[pct-l] Mt. Whitney After Action Report

Hiker97 at aol.com Hiker97 at aol.com
Sun Sep 10 16:25:53 CDT 2006

I  apologize for the length of this post, but I did clear it with the List  
administrator.  It is certainly not  the post I had originally planned to 
write.  I strongly suggest you skip this post  since it is only in PCT country and 
not specific to the PCT.  Thank  you…………. 
Yes,  your intrepid hero and correspondent, Switchback, has cheated death 
once  again.  This time it is on 14,497  foot Mt.  Whitney. 
I  start early Wednesday morning from Las  Vegas and drive 115 miles north to 
Beatty, NV.  It advertises itself as the "Eastern  Gateway to Death Valley 
NP" and prostitution is legal.  No, I did not stop for a last fling  before 
heading west into the unknown.  Anyway, I do not know how to fling anymore.  I did 
not need to start this expedition  out with an embarrassment. 
The  long road west toward Death Valley reminds you  that you are heading 
into Mother Nature at the height of her powers.  Mistakes and poor planning will 
not be  forgiven.  Crying or collapsing on  the trail will not help.  I have  
tried that. 
After Death Valley I climb westward out of  Panamint Valley toward the Owens 
Valley  and Mt.  Whitney.  This is always emotional for me.  My first glimmer 
of the High Sierras is  confusing on this route.  The high  mountains blend 
into the sky and it is hard to tell one from another.  Dramatically, the eastern 
escarpment  opens up to me.  It is the world of  John Muir, Will Colby, 
Norman Clyde, Galen Clark, Snowshoe Thompson, and many  other greats. 
And  now the upstart, Switchback the Trail Pirate, approaches the domain of  
mountainmen giants.  I start  shrinking in size as I get closer but the range 
steadily grows in stature and  power.  I have not been feeling as  well as I 
should lately, but I am game for this adventure. 
As  I come to Hwy. 395, I turn into the Interagency Center to get my permit 
for the 11 mile  hike to the top.  The Lone Pine  Ranger office is located 
there now in the new facility.  I cannot get a overnight permit for  hiking today, 
but for tomorrow.  This puts me behind for my scheduled camp spots.  I check 
in at the Dow Villas Motel.  I go to the Merry-Go-Round for their  Continental 
Pasta dinner. 
I  notice the Whitney Portal road snaking its way up to the Mt. Whitney 
massif.  It strikes me that it seems like a one  way road.  You can go in, but you  
are not coming out.  I know this is  ridiculous, but I cannot shake the 
thought.  I am like Humphrey Bogart in the movie  High Sierra to be carried out 
feet first after a gun battle with a beautiful Ida  Lupino grieving for me.  But 
this  time Mt.  Whitney has all the bullets  and no beautiful women at the 
Portal will be grieving at my  demise. 
Early  Thursday morning before sunrise I am on the trail at 8,300 feet.  I 
walk through the wooden trail arches  at the parking lot and head up.  The  
first part of the morning hike is fine, but as I get to 9,500 feet, I am  starting 
to struggle.  My diabetic  legs are failing me.  I stop to go  on 02 from my 
bottle.  Then I decide  to stop at Lone  Pine Lake to rest.  I immediately go 
to sleep for  2-hours.  This is a great camp  spot. 
I walk  slowly out to the main trail again.  I think it would be wise to turn 
right and head back down.  I turn left and head up the trail.  I eventually 
get to Outpost Camp at  10,400 feet.  It is a struggle and I  suffer.  I lay 
down and camp and  rest for an hour.  There are lots of  people on the trail, 
mostly day hikers trying for the top.  I see a group of older ladies with a  
young man as guide take a break and then head up smoothly.  The women have on 
long skirts like you  see in the 1900’s-1930’s pictures of Sierra Club outings.  
I get up and decide to go down, but I  turn left and head up. 
I  train about 5 times a week back home with a backpack by walking or on a  
treadmill or elliptical machine.  But I train with a weighted Breeze type pack. 
 I am now using my LuxuryLite external  frame pack.  It is so good at  
transferring pack weight to my hips that my lower back hurts.  Lesson learned: train 
with the pack you  are going to take on your hike.  I  guess losing 50 pounds 
wouldn't hurt either. 
There are no prayer flags or prayer wheels to spin for  good luck like on the 
way to Mt. Everest.  Then I think maybe if I say, "Jack  Daniel's" three 
times while I kowtow to the mountain, I might have good  luck.  The mountain gods 
will be  appeased.  I try it.  Nothing changes.  Stupid gods. 
