Ellen and Terri go see the Mountaineer's Route

This was not intended as a major trip.  Just go up to some place nice (in this case Lower Boy Scout Lake) and camp and then do day trips from there. The challenge was that Ellen wanted to show Terri the lower part of the Mountaineer's Route that leads up to Whitney (and other places).  For the most part, it was a steep, but doable climb, though there was a difficult part called the Ebersbacher Ledges which involved negotiating some cliff-like obstacles with narrow paths.  Now for the record, Ellen had checked out this portion before and knew that Terri would be more than capable of doing it, but might not want to.  Then we went on a different cross country trip through the Mitre Basin where Terri showed what a pro she really was at cross country travel, and then she said that she was interested in checking the Mountaineer's Route out.

The rest as they say is history and she's still speaking to me.  Not only that, but we had a marvelous time and saw some country that most Whitney hikers never see.

Click on a photo to see a larger version.

The Intrepid Climber

Sign questioning sanity

The Mountaineer's Route follows a climber's trail along the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek.  A Climber's or "Use" trail is a trail that is not officially maintained by anyone.  The quality of such trails varies a lot and at best are to be considered opinions rather than actual fact as there can be multiple trails and dead ends are common.

The creek flows from the lower left of the photo to the notch that's sort of in the middle of the first photo.

Then as you ascend, the canyon narrows and closes in (photo).


There's nothing left but to climb up onto the cliffs themselves (called the Ebersbacher Ledges).

Then the fun begins.  The route we took is drawn in here.  Not wanting any distractions, I didn't take any photos of us on the ledges, so instead heres a photo of another party on them (look in the circle.)  One section shows two routes.  The dashed line is the way that we took.  The solid line is the way that we handed down backpacks when we were descending later.  You will likely have to enlarge this photo a few times to see anything.

Bob Rockwell was nice enough to let me use one of his photos here. (That's his son pictured).  I've drawn in the way that Terri and I went.  When we were going up we used the blue path.  Coming down we handed the packs down via the pink path and took the blue path sans packs.  Felt much safer that way.

And finally...
We made it to Lower Boy Scout Lake, which is likely a misnomer given the non-beginnerness of this route.  Unless someone told some half truths to the parents to get them to sign the permission slip.

Here is a photo of it looking down at it (and our campsite.)

And of course the best part.  The view out the tent "window."  That's Whitney and the "Needles."   What's special about this is that you cannot get this view from the main Mt. Whitney trail (except at the very, very beginning.).  In fact, those climbing the main trail don't see Whitney till near the end of their hike.

We spent the next two days doing day hikes, one which included hoofing it up to Upper Boy Scout Lake and watching the real mountaineers start their ascents.  All in all, it was a wonderful trip and we survived.

If you'd like to read about how dis-similar various views of a mountain can look have a peek at my day trip adventure: How to Climb the Wrong Ridge.

For those of you who were aware of Ellen's continuing struggle with Altitude Sickness.  I tried Diamox this time and it worked wonderfully.  Food tastes a bit flat the first few hours and I was slightly dizzy initially (so make sure you take it well in advance of any climbs), but given that I was to the point of giving up climbing it was a welcome relief.  Oh and one other odd thing is that I took it up around 8000' in Yosemite on the drive down and then when we stopped for lunch at Lee Vining (a much lower altitude), I noticed that my resting pulse had dropped from its usual 60 to 48.  Now given that I have never run in a marathon, nor have any plans to, this is remarkable and must be an effect of the medication.  This went away soon and I didn't appear to suffer any ill effects from it.

Coming back after we got out of the mountains was its own sort of adventure.
First was the weather which had been fine while we were in the mountains.  While there it would drizzle a bit then stop with the requiste afternoon shower lasting maybe 10-20 minutes.

Then when we got back to the trailhead it started to hail.  We nearly kiss the ground glad that we're not still on the Ledges.
When we drove down to Lone Pine it turned into rain and we could see lightning in the distance.  But the lightning wasn't in the mountains striking the tall peaks (a common danger of the really high areas of the mountains), but instead was focused on the flatlands north looking very much like it was upset at the town of Bishop for some reason.  Then on the way north it went back to hailing (is this August in Southern California?)  Then it took a break long enough for us to eat lunch at Jack's in Bishop and write the final chapter of the following story.  After we got back on the road it went back to raining and then some more hail and by the time we hit the entrance to Yosemite (we took Tioga Pass road home), it was snowing.  Then it reversed everything so by the time we reached the exit on the other size (Yosemite is a huge park) it was sunny and beautiful and the rangers were in shirt sleeves.  "Do you know it's snowing at the other entrance?" I asked.  "So we've heard" replied the ranger.

