Boundary Peak (13,147ft) and Mt Whitney (14,494ft)
I had a work conference scheduled for Anaheim, CA, and by adding a day of vacation I was able to play in some different mountains for a couple of days. Though I was thoroughly bummed that I was missing Miles first hockey game of the season. I arrived in Anaheim Sunday evening and took a shuttle to the Hilton. I quickly found out that Disney is right across the street and the town is full of exhausted and over-stimulated kids coming/going to Disney!
I did the conference-thing for the next few days, and during that time I was able to confirm a permit for Mt Whitney on Friday. For Whitney permits they do a lottery for the entire hiking season in March, but permits come available daily as hikers change their plans, group-size, or are no-shows. I spent $30 on hiking snack food at a CVS came up with a plan. On Wednesday afternoon I checked out of the hotel, picked up a rental car, and headed north. LA traffic was as fun as people say, and I couldn’t believe that motorcycles just speed down the lanes between cars like it’s nothing. After about 4 hours of driving I stopped in Lone Pine and picked up my permit at the after-hours box and proceeded north and east for another 2 hours to the turnoff for the Queen Mine trailhead for Nevada’s highpoint, Boundary Peak (13,147ft). I choose this route to save a couple more hours driving and it seemed like the better option for a rental car. After about 5 miles on a dirt road, it seemed the rental would fall apart if I went much further. I found a pull-off to park, packed my backpack, and curled up in my sleeping bag on the oh-so-comfy passenger seat.
I actually slept pretty good, but didn’t want to start moving until dawn since I had no idea where the hell I was and it was cold. A little after 6:30am I started hiking up the road. Pretty dry and barren area with old mines around. I soon found out that I parked 1.5 miles below where I thought I parked, and had another mile to the actual trailhead, so adding an additional 5 miles onto the day. Yay? At least I was certain that I was in the correct area now. Ascending the ridge of Trail Canyon Peak I got my first glimpse of Boundary Peak. Looked far and full of scree! Chipping away at the miles and elevation with a cold wind, it was very similar to several Colorado 14ers with rock hopping and plenty of scree. After 3 hours I was on the summit. WooHoo! Seeing Montgomery Peak (13,441ft) just across the ridge, I couldn’t resist and headed that way. More scree and plenty of shifty rocks, I was on the summit 45mins later. I went back as close to the same way as possible, over the summit of Boundary, and back down the trail. At the 11k saddle, I figured that Trail Canyon Peak (11,340ft) was “just right there”… so I added another summit. Back to the trail, back down the road, and back to my rental Ford Fiesta. Just under 7 hours, just over 14 miles, and 6,200ft of gain. A bit more then I expected!
It was a 2 hour drive back to Lone Pine with a ripping headache from altitude, lack of sleep, and lack of coffee. From Lone Pine I drove the 13 miles west to Whitney Portal blown away by the views along the way. The eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains are massive granite peaks and full of gigantic pine trees. I found a spot in Whitney Portal campground, drove past the trailhead since I’d be there in the dark, and headed back to Lone Pine for awful service at a pizza place. It was good to take care of those items before dark. Back to Whitney Portal campground, packed up my backpack again, and settled in for another restless night in the passenger seat. I woke up around 3:30am and planned to hit the trail by 4am after putting my food in the trailhead bear-box. It was another chilly start and I headed off seeing nothing but the circle of light provided by my headlamp. Fortunately the trail is easy to follow, I found it very similar to Barr Trail given the gentle grade and ascending long switchbacks. The miles ticked by and I occasionally passed other hikers, I was already excited to see the surrounding on the way down several hours later. Finally the sun started to peek out on the horizon to the east and the views did not disappoint. I was right below Trail Camp and the alpenglow lit up the jagged granite spires all around. WOW! My pace slowed as I took plenty of pictures while cold campers emerged from their tents at Trail Camp. Next was the famous 99 switchbacks. It was still chilly and I gave a guy handwarmers and talked to a few folks that turned around. 360 degrees of amazing views made the switchbacks go quickly and I finally felt the sun. Around 8.5 miles is Trail Crest which give you a whole other set of views into Sequoia National Park and more of the John Muir Trail. The summit is only a couple of miles from there and sneaks behind all of the towers and spires seen from the east gradually climbing through massive granite blocks. The wind had a serious bite to it and I was glad for extra layers. After 5hrs, I could see the stone summit house! WooHoo! The summit is actually quite large (similar to Longs Peak) so I walked around to take the obligatory photos and warmed up in the small stone summit house with a couple other hikers.
After a bunch of snacks and opening hand warmers, I headed back down the trail. It was hard to look at the trail with the amazing views and had to keep taking my mittens and gloves off to take more pictures. There were several people along the trail that were moving real slow and probably didn’t belong up there! Back at Trail Crest I gave my handwarmers to someone and ticked off the 99 switchbacks. At Trail Camp I was out of the wind and stripped off several layers. I was nice to see what I missed in the dark for the next 6 miles. Trailside meadow was beautiful, massive pine trees growing out of impossible places, reflective ponds, ice cold streams, and granite towers everywhere. I was glad to see a couple of familiar landmarks knowing I was almost done. After 9hrs, 21miles, and 7k gain…. I was back at the busy trailhead.
I changed, got coffee in Lone Pine, and snacked along the loooong 4hr drive back to Anaheim and a hotel. It was a fun trip, but I was excited to get back to Colorado and my family. I had a couple hours to kill in the morning so I checked out the famous Newport Beach, realizing I still prefer the mountains over the beach any day. Going from 14k to sea level, I felt like I could hold my breath for hours.