Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mt. Whitney Trip Report - Summits and Plummets

Holy Cow, that was a rough climb.  I knew it would be hard to get up the tallest mountain in the lower 48, but I never would have guessed that the altitude would affect me that bad.  When I say I barely made it, I'm not kidding.  It was that hard.

I met up with part of my climbing crew at the Mt. Whitney visitors center in Lone Pine CA at about 5pm last Tuesday evening.  They arrived about an hour earlier and had a chance to sit and relax and check out the mountain from the safety of the valley.  By the time I got there, I was a little too exicted to sit for long and we were all starving, so we drove from the valley up to the Whitney Portal Store.

We set up camp, which was really convenient to the parking and trail head, and walked up to the Portal Store for Burgers and Fries.  The burger was pretty good size, I'd say at least 1/2 a pound, and there were plenty of piping hot fries.

After dinner we headed down the mountain to call the other half of the crew and make sure htye knew how to find us.  They eventually showed up around 12:30ish.

I had a pretty good headache most of the night, probably from going from sea level to 8,300 ft in a single day, but a handful of aspirin helped that the next morning.

The next morning we started off early with a morning 3 mile hike up the Whitney trail and back to the portal for some breakfast.  It was a pancake, eggs and bacon.

Yeah, you are seeing that right, that pancake was huge, and about an inch and a half thick.

After breakfast we headed out to go for a hike up to Cottonwood Lake, the hike started out at about 10,000 ft, and 4 1/2 miles later ended up at about 11,200.  It was a good little hike to get acclimatized.  So 4 1/2 miles later, we were back to the cars and headed back to the valley to pick up some last minute needs like fruit and crampons (big spikes for the boots).

We grabbed some Mexican for an early dinner and headed back up to the mountain to stock up on souvenirs, take a group picture at the trail-head and settle in for a good night's sleep.

I'm not sure that I got more than about 20 minutes of sleep, a combination of nerves and excitement kept me awake until we got up at 2:45 to break camp and get our stuff together.

We finally started up at about 3:45 after determining that my headlamp was not ever going to work, I decided to just vie for the middle of the pack and hope to catch some light when I could.

We kept a pretty decent pace early and saw the sun rise over the valley.  We had to cross a few streams, but the first 3 1/2 miles were pretty tame, mostly hiking on packed dirt.  Once we made it to Outpost Camp (about 10,000ft elev.) the terrain changed to hiking on a lot of flat rock, with some small and medium sized rocks and quite a few high steps.  We also had to trek some low angle snow.

This lasted until we got to Trail Camp (6 miles in and about 12,000ft elev).  We stopped at trail camp to filter water and eat some lunch.  I had been saving one of my 2 pears for this stop, and it was the best pear I have ever eaten.

From Trail Camp, it was pretty much all high angle snow until we got to 13,500ft elev.  the first 1/2 mile wasn't too steep, so we trekked it in our boots, but then it got really steep for the last 1,300 feet, so we stopped to put on our crampons and got out the ice axes.

This is where it got really hard.

I had not felt any real fatigue until this point, but at just over 12,000ft, I had a really hard time keeping a consistent pace.  On the way up "The Chute", I started out taking 20 steps at a time, then a rest, but by the time I neared the 1/2 way point, I was down to 5 steps between rests.

What was odd was that I never felt any leg fatigue at all, in fact I was really surprised by that, but it was all in my breathing.

The scariest part of this was watching a lady take a 300 foot fall.  Fortunately she walked away in tact, but it really emphasized how careful you had to be on this face, every step had consequences.

When we got to the top of the chute, we had reached Trail Crest (about 13,500ft elev.)  From there we could see the Eastern side of the Cascade Mountains.  It was a pretty cool sight, but we still had about 2 miles to go.

At this point, we hiked along the back side of the peak range leading to the back side of Mt. Whitney.  This was the hardest part of the hike for me as breathing became really labored.  I found myself stopping frequently to catch my breath.  The angle was not very severe in most places, but the terrain was quite bad.