I get  to about 11,000 feet and can go no further.  My legs are gone.  I 
slowly turn around.  I think may be if I camp overnight at  Outpost Camp, I can go 
up the next day.  But I would only make it up to 12,000 foot Trail Camp a few 
miles up the  trail.  This is ridiculous.  I am only on a Class One accent, 
but I  have a Class Zero body. 
As I  slowly head down it starts to rain and hail.  I fall down on the wet 
trail and cut my  leg.  It starts to bleed  slowly.  I am safe under my busted  
umbrella, which is kind of neat.  Lots of hikers pass me going down as it is 
getting later in the  day. 
I  decide to give up backpacking.  My  old hiking buddy, Rattlesnake, is 
right.  It is time to hang up the hiking boots.  No more Switchback the Trail 
Pirate, no  more SuperSecrets of Backpacking, no more harassment posts, no more 
hiking  buddies, no more hiker jokes, and no more ambush threats of Yo-Yo 
hikers.  I will degenerate into the world of bus  tours, cruises, RVs, and tourist 
adventures.  I will be a proper senior.  I can't wait.  Oh, goodie.  I think 
about the victory phone calls I  was going to make from the summit.  My 
depression and mood deepens. 
At  least I will not have to hear hikers going up and down a trail saying to 
me,  "Excuse us decrepit old person, may we get by?"  I am tired of playing 
Texas Hold'em with  Mother Nature and always losing on the flop, turn or river.  
The bet is always my well  being. 
If they  would just build the road up to Outpost Camp, I might be able to 
make it to the  top.  It would be about the same  height as the Cottonwood 
Pass/Lakes campground parking lot just south of  here.  May be I should suggest that 
 when I get down.  Or they could make  the trail wheelchair accessible for 
I think  about my future and I decide to become an Outlaw Biker, instead of 
an Outlaw  Hiker.  Like the rebellious super  computer, Vicki, in the movie 
''I, Robot'' said, "My  logic cannot be denied.''  I rode  Harley’s earlier in my 
life.  I will  grow a beard and long hair.  I will  get my dad’s WWII German 
army helmet chromed for riding.  I can get some Terminator dark  sunglasses 
too.  I will have tattoos  that say, "No Blood, No Foul" and "Pain is Only 
Weakness Leaving the Body".  This is too  cool. 
I can't  wait to get back to Las  Vegas and buy a 2007 Harley FX Night Rider 
motorcycle and  customize it.  I will have high  buckhorn handle bars and 
baloney cut exhaust pipes.  I will detune the pipes to make the most  noise to 
harass other motorist.  I  will have "Switchback the Pirate" painted on both 
sides of my gas tank along  with skulls and cross bones. 
In  hiking the backpacker babes always avoided me.  As an Outlaw Biker I will 
have a  tattooed hard belly biker chick packing behind me everywhere I go.  I 
am feeling better.  Then I have another great idea.  I will form a biker gang 
called not the  Hell's Angels, but the Trail Angels.  We will promote 
ourselves as PCT helpers, but really will sack and  pillage trailtowns when least 
expected.  Something like the Trojan Horse scam.  We will still use the Trail 
Pirate motto  of "Goof Off R Us".  Cool. 
TRAIL  MAGIC: I finally get to the Portal parking lot and quickly put things 
away to  get down to Lone Pine to rest and recover.  As I momentarily stop 
before pulling out of the parking lot on to the  road a female hiker is walking 
toward my car.  She had passed me earlier on the  trail.  At the same time we 
say,  "Need a ride?" and "Are you going down to Lone  Pine?". 
She  gets in and I ask her trailname.  She says she is Mountain Sweep and 
just came in from Walker Pass.  She knocked off Mt. Whitney as a side order and 
came down  today.  I look at her and say I am  Switchback.  We had coordinated 
our  original schedules through the PCT-L to meet this Saturday at the Portal 
parking  lot.  It is Thursday.  We just sit in silence for a few  moments.  We 
have a nice  conversation on the way down to Lone Pine, but it is hard for me 
to talk.  I am too exhausted.  I notice how I have to breathe first  before 
forming words.  I try to  smile and act nice, but that is hard for me even when 
I am rested.  I do not have the heart to tell her I am  no longer into 
hiking.  Anyway, I am embarrassed, since I can tell she is a  professional solo 
female hiker.  If I hang around her too long, she will  pick up that I am a 
I  arrive in my room and lay down on the bed.  I cannot get up to shower, to 
eat, brush my teeth – they hurt too, but I  can use the TV remote once or 
twice before drifting off to sleep.  Next morning at 9 AM I finally feel fine  and 
get up.  Later, I see Mountain  Sweep in the lobby and this time I have a 
genuine smile and greeting.  But  I am still afraid of her, since she is a pro 
and somewhere near my  age. 
