TRIP REPORT: Mount Whitney (14,508′)

Climbing the highest peak in California and in the contiguous US was quite the adventure! Not only did we climb Mount Whitney, but we traveled through Death Valley National Park and Badwater Basin (the lowest point in the US) to get there which made for a pretty cool way to mark this off the list. Almost 14,800′ of gain in less than 24 hours. This trip is one I most definitely reccomend, but there are some things you should know before you climb.

PERMITS:

Whether you aim to climb Mount Whitney in a single day, or backpack in and camp, Whitney is a permitted climb no matter which route you take. They have a lottery system in place for permits at Recreation.gov that opens Febuary 1. According to the Inyo National Forest site, only 34% of applicants were awarded their requested dates in 2019. Each year more and more people apply, lowering the chances of success. Once permits have been awarded March 24, remaining applicants do get first dibs at whatever dates are leftover on April 1. Web sales open May 1 and people have been lucky to occasionally find something that is left, but they typically go incredibly fast.

BEST TIME TO CLIMB:

Mount Whitney is located in southern California. Depending on whether it is a La Nina vs El Nino winter can actually help determine how much potential snow Whitney can hold in a given year. I summited June 10th which typically would warrant early season conditions with plenty of snow, but with a record dry year, and high heat, our route was virtually snow free. Heavy El Nino years can mean there is snow at Trail Camp and up the cirque of the 99 switchbacks well into August. When you apply in Febuary, take a look at snow water reports for California, as well as future forecasts for the remainder of spring to give you a guestimate of what the summer may look like as you plan your climb. Typically the later in the summer you go, the better your chances are at a snow free route. However, the later into summer you go you also risk monsoon season and will be racing weather on your climb. Always check weather and conditions before you go. Bring microspikes (and possibly an ice axe) if there is still snow, and always watch the clouds as you do not want to be on the high mountain in a thunderstorm.

THE ADVENTURE BEGINS!

Coming from Utah we had a few different options for driving to Whitney Portal. The fastest reccommended route went through central Nevada where there is essentially nothing. However for just about an extra hour of detour, by taking I-15 south to Vegas, we could drive through Death Valley on our way and hit up Badwater Basin, which is what we decided to do!

Initially, I personally had ZERO desire to ever visit Death Valley. It’s notoriously hot, and I don’t do well with heat. But with it literally being on the way, and having the opportunity to hit the lowest point and then the highest point, we couldn’t pass it up. We lucked a little bit with the weather as it was incredibly windy and cooler than usual (by cooler meaning it was 102 degrees instead of 122). I was also pleasantly surprised at what all the park had to offer. I was very much expecting just a desolate valley wasteland and I had no idea there were petrified sand dunes, and incredibly textured prominent peaks that looked like they were out of Star Wars until we got there. We whitnessed a couple dust devils, and of course took a pit stop to the low salt flats of Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the US at -282 feet below sea level.

A quick note if you decide to go through this park ever (especially in the summer): have lots of water in the car, make sure your tank is full, your antifreeze is full, and your tires are good! It is the largest national park in the country and there is little to no cell service in the park and would be a terrible place to break down.

WHITNEY BOUND

After our adventure in the desert, we made the remaining 2 1/2 hour drive to Whitney Portal, located just outside the town of Lone Pine. Car camping at the trailhead is not allowed. There are about 25 walk-in campsites located at the portal. A little further down the road is Lone Pine campground. Those spaces are reservable and is a cool place to camp with all the rocks. Whitney Portal is in active black bear territory. You cannot leave food or anything smelly in your car, bears have and will break into cars. There are bear boxes in the parking lot to store your food while you hike which is really conveinient. There is a little gift shop and grill at the portal it seems like their hours vary just a little from season to season. Currently they are open until 6:30pm so if you return from your hike before then, definitely reward yourself with a burger! It will taste so good after a long day on the mountain.

We started our climb at midnight. When we initially arrived at the portal the afternoon prior, it was insanely windy. Gusts at the summit were topping 80-90mph. People coming down that evening looked absolutely hammered and defeated. The winds were forecasted to die down overnight and by sunrise be reduced to sustained winds of maybe 10-15mph rather than 45-50. We prepared for wind and cold, however we severely underestimated just how cold and how windy…

There are several landmarks that can help break up this long hike, especially if you opt to do the climb in a single day like we did. Something important to note as well is that AllTrails is off by a couple miles. We used Strava to track and found it was a grand total of 23.4 miles round trip. Checking several other reports as well as just monitoring our pace with experience, I think our Strava track was more accurate. The first landmark was the log bridges and Lone Pine Lake about 3 miles in. We were moving at a solid pace and arrive at the sign for the lake about an hour and a half into our hike. About a half hour and a mile later we arrived at Outpost camp area, and within another half hour and just shy of another mile we made it to Mirror Lake putting us just shy of 5 miles in a little less than 2 1/2 hours.

“The Traverse” in the daylight. Note how rocky this is.

