Indian Creek

September 24, 2009

We arrived in Moab Tuesday afternoon. There was fresh snow on the La Sals, and the forecast called for thunderstorms, so we delayed going down to the Creek. Wednesday we repeated a couple of climbs along Potash road, bouldered at Big Bend, and then bought groceries for camping at the Creek.

We arrived in the Creek after dark, and we discovered that camping is no longer permitted at Newspaper Rock. Always a bad idea because the canyon is narrow and there is a danger of flash floods. The sandy, vegetation-free soil of the campground should have been a clue, but it was nice camping under the cottonwoods.

We camped at the Needles Outpost $25 a night. Showers are available. We met Tracy Napolitano. Thursday and Friday we climbed on Scarface Buttress. Here is a list of climbs I did. Of the climbs we did Thurs and Fri, I like these the most (2nd ed. numbering): #9 thin hands, face holds, and lieback, #34 wide hands and chimney, #12 Scarface. The guidebook is great. It amazes me that when the Wiggins party climbed Supercrack in 1976, the road into Moab was dirt and a wooden bridge crossed the Colorado. When were highways 191 and 211 paved?

Friday night we returned to Moab. Thousands were in town for a bike race, so we couldn’t get a hotel. We got a campsite in the Moab RV park near City Market $20 a night. The first night was marred by the drunken hillbillies next to us. The man kept calling the woman a stupid cunt. Apparently she turned his dog against him.

Saturday we climbed at Potash Road again. I did “Nervous in Suburbia” 10a, “Lucy in the Sky with Potash” 10a, and “30 Seconds Over Potash” 5.8. A couple of locals climbed next to us, and they referred to the woman making the odd calls from the other side of the Colorado as “goose lady”.

After climbing we drove the bike race route in reverse, going down river road and then up Castle Valley into the La Sals. We discovered Mill Creek, and saw where people park and hike down to the climbing. It is obvious the climbing is on Entrada sandstone. I asked someone at Pagan about it, and there are about 100 routes there. No guidebook, so just choose something you think you might be able to climb. It isn’t all high-end climbing: there is stuff in the 5.10 and 5.11 range.

I studied the map and consulted a hiking guide in the bookstore. If you were interested in making an ascent of Mt Peale (12721 ft elevation, 6200 ft of prominence, 23rd most prominent peak in the lower 48), you would take highway 46 east from La Sal Junction, and then get on Upper Two Mile Rd to La Sal Pass Rd. The latter two roads are dirt, but passable with 2WD. Drive up to the vicinity of La Sal Pass, a col which separates the south La Sals from the central La Sals. Mt Peale is an off trail route straight up to the north.

Sunday we went skydiving. When we walked back to the hangar, Steph Davis was sitting on her tailgate in her wingsuit.

We returned to the Creek and camped on the Bridger Jack Shelf Sunday evening. A thunderstorm came through and doused everything. We cooked pork chops, rotini pasta, and broccoli. A large praying mantis visited our campsite and I can’t recall ever watching one of them up close.

Monday we climbed again on Scarface Buttress. Climb #10 to the left of “Where’s Carruthers” is superb. It is 100′ long, and it starts out with thin hands and stemming in a pair of cracks. The upper section has cruxy liebacks between good rests. I protected in both cracks without using runners, which caused the 0.75 Camalot to walk deep into the crack. I spent over 15 minutes retrieving it by using nut tools and a sling to reach the release bar.

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Agony Arch

April 18, 2009

Attempted Agony Arch 11c.

Agony Arch

In the Los Angeles Times

February 11, 2008

Check it out. Me in the LA Times:

clark grubb on slackline

Red Rocks Weekend

September 24, 2007

Friday Grant and I drove to Las Vegas despite the rainy forecast. We bouldered at Kraft Mountain.

It rained that evening. We ate dinner at the Three Angry Wives.

Saturday the rock was wet. We went to Hoover Dam. In the afternoon we climbed “Intestinal Flu” 5.8. Maybe it continues with a second pitch, but it looked harder than the guidebook grade so we rapped off.

That evening we ate at the Red Rock Casino. We sat in the bar until the 9pm showing of “Balls of Fury”.

Sunday we climbed Frogland 5.8. Our car to car time was about 6 hours. We may have lost an hour waiting because we weren’t the first party on the route.

John Muir Trail Gear

July 23, 2005

See also food list and trip account.

GEAR LIST

A list of the items I carried on the JMT, excluding food and water. The number at the front of each item and category is the approximate weight in pounds and ounces.

