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Onion Valley to Whitney Portal (w/pics)
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Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Onion Valley to Whitney Portal (w/pics) on 07/17/2008 23:58:57 MDT Print View

I just returned this morning (4 am!!) from a super-fast trip from Onion Valley to the Whitney Portal.
I was on the trail on Tuesday morning at about 11:30am after dropping off my car at the portal and getting a ride to Onion Valley. I used the Mount Whitney Shuttle Service (760) 876-1915 and would reccommend it to others, Bob is a good guy and will go just about anywhere.
The hike up Kearsarge Pass was great but the clouds brewing above had me wondering what was in store...especially after hearing about all of the damage to Lone Pine in recent storms (apparently the hatchery was wiped out, many roads gone, etc...). A hiker leaving told me the storms were "horrific".
Yeah, me and my 8oz tarp against "horrific" storms. I'd be lying to say I wasn't a little worried.
Here's the view of Kearsarge Lakes from the pass- clouds brewing over the Kearsarge I love this place!

Another random photo from climbing Kearsarge...

Just as I got down to the lakes the clouds began to break open- steady rain of varying intensity for the next 5-6 hours. I hiked through it all, trying to make time and cover some ground- interestingly, all the folks with the giant packs and Everest-ready TNF storm gear seemed to disappear into tents at the first drop and hid for the rest of the day. The Sierras in the rain are beautiful!
I was wishing I had brought my umbrella though...I had my Dropstoppers, but was still soaked from sweat and leakage within an hour or two. Had I known how much rain I'd face, I would've also brought my Arc'teryx shell- the Dropstopper hood pretty much sucks for lack of a visor.
Here's a shot heading down into Vidette Meadow.

I put in about 17 miles on the first day out, stopping at the end of the treeline before Forester Pass. Thankfully, the rains died down long enough to set up camp, eat, relax, and turn in. EVERYTHING I wore was soaked, half of it probably from me. I tried my best to dry it but it was too cold. Here's camp that night:

Miserable night...The best spot I could find to avoid runoff had me amongst a bunch of roots. Better than getting soaked though- It started raining again sometime in the early morning...I was awakened by spray on my face at about 5am...I pulled the bivy hood on, scooted down (I'm a little tall for the Oware Cattarp 1.1) and slept for another hour.
I woke up to the thrilling prospect of having to climb Forester Pass in a storm and daydreamed some on death by lightning while climbing...It was steady, freezing rain all the way up, until the rain turned to snow and ice at about 12,000 feet- but thankfully no electricity. I was soaked again (and wearing damp cloths from the day before) within an hour. With windchill it had to be 25 degrees at the pass. Here's looking up at it, I believe the pass is the second saddle from the left in this shot.

My face and hands were completely frozen- I raced down the other side and got a break in the weather within a few hours. I also met many people who turned back due to the storm...pat myself on the back. I was planning on one more night before exiting but figured I'd pick up the pace and try to finish that day- my estimates put me at Trail Crest below Whitney by 7:00pm or so...enough to go for it if the weather held.
I blazed through Tyndall Creek, Wallace Creek, and Crabtree Meadow, getting to Guitar Lake at around 4:30. The ranger I ran into thought I was a bit nuts saying I wanted to climb the crest given I'd done Forester that morning and the amount of clouds brewing above Whitney- he made a note of my name. To his credit, I imagine I probably looked a bit out of it at this point.
I pushed on though (promising myself I'd turn back if there was lightning), got some rain, but all cleared by the time I reached Trail Crest. Here's looking down on Hitchcock Lakes (above Guitar Lake on the backside of Whitney).

Love the heights up there!!! I had the whole range to myself- everyone had long ago turned in.
The rest of the night consisted of getting down to the portal by headlamp, it was dark by the time I got off the switchbacks below Whitney. I skipped summiting (been there many times)...I was too spent and would've been up there in the dark and alone- still too many clouds lingering to want to do it.
Made it to my car at the portal by 11:30pm. My estimates put the day's mileage (according to the Tom Harrison map) at about 31.5 miles...It certainly shows on my feet! Got some pretty terrible blisters from non-stop wet feet , but no regrets...great two days!!

Sorry about the crappy formatting here, I'll try to fix it...first time posting pics here.

OK, figured out proper picture size...I'll do it next time.

Edited by xnomanx on 07/18/2008 07:12:23 MDT.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Onion Valley to Whitney Portal (w/pics) on 07/18/2008 06:19:25 MDT Print View

Awesome write up Craig, I really enjoyed your pix

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
"Onion Valley to Whitney Portal" on 07/18/2008 07:07:23 MDT Print View

Thanks for the trip report. Your trip pictures do not appear to show much smoke, I guess all the CA fires are up further north. Here in Southern Oregon we seem to be getting more then our share of smoke from the CA fires. Did you post a gear list for your trip?

Again thanks for sharing.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: "Onion Valley to Whitney Portal" on 07/18/2008 07:35:30 MDT Print View

Yeah, the fires are too far north to get smoke here right now.