The trail was mostly lunchbox sized boulders and made every step an exercise in foot placement so as not to twist and ankle.  Fortunately there were only 2 small snow fields to cross before we got to the last push up the backside of the summit.  The final leg was a little over a quarter of a mile, but the end was in sight, so it perked up the spirits a bit.

I would love to tell that when I reached the summit I yelled with joy at my conquest, but rather I have to say that I took off my pack, laid down and took a 20 minute nap.  When I woke up, I actually felt pretty good, although my speech was a little bit slurred.  I finally got to eat my peach that I had been saving, and it was even better than the pear.

We hung out on the top for about 45 minutes before starting the long trek down, where also I might note we saw the lady that took the 300' header coming up to the summit.

The best part of the trek down was the chute that we had come up.  This time however, we just sat down and slid the 1,300 feet down.  I will try to upload the video later.

This is a picture from just below the top, it was a long slide down.  Fortunately I brought a pair of gaiters so it saved my legs from getting chewed up, and we used our ice axes to keeps us from going to fast, but this was by far the best way down.

The rest of the way down we took the snow fields until we got to Outpost camp, and then the good trail the rest of the way down.

I felt really good once we got below 12,000ft, and kept up a pretty brisk pace to the trail-head.

Once we got down, it was time to assess the damage.  I had a pretty big blister on my left heel from the Cottonwood Lake hike, and it basically just got worse.

After throwing out the "wag" bags (yep, you get to keep your "wag" with you the whole trip and throw it out when you get back) and packing up the cars, we picked up some stranded climbers from Oregon and headed down to the valley.

Once we got to the valley, we grabbed some pizza and talked about the summit with the crew and then headed to the Portal Hostel for showers and some sleep.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Spring Photos - My Crew

Little Guy has been learning about dress shirts and ties lately.  For this shot, we tried out a big fat Full Windsor knot in his tie.  I like it.  Wait for the upcoming shots of his new black dress shirt, we will throw it up as the backdrop to this tie, it is going to rock!  I just learned how to make sleeve plackets last night, so hopefully I can finish the shirt tonight.  Stay tuned.
Twin #1 was hard to shoot, I loved his golf shots, wife - eh, not so much. I can't wait to get the twins out golfing maybe later this year or early next year.
Had to add another shot of Twin #1 here.  This should be an advertisement or something.  A caption next to the picture could say, "Have you thought about owning a piece of the world? Well, you can buy shares of it from me, I am Twin #1, President of Global Capital, and I own the world."
Twin #2 is all business, he looks like he just blasted through a pile of work at the office, came home and just rolled up his sleeves because he didn't have time to change his clothes before mowing the lawn..
Wife is finally embracing her bright spring color side, and I have to say, I quite like it.  She was all smiles for the camera yesterday, probably because it was warm outside, and she knows that she is a total knockout!
Little Guy gets 2 spots in today's post because he was just being too cheeky in this shot to not include..  On his way home from hitting 18 at Augusta, Little guy stopped by to show us his new tan before heading on to meet with a shady investment adviser looking to buy shares in the world.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Park Rangers Harrass Camping Toddlers and Prove Uselessness!

As the head of the "Balboa" family, it falls upon me to ensure that momma Balboa gets time away from the craziness of the rest of us so that she doesn't leave us indifinitely.

So as part of that strategy, I took the boys camping.

We roughed it too, as we clearly took charge of the situation and after checking to make sure that our cooking area was clear of flammable debris, we ordered "Mighty Fine" to cook our burgers and toasted cheese sandwiches over an open flame.

On to the campsite.  This was a real treat as Little Guy served as Official Cam Photographer so that the twins could help me set up our tent, which went surprisingly well.

I was pleasantly surprised how quickly they figured out what we were doing.  Twin #1 quickly began putting the poles together and Twin #2 was all too eager to help flatten out the tent and push poles through the sleeves.

Twin #2 thought that the stakes were the best part however and he tried his best to line up the stakes to the holes, although I had to help push them in.

As usual, the Texas Parks & Rec's exceptional Ranger program let another moron onto the force and he made our stay as bad as all of the other experiences we've had with these overpaid Grass-Sitters.  Have I mentioned that I hate Texas State Parks because of their nanny-like common sense deprived rangers?