It is  Friday and I drive 55 miles up to Bishop, CA to the Schat’s Bakery.  
My wife likes the rolls and cookies from  there, so it is time for bakery run.  
Unfortunately, I cannot eat hardly anything from there, but I really like  
the place.  I have to get some  hummingbird items for her too as I do on all my 
expeditions.  Eventually, I will find a hummingbird  decorated cutting board 
and T-shirt. 
As I  drive up the road to Bishop, I take special note of the motorcycles.  I 
imagine my new life style  ---Switchback the Biker Pirate, scourge of the 
western byways.  I arrive in Bishop and first head to  Jack's Restaurant for 
breakfast.  The home of the biggest drink straws I have ever seen in a sit down  
restaurant.  This is a local and  fisherman's hangout.  There is a  T-shirt for 
sale on the wall facing me that says, "It is not how deep the water  is, but 
how you wiggle your worm."  I start to get up and leave in protest, but see my 
breakfast coming.  I decide not to make a scene.  I also see a sign 
advertising Dr.  BombButts saddle sore salve.  I  think that I might ask the server 
about where I can go to get some of the  salve.  It might good like Bag Balm  is 
for the feet.  Then I think may  be she will just tell me where to go and drop 
the  idea. 
I  arrive at the bakery and buy a load of goodies and then sit down at a 
table in  the busy bakery to relax.  As I am  sitting there, I decide I have must 
have a defective gene and need professional  help, because I think about my 
previous Mt. Whitney expedition.  I only made it to the parking lot.  This time 
I made it to 11,000 feet on  the actual trail.  If I extrapolate  that 
improvement, then soon I should be able to climb 20,320 foot Mt. McKinley  and 29,035 
foot Mt. Everest with no problems.  Also, I have the historic 1.8 mile  PCT 
Warner Springs loop expedition hike planned.  I think about my meticulous 
planning for  this excursion in early November. 
This  part of the PCT trail is probably the least used and known.  I was 
going to convince my leadership  type wife to break trail for me without her 
knowing it.  I will tell her that she can get better  bird photographs if she is 
quietly out front.  I will be about 50 yards behind to make  my escape if any 
mountain lions, rattlesnakes, red ants, or missing link  predators show up.  At 
the end of  the hike I will be interviewed about this historic trek and take 
credit for the  adventure.  I will be mentioned in  all future PCT literature 
for this first.  No one will be the wiser to what really  happened. 
Suddenly, I have the impulse to get up from the bakery  shop table and go 
down the street to Wilsons Sports to see if there is anything that  will lighten 
my pack.  While I am  there I buy a T-shirt that says, "Life is Simple--- Eat. 
Sleep. Hike."  Then I go to the Inyo Register office to  renew my yearly 
subscription, so I can keep up on eastern Sierra outdoor  happenings.  I walk into 
the  newspaper atmosphere office and sit in front of a desk marked  
"Subscriptions".  A very proper  older lady asks for my name.  I say,  "Switchback".  
She says no that she  needs my full name.  I say,  "Switchback the Trail 
Pirate".  She  stares at me and eventually says, "We'll just use Switchback".  I 
say, "Cool". 
Early  on Saturday morning I drive back home from the Dow Villas Motel in 
Lone  Pine.  Once again I pass through the  temptations of Beatty.  I think  
fondly of what could have been on Mt. Whitney.  I could have stopped at the 
Exchange  Club or the Burrito Inn here.  Better yet would have been the Sourdough 
Saloon across the street.  I imagine I am buying drinks near a  barroom spittoon 
and loudly recalling my exploits on Mt. Whitney.  Colorful women are all 
around me  fascinated by my every word.  I  fantasize about a beautiful woman 
furiously pounding on my hotel room door in  the middle of the night.  Eventually, 
I have to get up and let her  out. 
My  arrival home is exciting with my Jack Russell, Max --- the worlds most 
spoiled  terrier.  He now has another victim  to take advantage of.  My wife is  
glad to see her Infiniti and me back in good shape.  All in all, I had a 
great time.  I usually make the best of things.  You have to if you are a hard 
core  backpacker like me.  :-) 
I immediately  start planning my new lighter pack system and thinking about a 
return engagement  at Mt. Whitney. 
Thank  you for your attention and patience. 
Switchback the Trail Pirate  

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