Have you ever seen 'Murica from the top? I recently did, and it was AWESOME! Along with the help of two adventurous companions, I found myself on the top of Mt. Whitney. At 14,497 ft, it's the highest point in the contiguous United States (Sorry Alaska, you can't sit with us).
This was my second attempt. During our first attempt in early April, we decided to turn around at about 13,000 ft due to a few backcountry avalanches, which was a sight in itself. We came back with a vengence and our packs were stocked: ice axes, microspikes, helmets, and enough chocolate covered espresso beans to fuel a large college campus.
We took the Mountaineer's Route, which includes a bit more route finding and some class 3 scrambling than the more commonly used trail. The recent snowfall meant that we got to be a little creative with our route, especially up the last (3 hour) chute. We hit the summit before noon and lunched on top of the world. Since Mt. Muir is only a hop, skip, and a jump away, we bagged that one too. Note: hops, skips, and jumps are actually not that easy above 14,000.
Best part: Glissading down the snowy chute in under 30 minutes, which about 2.5 to climb up.
All photo cred goes to Nathan- enjoy the views!
On our third day out, we took a crack at Mt. Russell, another 14ner. So Mt Russell is a quad burner straight up a steep mountainous face, and then a boulder scramble with a 1000 ft+ sheer drop off on either side. Oh yeah, did I mention I'm seriously afraid of heights? I hit my limit, and then a ways past my limit, and then I threw in the towel. That was as far as I was going. So, I stopped and looked at the multiple drop-offs around me. This is when you just have to sit, snack on chocolate covered espresso beans, and take in the view. Oh yeah, I was up there yesterday.
There is something oddly comforting about reaching your limit, appreciating how far you made it, and not regretting your decision to stop. The boys pushed on a bit further. Eventually, they both decided to head back as the route was too snowy to continue without more gear. Russell defeated us this time, but that just gives us a reason to go back.
Lastly, a mountain trip wouldn't be complete without grubbing it up at the local diner in Lone Pine. Then, back to the coast... Did I mention how much I love sea level and the abundance of oxygen!