I know, I shouldn't have parked within 1/4 mile of the campsite, but hauling gear with 3 little guys in tow across parking lots and along roads is a little more dangerous than the potential harm that I could have caused to some "very not-rare" weed infested St. Augustine grass where I was only planning to park that tire until I could unload the Cruiser.  So after threatening tickets, the 3 of the Cruiser tires got moved off of the dirt road, and one tire got moved off the grass.

Not only that, but during the big Cumbayah singalong later in the evening, the same moron ranger came by, interrupted the program and demanded license plate #s of all of the cars in the parking lot, or he was gong to issue tickets.

Apparently he couldn't just write them down himself, oh wait, he did because we had to send someone to the parking lot to get them, then read them to him as he wrote them down on his official clipboard.

After the singalong, there was a rousing game of capture the flag.  You can't really see them in this picture, but they handed out glow in the dark bracelets (red and blue) to denote what team you were on.  I thought that was a pretty clever idea.  In addition to the bracelets, I tied a flashlight around the neck of each of the kids so that I could spot them easily.

The field for the game was perfect, about the size of 2 football fields with huge trees in a perfect grid pattern about 30 feet apart covering the whole thing.  It was a lot of fun, even if my crew spent most of the time in "jail".

After we finished with capture the flag, it was time to get my little guys settled into the tent.

Twin #1 and Little Guy settled right in and Twin # Trouble decided that he had a little bit of steam left in him.  they all crashed out around 10.

Did I mention that the ranger drove by about every 1/2 hr with his brights on?  Yeah, that was helpful, probably looking to make sure that nobody left a marshmallow on his precious grass.

It finally dropped below 90 degrees around midnight, by about 1 am the temperature was a bearable 75, so naturally that is when we heard a lady in a campground next to ours yell to her boyfriend/husband "Stop Peeing on the side of the Tent!!!"  

I'll leave that to sink in!

Happy Campers all Around!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

James Cameron Uses GREEN SCREEN to Make Oil Spill Go Away!

This week is just going to get better. 

Now that the experts have failed to stop the gulf oil spill, Obama is starting to show his desperation by asking anyone that has either seen a real gulf, or played one on TV to come down south and throw out ideas.

His latest idea was to get James Cameron to help.  Cameron did Avatar, so he knows how to work in 3D environments, unlike BP that apparently only works in 2D. 

He also did Titanic, so he has experience in "disaster recovery", by that I mean he can take a disaster (not of his own making unless you include True Lies, which was a major disaster) and turn it into something worth its weight in gold, or Kate Winslet's weight in gold.

So Cameron's idea, that got Obama's attention immediately, was to do what he does best, that is, GREEN SCREEN the gulf and project on to it a more pleasant scene.  I have the exclusive pictures of the plan here.

The best part is that even though most disaster recovery experts will take months or years to fix a problem, Cameron has been known to go from sinking the ship to kissing the girl in like 3 1/2 hours.  Even though that seems like a long time because most producers can do it in 113 minutes, they don't get an academy award for rushing to get stuff done, as Cameron has proven time and time again.

This is Cameron's green screen, obviously scaled down, but this is how he is going to make the oil spill appear to go away.

For now he is just going to use it following the next Presidential visit to the gulf in which Obama will stand in front of the gulf, command it to clear up ("Plug that damn hole!" I think was the line that got leaked in pre-production screen writing), and then magically we will see the power of James Cameron in action.

At Obama's command, the spill will part like the Red Sea and all of the oil will be instantly refined into heating oil and sent with a gift basket to widows in the northeast United States to use to heat their homes, allowing Obama to triple the taxes on heating oil for everyone else [who doesn't vote for him].

This is basically what the end result will look like.

Magically the oil spill has gone away and killer whales* have now come to the gulf because of its superior water quality**!

*No killer whales were harmed in the production of this fake oil spill cleanup.

**Actual water quality has not changed in the gulf, however the pictures used for this procedure are of actual clean water.