Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Prepations for Whitney...

Those who know Whitney, understand the severity of the title above. Indeed, I am referring to Mt. Whitney, the temptress of the Eastern Sierras. For those who are not aware of her solitary presence, she stands as the tallest peak in the contiguous states, highest in the lower-48, and above all a formidable opponent to test one's winter climbing mettle against. At 14,497 feet, this cascading array of tilted, granite slab is a prize sought after by many. 

Mt. Whitney (14,497') lies at a picturesque center among the Eastern Sierra range.
Until recently, she was off my radar... at least for the time being. The amount of foresight and time that goes into the trip can be substantial. However, after lining up some experience, proficient climbing partners, this prospective goal has been moved up on the list. We will take a conservative approach, splitting the Mountaineer's Route (MR) ascent into two days, taking time to acclimate as we move to a high camp at Iceberg lake. The next day we will set out early with an alpine start, in hopes of gaining the last few thousand feet to the notch and the "Final 400", en-route to the summit. At the end of day two, we'll move camp lower down the mountain, with the last day reserved for hiking the rest of the way back to our cars.
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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mount Baldy, CA -- Feb 5, 2011

Mount Baldy, CA - 10,064 ft - San Gabriel Mountain Range, just north of Los Angeles, CA
Trip:  7.35 miles roundtrip, 4474 feet of total elevation gain (more stats at bottom)

Our route to the top!

Trip to Baldy... success. Over four thousand feet of elevation gain in a little over seven miles, round trip... conquered.

As soon as work let out Friday afternoon, I headed due west. Car was saturated with winter gear, a cooler with the usual snacks and beverages, and one stoked fella at the wheel. I made great time, rolling into Palm Springs just after sunset. After correcting for the horrible route my phone gps toured me through, I found my way into the worst stretch of stop-and-go main street, I've ever experienced. Twenty minutes of slow going from one red light to the next, dodging nearly hundreds of Maseratis and nefarious Aston Martins changing three lanes at a time, and slamming on the breaks to avoid crazy pedestrians, were just a few of the notable obstacles through downtown Palm Springs. I finally found the Big Five Sporting Goods, ran inside and bought my permit to enter the San Gabriels. First sigh-of-relief. Having that piece of paper in hand took the pressure off the rest of the night. From here on, it was simply a matter of getting to LA, finding a spot to sleep along the mountain road, and wrestling some z's from the anxiousness that seemed most prevalent at that point.
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What an abysmal winter...

Well, here we are... it's been a whole month since I've even looked at this thing. But there's much to recap.

First things first... big middle fingers go out to my love-hate relationship with Arizona. I realize that Arizona doesn't really get in to the whole "winter" season thing like other parts of the country, but occasionally we get a few glimpses of what could be. December was a great month with a series of three storms over the Christmas holiday that just dumped on the higher elevations. Since then we've been suffering through one of the driest months in decades. Not a single ounce of precipitation until yesterday. Slopes are either wind-scorched or iced over from the sun. Even though that mother of a nature tried to redeem herself, she's still not off the hook in my book.

My lady and I went up north two weekends ago to climb an icy Humphreys with our crampons and axes. What would have been a perfect day to summit was spoiled by timing. We didn't actually make it up north and onto the slope until after noon. After a series of equipment malfunctions -- thankfully at the lower elevations -- we decided to call it a day after hiking a couple miles or so on the established trail. Bummer. We never even made it to the rock field. Her crampons we just slightly too big for her boot and shimmied into two pieces on several occasions. We celebrated failure with beers back at the car and a brew at Flagstaff's Beaver Street Brewery ( Well worth the postponement!

Three weeks ago I completed the half-marathon here in Phoenix. In the week leading up I finally decided to drop from the full marathon to the half due to never-ending complications with my knee and IT band issue. While somewhat disappointed, I just wanted to make sure that I could focus my efforts back to hiking and climbing without further injury. Looking at the calendar, I have 18 weeks until I'm on Rainier. That really isn't too much time left. I need to get some long distances and high elevations under my belt before then...

Mt. San Antonio, aka: "Mt. Baldy" -- 10,064 feet above sea level

This upcoming weekend, I've scoped out Mount Baldy, in California (just northeast of LA). I'm looking at about a 10-mile hike up the ski hut route and Baldy bowl with about 4,000+ feet of vertical. They too have been experiencing much of the drought this past month and apparently there's already the early spring conditions forming in the snow pack. I'm eager to get out there and really put some mileage on the crampons and axe before all of the snowpack succumbs to wet avalanche.
. . .