Feckin' Trekkin'

Matt and Krista's Awesome Travel Blog

Month: May 2010 (page 1 of 2)

Mt Whitney Climb – Day 3 – That’s a wrap

Once we got down a few hundred feet Matt started feeling better. Back to Outpost Camp and Matt was feeling hungry. I also realized how my appetite was slightly off and how I was ready to eat anything in sight. Relaxing at camp, hydrating and eating we soon realized that we were both sunburnt. We were “crispy” looking to say the least. I wore 50 SPF and I was still looking like a lobster. Matt was feeling run down but better and brought the topic up of making a second attempt the following day. A sensible conversation ensued as Matt listened to some hard but real facts about  how much time he would need to recuperate before another attempt would be made and we simply did not have the time or food for it. So it was decided. No summit attempt. We were done. A brilliant effort was made on both parts but health was more important. Besides, the gorgeous mountain isn’t going anywhere.

Settling into our sleeping bags we were shivering. It wasn’t cold out. We got hit with way to much sun. We slept well all things considered. Matt ended up giving his Ice Axe to a guy named Justin who left his in his car. His collateral us giving the axe was $100.00 bucks and starbucks coffee! We saw them coming down this morning and the axe made it to the summit! It was a great chat. One thing I will note is that we met some of the nicest people on our trip on this mountain. Always offering help, food, water, anything. Everyone ultimately looks out for one another.

We packed up and made it down to Whitney Portal in no time.  We did have a break at Lone Pine Lake. Matt had some time on his own exploring and quite possibly thinking about the past 24 hours. I wouldn’t blame him one bit. I sat looking at the lake listening to the popping sounds the snow made as it melted in the sun.

Celebratory burgers and beers on a great attempt and making it down together in one piece was had.

Off to an RV park for some showers as our combined aroma “hummed” as Matt so eloquently put it. It was pretty bad. Mt. Whitney and her wilderness is exciting and addictive. I want to see more of it. I’m sure Matt can agree that we aren’t done with this one. Another climb will be in the works.

Discussing this climb together Matt suggested I write the blog about it. Again, I don’t blame him. It was an amazing climb for him, the strength he had with all that weight is commendable in itself. We’ve learned so much in three days. It was awesome, challenging, beautiful, painful and so rewarding I am sure we would do it again in a heartbeat.

Mt Whitney Climb – Day 2 – A complete role reversal

I woke up with mixed emotions. I was tired, sore and suddenly questioning whether or not I wanted to go higher which went against everything we had worked for. So naturally Matt was frustrated.  Matt had done some recon the night before and went a little higher just to check out the trail and looked at me with one hell of a look (you know, the looks your parents give you sometimes?) and just said “I know you can make it up there.” He was definitely doing overtime for his share of positive encouragements and pep talks.

The hike was 2 miles to trail camp which is situated at 12,040 feet.  Ice axe in my hand we started up on the switchbacks. Once we got above the tree line it was nothing but sunshine and snow. Nothing but snow! It was AWESOME! At that point I felt I truly was in the mountains and relished every minute of it. My energy levels were awesome, a complete 180 from my performance the day before.  Matt continued to look at me slightly baffled at my performance and congratulated me a number of times.  I just felt like I could have kept on going for hours.

As the day went on and our climb up continued the temperature increased. It was so effing hot I had to strip down and change my top to something lighter. Climbers in the distance got a bit of a show while Matt was yelling “take it off!”. The heat resulted in more stops, more drinking water (which we were running out of).
Matt started to mention to me how is pack was feeling really heavy and how hot he was feeling. It was a tough climb up so I wasn’t surprised to hear Matt like this. I figured a few more steps over this hump here, a turn around a corner here and we will be there. It was my turn to be positive and encourage my team mate, which rarely happens and made me a little conscious of our situation. It took close to 4 hours to get there.