12.13 pack & bedroll:

5.12 Pack, Gregory Shasta
2.6 Bear Canister, BearVault 7 day
1.0 Bivy Sack, REI Elements
2.3 Sleeping Bag, REI Mojave 15F
1.8 Sleeping Pad, Therm-a-Rest Trail S

6.6 clothes:

0.10 Windbreaker
0.8 Shell Pants
0.11 Thermal Top
0.14 Fleece Pants
0.10 Shirt, Bug Repellent, Ex-Officio
0.6 Shorts, Nylon, Arcteryx
0.2 Sun Hat, Royal Robbins
0.2 Head Sock
0.2 (2) Socks, Polyester
0.2 Socks, Wool
0.1 Gloves, Liner
0.3 Stuff Sack, Black
1.14 Trail Runners

3.15 cooking kit:

0.4 Fuel Cannister, MSR 22oz
1.6 White Gas
0.10 Stove, Whisperlite, w/ Shield, Repair Kit, & Bag
0.2 (2) Lighters, Bic
0.8 Pot, Steel 1.5 liter
0.5 Pot Lid
0.1 Pot Holder
0.1 Pot Bag
0.1 Knife, Folding
0.0 Whisk
0.0 Cutting Board, Flexible
0.1 Spoon
0.4 Cup w/ Spill Lid
0.1 Cheese Grater
0.0 Pack Towel
0.0 Pot Scrubber w/ Sponge
0.2 Dish Soap

1.15 misc large items

0.13 Ice Axe
0.14 Crampons, Instep
0.4 (2) Water Bottles, Reused Gatorade 32oz

1.7 misc small items

0.2 Sunblock
0.0 Lip Balm
0.1 Iodine Tablets
0.0 Iodine Neutralizer
0.1 Sponge, Antimicrobial
0.0 Moleskin
0.0 Bandaids, 10
0.3 Deet
0.4 Headlamp w/ Batteries
0.2 Compass w/ Mirror
0.2 Duct Tape
0.0 Toothbrush w/ Sawn Handle
0.0 Dental Floss
0.0 Gauze
0.3 Hand Sanitizer, Purell
0.1 Topical Antibiotic
0.1 Sunblock, Zinc
0.1 Ziploc Bags
0.0 Driver’s License
0.0 Credit Card
0.0 ATM Card
0.1 Sunglasses, Prescription
0.0 Immodium Tablets
0.0 Pepto-Bismo Tablets
0.1 Aspirin & Ibuprofen Tablets
0.1 Maps
0.0 Wilderness Permit

26.8 Total

COMMENTS

If I were to do this hike again, I would not bring the ice axe and crampons, and instead of fleece pants I would bring thermal long johns weighing perhaps 6 oz. I would also use the small ProLite 3 Therm-a-rest, which is only 13 oz. Finally, I would not use a stuff sack for my clothes, but just keep them loose in my pack. These changes would reduce my total pack weight to 23 lb 7 oz, excluding food and water. Additionally I would not bring the whisk or the zinc sunblock.

At the start of the trip I had three full water bottles, or 6 lb of water. I discarded the third water bottle in Mammoth, and towards the end of the hike I would usually not carry more than one full bottle of water at a time, since there were plenty of water sources.

Leaving Vermilion Valley Resort, I was carrying perhaps 12 lb of food. This was insufficient, given that I lost nearly 10 lbs on the hike. On the other hand one can carry much less food at the start of the trip, because there are stores and grills at both Tuolomne and Red Meadows.

John Muir Trail Food

July 23, 2005

On the trail my brother and I both lost about 5 to 10 lbs. Since we were unaccustomed to the high level of exercise, weight loss may have been inevitable. Still, I think we didn’t bring enough food, especially lunch items. We relied too much on snack items like Clif bars, candy, and Gatorade during the day. We should have set aside a half hour each day to eat something substantial like a pita tunafish sandwich.

We brought 54 oz of white gas, and used about 35 oz. I think we prepared about 16 hot meals, half of them breakfast with oatmeal and coffee. Sometimes after dinner we would make some hot apple cider. The stove was burning about 10 minutes per meal. I had a Whisperlite stove, which I could turn down somewhat when the water got up to boiling–perhaps this conserved a little fuel. As you can see, this kind of usage consumed a little over 2 oz of fuel per meal. Incidentally, Vermilion Valley Resort sells white gas by the ounce, so we could have carried a lot less fuel during the first half of the trip.