[2007 update]
We actually went back, but again only got up to Lower Boy Scout Lake due to me feeling ill.)  Again it was lovely but a very tough climb to get there and a harder one to get out.  That's probably one of the last times I used my trekking poles with the right angle handle as they're really not long enough for such travel and they're slipping anyway.  The descent would likely be easier with my Black Diamond pole which lock and don't collapse unless I press a button.  I've also switched out my boots to be much sturdier which would help tremendously in that terrain

The Eastern California Verizon Wireless Hell Story
I am an AT&T Wireless customer (actually a Cellular One refugee), when I'm traveling and I use my cell phone I'm sometimes "roaming" on another wireless company's network.  When I dial a number that company will notice that I'm an AT&T customer, remove an appendage or two in payment and then pass the phone call through.  Not the case with Verizon Wireless in many parts of Eastern California.  Instead you are greeted with a "Welcome to Verizon Wireless, if you'd like to open a temporary account please press *711."  For a while, I was just hanging up, driving a bit more and then trying again hoping I'd get a different cell service.  Sometimes that would work and in particular it did from our 10.500' campsite ironically, so I could check in with our house/dog sitter and see if she had any questions.

But coming back all I was able to get anywhere off Highway 395 was Verizon.  And the weather had delayed us so I really needed to get through if at all possible.  Finally we dialed the *711 to see if there was some other approach.  After listening to a message that charges were going to be $2.99 plus $1.99 for each additional minute after that (OUCH) I said ok and entered the phone number.  It then came back and asked for a credit card number.  WHAT?  You mean you don't talk to AT&T?  Forget it.  I hung up.

Being a city/suburb type I have quarters in my car for parking meters, car washes and the like.  So I grabbed a mess of quarters and started looking around Bishop for a pay phone.  Pay phones are harder to find these days since most folks use cell phones, but they're still around, and I spied one across the street and down a block outside a McDonald's.  I get up to the phone and it's covered with ads for, you guessed it, Verizon.  I check the instructions and they're still the same: 1-A/C-phonenumber and then it tell's you how much to insert.  I dial my home phone number.  "We're sorry.  Your call cannot be completed as dialed. Please check the number and try again."  Say what?  I dial again.  Same response.  ARGH.  I consider beating the phone with the handset, but some odd sixth sense makes me refrain.  And then I hear a voice near my side "Hi, are you ok?"  I look up and there's a cop.  "I'm fine, I'm just trying to dial my house and it's not working.  "I just got a 911 call"  "You WHAT?  Here?"  He checks his pager, "Yep."  I laugh - you see there's no 9 anywhere in my area code or phone number.  "Must be the weather" he says.  "You sure you're ok?" "Yes" (for the moment).

So I still haven't gotten through - With trepidation I try the other pay phone and get the same results.  Great, so not only will Verizon not pass my calls through they call the police if I try other methods.  ARGH.  I go back to the truck and tell Terri that it's time to get the heck out of Dodge.  I know there's cell service at the Tuolomne Meadows Visitor Center in Yosemite and this is where we head.  Before we got to Yosemite, I tried to call in both Mammoth and Lee Vining and got the same Verizon results.  We get to the Visitor Center and I can then call out.  Phew.

I need to call AT&T customer service and ask them what to do in those situations, and I have to resist violent throughts when I see Verizon ads now.

[later]  I called them and they checked.  Turns out they don't have Digital service throughout all of Highway 395 and they don't have a reciprocity agreement with Verizon, though they do have the newer GSM service.  To use that I'll have to get another phone (of course).  Well I don't have any trips planned at the moment so I have some time to ponder it.  Hopefully I won't have to give in and use Verizon (think I'd use smoke signals first before giving in.)

[2008 update]
I did upgrade my phone a few years back, but have stayed with AT&T.  Verizon will allow your call through these days but funny how people with their phones always seem to get a signal when no one else can in both the Eastern Sierra and Mt. Shasta.  Yosemite continues to be a happy exception.  I keep thinking that eventually I'll have to give in but so far haven't, and instead just complain about it.