September 12 to climb the mountain.  The Mt. Whitney trail is ~22 miles round trip going from about 8,000 ft. up to 14,508 ft., but involves nearly 7,000 ft. of gross gain. (Think 1.5 times Mt. Charleston peak.)  

While the trail is pretty good up to the area requiring permits (Lone Pine lake, about 2.5 miles in), the rest has significant difficult sections with rock and talus, as well as some hands needed.  Once past the permit area, there are climbs to the Outpost camp and Mirror lake, then on up to Trail camp which is the site of the last water.  From there, it’s a steep climb up 99 switchbacks to Trail Crest.  Unfortunately, then there’s a downhill to the junction with the John Muir trail before the final two-mile slog to the top.  For the most part the exposure is not too bad, but one very icy section thankfully has a guard rail. Anyone thinking of trying for a day or overnight permit is welcome to chat with any of us to get the nitty-gritty.  ~Brian

These photos were taken by Brian and other members of the group. The narrative was written by Brian. Thanks Brian for giving us a peek at what it's like up there.

Brian (upper left), Laszlo (right), and Chuck (lower left) (Larry must have been shy.)

Smithsonian Institution Shelter (1909) on Summit

More of the Icy Section

Monday, September 16, 2019

Robbers' Roost Loop - 9/16/19

Cave at Robbers' Roost

Shadows on Hike a Bike Trail

Sunrise on Mummy's Tummy

Upper Showgirl Trail
Finally! An absolutely deliciously cool day in the mountains! Eight hikers came out for a breezy day on a six mile loop starting at the Juniper Trailhead located on Angel Peak Place off of Deer Creek Road. We started out at a fairly quick pace so that our bodies would warm up in the surprisingly cool air then slowed down after about half a mile. We headed down and out the Upper Showgirl Trail; a beautifully maintained trail that the mountain bikers use regularly. Since today was a Monday, we only saw (heard) one biker all morning. As we hiked down to the first wash, we saw the sunrise on Mummy Mountain.

Warming Up on Upper Showgirl Trail
After 1.6 miles, the main trail changed from the Upper Showgirl Trail to the Hike a Bike Trail. We continued on this trail without turning.

Mummy Mountain from Hike a Bike Trail
Next, we crossed the Trough Trail that heads left down the mountain.

Crossing the Wooden Bridge

Hummingbird Gulch beyond Hike a Bike Trail
The Hike a Bike Trail continues around the top end of Telephone Canyon and ends at the bottom of the hill beneath the Robbers' Roost Trailhead. We climbed the steep hill up to the parking turnout huffing and puffing! Next, we crossed Deer Creek Road at the crosswalk and began climbing up to Robbers' Roost using the switchback that turns off to the left about halfway up the hill. Two hikers decided to scramble up instead by using the old route that passes the caves. At the top, we all took a break out of the breezes. Today, there were no rock climbers showing off their skills on the world class climbing walls.

Robbers' Roost beyond Hike a Bike Trail
After the pleasant break, we returned back down the trails to the large area just before we crossed Deer Creek Road again. Here, we turned to the left up the gentle hill.

Nearing Robbers' Roost Trailhead
This is another portion of the Old Deer Creek Road. You can even see remnants of asphalt underfoot.

Trail to Robbers' Roost

Using the Switchback up to the Caves
By staying the course on this bike trail, we crossed the Pixie Trail and continued up around the outside of the hill that is enclosed by the curve in Deer Creek Road. There are many bike jumps on this part of the trail. At one bike jump, someone had hung part of a deer skeleton from a log. The skeleton appeared like a fairly fresh kill since some of the hide was still attached. We climbed the gentle incline that has fantastic views of Telephone Canyon, Hummingbird Gulch and Kyle Canyon in the distance. At the top, we junctioned with Deer Creek Road about a quarter mile down from the North Loop Trailhead.

Robbers' Roost Crack
There's a tricky little downhill to get from the trail to the road. Then, we crossed the pavement and walked down to the intersection with Angel Peak Place.

Taking a Break below the Climbing Wall at Robbers' Roost
We found a place to hike down the embankment to the small wash on the other side of the intersection and with trash bags in hand, we started to work.

Starting up part of the Old Deer Creek Road

Old Deer Creek Road / Bike Trail
This ravine has had a tremendous amount of trash for the two years that I have been hiking it. This time, I remembered a bag! It appears that families bring their kids here to sled down the ravine, then they leave the sleds, food trash, bottles and a dog leash. (?) Perhaps this happens every year. Don't know. But, we made a pretty good dent in the trash situation as one photo below shows. Next, we had to carry our trash bags back up to the trailhead where there is a large trash can inside the restroom. We double bagged it with a strong black bag from Mike's car. Great day!

6 miles; 1000 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Oh, dear ... deer.