Trail camp ahead! We made it! Flat rock found, packs off and breathe…
We could see the infamous switchbacks that lead up to trail crest and the gateway to the summit. It was stunning.  We were out of water which was a bad point on our part as we should have had more than 2 litres on the way up. The lake was frozen so we had to melt snow.  Something was up though. Matt started to tell me he wasn’t with it, he wasn’t feeling so well. He mentioned how he felt overheated, light headed, dizzy etc.  I started going through my symptom check list for AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) and he was showing a few. First thing first.. water and food. We drank another 4 litres and I made sure Matt ate. His appetite wasn’t completely there which is not like him one bit.  He was up and down. One minute he felt great and we would put the tent up the next he wasn’t well. We took the tent down. We ended up putting the tent up twice.

It was hard for me to see my team mate, my dude, not feeling well and out of it. He is normally Mr. Invincible in my books, I look up to him. He makes me want to be a better hiker/climber. The altitude was winning and affecting him. Today was a complete role reversal. Here I was fit and ready to go higher while Matt sat there and struggled.  We waited a few hours to see if he would adjust and it was just inconsistent with how he felt. We collectively agreed to descend to lower ground. This gutted Matt.  It gutted me as well but we knew what we had to do. A squeeze of the hand and a few cheeky smiles and we set off back to outpost camp.

Mt Whitney Climb – Day 1

The fact that I am posting this blog about our climb of Mt. Whitney shows that we are off the mountain and in one piece (albeit very sunburnt) and slowly processing the past three days of awesomeness and insanity.  I am going to break this down by day as there is just way too much to type aboot.

I really don’t know where to start as our experiences on this beautiful mountain differ.  We kicked it all off at approx 10:20am on a crisp Friday morning. Matt weighed both our packs which totalled 85lbs. Matt took the bulk of the weight (62lbs to be exact) as he was looking out for my interest which would later prove to be detrimental to him. The goal was to hike up to Outpost Camp which is situated around 10,400 feet, set up camp, eat, chill out and most importantly acclimatize. 3.8 miles? Piece of piss! Was I ever wrong.

I actually found day 1 to be the toughest. I wasn’t use to hiking with 22 odd lbs on my back. As stunning as the scenery was I could feel my heart rate rising and my breath getting slightly out of whack as we were getting higher. Slow and steady we took it, breaks in between, lots of water and great pep talks from Matt which encouraged me and pushed me forward.

Once we got into the Whitney Zone we saw snow. Lots of it. There was enough that a big portion of the trail was hidden. At this point we put our crampons on and started up a steep slope only to see to our right the switchbacks that we needed to be on (clear of snow). After the slight frustration of that and nearly throwing up we took our crampons off and proceeded on the noticeable trail.

We were pretty tired by this point but pushed forward. I got myself a second wind (thanks to Matt’s words of encouragement) and up around a boulder or two and we were in Big Horn Park, which is a lovely meadow and it’s FLAT! Woo! Before we knew it I saw the Outpost Camp sign and several tents.

Needless to say we were both pleased to take our packs off. 5 hours, 3.8 miles and an elevation gain of 2,300 feet – I was done. I had to dig real deep for it as it was tough yet painstakingly beautiful. After the high fives were given out and the tent was set up we enjoyed a lovely dehydrated meal of sweet and sour pork with rice. Trust me, it was delicious.

Acclimatizing issues that started to develop were mild headaches (both of us) and a lovely dry cough which apparently is quite common.  The air felt OK to me although there were times I was out of breath just walking to and from the bathroom (ie – peeing in a bush area that was as private as it could be). Matt was feeling great which was impressive considering the amount of gear he lugged up there and he was getting pumped up for the following day. I was feeling good but tired, definitely felt the strain!

Sleeping bags set up, tucked up amidst a lovely night under the stars. Tomorrow? Trail Camp.

Warming-Up for Mt Whitney

We’ve done loads of hikes over the last couple of months, but the one that’s really the “main event” is having a go at climbing Mt Whitney. It’s a serious endeavour, especially as there’s been a lot of snow in the Eastern Sierra this year, even as recently as this week. Neither of us have climbed this high before, and it’s our first overnight trip involving snow. Still, we’re pretty confident we can get a good way up the mountain, and our preparation has gone almost perfectly. We arrived in Lone Pine, the nearest town to Mt Whitney, a few days ahead and spent a couple of nights at the rather luxurious Boulder Creek RV park. Hot tub, pool, free coffee and muffins in addition to all the usual essentials. We figured it would be a good way to recharge the batteries after a few busy days at the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park.

