I push forward with all my strength. In any other circumstance I'd completely fall over, however, with 35 mph winds- I can barely stand. I need to eat something, yet my hands are too frozen to open anything. I need to pee, but again, my hands are too frozen and the wind too strong to squat for a quick pee break. I don't think I've ever truly considered pee-ing my pants until this very moment. Lani, who's just ahead of me, is struggling to stay up straight against the wind. Juniper, who's behind Lani has her tongue out and tail wagging, icicles on her fur shimmering in the light, turns her head around each corner of the mountain, making sure I was still behind them. The thought of turning back never crossed my mind, but I questioned my sanity the entire time. Not just mine, but Lani's and Juniper's. This is something we chose; to be nearly frozen, to have all articles of clothing on and yet not warm, and to nearly be blown off a mountain- all for fun. I need to look up the definition of fun, because I think its somehow gotten lost in translation these last few years of adventuring.
TYPE 1 FUN: Enjoyable while it's happening. Just simply fun! Good food, good company, good weather. When everything just works out.
TYPE 2 FUN: Begins with the best intention but normally things get carried away. Miserable while it's happening, something to laugh about in retrospect. You can say it was "fun" once time has passed and your far from the moment.
TYPE 3 FUN: "What the hell was I thinking?" actions. Not fun at all. Not even in retrospect. Wanting to cry but too scared and stirred up to actually muster the tears.
I don't really know where I would rate this particular event on this specific mountain. But I can honestly say it WAS NOT TYPE ONE FUN.
Just two weeks before Lani returned home. She had spent 5 months on a very long walk along the Pacific Crest Trail. That's 5 months too long away if you ask me and I truly missed my friend. Since then I made a solid effort to spend quality time with her, if it wasn't on a mountain top, it was at home with our fur babies as we ate immense amounts of food while burping beautiful melodies and making the air around us smell like roses. Since then we ran along the streets of Hollywood, climbed one of our local mountains, Mt Luekens, conquered the C2C2C (Cactus to Clouds to Cactus) and now we were off to the Sierra for my two days off from work. What a weird feeling to drive somewhere that, just a few months ago, she had walked across. My mind still can't seem to grasp all that she had to endure.
With the sun setting completely by 6pm, we were off to a dark start. We burped, she farted- it was all so wonderful and pretty smelly if you ask me. After some debate on where to camp we settled on a little hideaway spot in Alabama Hills. It was a little past 10pm and I was laying on the ground, fur baby in my sleeping bag, trail wife in the tent next to me, tons of cookies/beer in my belly, and a big on cheesy smile smacked on my face as my head it the... ground (at the time I didn't have a camping pillow). The moon was bright and lit the boulders surrounding our little nook as we slept our LA worries away. And boy did I sleep wonderfully. My eyes opened right at 6am, just about the same time my arm started tingling from loosing blood circulation from snuggling with Juniper too hard. As if that would really be an issue. We rose quickly in hopes to watch the sunlight give Mt Whitney a good morning kiss. I grabbed my camera, Junipers ruffwear jacket and we were off on a little hike.
Later that morning, after Lani got up, we packed up, made coffee and did an outfit change from the dramatic 30 degree weather shift... she showed me more of Alabama hills that I've never truly explored. See, Alabama Hills is the gateway to the Sierra, its what you have to pass to get up to the Whitney Portal and very close to Horseshoe Meadow as well, and it's a nice pit stop along the scenic 395. I never really stopped when I knew that mountains where OH SO CLOSE.
After running around Alabama Hills we then headed off to our next destination, White Mountain. White Mountain Peak is located northeast of Bishop and is the third highest peak in California and is the highest outside of the Sierra Nevada. Part of the Inyo-White Mountains which have some of the oldest sedimentary rocks in CA with fossils nearly 600 million years old. The White and Inyo Mountains have a desert-like appearance and the perfect conditions for the world's oldest living trees, the Ancient Bristlecone Pines. Some trees are over 4,700 years old! While en route to White Mountain peak, you can see the trees off the road. The most important part of this wasn't that it was another California 14er to climb or that we would be seeing the Bristlecone Pines but it allows dogs. That right there was why I was motivated to go. But sitting in the car an hour and a half later, still not there and on the verge of a heart attack- I was rethinking my motivation. You see, the drive to the trail head can actually take longer than the run itself. Neither Lani, nor I (and certainley not Juniper) did any research before saying, 'Yes!' to this trip. All we knew was this was a California 14er that needed to be crushed. She put the information into google maps and we were off- never really taking into account the estimated duration of time. The last 16 miles to the trail head is on a dirt road that normally you would want to have 4wd.
