Sunday, July 7, 2013

Whitney Portal to Onion Valley Fastpack

After getting 5 hours of sleep before crew handling at Duncan Canyon, and then skipping the next night of sleep because of pacing Pat, I was feeling drained before driving back to the bay area to get a ride from Tina down to Bakersfield to pick up Max and head over to Whitney Portal to set off on an awesome fastpacking adventure.  We arrived at the Portal around 1:30 a.m. in the morning on Monday.  At that point we picked a place to sleep and got another 5 hours in at elevation (8700 ft).  The next morning we set off to find the permitting office to get our overnight permits to start at the portal, summit Whitney, then see what happens next.  I have acquired a mass of knowledge concerning the permits and how to get them, but I do not want to bore the readers with this craziness.

After getting the permits we perused around Lone Pine (the small city at the base of the mountains with the permitting office).  Then we returned to the portal to lounge around for the rest of the day because our permits were valid for starting the next day (on Tuesday).  I got in some great cold water soaking in the alpine stream that flowed by the campsite and took a nap while reading up and studying the maps for the forthcoming adventure.  We went to bed early to get some rest before the big adventure the next day.

Max and Tina are two solid runners with experience of traveling in the mountains.  The John Muir Trail was the perfect destination.

At 3 a.m. on Tuesday, we woke up, packed up, and headed to the trailhead.  That is where we got our obligatory "Start" picture:

Crappy Picture (because of the light bouncing off of the dust), but this was the start to our adventure.

One of the first cool pics looking down the valley.

Lone Pine Lake?

Other Wordly

One of the "windows" as we were sumiting Whitney.

Max, at the highest point of the lower 48...

Oh yeah...

So happy to have made it!
Video Clips from the trip:

The climb was a blast.  Max and I got about one mile from the summit and people started warning us about the approaching clouds.  We turned around and sure enough, it looked like bad weather was coming our way.  We hustled up to the top, got our pics, and then got down fast.  We then joined back up with Tina just a few switchbacks down from trail crest and then it was smooth sailing to our campsite at Tilden Creek.  Unfortunately my camera died on me at the summit.  But at least I got some pics up there!  BTW:  Whitney is the tallest point in the lower 48 states at 14500 ft, oh yeah!

The first day we covered 30 miles and were ready for a good nights rest.  It seems that we probably picked a bad camping spot as the bear box that we found was in the middle of a mosquito infested hole.  But we survived and hopefully learned a lesson.

The next day we went over Forrester Pass and then had a heavenly descent into a beautiful valley.  Near one of the creeks we made a decision to exit over Kearsarge Pass to Onion Valley.

That made a wonderful two day, 50 mile, fastpacking adventure with a Whitney summit.  Great fun!

Trip Notes:

  • Don't camp in a mosquito infested hole.
  • Cheese and salami experiment was a failure.  Actually the experiment was good, but the cheese and salami were a failure.  Grease everywhere = not good.
  • Jerky is still the best.
  • 14000 ft makes me silly.
  • JMT is my fav.  By far.
  • The gorilla just barely fits a giant yellow bear canister and everything else I need.
  • French people don't get sarcasm.
  • My new air mattress, a NeoAir Thermarest, is now one of my favorite pieces of equipment.  Good bye Klymit POS.


  1. All the JMT pics are so gorgeous, I can see why you like it there!

  2. When I saw your first picture, I thought that was snow on the ground and in the air, and I was like, "Man, these people are hard-core--they don't even dress for the weather!"

  3. Dude, there was NO mosquitoes at Guitar Lake. Higher elevation and cold wind = less bugs. But I got like 20 mosquito bites at Bear River crossing and struck 5 mosquitoes at once on my arm. Pretty disgusting but I showed them who's the boss.

    Baldwyn brought salami and we ate it with a cracker. It was delish! Yes, the knife got greasy but I just wiped it on my shirt. Jerkey was too dry... I had to reconstitute it to eat them.

    I've gotta review the PCT method with you sometimes cuz I couldn't do it right.

    French people do get sarcasm... only if they're with an Indian guy.