The next 2 miles were more brutal than I expexted. I thought we only had a mile left to Trail camp since I was going off inaccurate information, but in reality, we had 2 miles, and they were long and awkward. I dub this section the “Whitney Stairmaster 5000”. The trail steepens and becomes incredibly rocky. There are a couple landmarks such as coming up through treeline, “the meadow”, and “the traverse”, but it was so dark we couldn’t see anything anyway, and we were battling brutal winds. The higher we got, the windier and colder it got. This section also slowed us down. It took over an hour and a half to get through this section. Most of the trail was straight forward, but there were a few spots that tripped us up in the dark and we would have to stop and figure out where to go.

Finally, we make it to Trail camp at 12,000′ and nearly 7 miles in. It’s 4am and the winds were so cold, Trail Camp Tarn literally re-froze overnight. Our camelbacks were frozen and our waterbottles were becoming slushies. We took a pause under a rock trying to escape the unbearable frigid winds and debating our next move. We decided to keep going hoping that the 99 switchbacks would be somewhat sheltered from the wind because of the apparent direction it was coming from, and that the sunrise would bring some warmth and calm the winds as forecasted. We slowly made our way up the switchbacks, finding that once we were up several of them, they were slightly sheltered and gave us a bit of relief. We were at about 13,000′ come sunrise at about 5:30 and it was absolutely stunning. It really gave us a second wind to help us push on.

We made it to Trail Crest at 13,650′ and it was immedately back into the cold frigid winds as we transitioned to the shady back side of the mountain. Despite being freezing, the views of the west side with Guitar Lake were stunning. The trail drops down about 200′ (which was a bitch to climb back up later) to meet up with the junction of the John Muir Trail. We check the time at the junction to see it is 6:40am and we have just shy of 2 miles left to go. While most of the backside is fairly flat, its rocky, and uneven talus at high altitude making it slow, and for us, almost painful in those frigid winds. The final 500′ or so were probably the most brutal for us in the winds the entire climb. We were completely exposed to the full force of the wind, no more big rocks to hide under, and at this point it was just telling ourselves “we can warm up at the summit shelter and get out of the wind” that kept us moving.

We summited at 8:30am. When I checked the weather later I found out we still had 25mph sustained winds and gusts up to 40 on the summit at that time, making our windchill -4 degrees (literally a 106 degree difference from the day before). We didn’t stay long. We snapped some very quick summit photos, hiding on the leeward side of the shelter in between shots. We headed down at 9am and pretty much didn’t stop until we reached Trail Camp again at about 11am.

Mount Muir is the tall one center left, Mount Whitney is on the right.

Here at the tarn, we took our first real break after 11 straight hours in the wind, only really stopping to catch our breath (and take summit photos). We hung out at the tarn for about an hour; enjoyed the warmth of the sun, ate some lunch, stripped some layers, took some photos, and finally took in what we just battled through, celebrating our crazy successful summit.

From here it was just a long 3 hours back to the car, but at least we got to see what we missed on the way up. Stumbling over rocks on the stairmaster 5000, We finally got to take in the views of the rocky terrain, see Mirror Lake, check out the Waterfall at Outpost Camp (that I didn’t even know was there on the way up), and see Lone Pine lake. The longest section was definitely those last 3 miles. While it only took an hour…. it was a mentally LONG hour to push through. It just never ends and you want to be done. With about a mile left I found I hit a spot with cell service on the traill and briefly called my dad and my husband to let them know I was almost down and to story tell of the crazy windy adventure we had.

Not including our summit break and hour long break at Trail Camp, it took us 13 1/2 hours total, though we spent about 15 hours on the mountain. About 8 1/2 hours to summit, 5 hours down which is about what I predicted. I was guestimating it would take us 8 to summit but those winds man… They will mess with your head and make you question your life choices.

As much as I would love to say this is a one and done mountain for me, I know it probably isn’t. I just hope next time there is less wind! XD

TRIP REPORT: Mount Elbert (14,439′)

There is no better way to celebrate the summer solstice than from the highest point in Colorado! Mount Elbert is located in the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains just outside the city of Leadville. Not only is it the state’s high point, but it is the second highest point in the contiguous US. A steep climb, but definitely one for the books!

Looking N-NW from the summit

Out climb started just after 3:30am from the standard North route. The trail started off pretty moderately with switchbacks for the first mile, very doable. The trail then flattens out and actually heads slightly downhill for about 5 minutes of walking or so before you reach the Contintental Divide trail fork. This flat continues for just another half mile or so before the steeper incline begins. This first steeper section goes for another mile or so until you hit treeline and makes you question your life choices.

At this point, coming out of the trees the we were in twilight and sunrise was approaching. we slowly continued to make our way out of the trees just in time to see the alpenglow hit the peak in front of us and watch the sunrise. Once out of the trees you can basically see the majority of the route headed up the ridge. It is a slow steep walk but take your time and you will get there!

steepest pitch up 1st false summit

The crux of the route starts at about 13,000′. This is the steepest section and is a slow spot. Knowing you have 1,400′ left of climbing the first 900′ are right in front of you in a very short distance. This is the first false summit.

2nd false summit

As you come around the north side and to the top of the false summit you can see the second false summit in front of you, a more moderate incline in comparison as you make your way up the hill.

3rd false summit…

As you come up on this second false summit the 3rd and last false peak gets your hopes up as it LOOKS like it could be the real deal…. it is not. HOWEVER, as you quickly make your way up this last hill you can see the REAL summit and it is a simple 2-4 minute ridge walk away!

