Saturday, July 30, 2011

67 Mile Week including 57 mile heavy backpack trip

These photos are of the backpacking trip Owen and I did this week with our Boy Scout Troop. We hiked the loop from South Lake to North Lake near Bishop, California, about 56 miles. Climbing buddy Greg organized this; this was his 5th Boy Scout 50-miler he had organized. I have been on his last three.

The first ascent was to Bishop Pass, 11,972 feet. On the descent to our second campsight I realized that I had lost my tent poles and mattress. My mattress was a great thing, it doubled as a chair. But I couldn't live without my tent poles. So, I ran back up a couple of thousand feet to where I thought I lost them and encountered a pair of hikers who had found my tent poles. That was a long day for me.

I gave up my mattress and then cut my son's mattress in half to use as my own. Poor Owen.

The second ascent was to Muir Pass, 11,955 feet. Muir Pass was most difficult because it involved trekking through 6 miles of snow. The snow tripled the crossing time. The crossing required a trek through snow above 11,000 feet for several miles. Some of the climbers we encountered questioned the decision to take 12 and 13-year-olds across this pass, but I was just along for the ride and had no clue. Owen became ill at this altitude; luckily, we had some off-the-shelf stuff to help and some friendly hikers helped us, but it was slow going in unstable snow at 80 degree weather for several miles.

Owen and I had running shoes instead of boots. They were very unstable in the snow and I couldn't kick footholds for the rest. Plus, I had grabbed the wrong running shoes for the trek. They lacked the usual orthotic inserts I require, so I had major footsoreness.

The last ascent was to Piute Pass on the John Muir Trail, 11,423 feet. In the middle of these ascents we descended to about 8500 feet.

We had many water crossings, some rather difficult. The snow pack is unusually heavy as well as the run-off. In one of the water crossings, I was sweeping with Greg at the back. We came to a rapid-filled stream we had to cross. Greg's intelligence had told him that this was the worst crossing and we just had to do it. I couldn't believe the difficulty, but the creek was only about 15 foot wide. So, using the tactics we usually used, I positioned myself in the middle of the swollen stream and then Greg would pass me packs and boys. The first boy was Owen and I had't quite found my footing. Owen was swept off his feet in the crossing and was headed downstream, but because I was standing in the middle, I caught him on the way down. Owen's impact cause me to fall, but very fortunately my back hand caught a boulder under the water and it stopped our downstream progress. Greg screamed at Owen to stand up, which Owen did and lessened the flow with which I had to contend. I got Owen to the other bank and he was pretty upset, but he had the presence of mind to respond to my direction to serve as part of the human chain in the stream for the packs and boys to follow.

I lost seven pounds. The hard way.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mt. Whitney Mountaineer's Route July 2011

On July 8, 2011, son-in-law Casey, friend Greg, friend Jim and I tackled the Mt. Whitney Mountaineer's Route. We got off to a late start at about 4:15 a.m. The Moutaineer's Route is a popular but unofficial route to the top of Mt. Whitney, with Class 4/5 ascents at times. Much of the way is without any kind of marked trail.

Friend Jim left our group and returned to the trail head about 90 minutes beyond the trail head. He had had a fall recently and did't want to tackle difficult rock climbing. There is a ledge that has some exposed hiking right below Lower Boy Scout Lake. I went back with him through the ledge to make sure he was on he way back safely.

The Route took us past Lower Boy Scout Lake, Upper Boy Scout Lake and then Iceberg Lake. We hit Iceberg Lake at around 10:30 or so. We were going too slowly.

At Iceberg Lake we could see three climbers on the East Buttress. They probably spent the night on the face. Iceberg Lake is at about 12,000 feet. It was frozen solid, unlike a year ago when Tadd, Greg and I did this route. There was lots of slow.

Up the chute we went. Greg might have been slowing at this time and he started showing signs of altitude sickness. Near the top of the chute we put our crampons on. Finally, we made it to the "notch."

I didn't want to do the final ascent up the steep shelf to the summit and I talked the guys into doing some traversing to find an easier way up. We didn't and we got, at least in my mind, rim-rocked on a ledge about 80 feet below the summit plateau.

Greg was feeling sick but we were carrying all of his climbing gear, including his new rope. Greg was able to get us all roped up and he made the final push to the top, setting anchors along the way. Being the weakest vertical climber, and subject to extreme vertigo at times, the guys sent me up first behind Greg. I removed the anchors and Greg belayed me up. I fell once and Greg was there to stop the fall. Over the lip! The bags and Casey followed and we summitted. It was very late in the day.
Down we went; Greg wanted to go back the way we came but I didn't like his looks. But, when we hit the trail summit on the way down (we connect to the main trail from the peak at a place called "Trail Summit" at 13,800 feet) Greg decided to do what looked like a dangerous glissade and so he left us.

But, we were able to meet up at 12,000 feet at Summit Lake or whatever it is called, "Trail Camp." It was now dark. As we started trudging through the snow towards that upper lake, Greg became very sick and fell and gashed his head severely. There was blood everywhere, but Casey had enough smarts to bring some medical supplies. That and duct tape and we bandaged Greg up.

Greg didn't have anything wrong with his brains, it seemed, and he got back on his feet and away we went. We arrived at the trailhead shortly before dawn.

Greg was still in the hospital last I saw. We need him for Mt. Rainier in August.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Santa Clarita Valley 15K challenge

In the independence day 15K challenge, I came in 18th overall and 2nd in my age group. Got beat by a fellow I see running my favorite Beast, a member of the local running club.