Chris Roams

Travel, Adventures, and Photography


So it comes to this. I'm sitting at Lone Pine, the little crossroads at the foot of the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. My permit says I'm going to be staying at the Lone Pine campground tonight hiking the 4.5 miles to Whitney Portal tomorrow, followed by a night at Outpost Camp, and 2 nights at Trail Camp. The idea is that I will establish a base camp at Trail Camp and take a full day to make the final push to the summit with a lighter load. After the post-summit night I should be able to make it back out to Lone Pine campground in one shot. On paper this is very conservative compared to what I just did at Grand Canyon, which was conservative in itself. The hike from Whitney Portal to the summit is 10.4 miles and gains 6,132' of elevation, this is only 1 mile and 500' more than Grand Canyon and I'm giving myself 4 nights instead of 2. The problem here is altitude and temperature, I'm going to be starting at the same altitude as the Grand Canyon's rim and going up from there, and the temperature will probably be somewhere around 0° at the summit. I've built in the extra nights so I have more time to adjust to the thin air if necessary, and I'm really starting to wish I didn't spend last night below sea level. In any case permits are flexible this time of year, if I can make it happen in less time I will and if I can't I'll come back down.

As for Death Valley, I spent most of the day today driving around or across it and its neighboring valleys. It's not as scary in the winter when the temperatures are in the 60's, half of what they are in the summer. I will have to bring the Jeep out here some day though. The whole place is covered with 4x4 trails that head up to hidden wonders in the canyons begging to be explored. The most amazing part of the day was the transition from the basin and range province to the Sierra Nevada. While the mountains ranges between the valleys are made out of the red and brown sedimentary layers of ancient lakes and inland seas the Sierras are made of solid grey granite. They jut up out of the desert floor to form an impassable wall hundreds of miles long. In fact it is this wall that holds back all the rains and makes the deserts so dry. The only road that attempts to directly cross this wall through a high pass is buried and closed more than half the year. Mt Whitney stands in the center of this wall directly on its eastern edge for all to see, not hiding in back guarded by hundreds of other mountains.

We'll see what the morning brings. For now I've got a steak to eat and gear to pack.
Death Valley Camp - galleryDante's View - gallerySierra Nevada - gallerySierra Nevada Escarpment - galleryMt Whitney - gallery