There was a lot of adventure in our household the week of 9/9/09. We moved our stuff out of the crawlspace so that our new contractors would have some room to work on finishing out the downstairs unit in our house Saturday and Sunday. Tom climbed the Nose in a Day with Hans on Monday, and then we drove across to the East Side and hiked Mt. Whitney in a day on Wednesday, returning tired but happy to our little place in the Valley Thursday night.
I’m really proud of Tom for setting such an ambitious schedule for himself, sticking to it, and coming through it all in such good style. To set the scene just a little bit – Tom’s pre-climb training regimen involved 2 days of rock climbing so far this season, and a couple of short days jugging fixed lines with friends. Not exactly a rigorous, intensive, highly-disciplined program. Fortunately, Hans was his partner for the adventure, and as Tom said afterward, there isn’t a better person on the planet to do this route with.
Hans is fast, of course, even coming off knee surgery, and he knows the route forward and backward, but that’s not all. Hans is just a great person and great climbing partner. Tom botched the King Swing on his first attempt across, and in the subsequent bouncing, managed to lose the bag containing all their food for the day except the 3 Powerbars and a couple of Gu’s that were in Hans’ pack. With another 9 hours of climbing ahead of them, it was a sad loss. Tom felt discouraged and sheepish, and thought Hans might want to turn around right then and there. I wonder how many people in Hans’ place would have shrugged off the loss, and then continued on to the top without another word of complaint. As Tom put it, there may be a lot of people who would say that it was OK, but Hans is the kind of person that really makes you believe it.
Anyway, they topped out in 12:39, descended safely, and went to bed.
The next day, we hopped in the car and drove around to the East Side. The drive was longer than normal because Big Oak Flat Road/Hwy 120 was still closed from the valley to Crane Flat, due to the clean-up efforts following the Big Meadow Fire in Forresta. We were forced to drive out 140, and the loop back around through Groveland to get to Tioga Pass, but at least we didn’t have to use Sonora Pass instead.
Annie had gotten the dayhiking permit and generously let us join their group when a few people had to cancel. We met up with her in Bishop, grabbed a quick bite, and then headed down to Whitney Portal where we met Sue and Martha, and camped for the night.
The alarm clocks went off at 4am, and we broke camp and were hiking circles around the parking lot in the dark by just after 5am, then watched the sun rise as we climbed the first of many switchbacks by headlamp and the light of the moon. It was beautiful. Somehow, in the confusion of moving, and packing for back to back adventures, we ended up with only one working camera between the two of us, which was fine with me because I wanted my pack to be as light as possible.
It was a perfect day. Sunny, not too hot, great company and a spectacular place. I’m not sure you could ask for better. Other people mentioned sketchy snow and ice patches in parts of the trail, but although there was just a tiny amount of ice on the trail on the way up, it was easily avoidable by stepping on the rocks that stuck through. We made a few half-hearted attempts to count switchbacks, but quickly got distracted with conversation, and lost track. Sue and I saw a pika, and we all spotted a marmot. We talked fitness and flowers, trees and gear. As I said, perfect.
We set a respectable pace, and reached the summit in just over 6 hours. The summit reminds me a bit of Half Dome – tons of people with smiles on their faces, having lunch, taking pictures, and congratulating each other. The Easy Button was gone from the summit register, which was a minor disappointment, but the ranger I asked said he didn’t take it out.
There were a few parking lot antics when we got down. It’s not clear to me who started it, but in the end we all did 9 push-ups to top off the day, except for Annie who is either an over-achiever, or was so tired that she lost count and did 10, and Tom who had never done a burpee and didn’t know what he was getting himself in to when he was convinced to do 9 of those after 22 miles and ~6000 feet of elevation gain.
We were just about the get in the car and head back up to Bishop when I saw another amazing feat. A tiny chickory had scored himself a pine cone that was easily half his size and was running across the parking lot with it – it’s tail extended way out to try to counterbalance the cone. It had to stop half way to rest, before disappearing under the parked cars again, but I hope he got a nice meal in the end. I love those little guys.
Plus, Sue put together this great little video of the hike. You can see how much fun these guys are.