Just a few pics from my recent hike up Mount Whitney. I think this may represent my last strenuous hike. It was a great experience, but it was also an ass-kicker. Going straight from the Ohio Valley to 14,500 feet can wreak havoc with your brain and lungs. But, I summited…and survived to tell.
(Next year, I’m limiting it to a couple days in the Scottish highlands.)
I stayed a second night at Trail Camp on the way down. The wind was just as vicious, and my headache was only slightly better. Blood was now clogging my sinuses.
On the way back to Whitney Portal, and Lone Pine, I hiked with a retired 67-year-old man named Dennis. He and his wife had driven up from Phoenix (his wife stayed in a B&B at Lone Pine). Dennis was a veteran backpacker, but was unable to summit due to allergies and lack of sleep due to the wind at Trail Camp. He, too, admitted he was retiring from strenuous hikes.
After returning to Lone Pine, I rested up in the Dow Villa Motel, which dates to the 1920s, then visited a nearby film museum. I did not know that this area, with its scenic Alabama Hills, is legendary for providing the setting for hundreds of Hollywood Westerns, both silent films and talkies. In fact, many of the greats at one time stayed at the Dow Villa: Tom Mix, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, John Wayne, among others.
After a modest recovery in the relaxing and historic Dow Villa, I hiked for a few days in Yosemite. Then hitched/shuttled to Reno, Nevada to catch a plane home.
In summation, I’ve always thought I was immune to altitude sickness. But I learned otherwise. If any prospective daredevil mountain climbers are reading this, make sure you become acclimated to higher altitudes before attempting any major climb. Severe AMS can cause hospitalization, and even death.
Suffice to say, I’m looking forward to the gentler peaks of Scotland’s West Highland Way.
27 thoughts on “On Top of Mount Whitney”
Pretty cool, Peter. The highest I ever got was Pike’s Peak at 14,000+feet in a rental car after picnicking on a bottle of wine and sandwiches. As for vertigo, I have a chronic case, which added to the thrill of reading “Real Men Don’t Need Guardrails” every so often on the way up the mountain. It looks good on you; hope your book sales are rising too!
(I wore myself out producing the book, and so my marketing efforts have been abysmal. The movie rights will have to transpire without my input.)
Re vertigo, I’m ok with slopes, but straight drop-offs turn my insides to jelly. There were a couple spots with drop-offs on both sides, and just a rocky bridge to cross. I just followed the feet in front, and refused to look down.
Glad you had a safe hike other than slight issues with AMS/vertigo. I think hiking in Scotland next year is a good plan as I know your wife is always nervous when you go. Could lead to another book being written about your adventures. As a friend you know I like to hear about it.
Thanks MK. I still plan to backpack, even overnight, but from now on they will be much more “gentle”!
Pete – Awesome – Congratulations on your summit! Another fine feat indeed. Hope to hear more about it soon “Whitney Portal looks innocent enough” 🙂
I believe you said you climbed Whitney at one time? I kept thinking “I’m amazed that Rock did this.” Man was not meant to be in such places. Camping out in the Dow Villa was more enjoyable!
Holy cow! I thought you were just hiking trails. This isn’t hiking – it’s mountaineering. Man, I’d never do this. I mean, good for you but no way Jose. Hiking on trails I’d probably do but, wow.
Ha! Your astonishment is noted and appreciated, Jim. But while the hike is classified as “Strenuous,” it’s not “Technical.” In other words, it doesn’t require pick axes, ropes, belaying pins, etc. Just strong lungs and leg muscles. My mistake was that I underestimated the effect of altitude. And it’s probably the last such hike I’ll do… I prefer Sea Level (including the band) 🙂
Heh. The altitude damn near killed me on a 1 mile walk at the Grand Canyon so I (somewhat) know the feeling. Anyway, as one “old guy” to another, pip, pip old chap. Well done, I say..
Good post. Wow, Mt. Whitney is ginormous. I went motorcycle camping with a biker crew around there back in 1980. We did Scotland 9 years ago. Mostly Isle of Skye and Mull. We went up to Ben Nevis, the highest point in the UK in central Scotland. Nice ski resort with chair lifts running to the summit during the summer. Better suited for geezers like us. You should check it out.
I read about Ben Nevis, and I’ll bet that was a fun climb. Our daughter now lives in Milngavie (pronounced “Mil-GUY”), which is the southern point of the West Highland Way. The northern point is Fort William, near the foot of Ben Nevis. This old geezer needs more Ben Nevises and fewer Mt. Whitneys!
Ft Williams and nearby Ft Augustus are beautiful canal towns with fascinating lock and dam systems. One of my bucket list trips is to take a sailboat down Loch Ness and through these canals. As for Ben Nevis, you can drive up, park and get on the chair lift to the top.
That would be sweet: a sailboat trip through Scottish canals. Didn’t know you visited there, Tad…I’ll keep this in mind for next year when I visit (my wife’s there now, for a month).
Thanks Peter that was a fun read. I bet you have met a lot of interesting characters on your hiking travels. More power to you—I would have been at the BnB with your co-hiker’s wife. You should write an essay book on lessons you learned from tackling challenges on your hikes or the people you met along the way.
Thanks, WL. I certainly have met some interesting people (one of the nice things about hiking solo). I’m sure they find me interesting…rather,”strange”… as well! Also, I think I’m fast approaching permanent BnB mode. I still love the outdoors, but pushing myself physically is posing a problem!
Fantastic piece!. Inspiring stuff. I was thinking ‘High Sierra” and then you mentioned it. I wonder how many people over estimate their capabilities and get kicked in the ass by old Whitney. The Highlands sounds like a good plan also.
Thanks, CB. “High Sierra” was evidently Bogie’s breakthrough role, and a well-regarded film noir. Along with “The Hill,” another one on my list to see.
Roy “Mad Dog” Earle one of my favorite character names. There are some good location shots if I remember right. Ida Lupino is also in it and good.
Pete, you know CB’s a Merle Haggard guy. He mentions Mount Whitney in one of my all time favorite songs, ‘Kern River’. A nature guy like you would probably dig it.
I’ll check out “Kern River.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but Haggard came from small north Calif. town (dirt poor), didn’t he? Redding, maybe?
I think it was Bakersfield. Merle got a bad rap (in my opinion) from the lazy mainstream press. Labeled him with the easiest cliches they could. He was no saint but there wasn’t one false bone in his body. There is a great ‘American Masters’ program on him. Highly recommended for a better insight to the man. Your gal Iris Dement had a place for the old bugger. One of my top 5 vocalists. I think he lived near Mount Shasta at the end of his life. I’m gonna go listen to Kern River right now.
I like Haggard, despite not having any of his music. He even looked good. Maybe that Muskogee Okie song turned the press against him. I just listened to a recording of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark together at Great American Music Hall in San Fran. What a pairing!
I have a poster of a Van Zandt/ Clark concert I went to. Only problem was they didn’t let Townes across the border so Guy did the show solo with a big shit eating grin on his face. I’ll be doing my intro to Merle (Big City) in a while. I could talk about him for a while. Complex interesting guy. Iris does a good take on the Big City song. Another one for us outdoor guys Pete.
Here is a real good piece from another fine writer like yourself. My Irish friend Thom.
Good article. I remember Thom, he’s another deep music guy. And the song “Kern River,” well, I can see why Dave Alvin and Emmylou both cover it. Thanks, CB.
Wow, Pete! You’re a better man than I! Congrats on summiting Mt. Whitney.
Jennie (cousin of your better half)