Arriving at the new Deer Creek Road Connection near North Loop Trailhead


Collecting Trash in Ravine

Friday, September 13, 2019

Nuclear Loop - 9/12/18

Mummy's Nose from Rocky Peak

Desert View Overlook

Sisters Ridge from Champion Ridge Cliffs

Perusing the Informational Signs at Overlook
Ten seems to be the magic number these days since, once again, ten great hikers arrived to hike on Thursday morning. This day's hike began at the Desert View Overlook on Deer Creek Road and included a lot of fun bushwhacking! First, we took in all the informational signs located at the overlook all the way down several switchbacks on a cement path. When everyone was satisfied that they had stored what information they read, our hike continued behind the last set of signs. Here, there are several "gravel paths" that people have used to hike down the hill. Suffice it to say that the objective was to reach a wash located to the left of the ridge we were on.

Hiking down to the Bottom of the Cement Switchbacks
By following any of these paths and dipping down to the left, eventually, we reached the wash. The descent was a bit messy the way we did it today but we got there!

Entering the Wash
Soon after we reached the wash, we had this photo awaiting (above). If you go further down the initial ridge before dropping down, you may not see this particular wash scene.

Airplane Parts found in Wash

Using the Small Trail to Go Around Obstacles
There is a small old trail that runs alongside the wash but I'm not sure where to catch it from the beginning. Nevertheless, it becomes apparent soon as you hike on down the wash; especially when you have to make your way around some of the deadfall blocking the wash way. I like to stay in the wash as much as I can so that I won't miss any interesting objects that may have washed down from above. For instance, there are some parts from an airplane crash lying in the wash at one point! After that, we came to a very large un-navigable dry fall. This can be circumvented by taking the old trail up to the left and dropping down a much shorter rock wall.

View Back to the Dry Fall
The next point of interest is a very large cairn that has been there for at least four years. It is placed at the beginning of a large wash delta when descending. Likely, it was there to indicate the correct wash to take when doing an ascent in our same wash.

Nearing the Large Delta Junction
The delta is so covered with trees that it is difficult to actually see the "delta." However, it is clear that there are two or three washes coming together with trees in between. Here, it is important to get to the left side of the washes where you will be at the base of the ridge in front of you (Champion Ridge).

Points of Interest - Very Large Cairn, Red Survey Marker, The Stairs to Nowhere, & Iron Rod used in Pulley System

Gathering just before Red Survey Marker
Down the wash a little further, be on the lookout for a survey marker and sign surrounded by large rocks and painted red. (The paint has started to wear away.) This is your landmark to ascend the ridge to the left. The short steep ascent will take you to the tip end of Champion Ridge where there are a lot of large conglomerate formations. Once there, turn left and start climbing the ridge as close to the top of the ridge as is feasible. Eventually, this climb will become less covered with brush and a more gentle slope. When things got easier, we arrived at the cliffs on the right where we had a fantastic view of "everything Lee Canyon."

Bushwhack up from Red Survey Marker to Champion Ridge
Still climbing at a gentler rate, we got more views at the cliffs and the ridge top became wider. Finally, we arrived at an old large shelter. This is near Deer Creek Road and, many times, people use this place for camping.

Climbing along end of Champion Ridge
We took a ten minute rest here. Conversation ensued. There is an iron spike in the ground at one of the overlooks used as, perhaps, a guide for an old pulley system.

On Top of Champion Ridge

View of the Sisters Ridge
Continuing the hike, we dropped down to Deer Creek Road and crossed it at the sign indicating 8000 feet in elevation. The Old Deer Creek Road switchbacks down to this point and we climbed up. Now, we climbed gently along the old gravel road that is fairly wide. Missing the old car that lies in wait on the left side, we did see the Steps to Nowhere on the right. At the top of the hill, we came to Rocky Peak, a small tor on the left side of the road. A short diversion here afforded us more fantastic views of the mountains and desert. Back on the old road, we were led down to where it crossed the new Deer Creek Road again. After crossing, we were walking through the Orange Trail Trailhead. This is also the trailhead for the Deer Creek/Catch Pen Loop.

Taking a Break at the Large Shelter
The Orange Trail turns either right (ridge side) or straight (wash side). We went straight and wound our way down into the wash. This wash is the one that flows beneath the Desert View Overlook on the opposite side of the ridge on which we started.

The First Road Crossing
This trail is very clear and fun to hike as you wind in and out of the wash. It is fairly well marked with cairns when the direction of the trail seems counterintuitive.

Climbing Old Deer Creek Road

Valley View from Rocky Peak
The junction for the bushwhack back up to the Desert View Overlook is seen in a photo below. It is not marked but, if you have been looking up to your left as you followed the trail, you can see the overlook high above and the ridge climb is almost obvious. Go to almost the end of the ridge for the least steep ascent. Stay on top of the ridge during the bushwhack and you will run into the overlook cement switchbacks. This is a cute little loop with bushwhacking opportunities that provide reward. Wonderful group of hikers, too!

5 miles; 1200 feet elevation gain; 3.25 hours; average moving speed 1.6 mph

Orange Trail - Deer Creek/Catch Pen Trail

Ridge Junction to return to Desert View Overlook

Reaching the Cement Switchbacks