The following is a list of the items we brought and which I would bring again:

GOOD FOOD LIST

pitas, whole wheat
potatos, instant
oatmeal, 5 minute
couscous, plain

salmon, smoked
tunafish
chicken
fish jerky

carrots
zucchini
onions, small
tomato paste, dehydrated
tomatos, sundried
mushrooms, dried

apples, dried
bananas, dried
apricots, dried
raisins

chocolate, dark
Clif bars
gummi bears
red licorice vines

coffee, Folger’s singles
apple cider, instant
Gatorade, powdered

butter
cheese, parmesan
cheese, cheddar
milk, dehydrated, Milkman
brown sugar
salt
pepper, ground
red pepper flakes

COMMENTS

Instant potatos and couscous are nice because they don’t need to be cooked–one merely adds boiling water. This conserves fuel. One could get instant oatmeal instead of 5 minute oats, but the better texture of the 5 minute oats makes them worth the fuel, I think. Pitas pack better than any other type of bread.

Next to the canned tunafish and canned chicken in the grocery store are tunafish and chicken wrapped in a sort of plastic-foil. These taste the same as the canned products, and are better for backpacking.

I brought some smoked salmon that was not preserved with nitrates and had to be refrigerated for long term storage. It had to be used early in the trip, but it was delicious. I also brought some cheaper smoked salmon in the plastic-foil package with better pack-life.

Trader Joe’s has jerky (including fish jerky) that is not preserved with nitrates.

Most vegetables don’t dehydrate well. Some stand up well in the pack fresh, and I think they are worth the extra weight. I brought some small zuchinis, and used them early in the trip. Bring a few whole, unpeeled carrots. They may get brown spots towards the end of the trip, but these can be removed by peeling before cooking. Select small onions, not of the sweet variety which are perishable. Tomatos dehydrate well, and I brought both sundried tomatos (from Whole Foods) and tomato paste which I dehydrated myself into a leather. I also brought dried mushrooms (Whole Foods).

Trader Joe’s is a good place to get dehydrated fruit, or dry it yourself. Avoid fried banana chips or candied fruits.

I took regular butter cubes and chopped them so they would fit tightly in a plastic container.

The harder the cheese the better it will last in a pack. Cheddar lasts better than Mozarella, though it may be more inclined to grow mold. Parmesan is both durable and because of its strong taste can be used like a seasoning.

Milkman, which you can get in packages that make 1 quart at REI, is better than the boxes of dehydrated milk available in the grocery store.

GOOD RECIPES

breakfast

oatmeal
raisins
brown sugar
butter
salt
milk

Use your cup to get the 2-to-1 ratio of water to oats. Bring water to boil, and add butter and salt. Boil oats for 5 minutes. Serve with raisins, brown sugar, and milk.

lunch

pitas
tunafish
cheddar cheese
dried fruit
salt & pepper

Salt and pepper the tunafish and eat it in the pitas with slices of cheese.

dinner 1: salmon & couscous

smoked salmon
couscous
zucchini
onion
salt
pepper
red pepper flakes
butter

Use cup to get 2-to-1 ratio of water to couscous. Bring water to boil and add butter, salt, pepper, and diced onion, and zucchini rounds. Cook for 4 minutes, then remove from heat and add couscous. Let sit for 5 minutes, then add salmon and serve.

dinner 2: chowder

fish jerky
carrot
onion
salt
pepper
red pepper flakes
butter
milk, dried
instant potatos

Use cup to get 1-to-1 ratio of water to potatos, but add a little extra water for the milk. Chop up the fish jerkey to be like bits of clam. Chop carrot and onion. Boil jerky, onion, carrot, salt, pepper, butter for 4 minutes. Add milk and boil for another minute. Remove from heat and add potatos while stirring until consistency is right.

dinner 3: chicken & potatos

chicken
instant potatos
onion
sundried tomatos
dried mushrooms
salt
butter
pepper
red pepper flakes

Chop up sundried tomatos into small pieces, since they will stay tough. Boil tomatos, onion, mushrooms, salt, butter, pepper for 5 minutes. Add potatos, then chicken and serve.

dinner 4: spaghetti

chicken
couscous
onion
tomato paste, dried
salt
butter
pepper
red pepper flakes
parmesan cheese

Break up tomato paste leather so that it will rehydrate quicker, or better yet rehydrate in small plastic container during the day. Boil tomato paste, onion, butter, salt, pepper for 5 minutes. Add couscous and let sit for 5 minutes. Add grated cheese and chicken and serve.

desert

hot apple cider
chocolate

GENERAL PRINCIPLES

In the past we’ve loaded up on Clif bars and the instant backpacker meals where you just add hot water. This makes shopping and food preparation easy, but I’m not sure how nutritious the meals are. They use freeze-dried chicken and vegetables, which retain a bad texture, even after boiling, and they use MSG and extra salt to cover up the taste.