Actual summit just ahead!

Welcome to the roof of Colorado at 14,439 feet!!!!! We took our time on the way up as we encountered wind and cold and had to keep adding layers. We summited at 8:50am.

The decent took half the time for the most part. Some steeper spots were a little slow for those needing to be gentle on the knees. (bring poles) As for difficulty, its just the steep gain and the altitude. The standard North route is a class 1. Very well maintained trail as it is heavily trafficked. We did pass plenty of people who turned around early in the morning as they were not feeling it that day. Also, being June it was VERY cold and windy for us. It had snowed the day before so the summit temps were at or just above freezing that morning and the windchill was recorded at 17 degrees Fahrenheit! (burrr) Overall, it was a BEAUTIFUL day to summit.

HAPPY SUMMER!

TRIP REPORT: Mount Nebo (11,929′)

Mount Nebo is the highest peak in the Wasatch Range in Utah. It’s located about 2 hours south of Salt Lake City near the town of Payson. It is a beautiful but challenging climb.

The trail starts out pretty mild and has a great view of North peak as you ascend. The trail is full of wildflowers and down trees. Navigating around the trees is fairly easy. The first mile and a half is the easiest part.

Once you arrive to the open meadow and cirque, the trail steepens as you head to the ridge.

As you top out on the ridge of North Peak, the trail leads around to the backside and flattens out as you work your way to the other side to the saddle.

Once you arrive at the saddle, the false peak stands in front of you. You can see the roue and the top of the false summit. Its pretty steep but straight forward.

Now for the tricky part. The summit ridge. This ridge is made of very sharp limestone and slippery shale. Gloves are highly recommended! There are no cairns or markers to mark a single solid trail. You can see what appears to be a path to the summit but it is actually pretty difficult to navigate as multiple paths exist but some dead end. I found the most direct route was to stay as close to the ridge line as possible. If you get too far below the ridge, the amount of shale increases and this rock is incredibly slippery.

The visible “path” ends approximately 100 feet below the summit. This part is rates as a class 3 scramble and it can be a little unnerving as you are trying to grab rock and hope that it’s solid and not loose shale. This was the point I actually turned around as I was climbing solo. I wasn’t sure where the recommended scramble path was since there are no markers or cairns and it was my first time on this mountain and did not feel comfortable being alone on the slippery rocks trying to figure it out.

This ridge was the MOST time consuming part of the climb. I made it to the top of the false summit. The ridge is only a half mile and it took me an hour and a half to navigate. Coming down, the shale is VERY slippery so keep that in mind. Stepping on solid rock is always better if you can. Poles aren’t super helpful on this ridge but they are on the way down the steep false summit.

Overall expect to spend 6-9 hours on this mountain depending on how fast you are. Like I mentioned, the ridge is the most time consuming part. Give yourself a turn around time. Many people just go up to the false summit to start. Start early, as there is NO shade from the base of the false summit onward.

Overall a gorgeous mountain! Definitely one to check off the list. I will be back to finish that last 100 feet! 😉

TRIP REPORT: Everest Base Camp (17,600′)/ Kala Patthar (18,519′)

Report from 6/20/18

Here it is!

I planned to get this out sooner, but I got home to find out I had caught a head cold  from the guy sitting next to me on one of my connections home and have also been struggling with the jet lag pretty bad. I have been pretty miserable the last few days. But without further ado, here is my trip report of my Everest Base Camp Trek!

First, I shall answer a question which may have arisen for those who frequent my blog and may have noticed a “typo” in the title. Yes, I was supposed to climb Island Peak as well. Originally, this trip had 2 parts: trek to EBC, and climb Island Peak (Imja Tse) at 6189m (20,305′). Long story short, Island Peak did not happen, but that will be explained.

Most of what is written below is actually fragments from my travel journal. This is strictly just the trekking portion of our trip. I am not going to spend time on talking about my day in Singapore, or when I first arrived in Kathmandu because I have already discussed them but if you missed it, you can click the links to read about them! So to begin, we are going to start with our first day in the Himalayas:

DAY 1: LUKLA TO PHAKDING- 2,860m (9,380′) to 2,610m (8,560′)- 5/30/18

The morning started out in Kathmandu, misty and cool from rain the night before. Monsoon season is near, as we are at the tail end of may, and reports of many Everest climbers and crew had been stuck in Lukla for almost a week due to flights not being able to access the mountain. We head to the airport, hoping and praying skies are finally clear enough for us to get there. We are scheduled on the first flight out at 6am. We arrive, weigh our bags, and wait in the domestic terminal at Tribhuvan Airport for news, any news. Before we know it, we are on a little shuttle to take us to our small propeller plane, we board and we are off! On the plane, I had a giant smile on my face I could not erase, and tears coming to my eyes. Hazy skies make it difficult to see the tall mountains in the distance, but soon, we can see a hazy peak out the window of the plane, standing well above all others off in the distance. It’s Everest!

