Without scary, we don’t get to be brave.
All is good.
Last night Dan and I finally had a chance to celebrate completing our Lowest to Highest backpacking trip. I have healed quickly, my face looks pretty good with the help of essential oils, and I even went for a bike ride yesterday. Dan keeps dreaming at night of navigating with the GPS and I have simply slept sound and hard. I will admit that I have been a bit clingy to Dan after the tumble and for some reason crave oatmeal. What????? As we celebrated, we were able to reflect back on the trip and share our thoughts.
Many of you have asked about the emotional part of the trip and how our relationship fared on this adventure of extremes. First off, we HAVE been on a few trips that ended in strife and conflict, where we did not act as a team, but as individuals. Not good. Those take awhile to work through to heal, forgive and go forward.
Fortunately, the L2H was not one of THOSE trips. Dan and I worked together, making critical decisions, keeping each other calm, healthy, and took on the role of each other’s cheerleader. Teamwork. On this kind of trip you need to have each other’s back with a sense of humor.
First off, we hiked L2H during the spring. On normal years, the snow levels getting to Telescope and Mount Whitney would make this trip very difficult. The recommended time of year to compete this route is in the late fall when temperatures have cooled down in Death Valley and early snow storms have not yet hit the upper elevations.
This is not a leisurely trip with pretty landscape around each corner. It is a trip with big swings, from elevation gain and loss (very low to very high), extreme temperatures (possible blazing heat to freezing cold temperatures), rough terrain (sand, rock, loose talus, some class 3 climbing), navigation skills with map, GPS, and compass, long water carries with heavy packs (at least as long as the California drought continues), some dirt road walks, a variety of snakes, and snow travel with ice axe and crampons (if hiking in the spring). If you are great with that list and want the challenge, this is the trip for you.
This is our route with camps, water, and the variations for Hannupah, Darwin Canyon, and spring Mount Whitney route.
Day Hike Options
If you aren’t okay with the risks, day hiking the highlights of the trip is very doable.
-Walk across Badwater to Shorty’s Well and back (start early in the morning).
-Climb Telescope Peak from Wildrose Campground. It is on trail and can be done in half a day.
-Day hike Darwin Falls Canyon up to China Spring Garden then up the very beautiful little canyon and back.
-Hike the 6 mile round trip Whitney Portal National Recreational Trail from Lone Pine Campground to Whitney Portal and back.
-Climb Mount Whitney during the summer when the trail is snowless.
Water Cache and Food Resupply
Food Resupply – Panamint Springs and Lone Pine
- Minietta Road (Panamint Valley)
- Hwy. 190
- Owenyo Lone Pine Road and Lone Pine Narrow Gauge Road (Owens Valley)
- Air beam sleeper regular – quiet, light, and quickly inflates and deflates
- Cascadia 10 Trail Runners – great rock protection for cross-country travel, supportive, and super durable. The uppers and soles show little wear after the trip. Love the new design!
- Dan’s Altra Lone Peaks did not fare the trip as well. He thought they were comfortable, but at the end of the trip the bottoms of his shoes were pretty smooth.
- We used, liked, and needed all the gear we carried.
The heat changed everything on this trip. All our favorite foods became a chore to eat. I pretty much could have lived on Lay’s Stax Potato Chips and Cliff Shot Bloks. Bars, nuts, flavored powder packets were left untouched in our packs. Dan recommends bringing some kind of hard candies like Jolly Ranchers. A favorite new recipe that I loved and will definitely make again came from my good friend, Beekeeper at Jan’s Jaunts and Jabberings: Sweet Potato, Quinoa & Black Bean Cold Salad.
Photos and Video
- All trip photos are uploaded and ready to view on Flickr
Trail Journal with Daily Suggestions
- Badwater to Mount Whitney: Backpacking as a Couple
- L2H Day 1 – Hell to High Water
-Take enough water. It is surprising how much you will need and drink.
-You will be doing a lot of bushwhacking through Hannupah. Maybe stay on the south ridge above the creek to avoid some of it.
-Yes it really is straight up from Hannupah. Just lean in you are on the right route. All is hard.
-The top of the ridge has a faint use trail with lots of places to pitch along the way.
- L2H Day 2 – Talus, Telescope, and Tuber Oh My
-Wear pants or some kind of leg protection up the ridge and in Tuber Canyon.
-Until our drought is over in California, don’t count on water in Tuber Canyon unless you are willing to dig.
-When the Trona-Wildrose Road is open again, stash water there. If not where the route meets Miretta Road in Panamint Valley worked great.
-Bring a good headlamp with fresh batteries.
- L2H Day 3 – Hot Topics
-Bring an umbrella. Period.
-Food at the cafe in Panamint was delicious.
-Don’t count on the WiFi at the resort. It doesn’t work.
-Loved camping in Darwin Canyon.
- L2H Day 4 – Characters in the Desert
-The guidebook description in the book “Hiking Death Valley” by Michel Degonnet of the route through Darwin Canyon is VERY helpful for safety and time.
-Get water before China Gardens near the falls, unless you want to filter out of the fish pond. China Garden is kind of dumping ground.
-We stashed water at highway 190 and carried out 6 liters of water, but if you have time an additional water cache 8 miles up Saline Valley Road would be helpful, especially if it is warmer weather.
- L2H Day 5 – Fools on the Move
-You will be trespassing in the area of Cerro Gordo Mine. We just walked quickly.
-Be prepared mentally for a very awkward traverse after Cerro Gordo Mine.
-Shortly after Burgess Mine look for duck on the left and leave jeep road. On the map it indicates the turn off is a jeep road. It is not. Go southwest a bit and meet a well-marked use trail.
-Biggest tip: pay attention to GPS and maps. The use trail will take you to the wash at the bottom of Long John, then you will leave the canyon and hike on the south ridge above the canyon. This is to circumvent a very high dry fall. The route then steeply dumps directly down into Long John before the spring. We stayed in the canyon and had to climb a steep class 3 up and around. Big mistake.
-We hiked the section around the Long John Spring at night, so we have no information on the water there. Everything did look dry.
- L2H Day 6 – Nero Magic
-You will need a reservation to stay at the Dow Villa, if not the Whitney Portal Hostel across the street is wonderful.
-Eat breakfast or lunch at the Alabama Hills Cafe.
-Elevation Sports is very knowledgeable, has lightweight gear and snow gear rentals.
-Hike the recreational trail, not the road to the portal. It is beautiful and well designed.
- L2H Day 7 – Whitney Wipeout
-Get an early start even if you are climbing with no snow in the fall.
-On a normal snow year, the snow level usually starts well below Whitney Portal. We have snowshoed from Lone Pine Campground to the Portal at this time of year.
-Bring extra clothing layers, you will wear all of them.
-The Pizza Factory in Lone Pine is open until 9:00 pm, if the Whitney Portal Store is open, get a burger there before heading down.
-Do not to fall going down the chute if climbing in the winter and please wear a helmet.
L2H – the After Party
Lowest to Highest: Badwater to Whitney Page
- A quick reference page for Lowest to Highest is now under Hikes in the top menu.