Mt. Whitney Summit, September 2017

Mt. Whitney Summit (one day)
Date:
September 22, 2017
Difficulty:  9 out of 10
Distance: 23 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 6,500 Feet
Time: 13 to 16 hours
Location: Near Lone Pine, California
Users Group: Hikers Only
Permits: Day Permit Required
Hiking with: Matt Kerby

This will be my fourth time to summit Mt. Whitney in one day. Matt Kerby from Bellevue, Washington joined me for this ever so long 22 mile merciless one day trek. This will be Matt’s first journey on the highest mountain in the lower 48 states.

Matt’s wife Shelly and my wife Linna flew down with us from Seattle to Las Vegas on a direct Delta flight. After we landed we dropped the ladies off at the Vegas hotel so they could wine/dine and shop while Matt and I brutality abused our bodies for over 15 hours. The drive from Vegas to the Whitney Portal is 4 hours and you have to drive right through Death Valley National Park. In one day you can be at the lowest elevation of 279 feet below sea-level to the highest elevation of 14,505 feet above sea-level in the lower 48 states. But to reach that 14,505 altitude you will need summit Mt. Whitney by foot.

We got to Lone Pine, California around 5:00 p.m. and picked up our day only permits (yellow tag) to summit Whitney the next day. When the Park Ranger asked if we are acclimated for tomorrow’s summit bid, we stated that we just flew in from Seattle, he definitely had that “oh shit” look. I assured him we would be fine and went on to tell him I have done this three times already.

Before heading up to the Whitney Portal (trailhead) we scarfed down a pasta dish and a few beers at the local Lone Pine Restaurant. I rented a Suburban so we just put the back seats down and slept in the back, legally we were supposed to pay for a campsite at the Whitney Portal which is at 8,500 feet.

After a restless night of tossing and turning, we woke up at 2:00 a.m. and started hiking around 2:45 a.m. The first mile I was already yawning, which told me we should have acclimated a day or two before we started this monstrous hike…I was already seeking more oxygen. Our bodies literally started from sea level because we flew from Seattle on Thursday and started hiking early Friday which is almost irresponsible and unwise (did I just say that).

After hiking up 6,500 feet elevation gain we finally made the summit. We were a bit slow, but we accomplished something enormous in one day and we have our yellow tag to show for it!

Enchantment Thru Hike, August 2017

Enchantment Thru Hike
Date: August 19, 2017
Difficulty: 9 out of 10
Distance: 20 miles / 32 Kilometers round-trip
Elevation Gain: 5,200 feet / 1,585 meters (total gain)
Time: 12 to 15 hours
Location: Near Leavenworth, Washington
Users Group: Hikers &
Permits: Discovery Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hiking With: Linna Freeman, Matt Kerby, Tao Song & Craig Schilling

I trekked this brutal 20 mile loop last year, so I have a full understanding of the physical requirements and mental determination to complete it. So…to do again this year makes me a glutton for punishment. Team Punishment consisted of my lovely wife Linna, Matt Kerby, Craig Schilling and Tao Song.

We dropped off Matt’s vehicle at the Snow Lakes trailhead and the five of us drove Craig’s vehicle to Colchuck trailhead where we started our torturous journey at 5:00 a.m. I was totally surprised how both parking lots were completely full. Of course we didn’t see much in the dark, but by the time we got to Colchuck Lake it was all blue skies. We stopped at the first big slab of granite opening which was directly across the famous Aasgard Pass for the initial bombardment of photos and selfies. We also took this time to scarf down some energy food before heading up to the pass which was nearly ½ mile away around the lake. You start to notice the cairns around the lake and soon you realize how important they are and become later in the hike. Somehow Tao didn’t pay attention to the cairns and found herself lost for about 15 minutes before we started up the pass.

What can I say about Aasgard Pass that you don’t already know…2,000 feet elevation gain in 0.75 miles is cruel and unusual punishment to your mind, body and soul. I am sure I was having Mailbox Peak flashbacks. Some sections you need to be careful you don’t dislodge rocks…especially when your wife is below you! We took a long break at the summit in a low spot on large boulders to stretch out our tired legs. During lunch, Matt had a photo shoot with us and a few goats. Matt Kerby is a professional photographer so you will see a lot of his photos on my blog.

The trail continues through the Enchantment basin / Upper Enchantments with numerous lakes and photo opportunities everywhere. We stopped and soaked our feet in the icy cold Leprechaun Lake before heading down to the Snow Lakes. Once you see the lakes at a distance, you realize that you still have a brutal descent down. For me, this is the most grueling section…but once you get down to the upper Snow Lakes it’s back on a half-way normal trail. Once you see the parking lot, you might think you only have 15 minutes left, but it’s a full hour yet.

Pratt Lake Trail to Denny Creek Trail Hike, August 2017

Pratt Lake Trailhead to Denny Creek Trailhead
Date: August 12, 2017
Difficulty: 9 out of 10
Distance: 13.5 miles / 21.7 Kilometers round-trip
Elevation Gain: 3,600 feet / 1,097 meters (total gain)
Time: 6 to 8 hours
Location: Exit 47, Off I-90 in Washington
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Discovery Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hiking With: , Matt Kerby, Craig Schilling & the Wonder Dog Macho

I haven’t hiked the Pratt Lake trailhead to Denny Creek trailhead for about 13 years and guess what…it hasn’t gotten any easier. Craig Schilling and Matt Kerby joined me on this beautiful tough 13.5 mile loop.