Landing in Lukla, at the world’s most dangerous airport, was not as terrifying as I anticipated. We had a very smooth landing, and was off the plane an instant later. Immediately we could already see Nupla, standing at 5,885m (19,303′), dominating the background. I nearly cried. I could not believe I was finally here! By a fun coincidence, my tent-mate from Rainier happened to be in Lukla at the same time! After catching up with her, we headed off. We have a small group. Gadul is our local guide and I am accompanied by one other, Juan from Bolivia, who is currently living in Thailand. The road to Phakding was downhill, and quick. We passed dozens of rocks, prayer wheels, stupas, and memorials covered in Sanskrit writings from the Monks of the monasteries. I learned that all of these sacred monuments bust be passed on the left, or in a clockwise direction out of respect. These are the most peaceful mountains I have ever been to. Bells and chimes from prayer wheels ring, and chants in the distance can be heard from the Monks up the hill. The spirit of this land is something I have wanted to experience for years. I was in disbelief of the awe and wonder around me. Within a short 2 1/2  hours, we arrived in Phakding, got settled into our first teahouse lodge and enjoyed some downtime.

DAY 2: PHAKDING TO NAMCHE BAZZAR- 2,610m (8,560′) to  3,440m (11,283′)- 5/31/18

Day 2 was long, steep, and hot. The trail was very up and down, and there were stairs, so many stairs!!! I started the morning off feeling pretty good! As we started walking I could hear birds that sounded just like the Mockingjay from the Hunger Games. We passed plenty of porters bringing down stuff from base camp now that the season is over and I began to realize something; many of these young boys looks just like my high schoolers! When people think “Sherpa” there is a stereotype that comes to mind. A short man, wearing flip flops, smoking cigarettes, while hiking with up to 100 kilos on his back with a head strap used for balance. While this is seen sometimes, the reality is most porters are young teenagers. Some are wearing skinny jeans, Adidas, a flat rimmed baseball cap, and playing music on their phone while they walk. I asked Gadul how young some of the porters typically start and he said some can be as young as 14, working weekends while they’re not in school.

We stopped for lunch about 2 hours into our hike in a village called Monjo, where the official entrance to the National Park is located. We crossed 6 bridges on the way to Namche. The last bridge is known as the high bridge. you hike up a steep hill to get there, as it’s suspended around 100 meters in the air. The last 2 hours of the climb is up a steep cliff side. It was extremely slow going, especially in the hot sun. It did not help that whatever I ate for lunch was beginning to not sit well. By the time we got to Namche I was pretty wiped out and my stomach was killing me. I had a difficult time eating dinner because I was so nauseous, and then it hit me in the middle of the night… my first bout of traveler’s diarrhea. I knew it was not altitude sickness because of the simple fact that I had been training above 10,000′ for months. Plus, I had altitude sickness once before, this was different. I could nearly pinpoint that the goat cheese on my potatoes at lunch was the most likely culprit.

DAY 3: REST DAY IN NAMCHE- 6/1/18

After a “fun” morning in the bathroom, I joined everyone for breakfast where I tried to force down some oatmeal. The initial plan was to hike up to Khumjung, a town at 3780m (12,398′), but we woke up to heavy rain and clouds in the area. (I was pretty thankful for that) A few hours later, Juan knocked on my door to announce they were going to head up for a short walk now that the weather was clearing. After spending the morning lying in the fetal position, and taking some antacid medicine, I decided to join them to at least get out and stem some boredom.

We walked up to the Sagarmatha Visitor Center, (Sagarmatha is the Nepali name for Everest) and toured around enjoying the Tenzing Norgay Memorial statue (the real MVP), as well as the various boards and displays inside the visitor center. On a sunny day, you can see Everest from this point, however, because of the clouds, we couldn’t see anything. As the clouds were beginning to move and disperse slightly, we decided to hang out on top of that hill to wait and see if the clouds would part enough to see Everest. After about 10 minutes of waiting, we could finally see Lhotse peering from behind the clouds, and moments later, Everest. I literally cried. I had been waiting for this moment for so long. to finally see Everest in person! I realized this was no longer a dream, but totally real. Despite being unbelievably sick, I had a rush of adrenaline.

DAY 4: NAMCHE TO DEBOCHE- 3,440m (11,283′) to 3,820m (12,529′)- 6/2/18

Feeling slightly better the next morning, We set off on our way to what was originally going to be Tengboche. We hiked down a steep hill to the small village of Phunke Tenga near the river, then back up another steep hill to Tengboche and the Tengboche Monastery. We toured the grounds, taking in the beautiful artwork inside the monastery. I absolutely LOVED the detail and the colors. It was very warm and inviting. I only wish we had been there for a Puja ceremony. That would have been incredible to see.

Then came time to find our lodge. Due to the fact that we were trekking in “off season”. Many teahouses close as families head to Kathmandu for the summer. The teahouse we meant to stay in was closed, so we hiked down into the rhododendron forest to the small village of Deboche. The bright colors of the flowers were incredible! Pinks, yellows, and white, colored the trees and the ground.

DAY 5: DEBOCHE TO DINGBOCHE- 3,820m (12,529′) to 4,410m (14,464′)- 6/3/18

We woke up to a beautiful view of Ama Dablam as well as Everest, Nuptse and Lhotse. The hike was fairly gentle in incline compared to the steep hills I had been climbing before. What was predicted to be a 5-6 hour hike, we did in 4 1/2! At this point in time, I was officially the highest I have ever been. at 14, 464′ I was higher than any peak in Colorado, higher than Mount Rainier, and almost as high as Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States at 14,505′. But, it didn’t feel like I was over 14,000′. I was acclimatizing very well and my stomach was improving.