When climbing at altitude it’s important to allow your body some time to get used to the reduced oxygen. Yesterday we picked up a few last minute supplies in Bishop, then headed up to the highest spot we could find at Onion Valley to spend the night at 9200 feet above sea level. The campground isn’t open yet, but the local Rangers said we were still OK to spend the night up there in the parking lot.

This morning we hiked up towards Kearsage Pass to remind ourselves what it’s like to hike wearing crampons, practice the gentle are of falling over in the snow safely (aka self-arrest), and breathe some more thin air. For the first time I actually felt the effects of the thin air. To my dismay, and against the recent run of form, Krista was outpacing me all morning, and by the time we got back to the motorhome I was feeling pretty tired and feeble. Maybe I’m just having an off day, or maybe the magic potion she’s been taking to help her acclimatize has made a difference but I was definitely a touch off her pace. After a nap this afternoon and a hearty dinner I’m feeling 100% again, so I’m not really phased by it.

Tonight we’ve managed to nab the last “first come, first served” spot at the Whitney Portal campground, a mere one mile away from the Mt Whitney trailhead. We’re also around 8000 feet which is great for the acclimatization.

Tomorrow we’re planning to head about halfway up the mountain. We’ll make camp there overnight before continuing on up the mountain until we run out of energy, nerve or lung power. The weather forecast is good, and we’ve prepared diligently, so we’ve given ourselves every chance to be lucky. Krista’s got a goal in mind, and I’ve got one too, but we’ll just have to wait and see how attainable they are. Wish us luck…


Facts about Mt Whitney

Mount Whitney

I figured it would be fitting for all who read our blog to give you some information on the peak we are trying to bag. So here we go!

A-hem…. Mount Whitney was first climbed by a bunch of rad ass fishermen and in fact was actually named Fisherman’s Peak.

THEN some snooty dudes (who knew if they really were, this is my blog post people!) the California Geological Survey took that away and named the peak for a Mr. Josiah Whitney who was California’s State geologist and Survey Chief back in 1864. Mt. Whitney is the highest mountain in the lower 48 states. She (as in the mountain) is the most climbed peak in the Sierra Nevada and one of the most climbed in the United States.

The Mount Whitney Trail (which we plan on taking) is 22 miles round-trip, the most popular route to the summit. It gains 6,100 feet from the trail head at Whitney Portal. She has a huge vertical rise, towering 10,778 feet above the town of Lone Pine. Elevation is noted at 14,494 feet.

One cool bit of information about this peak is that she lies only 76 miles from Badwater, the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level (SAY WHAT??!?!?!). Yup. True!

There is so much more info I could slap onto this blog but I think this sums all her bits up.

She is a beauty!

Fernando and Me – My Life in a Motorhome

Sitting on the shores of Lake Mead after a nice hike to the Hoover Dam and back, I figured it was a good time to reflect on how life in a motorhome has treated us. So far we’ve covered about 8000 miles, through 12 US states, and slept away from home for 60+ nights. Overall it’s been remarkably easy and hassle free. Sure, sharing a 10 foot by 28 foot box with me literally 24 hours a day, every day, has driven Krista a little crazy on occasions but we knew we’d have days where we wanted to kill each other so it’s been no real surprise. The fact that Krista bought me a pocket knife as a gift before we left goes to show she how much she trusts me.

Our motorhome has become somewhere between a trusted team member and a favourite pet. By the time we reached New Mexico he’d acquired a name, Fernando. Whenever the going gets tough on the highway he gets a little pat on the dashboard, and he gets his windshield cleaned every time we stop for gas, whether he needs it or not. I don’t consider myself to be overly sentimental, but I’m already worrying about how our relationship with Fernando will work once we return to civilization.On a practical level, living in an RV is really easy. All the appliances work brilliantly, so long as you accept their minor limitations. The ice box doesn’t make ice as quickly as at home. You only have enough hot water for a 10-15 minute shower. The heating is a little noisier, and the TV is only a 21″. All of which seems utterly unimportant when compared against the limitless flexibility that having a home on wheels gives you. We don’t even argue about whose turn it is to empty the “black” catch tank from the toilet, cos it really isn’t that big a deal.

