Monday, November 7, 2011

Fixin' To Get Ready To Go

Mt Whitney Backpack Trip – Prep - 9/13/11

In Lone Pine we divided into two hotel rooms, Carolyn with me and Dolores with Jeff, and we hauled in our worldly belongings to prepare for our backpacking trip to Mt. Whitney.  (BTW, can you imagine how indescribably awesome it felt to wash off five days’ worth of sweat and salt?)  We made some progress on packing before taking a supper break, where we talked about equipment to share, backpack stoves, water filters, etc.  There was also the issue of carrying bear canisters for food storage, required in the backcountry.  A bear canister weighs three pounds and takes up a lot of space in a backpack.  Jeff offered to carry one the whole distance and Carolyn, Dolores and I planned to share the second canister, one day each.  Definitely discrimination on our part to have Jeff take responsibility for one on his own (being a big strong man and all…)

Back at the hotel, full panic set in as we weighed everything literally and figuratively.  When you’re carrying an item for three days, its importance changes.  I had my Lightheart tent, which weighs only 27 ounces and uses my hiking poles for setup.  BUT would I be able to stake it out at a rocky campsite?  Should I take my other (heavier but freestanding) tent?  I like to read a little bit before going to sleep, but my book weighed 6 ounces, and then I’d need my reading glasses. I decided to leave them behind.

We each planned to carry food for four days just in case we were delayed in summiting Mt. Whitney due to bad weather, altitude sickness, any unforeseen circumstances.  Food weighs a lot, people.  And the idea that your pack weighs less because you eat the food is false, because after the first night you are usually carrying a wet tent, etc.  Even after the food is gone, you still must carry whatever trash it generates.  My appetite is not great on a backpacking trip anyway, but it’s important to take in the calories for all that hard work.  I counted and recounted Clif bars, packets of trail mix, Nutri-Grain bars, peanut butter, M&M’s (note: Fritos are essential and delicious.)  I also was trying out two new dehydrated meals by Enertia Trail Foods (verdict:  thumbs up on the sun-dried tomato pesto and spinach ziti.) 

Mostly I was concerned about the cold.  I’d slept in shelters during high 30’s temperatures but we were looking at mid to high ‘20’s.  My tent would add a few degrees.  My sleeping bag is a Mountain Hardwear Phantom rated at 15 degrees and I had a silk liner to go with it.  I had enough clothing, but could I carry it all?  Only room for one fleece jacket, both are heavy, which is warmer?  Toe and hand warmers work well but weigh a lot.  I put them in my pack, took them out, several times.  How many pairs of socks?  What if they get wet?  No dry socks is a tragedy.  Three pairs of gloves, light ones, heavy wool ones and waterproof ones.  Cold is serious business. 

I called home and talked to Jim for a little bit about how nervous I was.  A positive attitude is essential for an adventure like this and I was having a lot of trouble working up to it.  A sleepless night lay ahead.  

(Mt. Whitney is the tall peak a third of the way in from the right side of the photo).

Anything I've ever done that ultimately was worthwhile... initially scared me to death.  ~Betty Bender

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