DAY 6: DINGBOCHE TO LOBUCHE (My favorite day)- 4,410m (14,464′) to 4,910m (16,104′)- 6/4/18

Words cannot describe the awe, beauty, and spiritual nature of what I had seen this day… I like to think that I have a very good eye for pictures, especially outdoors, and I still don’t think I did it any justice. I came here, not only to reach a lifelong goal, but to also go on a spiritual pilgrimage of sorts and this day fulfilled a big part of that spiritual side.

To start, we climbed up the tundra hills above Dingboche. The clouds parted and we had 360 degree views of the Himalayan peaks that surrounded us. I am officially convinced that Ama Dablam is the most beautiful mountain in the world. Everest may the the highest, but it’s not “pretty”. Ama Dablam was stunningly gorgeous. I literally stopped and told myself “don’t sit down or you will never leave.” We took our time in those hills taking dozens of photos. The clouds sweeping by below us added an element like we really were in heaven. I have never seen anything more beautiful in my life.

After a quick lunch in Tulkla, we climbed a steep rocky hill to the Sherpa Memorial field where tombstones and stupas of climbers who died on Everest and other nearby peaks cover the hillside to remember those who have fallen. The spirit of this mountain is unreal. You could really feel how sacred of a place this had become.

Walking onward, the view opened up to the Khumbu region where Pumori dominated the view, Nuptse stood out infront of Everest, and You could see over the ridge into Tibet where Changtse is visible at 7,543m (24,747′). (You can literally see China!)

DAY 7: LOBUCHE TO GORAK SHEP AND EVEREST BASE CAMP!- 4,910m (16,104′) to 5,140m (16,859′) and 5,464m (17,600′)- 6/5/18

My lungs were definitely beginning to feel the lack of oxygen but my body felt like a freaking amazon warrior! Hung out at base camp for over an hour, playing around in the glacier and I was amazed at how well I felt. From Lobuche, we walked along a fairly flat path to Lobuche Pass which led to the surprisingly intense Changri Glacier crossing. Navigating the crazy rocks was all over the place. Finally, we made it to Gorak Shep, where we would be spending the night.

 After a quick cup of tea and dropping off our bags, we continued onward to Base Camp. Nuptse dominated our views and it was massive. The tip of Everest’s summit was peering out behind it, and below it all was the Khumbu Glacier. A mix of rocks and ice, like nothing I had ever seen before. We could hear shifting, creaking, and cracking as if the mountain was alive, trying to speak.

When we arrived at EBC, it was like a playground of ice and rock. Climbing season is over so it was completely empty and there were no tents left, but I can imagine sleeping on the wet rocks and having the ice and water constantly moving beneath you. How do you sleep?! The Khumbu Icefall is MASSIVE. in photos, movies, and documentaries don’t show how steep it really is.

After Playing in the glacier, we headed back to Gorak Shep to rest, and get some sleep before our early morning ahead of us.

DAY 8: KALA PATTHAR SUMMIT AND BACK TO DINGBOCHE- 5,644m (18,519′)- 6/6/18

The morning started out very cloudy and socked in. We started climbing Kala Patthar at 5am from Gorak Shep. I hit a wall pretty early into my climb. It was incredibly steep and the lack of oxygen was finally catching up with me in the sense that I would begin to feel a sense of panic whenever I had trouble catching my breath. I would have to stop, calm down, and let my breathing regulate. Part of me wanted to turn back on multiple occasions because of the crappy weather. I didn’t want to make it to the summit and not be able to see the view. But I kept pushing and near the end, I was having to take nearly 10 breaths for every step I took. 

Luckily, during the last 20 meters or so to the summit, all of the sudden the clouds began to open up and I managed to see an amazing view of Everest, Nuptse, and the Khumbu Glacier just long enough for a few photos before the clouds closed back in on us. I was exhausted, and out of breath but glad I completed my goal. I had finally seen Everest and Base Camp, and that’s when it began to sink in that I didn’t think that I had it in me for another summit. Island Peak was a bonus, an add-on to my original goal and at this point, I felt like I bit off more than I could chew with my first trip to the Himalayas. I was exhausted, hungry, homesick, and really just kind of done at this point of the trip. I no longer had the desire or even felt the need to climb Island Peak anymore. However, we were headed in that direction anyway, so I kept it in the back of my mind, and was still open to the possibility. After Kala Patthar, we ate breakfast at Gorak Shep then headed all the way back down to Dingboche. A long day for sure, but it was nice to breathe the thicker air.