Some things are actually easier in a motorhome. When you buy groceries you don’t have to take them from the shopping cart to the car, drive home, then unload again from the car into the house. You unload straight from the cart into the house. You also don’t have to worry about what your utility bills will be. You pay your $30 or so per night and that includes your rent, electricity, water, sewage and most of the time internet and cable TV too. I think my favourite thing is never going for a hike or to visit an attraction, driving halfway there and realizing you forgot your shoes/camera/lunch. Having everything you need around you is priceless.

What happens in Vegas…

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas right? … Not this time!

6 days in Vegas. Drinking, walking around, gambling and some time in Red Rock Canyon; it was pretty sweet.

An extra treat was that my bro dropped in for his bachelor party and I was fortunate enough to spend some time with him at the Venetian. We got to spend the night there. It was luscious. The bed was so luscious in fact that at 4am we had a knock on our door. In a sleep daze my bro got up from his bed to answer the door and we had the pleasure of a young asian woman running into the room and proceeding to climb under the sheets into the bed with Matt C and I. As Matt C clung to the bedsheets she then sat down on the bed and just stared at all of us. God knows what drink/drugs she was on. After us asking a number of times what room number she was in she blurted out some random number and stood up adjust her skirt which at the time looked like a belt and we walked her out of the room.

*Pause for a WTF moment*

After she was assisted out of the room the lovely girl proceeded to knock, kick and pound on other doors. It got quiet at one point, we expect that she probably passed out or something. The next day came and as we walked out of the room to get some lovely breakfast you could see scuff marks over several doors from her trying to kick her way in. Further info later in the day given to us was that this girl was actually taken out by wheelchair from TAO night club at the Venetian.

Tisk, tisk.. some people I guess have a hard time balancing the awesome factor that is Vegas.

Pics below are lunch at the Bellagio, Matt pulling Caesar’s finger at Caesar’s Palace, one of the lions at the MGM Grand, and a view of the Luxor whilst night-hiking in Red Rock Canyon.

Yosemite to Fresno, CA – Wear your kevlar vest, betches

Just a quickie here. We drove from Groveland today through clouds back into Yosemite Valley (yes.. we drove through clouds we were that high up), rain, snow and hail but saw some of the best secenery ever. We stopped at Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park and had to walk 2 miles uphill to get there as the roads were closed due to the water bed being so high. After a 2 mile hike through hail and mist we made it. After a walk through some HUGE trees we continued our travels through snow, sleet, etc..etc..

And we made it to Fresno. Just a stop-over as we are making our way to Vegas. The place we are staying tonight is called Blackstone North RV park (for anyone who wants to try out the local life). The locals suggested the World Buffet and Grill across the street along with a bar near it… The name of this amazing bar? “The Other Bar”. After peering through the window we ended up going to a liquor store to pick up some drinks and getting accosted to buy some watches. You know, real Gucci watches from some dude that was swimming in his jeans, had his ass hanging out and was sporting some wicked head phones. “No thanks” Matt says. I think Matt’s height scared the dude off as he quickly pedalled off on his BMX bike.

We have so far survived our night, after dodging 6 lanes of traffic and hearing some interesting “popping sounds” or “ra-ta-ta-ta” sounds. We enjoyed our evening locked up very tightly with some drinks in our fearless RV now named Fernando. If only Fernando was bullet proof.

Let’s hope I dont wake up tomorrow wearing a kitten air-brushed shirt, with wicked PJ bottoms and flip flops with frizzy hair. Fingers crossed.

Yosemite Photos

We took a whole load of pics in Yosemite National Park, and we only visited a small portion of the park really. Here are a couple of dozen of our favourite snaps. I’m really impressed with the shots that Krista took this last couple of days. For a relative newcomer to photography with a fairly basic camera, she’s showing some real imagination which, in a place as spectacular as Yosemite, makes for some great results.