When selecting ingredients, I avoid (1) nitrates, used to preserve meats but implicated in stomach cancer, (2) partially hydrogenated or trans fats, which have better shelf-life but damage arteries, (3) artificial sweeteners such as aspartame or sucrolose, and (4) MSG since it is often used to enhance the flavor of inferior food.

The basic technique of food preservation at the backpacker’s disposal is dehydration, which has the added benefit of making the food lighter. In general, we want to avoid carrying foods that have high water content. On the other hand, some foods such as meats and vegetables don’t dehydrate well, and it is better to accept the extra weight. Meat can be turned into jerky, but other than the chowder recipe I have not found much use for it. It is hard to eat plain because it is so salty and chewy.

FOODS THAT DIDN’T WORK WELL

I brought egg powder. I intended to make scrambled eggs and toasted pita bread. However, to do this one needs a good frying pan, and the lightest decent frying pan weighs about 12 oz. Instead I attempted to use my pot lid as a frying pan, and I burned the eggs.

Another recipe that didn’t work too well was pita pizza. It is made using the pot lid as a frying pan. You butter the pita and toast it, and then you cover the pita with mozarella cheese, parmesan cheese, and tomato paste. You add a little water to generate steam heat and cover with the pot. It was hard to execute with our equipment and turned out excessively greasy. Maybe this was because I used too much butter. Doing the dishes afterwards was a chore.

I purchased some stew beef and froze it. Then I put it in the pack with some frozen vegetables, a succotash mix. The idea is that they would dethaw during the day, and that night I would use them to make a stew. This was too much effort, however, since I had to bring a cooler when driving up to Yosemite, and I almost forgot them in the car. The best way to do it is to have the butcher cut steak into small cubes and wrap them in butcher paper. I made the mistake of buying stew meat in the pastic wrapped styrofoam tray, so I had to transfer the meat to a plastic bag, which does not absorb the meat juice, resulting in a mess. Also, use steak since stew meat is decidedly inferior. Some of the meat had tendons which made them too tough to eat. After preparing the meal you must wash the wrappers that held the meat, since they will develop a strong odor in your garbage bag. Washing the wrappers and dumping the gray water in the soil undoubtedly creates odors that attract bears. Also, to create a good stew you need to cook much longer than the 5 minutes that is reasonable in the backcountry. I considered bringing bouillon cubes to make a soup, but I discovered that they typically contain MSG, so I decided against it.

GORP (Good old raisins and peanuts) are a traditional snack food while hiking, but not a good one. I brought some peanuts and dried fruit to eat during the day, and I felt poorly after eating it. Foods that are eaten while exercising should be very low in fat and fiber. Moreover, I thought I had bought dried bananas, but I actually bought fried banana chips.

PROLOGUE

My brother, who works at REI, spends most of his time there fitting people for backpacks and selling tents and sleeping bags. Although we’ve done a fair amount of backpacking to set up base camp for mountaineerring trips, my brother didn’t think he had credibility as a backpaker.

He referred to some of the classics on the subject, such as Ray Jardine’s Beyond Backpacking and Lynne Wheldon’s video How to Hike the Pacific Crest Trail. He entertained a fantasy of hiking the PCT.

I suggested hiking the John Muir Trail instead. Going from Yosemite NP to Mt Whitney, it takes one through the most scenic portion of the Sierra Nevada. It’s the cream of the PCT, and it can be done in only a few weeks.

I made reservations in March, not without misgivings, since I am not an avid backpacker. I had visions of peakbagging along the way. Cathedral Pk and North Palisade looked interesting to me. However, we decided to limit ourselves to Half Dome and Mt Whitney, and complete the trail in an ambitious time of 14 days.

The trail is 211 miles long. However, it ends on the top of Mt. Whitney, and one must hike an additional 11 miles to the nearest road. We did not follow the trail exactly–starting at Glacier Point instead of Yosemite Valley, taking a side excursion up Half Dome, and using the shuttle to skip about 5 miles around the Devil’s Postpile. Still our mileage was probably about 220, though my daily numbers, computed using TOPO! software, only add up to 203.7 miles. The cumulative elevation gain of 46,300 feet is probably accurate.

