Sunday, October 16, 2011

More High Sierra Action!

I invited Bram and his boys out to do Mt. Langley with us in September but he couldn't make it. So we picked a different weekend and tried to find a different 14er to do. If you are only going to do one California 14er you might as well make it Whitney, but we didn't have permits. So I dug through websites and guidebooks until I finally found a route that was 34 miles and would give us a chance to bag 3 14ers; Whitney, Muir and Langley and most importantly didn't require a permit. Two thirds of the milage would be back country (no trail) and there would be some class 3+ scrambling, not to mention a lot of route finding. It seemed like a lot to bite off with the group we had, which included an 8 year old, two 10 year olds, and a 71 year old (Bram's Dad Ernie). However Bram and I are adventurers and so getting in over our head is part of the fun.
Same trailhead we had been at just a month ago but a totally new adventure.

Bram and I have a lot of things in common including good looking offspring.

The boys were stoked for any wild life.

The first day we carried our packs right past Langley and down the back side. It was a brutal day up over 12,000 feet and back down.

Rig posed with Upper Soldier Lake where we descended to spend the first night.

The meadow by the lake we camped at was beautiful.

The next morning we set out early in hopes of making it to Whitney and back.

After only hiking with us a short ways Ernie showed his 71 years of wisdom and decided to let us fools adventure out on our own.

I think we were all enjoying the freedom of not having a trail in the beginning.

The boys seemed to have plenty of energy especially since dropping their packs. Here they are stopped to throw rocks at a marmot.

The first part of the route finding had proved easy and we made the first 4 miles relatively fast.

Eventually the terrain got less friendly and the route finding less obvious.

Bram and the rest of the group trusted me to lead us as I was carrying the guide book. That was a mistake.

I made a horrendous orienteering error that led to me not being able to figure out why these lakes were not on the map. According to my poor route finding skills we needed to climb up what looked like an impossibly steep ridge. Forget me reevaluating our course and trying to determine if we were really where I thought we were. Instead I looked the direction I believed we needed to go and told the boys it was time to man up. I needed Bram to slap me upside the head and say "Are you retarded?" but that is not Bram's style. If Bram is faced with a challenge, he always accepts no matter how heinous it appears. People like that are not easy to find. Trust me I am always looking for them. This is one of the many reasons I am lucky to have a friend like Bram.

With no one to put me in check the group started up the ridge. It was soon steeper than class 3 which wasn't that bad until the rock got very loose. Then we all got pretty scared. Soon we were in over our heads. There were some tears that followed and those of us who weren't crying wanted to be. Despite our dyer situation it still didn't dawn on me that I had made a mistake reading the map.

We finally made it to the top of the ridge that was just over 13000 feet. We got our first view of Mount Whitney.

It was here that I broke it to the team that we were not going to make it to Whitney that day. For the record I still didn't realize I was lost. I just thought we didn't have enough time with the terrain that was still ahead of us. This was Rig's first time failing on a summit attempt and he did not take it well, there were more tears.

It was too steep and loose to descend the way we came up. We had to scout around on top of the ridge to find a portion that was a little less steep.

Everyone was pretty disappointed as we descended back to camp.

But we crossed this snowfield and the boys had a snow ball fight and that cheered things up.

Somewhere in our hike back my horrendous orienteering error became clear in my head. I stopped the group got out the map and came clean with them. This was again a time when I would have expected a normal person to slap me upside the head and say "Are you retarded?" but Bram didn't. Another reason he is a keeper.

Harry is a little daredevil. He is always finding something to challenge the older boys to.

Bram felt bad that Rig and I had been up in that same area just a month earlier but I could go there every weekend.

By the time we made it back to our camp that night, it was so dark that we hiked right by our tents and couldn't see them.

The next morning we broke camp and carried our packs to 12,000ft. We dropped them and headed up Langley.

Rig can be trudging along, barely keeping up with the group and then when he senses the summit is close, he is like a shark that smells blood and all the sudden he just wants to get to the peak.
First one to the top again.

Back again exactly 4 weeks after our last trip up.

The whole group made it including 71 year old Ernie, who actually did it twice. Once with us and once while we were all lost on a cliffside.

I am convinced there is not a more fun mountain to descend than Langley.
Rig getting ready for the base jumping merit badge.

Stockton going huge.

Harry with some Kung Fu flavor.

Rig with the method.

For the record Bram wanted to get a picture of me jumping off the rocks and after two mistimed attempts I finally said,
"Dude I am 36. I don't need a picture of me jumping off a rock!"

We finished our 3rd day by hiking all the way out. It was our biggest day and it really tested the boys. I was impressed with all three of them and with Ernie.

It was a treat to have Bram and the boys adventuring with us. I am sure we have many more adventures to look forward to.