DAY 9: DINGBOCHE TO CHUKKUNG- 4,410m (14,464′) to 4,730m (15,514′) 6/7/18

My second bout of food poisoning began this morning. I woke up feeling a little nauseous, had trouble eating breakfast, but not thinking much of it initially. but as we began our ascent to Chukkung, it hit me like a wall. I thought I was gonna puke. Was it the vegetables in the spring rolls I had for dinner? or the hot chocolate I had before bed? Either way, I was back to boring foods… Despite wanting to throw up with every step, The hike to Chukkung was pretty short. I spent the rest of the day in bed, trying to let my stomach subside, and then it was time to make a decision. The next day we were supposed to head to Island Peak Base Camp, but I had the option of staying behind while Juan and Gadul joined another guide to make a summit attempt. I felt weak, burned out, sick enough that it seemed like the right decision.

DAY 10-11: WAITING IN CHUKKUNG- 6/8-9/18

The boys left at around 9:30am for base camp which was actually fairly late. We spent the morning waiting out heavy rain before they decided to leave. My stomach was still a mess, and I was still struggling to force down any food. Entertaining myself all day was a struggle, and by the time I went to bed, the doubt began to creep in… “Should I have just gone and tried? Am I giving up?” I had to remind myself how sick and weak I really had become. Even Gadul mentioned he could tell I had lost a lot of weight, and was worried. There is no way I would’ve been able to endure a 16 hour high altitude climb in the condition I was in. By morning the next day, I could FINALLY see Island Peak. towering 5,000 feet above me was a giant wall of ice. I confirmed with myself, there was absolutely no way. Reports from Gadul and Juan talked about waist deep snow from the night before and hidden crevasses EVERYWHERE under the snow. Due to the late season conditions, melting was causing the route to be extremely unsafe, especially near the end so they turned around about 200 meters or so from the summit.

DAY 12-16: DOWN WE GO- 6/10-14/18

The downward crawl had long days. Both Juan and I reminisced on foods we missed back home and miles seemed stretched as our tired legs headed back down from Chukkung to Deboche, Deboche to Namche, and Namche to Lukla. We then spent the next 3 days in Lukla due to weather. We were scheduled to fly out on the 13th, but no planes came at all that morning. We then booked new tickets for the next day in a second attempt however, weather closed in quickly and before our plane was scheduled to take us back to Kathmandu.

I was scheduled to fly home the next day, and after checking the weather for Friday, it was safe to assume no flights would come the next morning so we looked at our second option: paying $500/person to fly on a helicopter. We decided to go for it, and even that was an anxious waiting game as clouds were even to thick for the helicopter much of the day. They were finally able to land to pick us up and take us back to Kathmandu. It was worth it.

Overall, I loved Nepal. I loved the culture, the people, the mountains, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. It had it’s ups and downs, but for a first trip to the Himalayas I felt like it was a successful endeavor. I hope you enjoyed my long winded report. I know it was a lot to read through. But be sure to stay tuned here in the near future as I have a few other posts about my trip to Nepal in the works.

TRIP REPORT: Mount Mitchell (6,684′) – North Carolina’s High Point

Report from 11/19/17

Adventure and a wedding!

First off, a public congratulations to my sister Roxanne and her new hubby Joe on their wedding! I love you and I’m so proud of you!!!

Secondly, I will be honest, this is a short trip report. But you will soon understand why.

Rewind to about 2 days before I left for North Carolina. I was texting my sister and dad back and forth to figure out what exactly the plan was for the weekend. My sister and I had talked about going climbing together for her bachelorette party, and I was still waiting to get a confirmation from someone. I was due to land in North Carolina late Thursday night and would be in town all day Friday and Saturday for the wedding. Once I found out that we would have time to climb Friday morning and the rest of the day I would be free to do my own thing, I decided to start looking up things to do not having a clue of what was out there besides lakes, trees, trees, and more trees. I knew my sister lived fairly close to the Appalachians, so I decided to look up hikes in the area. I came to find out that North Carolina’s high point, Mount Mitchell, was only about a 2 1/2 drive from my hotel! So that is exactly what I did…

I took my little sister climbing,

Then, I drove out to Mount Mitchell, where I “hiked” the .25mi paved trail to the top; a mere 6,684’…

Was I dissapointed considering the fact that I live at 5,000′, and I have 11,000’+ peaks at my doorstep? Not Exactly. The views were beautiful, and the Autumn drive was incredibly colorful with the mass amounts of trees. It was a cool peak to check off my list, and the perfect way for someone like me to spend my short weekend in town!

North Carolina View (East)
Tennessee View (West)

As you can imagine, Saturday was wedding day! I wish I could’ve stayed longer to visit my sister, but I am glad that I was at least able to make it for the wedding!

TRIP REPORT: Cardiff Peak, UT (10,277′) – Snow Climb

Report from 4/5/17

Spring is FINALLY here, and I am on Spring Break!

I couldn’t wait to get out and do some climbing. I had been hiking pretty regularly at lower elevations since things had warmed up, but I had been dying to hike and climb in the snow. bad weather nearly every weekend made it difficult with student teaching, so after a nice cold front came through and stiffened up all the snow, I figured I had to get out on the hill while I had the chance!

My first choice for my first big training climb of the season was Mount Superior at 11,132′ but as you will read, that did not go according to plan, which happens. Superior is known in Utah for having the most avalanche activity so winter ascents can only really be attempted in prime conditions.