I took off from my Fall City house at 4:30 a.m. heading down the hill to get on I-90 near exit 17…but before I got to the bottom I was picked-up for driving 65 mph in a 40 mph zone by the Washington State Patrol. I told him the truth, I was speeding damn fast, but explained the gravitational pull on a heavy S6 Audi especially downhill. Officer Steele gave me a break…a verbal warning! I was still able to pick up Matt Kerby at the Denny Creek trailhead at the predetermined time of 5:15 a.m. He left his car at the trailhead and loaded up in my Audi and then met Craig at the Pratt Lake/Granite Mountain trailhead and started hiking at 5:42 a.m.

Right before the split heading down to Pratt Lake we stopped for a much needed snack at the open area over looking Olallie Lake. We didn’t see any other hikers until the Pratt Lake Basin, some backpackers heading home. The trail from Pratt Lake to the Lower Tuscohatchie was pretty good shape considering the lack of foot traffic. The trail seems to get a bit rougher after Lower Tuscohatchie Lake with over-grown vegetation, large rocks and at times a very narrow trail. All three of us fell in this area with Matt probably getting bruised the worst with his knee hitting a rock when he fell. I went over a steep hillside in a thorny area….legs got scuffed up some.

Once we hit Melakwa Lake it was sprinkling pretty good so we decided not to go for a swim, but enjoyed our lunch instead. Our descent from Melakwa to Denny Creek Trail head was busy with hikers coming up. We spent a total of 7 hours of hiking, snacking, falling, resting and bullshitting.

Mailbox Peak Sunrise Hike, July 2017

Mailbox Peak
Date: July 30, 2017
Difficulty: 9 out of 10
Distance: 5.3 miles / 8.4 Kilometers round-trip
Elevation Gain: 4,000 feet / 1,219 meters
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Location: Near North Bend, Washington
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Discovery Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hiking With: Linna Freeman, Matt Kerby, Craig Schilling and my Wonderdog Macho

My third trip to the famous Mailbox Peak and my fourth sunrise hike this year. Linna and I woke up at 1:15 a.m. this morning to meet Matt Kerby and Craig Schilling at the Mailbox Peak lower parking lot at 2:45 a.m. and started hiking the old trail at 3:04 a.m.

If you think it’s tough staying on the trail during the day, it’s worse in middle of night. Craig got a little behind in the group and found himself off-trail so he started hiking straight up to our lights that was illuminating from our headlamps. The white diamonds sporadically located in the trees came in useful…they would shine like stars once your headlamp hit them.

We made it up in 2 1/2 hours and even had to wait for the sun to show it’s face. We had the summit, sunrise and the mailbox to ourselves until we had our fill. We headed back the same way as we came up…old trail baby. I have descended the new longer trail and it just feels forever and I rather get the pain over with on the shorter steep old trail.

Camp Muir/Birthday Hike, July 2017

Camp Muir
Date: July 12, 2017
Difficulty: 9 out of 10
Distance: 9 Miles / 14.5 Kilometers Round-trip
Elevation Gain: 4,700 Feet / 1,433 Meters
Time: 6 to 7 hours
Location: Near Ashford, Washington
Users Group: Hikers / Climbers Only
Permits: National Park Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry to Snowpack
Hiking With: Matt Kerby

The last time I hiked up to Camp Muir was 4 years ago so it was time to knock it off again. Plus…I was looking for something big to do locally for my 57th birthday. I asked my good friend Matt Kerby to join me on my birthday hike. I picked up Matt in Bellevue at 4:00 a.m. and we made it to the Paradise Parking lot by 6:15 a.m. There was only maybe 12 to 15 vehicles in the upper parking lot…good timing on our part.

We started at 6:50 on Skyline Trail and finally hit constant snow near Glacier Vista where we ended up putting on our hiking spikes. I have been using these mini-crampons for most of my winter hiking, but I will probably bring my full size crampons next time for extra grip on the Camp Muir snowfield.

This was maybe my 10th time on Muir and it’s always the same…tough and real tough. I always pick sunny days for the photos and safety factor, but with sun brings heat and sunburns. I was wearing full length pants and a long sleeve shirt to reduce the need to lather up on sunscreen all over except for my face.

Matt and I are both strong hikers but it still took us 3 hours and 45 minutes to reach Camp Muir, we wasn’t in a hurry and we took many water/snack breaks along the way. We took our time on top…lunching, bullshitting and taking random photos. The climbing teams must have hired a helicopter to haul trash/empty fuel canisters…it was cool to see a copter up a 10,000 foot mountain.

We got back to the car in 2 ½ hours and left the parking lot around 2:30 p.m. We skipped the Paradise Inn beer because I told Matt that Linna wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t get back home by 5:30 p.m. She was having my birthday dinner at the house with 2 other couples. Well…I had no idea that she was throwing me a surprise birthday party and Matt was in on it. Matt made sure he was keeping me on track for time…there was a bunch of people at the house waiting for us.

Mailbox Peak Hike, April 2017

Mailbox Peak
Date: April 22, 2017
Difficulty: 9 out of 10
Distance: 5 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 4,000 feet
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Location: Near North Bend, Washington
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Discovery Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hiking With: Mike Curry, Matt Kerby, Craig Schilling and my dog Macho

This will be the second time this year I conquered the Mailbox.

Mailbox Peak Hike, October 2016

Mailbox Peak
Date: October 30, 2016
Difficulty: 9 out of 10
Distance: 5 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 4,000 feet
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Location: Near North Bend, Washington
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Discovery Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hiking With: My Wife Linna Wei & our Wonder Dog Macho

Linna and I decided to get Macho out for some fall weather hiking.