TRAVELOGUE

July 9

I cajole Silvia to give us a ride up to Yosemite in my Escape. We leave in the afternoon and have to drop off a supply cache at Vermilion Valley Resort, which is at the end of a 20 mile, barely paved, one-lane road. It is midnight when we return to Fresno and check in to an ant-infested Super 8. As we unload from the car a guy leans on the railing outside of his room, watching us and drinking beer.

July 10 (Half Dome, 12.7 mi, 4600 ft)

We pick up our wilderness permit in the valley. The ranger attempts to convince us that there is too much snow and we should exit at Mammoth. Silvia drops us off at Glacier Point.

We hike down the Panorama Trail and join the JMT at Nevada falls. We pass a large group of JMTers who are tottering around like dancing bears under their heavy packs. At the junction with the Half Dome (8800 ft) trail we leave our packs with a Georgia girl suffering from blisters. We tag the summit via the cable route. We climb out on the diving board and peek over to enjoy the sickening 2000 ft of exposure.

July 11 (Tuolomne, 20.0 mi, 3300 ft)

Hiking through Long Meadow gives us an experience of how bad the mosquitos can be. We pass Cathedral Peak (10900 ft) and arrive at Tuolomne, where we eat burgers at the grill and buy some powdered Gatorade. We camp a few miles up the Lyell River. That night a bear works on my brother’s canister without success.

July 12 (Donahue Pass, 19.6 mi, 3200 ft)

We go over Donahue Pass (11000 ft) to the east of Mt Lyell (13100 ft), which has a small glacier on its N side. There is a lot of sun-cupped snow, with some post-holing near the snow-rock boundaries. We are well off route, and as a result we do some bush-whacking and boulder hopping. Still we pass about 12 people going over Donahue, including a family of JMTers. The father tells us this is his 5th time, the 1st was in 1976.

Near Thousand Island Lake we leave the JMT and take the River Trail down to Agnew Meadows (bad mosquitos) where we catch the 8pm shuttle into Mammoth and stay at the Rodeway Inn.

July 13 (Mammoth)

Coming back to the hotel with a latte I see Deena Castor (2004 Olympic bronze, marathon) on a training run. I buy a mosquito repellent shirt and a few other items. We watch “War of the Worlds (2005) **½”. My brother doesn’t know that germs will kill the martians. He mimics the battle sound that the tripods make, sort of a cross between a ferry horn and a man vomiting.

July 14 (Silver Pass, 23.4 mi, 6200 ft)

We pick up the JMT again at Red Meadows. We pass a couple of southbound JMTers filtering water. They tell us they made an attempt on Mt. Lyell. We go by Red Slate Mtn (13200 ft) and Red and White Mtn (12800 ft). Silver Pass (10900 ft) has enough snow to obscure the trail and get me lost. My brother prevents me from leading us down the wrong valley. We hope to make it to VVR, but nightfall catches us barely over the pass.

July 15 (Vermillion Valley Resort, 5.4 mi, 100 ft)

We get up and rush down to Lake Edison, just missing the 9:45 ferry back to VVR. An older gentleman, a PCT thru-hiker who is well off pace, gives us the low-down on the VVR. He tells us that it is expensive. Even though he washed dishes, he still spent $44 there. While he talks we stare dejectedly into space.

We take a dip in the lake and practice walking floating logs. An unscheduled 2 pm ferry picks us up. We spend the night in the hiker’s cabin with a PCTer with shin splints and a threesome doing the JMT. The threesome is a husband, wife, and her father. The husband is from Australia, the wife from Virginia and she’s hot. They live in London. They were doing the PCT, but because of the heavy snow they skipped ahead and did parts of Washington. Now they are back to do the JMT with her father. I’m concerned about having enough food for the 2nd half of the trip, since there aren’t any resupply points, so I ask them how long they are going to take to get to Whitney. They say 12 days. When her father leaves, the Virginian tells me that the reason they are going so slow is because of her father. It occurs to me that it is indelicate to ask a JMTer what his daily mileage is. It’s like asking someone what their salary is.

July 16 (Selden Pass, 22.6 mi, 4900 ft)

Our final bill at VVR is $168. This covers 4 meals, 4 beers, 4 ferry tickets, the cost of caching supplies, and some miscellaneous items. We take the morning ferry back out to the JMT with enough food for 7 days. We hope to cross a pass each day for the first 6 days, and summit Whitney and exit on the 7th.

