Feckin' Trekkin'

Matt and Krista's Awesome Travel Blog

Category: RV Tour of North America (page 1 of 5)

What I Learnt On Mt Whitney

Our trip up Mt Whitney didn’t end with the glorious summit that we hoped for, but I did learn a lot from it. Probably more than I would have learnt if everything had gone smoothly. I wrote this up pretty-much straight after the climb, but only just got round to posting it.

Here are the main lessons…

  1. Although I may not notice it so much, I lose even more fluids at high elevations than I do at sea level. In the mountains the air is drier, and I’ll be breathing much harder for many more hours than if I’m, say, running or cycling at home. If I don’t drink at least a pint an hour, I will crash. I can’t rely on my thirst reflex to tell me how much to drink because it just doesn’t work. As an example of just how much fluid you lose, I was wandering around at 12,000 feet wondering why I was feeling so rough, and I realized I could see the vapour in my own breath. That’s fairly normal on a crisp winter morning, but this is in May and it’s 28 degrees.
  2. My habit of pushing myself harder and harder until I run out of steam and then recovering later doesn’t work in the mountains. If I’m going to climb big mountains on routes that take multiple days, I’ve got to learn to maintain my energy levels, stay hydrated, keep focused, and work at a constant “all day pace” for 12+ hours, and then be able to do it again the next day. Trying to get ‘er done as quickly as possible simply doesn’t work at my level of ability.
  3. Following a good acclimatization plan doesn’t guarantee you won’t get AMS. I was really strict, almost to the point of obsessiveness, about making sure we spent enough time at sufficient altitude before the big climb and yet altitude still played a major part in why we didn’t get beyond Trail Camp. 
  4. Wear sunscreen. Baz Luhrmann knows best. 
  5. The strategy when attempting a longish route should be to get high enough on the mountain that you can safely get to the summit and back in one day. Hauling masses of kit up the mountain so you can make a quick half-day dash to the summit and back is a lot more strenuous than camping a little lower and having a long steady summit day. 
  6. Carrying all 40+ pounds of shared kit 4000 feet up a mountain to give your climbing partner a break is a lovely gesture but she won’t thank you for it when she’s feeling great but has to turn you around 2,500 feet below the summit because you’re dead on your feet and seeing stars.
  7. We can climb a mountain like Mt Whitney, but it’s going to take some more work and some more patience. We’ve got the raw ingredients; the right skills, enough physical fitness, the proper equipment and the raw willpower. But we need some more experience in order to bake those ingredients into an award- winning Summit-Pie.
  8. Beer never tastes better than when you get down after a few days on a mountain. 

Mount Shasta

Lake Tahoe

We made a little side trip to Lake Tahoe today. We weren’t up for too much activity but still spent a nice few hours bumming around and wandering along the shore of the lake. Very pretty. I can see why Bay area folks are so keen to get up here for a bit of winter entertainment.

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.

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