|Backpack||28.19 Miles||2 Days |
|5,992 ft AEG|
|The plan was to hike the Lowest to Highest route. It's about 130 miles from Badwater Basin, Death Valley to the Mount Whitney summit. Lowest to Highest, or L2H, is a route put together by @blisterfree. More information here. I've been interested in doing this for a few years, and when I noticed Spiced Rum was attempting it, I asked to tag along.|
Sunday, October 13
We met at the Pannamint Springs Campground, then drove to Stove Pipe where we had dinner with a gal that works there and has hiked L2H a few times. After that, it was back to Pannamint Springs CG.
Monday, October 14
Got up early and drove to Badwater Basin. It's about a one and a half hour drive. We started the walk across the playa about 7:45 am. In the morning shadow, it looked like we were walking on a frozen lake, just not as cold. As we got farther away from the start, the surface formed the classic salt crystal pattern. Eventually, we emerged from the mountain shadow and were in the sun. Across the playa, the surface texture is constantly changing from salt crystals, to pinnacles, to mud and so on. I pointed myself towards the top of the alluvial fan originating out of Hanaupah Canyon. Eventually we reached the end of the playa and started working our way up towards the canyon.
When we reached the West Side road, near Shorty's Well, we met two hikers, Buck 30, and Steady, heading down the road on some Canada to Mexico desert route. Buck 30 hiked the L2H a few years before and the two also hiked the Mogollon Rim Trail this past spring. What serendipity!
Shortly after we started up towards Hanaupah Canyon, we merged onto the road from Shorty's Well. Here the ascent is steady but continuous. It was getting hot, so I took my hat off and opened my umbrella. On the ascent, I was outdistancing the other two so once I entered the canyon, I stopped and waited for them in a rare shady area. Eventually, they caught up and rested with me for a bit. It was almost chilly in the shade.
From there, we continued following the road into the south fork of Hanaupah Canyon. Finally, the sun was blocked from the canyon walls and it was comfortable walking. At this point the "road" was basically heading south or southwest up the canyon, but when the canyon turned west, the road mostly ended and it was the standard wash walking routine from there.
The creek was flowing a bit below Hanaupah spring which was nice. I gathered water and found a place for us to camp near where we would leave the canyon in the morning. It was after dark when the other two arrived.
Tuesday, October 15
I wasn't in a hurry to get going this morning. The day started with a steep 1600' climb up onto a ridge and I didn't want to start before it was light. Also, I knew I was the faster hiker uphill so wasn't worried about starting after the other two. They got going and I was maybe 10 minutes behind them. They went to the right of a bump and I went to the left, and when I came around it, I was pretty much even with them. I continued up and onto the ridge. It was steep and difficult working my way up the scree. I had to take several short breaks along the way. I was happy to finally get on the ridge. From there, there was still a good 4800' of climbing to go to reach the Telescope Peak trail.
I was waiting for them to reach me. I kept looking down the ridge I came up but never saw them. I waited for a half an hour and still hadn't seen them. I was getting worried since it seemed they should at least be in view by then. I wasn't prepared to go forward, because I didn't know where they had cached water earlier and didn't have enough to continue without it. I was wondering if, for some reason, they had turned back, so I decided to start back down the ridge. I figured that if they were coming up, I'd see them.
Well, they continued up and I didn't see them. I have no idea how we could have missed each other, it baffles me. When I got back to the canyon floor I got enough water to camp another night. At this point, I thought they had turned back and would camp somewhere on the way to Badwater and I hoped to catch up to them.
From this point, I was moving strong and steady out of the canyon but as I continued without seeing any trace of them, I was sure they were still going up. Shortly after I was descending the alluvial fan, I got service and called my wife, where she was able to verify they were still going up through their InReach tracker. At this point, the hike was a bust for me, I didn't have enough food to head back up, so I decided to camp down near Shorty's Well, then hike across the playa in the morning.
As I neared Shorty's Well, I noticed a truck at the road. It turns out a gal, Red Feather, was caching some water for her L2H attempt that she was going to start that evening. A friend of hers, Jeff, was shuttling her and heading to Lone Pine after dropping her off at Badwater Basin. Perfect timing, as Jeff gave me a ride back to Pannamint Springs CG.
The next day, I was able to get in touch with Spiced Rum and his wife. She was getting nausea all day Tuesday and Wednesday and wasn't able to eat. They didn't make it up to the Telescope Peak trail until late Wednesday afternoon. I met them at the Mohogany Flats CG (Telescope Peak Trailhead) Wednesday evening. She recovered and I dropped them back off at the trailhead Thursday afternoon.
I debated continuing the hike from Pannamint Springs to Whitney with them, starting Friday morning, but at that point I really was ready to head home.