by Kate "Drop-N-Roll" HochAs our President, Whitney "Allgood" LaRuffa, would say, I'm currently a "working stiff", and thus have limited vacation time. Thankfully, there are some little thru-hikes that can scratch the itch and still fit into a weeklong vacation. Immediately following this year's Gathering in Nevada City, CA, fellow ALDHA-West board members Snorkel and Naomi and I drove down to Lone Pine, CA to hike the Lowest to Highest route (L2H).
The L2H route, developed by Brett Tucker, is a backcountry analog of the infamous Badwater ultramarathon race, starting at Badwater, the lowest point in North America at 282 below sea level and ending ~130 miles later at 14,505' atop Mt Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48.
Though relatively short, the route requires a high level of physical fitness and ability to navigate off trail. After crossing the Badwater playa, we immediately gained over 10,000’ in just 13 miles to reach Telescope ridge. Weighed down with 5-6L of water each, that monster climb took us nearly all day. Overall, we lucked out with fairly mild weather, which, combined with finding some seasonal water and our supplemental caches, kept our water hauling to a minimum.
The delights of this short trip through the desert were many: some of the darkest skies I’ve ever seen, bristlecone pines, a hidden 50ft waterfall, wild burros, Joshua Tree forests, incredible sunsets, and an extensive craft beer selection at Panamint Springs Resort. We also saw plenty of evidence of Death Valley’s mining history. Following a slight detour route, we visited the ghost town of Cerro Gordo, high in the Inyos. The mining town was once home to 2000 people. Though on private property, we were able to get permission from the caretaker to visit, and he gave us a little tour of the old hotel. We also passed the Swansea salt tram, which transported salt from the Saline Valley up and over the Inyo mountains and down the other side into the Owens Valley. Crazy!
After chores and resupplying in the town of Lone Pine, we headed up the Whitney Portal road for the final leg of our hike: climbing Mt Whitney! Naomi opted for the classic Mt Whitney Trail while Snorkel and I took the Mountaineers route. I love a good scramble, and this certainly was one! Unfortunately, we didn’t have quite the summit celebration we’d hoped for. Naomi was struck with altitude sickness and had to turn back at ~14,000’. She was so close! We reunited just before reaching the Whitney Portal parking lot, feeling exhausted, but immensely satisfied. Back to work I go.
For more route info: www.lowesttohighest.com