Category Item Weight (oz)
C. CARRIED CLOTH Beanie, homemade, fleece 0.80
C. CARRIED CLOTH Dropstoppers Micropore rainsuit 11.90
C. CARRIED CLOTH Montbell Thermawrap jacket 10.50
C. CARRIED CLOTH Simblissity mosquito headnet 0.40
D. PACKING Bearvault BV 350 Bear Cannister 33.00
D. PACKING GoLite Jam2 25.00
D. PACKING OR stuffsack, large 0.60
D. PACKING Packliner, BPL 1.50
E. SHELTER Groundcloth, small polycro 1.50
E. SHELTER Oware CatTarp 1.1 (in sack w/guylines) 8.50
E. SHELTER Stakes, Easton 0.40
E. SHELTER Stakes, Vargo Ti 0.28
F. SLEEPING EMS Mountainlight 20F bag 32.00
F. SLEEPING Pillow, inflatable 1.30
F. SLEEPING Ridgerest 3/4 7.00
F. SLEEPING Titanium Goat Ptarmigan bivy 7.50
G. COOKING 8 oz. alcohol bottle, empty 0.50
G. COOKING Alcohol stove, homemade 0.40
G. COOKING Snowpeak 40 oz. Ti pot w/foil lid 4.60
G. COOKING Snowpeak Ti spork, shortened 0.50
G. COOKING Windscreen, homemade 0.40
G. COOKING Z potstand, homemade 0.70
H. HYDRATION AquaMira Clorine Dioxide 3.00
H. HYDRATION Platypus 1L bladder 1.60
H. HYDRATION Platypus water tank 2.80
I. LIGHTING Petzl Zipka + 2.50
J. TOILETRIES Alcohol hand gel 2.00
J. TOILETRIES Dr. Bronners in BPL dropper 1.00
J. TOILETRIES Poo Kit 0.90
J. TOILETRIES Sunscreen 1.00
J. TOILETRIES Toothbrush, cut 0.80
K. NAVIGATION Map pack, in ziplock 1.00
K. NAVIGATION Suunto A-10 Compass 1.00
L. FIRST AID Athletic Tape 1.00
L. FIRST AID Bandages 0.80
L. FIRST AID Pills (ibuprofein, acetaminphin) 1.00
L. FIRST AID Razor Blade 0.09
L. FIRST AID Safety Pin 0.09
L. FIRST AID Tincture of Bezoin (in BPL dropper) 0.80
L. FIRST AID Zinc Oxide 2.00
M. RECORDING Joby Gorillapod 1.50
M. RECORDING Journal 1.00
M. RECORDING Nikon S-500 digital camera w/ spare bat. 5.00

Total Weight of Selected Items 180.66 = 11.2 pounds

This is without consumables- of which I had too many given I originally thought I might stay out for three nights. My total pack weight hitting the trail, including food, two liters of water, fuel, and an item or two not listed (some polypro leggings, an extra pair of socks...)was just over 20 pounds. Worn items (not listed above) were a Victorinox classic, photon light, firesteel, and whistle (all on lanyard), Leki Makalu Ultralight poles, OR hat, bandana, Dirty Girl gaiters, running shorts, etc....
All weights are good enough for me so far (I'm still evolving)- given that four years ago I did the same trip with around 45 pounds!! see the light!

Edited by xnomanx on 07/18/2008 07:47:04 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
2 thumbs.. on 07/19/2008 10:51:49 MDT Print View

Sounds like an excellent trip. Very interesting to see how much snow has melted in the last month. Any snow on the north side of Forester? Also interesting to see the fog in the trees going down to Vidette.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Onion Valley to Whitney Portal (w/pics) on 07/19/2008 17:21:04 MDT Print View



Telford Work

Locale: Santa Barbara
question about your Oware 1.1 tarp on 08/03/2008 12:58:04 MDT Print View

Craig, I have a question if you don't mind.

I was in some similar weather just a few days earlier, in Evolution Valley to your north, with an Oware 1.1 CatTarp just like yours. I stayed dry the whole time, but the tarp felt way too narrow for me. I pitched it within an inch of the ground at the middle and back, climbing to around 3 inches at the front. I felt like I was 'flying coach' all night, able to get in and out only with a struggle, and unable to sit up. (I'm 6'2" and 180 lbs.) I'm thinking of switching to a 1.5, or even to a tent, and selling my 1.1. Am I pitching it too low out of fear of rain with wind? Or is this just what a tarp this size entails?

Thanks. Telford

Shawn Taylor
(staylor310) - F

Locale: Sierra
Re: Re: "Onion Valley to Whitney Portal" on 08/04/2008 11:30:31 MDT Print View

Great Trip!

Can you give me any feed back on the temps and the insulation/sleeping gear you packed? I'm taking a trip in the same area, but I plan to use a lighter quilt and insulating jacket. Do you feel like your 20' bag was too much?