I don’t remember much of Selden Pass (10900 ft). The area lacks notable peaks. The trip is growing long and making me feel mentally dull. I challenge myself to come up with a list of movies with a strong voyeuristic element, and I produce the following:

Rear Window (1954) ****
Porky’s (1982) *
Body Double (1984) ***
Blue Velvet (1986) ****
Sliver (1993) **

We descend into the canyon of the S fork of the San Joaquin. I’m struck by how deep and arid the canyon is. The slope is covered with manzanita, and many of the neighboring slopes are just barren bedrock. We make it to Piute Creek at nightfall, where we make a horrible campsite under a ponderosa. The soil is thin and full of river cobble. And teeming with ants.

July 17 (Muir Pass, 19.5 mi, 4400 ft)

We hike up into the magnificent Evolution Basin. Some of the prominent peaks here are:

Mt Mendel (13700 ft)
Mt Darwin (13800 ft)
Mt Haeckel (13400 ft)
Mt Wallace (13400 ft)
Mt Fiske (13500 ft)
Mt Warlowe (13200 ft)
Mt Huxley (13100 ft)
Mt Spencer (12400 ft)

The names are due to Theodore Solomons, who conceived the idea of the John Muir Trail in 1884 at the age of 14. The Evolution Traverse, completed by Peter Croft in 1999, crosses all of the peaks from Mendel to Huxley.

We push on to Muir Pass (12000 ft), flanked by Wanda Lake and Helen Lake, named after John Muir’s daughters. This is the hardest pass for us, because so many miles of the trail are covered with snow. Walking on snow requires more effort than scrambling through boulders and talus, so we frequently take to the rocks to circumnavigate patches of snow.

At the top of the pass we encounter a couple going the other way in mountain boots and gaiters. They are impressed by the fact that we wear trail runners. The girl tries to turn us on to flaxseed as a good backcountry food. My brother thinks they reek, though this may be the teapot calling the kettle black. In their case the offending fragrance is petruli oil.

July 18 (Mather Pass, 22.4 mi, 4400 ft)

We awake with the prospect of 15 miles of hiking just to get to the next pass. I convince my brother that we should nevertheless go over it today. Some ways beyond the junction with Bishop Pass trail, we get a view of the spectacular Middle Palisade (14000 ft). Coming over Mather Pass (12100 ft) we see Split Mtn (14100 ft), formerly known as South Palisade.

As we descend we meet a befuddled family of JMTers. One of them left his pants on the top of Mather Pass. The mother dropped her boot in the creek and it was swept away. They plan to bail via a side trail, but they don’t know how to inform the people who are hiking in to bring them supplies down the trail.

July 19 (Pinchot Pass & Glen Pass, 22.3 mi, 5700 ft)

Yesterday I had two bowel movements. I take it as an omen that today we will cross two passes.

Halfway between the two passes we find a suspension footbridge. My brother and I rock it as hard as we can while crossing it. On the other side I notice a sign admonishing hikers to cross it one at a time.

July 20 (Forester Pass, 21.5 mi, 5400 ft)

Forester Pass (13200 ft) is the highest pass on the PCT. It was the last part of the JMT to be completed in 1932. We find several boy scout troops clustered at the top. As we traverse some steep snow one of them tells me they don’t have nothing like this in Virginia.

We trudge across the high barren plain east of Mt Tyndall (14000 ft) and cross a tributary of the Kern River. A lost hiker with a paddle strapped to his back smiles at us as we ford the creek. The weather has turned bad for the first time. The gray skies thunder, and then a deluge forces us to don shell gear. We ford Wallace Ck in bare feet. As our feet dry we stew in a thick cloud of mosquitos.

July 21 (Mt. Whitney, 14.3 mi, 4100 ft)

We pass two southbound JMTers on the way up to the trail crest. They expect to finish in 15 days, the fastest of any of the people we met. We leave our packs at the crest and move rapidly to the summit (14,497.61 ft). Gray clouds are forming overhead and I’m worried there will be more lightning strikes.

Once on the Mt Whitney trail there are scores of people. We pass them all and get down to the Whitney Portal store at about 4pm, where we eat cheeseburgers and greasy fries. We buy clean T-shirts that proclaim that we climbed Mt Whitney and take showers. At the stop sign we stick out our thumbs, and within a half hour we get a ride from Levi and his girlfriend Stacey, climbers to judge from the bouldering pad and rock shoes in the back of their pickup. They drop us off in Lone Pine, and we wait at the Pizza Factory for Sandy, eating salad and drinking beer.