The Van, the Plan, All Before We Began
Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States at an elevation of 14,505 feet, is not officially part of the PCT, but it’s location about 8 miles or so off the trail makes it a super popular side expedition. In 2019, no one in our group was able to summit due to the dangerous snowy/icy conditions. Cheer had gotten to the top once before, but none of the rest of us. So… it’s one of those things we talk about that someday we’d come back and do together. Well, in the Fall of 2021, Cheer, Calzone, and I schemed to make it happen (sadly, kind of tough for Snickers to make it all the way from NYC).
At the time, Calzone was working as a guide for a wilderness therapy company in Colorado and I was serving an Americorps season with Utah Conservation Corps. Calzone made her way over to me in Utah and then the two of us ended up road tripping together over to California! It was a fun trip driving in my van, Ronnie, through beautiful Utah and eventually Death Valley National Park.
Ronnie cruised and we made it to Lone Pine, CA to meet Cheer in mid-afternoon. Being the one that sort of initiated this trip, you’d think I had all the details figure out and communicated the plan to the group, but maybe that’s not my strong point. So, once reunited, our first thing was some pizza and a chat about what we were actually doing…
My original plan was to backpack for a few days, join the PCT and wind around to the “back” side of Whitney, taking the route we would’ve during our thru-hike. Flank it, you know. Problem was, a storm was rolling through with some extreme cold temps and super strong winds predicted.
After pizza, we went to the local ranger station, and made an entirely new plan to day hike Mt. Whitney instead. We would go up from the eastern side, the Whitney Portal route, and go up and down all in one day!
With our new plan, we now had some time to kill before making our assault. What better way to spend our time, we thought, than to visit some our fav eastern Sierra spots like Alabama Hills and the trail town of Bishop and it’s lovely amenities. Here’s some highlights from those shenanigans…
That first night we drove into the Alabama Hills and cowboy camped under the stars!
We had fun being models for Calzone’s photography…
The next morning, waking up with the sun’s light shining on the eastern wall of the Sierra Nevada, was pretty special.
Once going, we decided to drive north to Bishop, a special trail town to each of us having visited a few different times in 2019. We booked a room at The Hostel California and had fun visiting Looney Bin Coffee Shop, Erick Schat’s Bakery, and the local brewery. All to help get the nutrients we need for our upcoming expedition up Whitney, of course.
The next day we moved again, this time driving into the mountains to set ourselves up for a very early start on Whitney the following morning. After finding a campsite and setting up, we decided we’d do a small hike starting out on the trail to get a feel for it and maybe help get a little more acclimated (also more hiker-trash-vogue-esque photography). Our camp was near the Whitney Portal Store and the trailhead itself, so approximately 8,350 feet give or take a few hundred, since it’s pretty steep terrain at the end of the Whitney Portal Road here.
We were all prepped and ready for the big hike the next day! Excited. Terrified. Ready to roll!