Superior overlooks both Alta and Snowbird Ski Resorts from the other side of Little Cottonwood Canyon. I have climbed it during summer months, the East ridge from Cardiff pass is rated a class 2. Starting from Alta, it is about a 5 1/2 mile hike round trip with an elevation gain of around 2500ft.

My original plan was to get up at 6:30, and start hiking by 7:30 in the morning. …I did not sleep well last night so by the time my alarms went off, I did not want to get up…. I woke up at around 8, checked the temperature up the canyon to find temperatures were still below freezing, so I left and started hiking just before 9am. Right off the bat, the snow was icy and firm. I kept up what I like to call “dry speed” which is the speed in which I can hike on dry dirt trail, so I compare my speed to my past summer climbs.

As I got to Cardiff pass and started up the ridge, the snow was INCREDIBLY soft. I would step and sink into thigh deep powder and my climbing speed basically came to a crawl. It took me 45 minutes to climb 250 vertical feet…. it was frustrating. Every step forward was a step backward. As I came up near the summit of Cardiff Peak, I took one look at Superior and sighed. I had a mile left…. a very long mile. Looking along the ridge, it seemed to be the same powdery deep frustrating snow I had just been trudging through and I would take me an eternity. The temperature was rising quickly, I was running out of time as well before I needed to be home, so I turned off the ridge trail to climb the final 20 feet to the summit of Cardiff instead. Superior or bust? Definitely a bust… but not a complete loss.

I still got a great “first climb of the season” workout, and great pictures of the amazing views from Cardiff.

Plenty more training climbs to come this Spring. ‘Til next time!

TRIP REPORT: Mount Lady Washington, CO (13,281′)

Report from 8/20/16

The Overlooked 13er…

I know I wasn’t planning on any cool peaks during my week off, but it happened anyway! After all, what is a vacation without a massive mountain to climb? *winky-smiley-face*

Mount Lady Washington is located in Rocky Mountain National Park. It stands front-right of  Long’s Peak which is the park’s only 14er. This little pile of rocks constantly gets overlooked since a large majority of the people who hike this trail go to hike Long’s Peak.

L to R: Mount Meeker, Long’s Peak, Mount Lady Washington

However, MLW has literally the most sunning view I have ever seen in my life. It is one I highly reccomend if you are visiting RMNP. (See what I did there? I got lazy and just used letters…) Anyway, Mount Lady Washington, also known as “MLW”, “Lady”, “Lady Washington”, or “#5 in the Grand Slam”. It stands at 13,281 feet above sea level. It’s not nearly as impressive in size as its 14,261 foot neighbor, but it has very understated qualities.

I started my hike at 4:30am however the trail was not scarce. Because of the unpredictable weather the Colorado 14ers create because of their height, anyone wishing for a successful summit of Long’s has to leave in the middle of the night. I passed many hikers who were on their way up to Long’s Peak, and as I asked in passing to each group I went by, not a single person was hiking anything else. 

First light on the trio. (MLW is the pile of rocks on the right)

I reached Chasm Junction 3 1/2 miles from the trailhead just before sunrise. I took a break here and waited for the stunning view. Soon after the mountain turned pink, the orange, I headed up the trail less than 1/4 mile more before taking a hard left. There is no maintained trail on MLW and there are basically two main ways people reach the top. One is directly up the front, east face. It is a steep 2,000 foot climb in class 2 tundra/class 3 scrambling mix. The other is to hike to the Boulder Field camping area another mile and a half up the trail (also known as basecamp to Long’s), then to follow the Northwest ridge. I decided on the shorter steeper route for my ascent, and the longer, flatter route for the way down to save my knees. It was steep, slow going, and strenuous boulder hopping that seemed to never end. I was literally the ONLY person on that mountain all morning and I honestly doubt anyone else summited after I did. No one else that I passed on the way down was planning on MLW, and if there was anyone attempting the Grand Slam that day, they would’ve gotten rained out since it’s the last peak in the series and it began to rain just after I made it back to the trail head. 

my line up MLW

When I finally made it over that ridge, I was immediately in awe. The summit view, like I mentioned before, was absolutely incredible. I have climbed Long’s Peak 3 times, summited twice, and you do not get a better view on that mountain than on MLW. The famous diamond face on Long’s was massive as it stood right in front of me on that pile of annoying, frustrating rocks. It was immediately worth it. I sat, in solitary silence, just staring and the magnificent and majestic mountain standing in front of me. Long’s Peak has always been my favorite mountain and 14er, but I had never seen it like this before… My eyes teared up and I fell in love with Long’s all over again.

The Diamond (pictures do NOT do it justice)

Soon after decending the northwest ridge, I was reunited with the Long’s Peak trail, and the crowds. I enjoyed my solo time on MLW, and it is a peak I will never forget. 

The Boulder Field

My Summit List is growing!! Check it out!

TRIP REPORT: King’s Peak, Utah’s High point (13,528′)

Report from 7/25/16

For 5 years,  I have attempted to take a trip to the high Uintas to climb Utah’s highest point, and for 5 years, that plan failed for various reasons…. until now!

King’s Peak is a long multi-day trip with long trails and class 2 scrambling at the peak. But what planned on being a 3-day trip ended up being a very long 2-day trip. My climbing partner and I decided we would rather go home and have a day off to rest rather than attempting to go straight back to work. Needless to say, I slept in until noon and my legs are so sore that I fell over trying to stand up out of bed.