Yosemite Valley – Vernal and Nevada Falls along the Mist Trail

So after our day of recon, we took a look at our lovely map and decided to hit up the infamous Mist Trail hike. This hike is apparently a strenuous one as you basically hike 2,000 feet vertical. Sounds like a piece of piss right? Emmm.. not entirely!

We hit the road and made our way into Yosemite National Park. We were slightly side-tracked when we spotted three bears in a meadow chilling out and eating. We pulled the RV over to take some pictures and got in deep trouble for it as a Park Ranger tried to tear a piece off of Matt and actually took his license away? He told us to park the RV in a safe place and he would meet us there. Well.. the Douche bag didn’t meet us at all. SO.. Matt had to reverse our 30 FOOT RV, who we now call Fernando, on a very narrow road to go back up and retrieve his license. I was ready to rip in to Park Ranger D.B (douche bag).

Park Ranger DB had calmed down by then and in some way or another apologised. Granted, he had his hands super full as it was slowly turning into chaos with people parking on the road, double parking in some areas to get a glimpse of the amazing, beautiful wild life.

We finally got into the valley and parked up. We figured we would take the shuttle (Yup, they have a hybrid shuttle service for the valley area) to our destination. After 30 minutes of stop and go we got to Happy Isles area and started up the Mist Trail.

Think about this for a second. The day before we hiked, the day before that we hiked up to a mountain, we ran the day before that.. So our legs have seen a bit of work. This hike just to the bridge point of Vernal Falls is steep. People are full of energy and kick the trail off almost running. I am smart (well most of the time) I start my pace and slowly go up. All the time I keep going and not stopping the beefcakes that were sprinting are found sitting on a rock catching their breath. I stay focused and quite smug and keep going. Once you get to the bridge you look up and think “ahh that will be easy” to get to the top. Let me tell you, it’s hard work. The stairs leading up have been carved right out of the cliffside. They are wet, steep and full of traffic. Some of this traffic is smart. Others are have been hit with a retard stick as they are getting drenched by the mist wearing flip flops or jeans. The best was seeing a woman in what I think were shorts, drinking a Redbull to replenish the water she sweated out and of course reapplying her lipstick. Too bad I left mine at home.

Thank god for rain gear as we TOTALLY needed it. The crowds didn’t help trying to get up to the top of the falls. If anything it created more potential for accidents to happen. I was out of breath at some parts. Once you get to the top it’s all sunshine, chilling out and tourists. LOTS of them. All sorts of them. We took our pictures, we took pictures for other people and in the midst of it Matt busted someones camera. ha.. emm… I shouldn’t laugh 🙂 It was another 1.3 miles (and about 900 feet vertical mind you) I believe to Nevada Falls. Up, wayyyyyy up from Vernal Falls. I was feeling worn out but after some thinking I thought to myself feck it. So we continued on. Probably one of the better ideas as the crowds significantly thinned out. The dumb traffic doesn’t go any further and the lipstick ladies stay behind. Nevada Falls is breathtaking, grand, majestic and a big hike up a crap load of switch backs. We were over 6,000 feet up and it was stunning. It took us an additional hour to get up there and worth all the sweat and leg work. We were high up. We both got some wobbly legs at some points. I tip toed around some parts. Just soo high up. We didn’t pack properly food wise today. Then again we really didn’t realize how high and steep we were hiking today. 30 minutes of chilling and taking in some serious awesome scenery we hit the trail to go back down. Lipstick lady must have sent up her daughter as we were heading down the trail when bouncy booby bikini girl in her bikini top and shorts showed up! I think I am out of the loop as to what is considered proper hiking gear? That or I am turning into a butch.

We literally cut the time in half getting down. My thighs were screaming at this point and my calves were telling me off but this hike was utterly satisfying and rewarding for both of us. Low on fuel (food) we decided to find a country diner to eat. And boy did we ever find the best place ever!

If any of you ever go to Yosemite and want a hearty, awesome, full on meal.. hit up Buck Meadows Lodge. BEST food, beer and dessert. After a massive meal and 3 glasses of wine I was loaded, smiley faced and happy with what we accomplished today. I hope my legs can function tomorrow.

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