This trip was epic in so many ways. Where do I even begin here? J-Man, brown bags, penile hot springs, dirty rap, cutting a rug and floor sweeping — just “EXTRA”. These are my kind of people and this was my kind of adventure trip.
I’ll try to keep it short, because frankly I could write a book about this trip. All the ridiculousness that transpired may have contributed to my fondness of these memories. One of my favorites for sure!
Several in our group came up with this trip idea during our first trip to Mexico to climb volcanoes in 2017. Two of our team members from that trip told us about a trip they took to Mount Whitney in the early season before the primary permit season when the masses flood the mountain. They were rewarded with some ice on the mixed direct line that is the Mountaineers route. We were hooked on this idea instantly.
A few of us didn’t hesitate to start planning our own venture the following April. We convinced a few others to join the trip in that span of time. We would travel to California in April to climb the classic mountaineers route on Mount Whitney instead of the standard walk up.
The trip itinerary was ambitious including not just Whitney but visiting Bishop hot springs, climbing Shark’s Fin and possibly a camping and climbing trip to Red Rocks Nevada, where we flew into and rented the car to drive across Death Valley. This dirtbag trip model quickly turned to hotels, airbnb’s and other “extra” lavishness. Like to a point where we were in the grocery store with dehydrated meals and ramen and quickly traded them for steaks and bevvies.
We flew into Las Vegas, rented a car and drove rather than flying into California and wasting time with traffic. We had an aggressive schedule to keep! Once we landed in Nevada we rushed to grab the rental car, a modest black suburban with tinted windows. Clearly the top choice for mountaineering.
Our drive across Death Valley was interesting to say the least. Ari’s demon laugh fueled by each new potential roadkill, bunny trophies, and the late night trip were memorable. We got to the Whitney Portal hostel late and piled into our shared room crashing on the floor and sharing beds. We only got a few hours of sleep before we started our hike the next day.
I crashed on the floor the first night with my head facing the door and I will never forget the excitement that was LuLu that morning. Throwing the door open at a ridiculous hour having only crashed at 3am he let the light pour into the room and shouted LOOK at that view, do you guys see this? Some disgruntled moans followed, but I jumped right up ready to drink the Kool Aid. The views were incredible from the balcony and we hadn’t seen anything in the dark the night before.
We got up, packed and went across the street to grab breakfast before we had to pick up the permit and head to Boy Scout Lake. The eclectic diner we ate at in Lone Pine was a great Lone Pine experience with excellent food and service.
At the trailhead we were able to get real time beta from another climber and opted to ditch our dreaded snowshoes. We repacked and shuffled gear, took a rad crew photo next to the park signage and wrote a note for the bear (the rangers) that we left with our stored food in the bear canister at the trailhead.
Basically midday at this point we started our hike in to Boy Scout Lake where we would camp for the night. The trail is enjoyable and the ledges were spicier than anticipated. Our heavy packs, however, were not enjoyable despite our friendly competition. I was second heaviest when we weighed our packs at the trailhead. Slow and steady we finally made it to the lake and found the perfect platform and location for our trio of tents.
Once tents were up and camp was established we began the necessary rituals prior to a big climb: filter water, make food and fuel for the early start, prep our packs and sip some delicious nighttime tea under stars before bed.
It was a perfect night as we all fell asleep to the sounds of Rainbow giggles in the neighboring tent.
Our alpine start came quickly and the group gathered their packs and consumed a quick breakfast. We started off from the lake and enjoyed such an amazing first light view that woke up all us zombies after slogging in the dark for some time.
The base of the couloir was epic, steep and wide with such amazing views in the basin. After we topped out of the couloir into the notch the wind picked up and we layered up before the next exciting direct pitch.
Conditions were perfect and we soloed up the direct mountaineers line. A little ice at the base getting to the first rap station where we transitioned to the snow bootpack. The exposure and views below were intimidating.
The smiles were big and the joy was contagious. We had such a blast on this route and enjoyed a lengthy summit stay filled with shenanigans, snacks, photos and videos.
After a lengthy stay we made the descent taking the bypass back to the notch. A few of us chose to glissade the couloir instead of plunge stepping which was both fun and exhilarating, but maybe not something I would do again as I had to self arrest several times because of the steepness and speed of the glissade.
Once back at camp we quickly packed up to hit the trail and continue back down but not before we spent some time chatting with a new friend who would be crashing on the same platform we stayed on the night before.
We were all a little grumpy on the descent until we got back for pizza, wings and pitchers of beer in Lone Pine. This resulted in our choice to crash at the Portal again one extra night before heading to the hot springs.
The rest is history from meeting J-Man at the lake before our descent to brown bag stranger danger van goodies to penile hot springs pools with two awesome new German friends who made us dinner under moonlight.
So many parts of this journey were memorable and this one is still high on my list of favorites. Maybe I should just write that book and spill more of the details!