We began our adventure Saturday by driving the 3 hours from Salt Lake to the Henry’s Fork Trail Head. (Believe it or not but you have to go through Wyoming to get there.) We started hiking with our heavy packs and managed to burn through 5 1/2 miles of trail in around 2 hours. It was hot, and there were mosquitoes everywhere, and naturally we forgot to pack bug spray. We slowed down after crossing the main foot bridge that spans the Henry Fork River as the trail steepened and we were getting tired.

Henry’s Fork Basin

After another 3 hours we made it to about 11,500 feet and set up camp. After making a quick pasta meal, we attempted to fall asleep knowing we had a long early day ahead of us.

Sunrise on Henry’s Fork Peak and Mt. Powell
Our tent site

After waking up at around 5:15 am, we watched the sunrise, ate breakfast, and began getting ready for our day. We climbed to 12,000 feet to Gunsight Pass where we left the main route to follow a well known shortcut route that would shave 4 miles off our total distance. As much as everyone praises this shortcut, I beg to differ. it was well cairned for the first 1/3 of a mile but after the trail flattened out into a field, the cairns were incredibly far apart and hard to keep track of. However, even getting a little off track wasn’t bad because it was very easy to see where to go since the main trail went up the far side of the field. (but, I found snow! ..I love snow)

The scrambling and boulder hopping on the ridge was nothing new to me, however there was A LOT of it. A full mile and 1,000 feet of elevation gain was full of rocks, rocks and more rocks. Knowing my own personal pace, I assumed that last mile would take about an hour…. because of the scrambling and boulder hopping, it took nearly 2 hours instead to reach the summit. Finally, we arrived to 13,528 feet, and what a relief.

Summit View

The way back down was exhausting. Stepping ever so carefully from rock to rock, controlling every move (which is why my legs are so sore) and trying not to worsen my blisters that had formed the day before. By the time we got back to camp we were already exhausted; my ankles bruised from trying to manipulate the rocks in high-top hiking boots. We talked about staying the second night anyway but the nearest water source was a mile down the hill and we were out of water. We decided to just take it slow, stop to refill water bottles at the stream down the trail, and even wear flip flops on our way down. it was 9 miles back to the car… and yes, I did it in flip flops. My ankles were so bruised and my blisters had popped despite my best efforts, so it was actually more comfortable to hike down without boots on. it was slow going and we were completely exhausted by the time we got back to the car since we spent 15 hours of our day on foot.

King’s Peak is center-back

I am glad I finally got to cross this one off my list, but it was definitely the hardest climb, physically, that I have ever done. Will I do it again? probably not, but who knows. I have bigger and better mountains planned and this was a good test of my physicality to see what I specifically need to train better in the future (and its apparently my calves).

TRIP REPORT: Mount Evans, CO (14,265′)

Report from 6/24/16

Right now, I am sitting in my grandparents living room in Littleton, CO. About 12 hours ago (it is now 4:00pm) I woke up for an “early bird” hike.

Tomorrow my cousin is getting married in Estes Park so I decided to come a day early and play! An old friend from summer camp was supposed to meet up with me to go climb Greys and Torreys Peaks this morning. However, about a week ago she messaged me and said she was unable to get the day off. This meant that my only option left for a hiking partner would be my husband (who is not exactly a fan of hiking). We talked about it and he agreed to do something “easy”. (There is no such thing as an easy fourteener) So my plans to do G&T were scratched and we decided to climb Mount Evans since it is a bit closer to Denver and the hike is a lot shorter.

We woke up at 4:15am (which, believe it or not, is pretty late by 14er standards.) For those who have climbed in Colorado before or live there, they understand that those mountains are so high they create their own weather as the day heats up. Any hike you do must start early enough that you can summit and get below treeline before the thunderstorms kick in, and this is why we wake up at ungodly hours of the morning….

Since this hike is so much shorter, I knew that if we started at sunrise, summit by about 8 and returned, we would have plenty of time to spare. So, we took the hour and a half drive up to the trail-head at Summit Lake (12,800) where we saw big horn sheep and watched the sunrise and began our hike at about 6:30. We were originally planning on taking the West Ridge route which was an estimated 2 1/2 hours. But I knew a lesser known route up the Northeast face that would shave an entire hour off that climb time (and would make my husband a lot more inclined to climb the mountain). This was an incredibly direct route where you basically just go straight up the side instead of up and around Mount Spalding and the ridge-line.

We were only a tiny bit slower on the uphill than I predicted. We reached the 14,265 foot summit at 8:15am. The skies remained clear enough we hung out on the summit for about an hour and a half  enjoying the views (and mountain goats) before heading back down.

When we got back down we enjoyed one last view of the lake and headed out. Clouds formed from nothing within about 20 minutes and the rain kicked in just as we were getting back onto the freeway. (proves just how fast things can change in these mountains.)

Overall, it was a fun little peak with spectacular views and I am super proud of my husband for climbing his first fourteener!!! He still thinks I’m crazy, but after the views he saw this morning, I think he might finally be beginning to understand why these peaks become my happy place. Now it is time to shower and get ready for a wedding!