Picture this: Sawna driving her non 4wd Ford Escape up a very steep one car at a time only road with a steep drop off on one side and VERY large rocks to go over while almost in tears, heavy breathing and about to scream while Lani eats popcorn asking to pull over because she has to pee all while Junipers head is out the window, tongue out, giving zero shits, probably wondering when we were going to adventure already. Finally, after a few miles of panic attack mode, the road widens and levels out for me to stop and let Lani pee while I just get out of my car and lay on the ground nearly in tears. The idea that just a few months ago my friends who drove on this road with their new Subaru and got a flat tire floating in my memory.
We finally arrive at the trail head and I open the door only to get it immediately shut again. I attempt to open it again this time with more muscle and pushed it open while the wind made its best attempt to smack it right back closed. I run around the car and check every tire, just in case and proceeded to get back into the car. It's windy AF, both Lani and I give each other the "This is going to be fun" look as we realize our shorts and tanks were going to blow right off with this 35 mph freezing winds and we are not here to re-inact girls gone wild even though we are girls and lets be honest we are pretty wild... but ya'll know what I mean.
About 20 minutes later we were dressed to impress and ready to rumble our way up White Mountain.
Not only did Lani and I not really check how long the drive would take, we didn't really look at what the trail looked like. I had heard that it would be the easiest 14er you could climb considering the trail head spits you out at 12k. The area is essentially an exposed desert mountain, with no water or shade along the way to the mountain. This also means there are no trees or other natural barriers to block the wind as you follow the dirt road all the way to the summit. I would imagine this is what Mars would look like.
I think without the 35mph winds it would've been easy, but considering we had to struggle to stay up right it was pretty difficult. The sun was warm but the wind swept away any heat we may have enjoyed but we continued forward on the dirt road. I tried to run the first section of trail and quickly gave into a hike that planted my feet firmly on the ground, less likely to blow over. I brought my Sony A6000 to take photos but found that most of the time my hands were too frozen to bare the thought of taking off my gloves. I'd run a section of the trail to snap photos of the scenery and ofcourse of Lani and Juniper but that was the jist of it. I stopped a few times to give Juniper water and realized that any water that landed on her fur turned into icycles that shimmered as she ran along the trail. She was loving our time outside while Lani and I were enjoying our type 2 maybe type 3 adventure.
The last mile of the trail was the most difficult as it was nearing the peak. Completely exposed to the force of the wind I push forward with all my strength. In any other circumstance I'd completely fall over, however, with the winds- I can barely stand. I need to eat something, I haven't managed to eat anything since the beginning, yet my hands are too frozen to open anything. I need to pee, but again, my hands are too frozen and the wind to strong to pause for a quick pee break. I don't think I've ever truly considered pee-ing my pants until this very moment. Considering that the pants had been borrowed from my friend Mike, I settled on holding my bladder until the appropriate time. Lani, who's just ahead of me, is struggling to stay up straight against the wind. Juniper, who's behind Lani has her tongue out and tail wagging, icicles on her fur shimmering in the light, turns her head around each corner of the mountain, making sure I was still behind them. Trying to capture the moment, I struggle to put the lens cap on my camera and fall behind yet again. The thought of turning back never crossed my mind, but I questioned my sanity the entire time. Not just mine, but Lanis and Junipers. This is something we chose; to be nearly frozen, to have all articles of clothing on, and to nearly be blown off a mountain- all for fun.
We stood at the top- attempted to snap a photo but with frozen hands barely managed. We quickly turned around- without any words I can see Lani's eyes and received the "Lets get off this mountain" look while Juniper was happy AF, it's as if she has her head out the car window, she couldn't be happier.
We run as fast as the wind, snow and ice would let us back to the car. The idea that all my tires are flat was constantly going through my head, but at this point, if I could survive that frigid wind, I could survive any sort of car issue. I felt unstoppable. We jumped into the car, took some layers off and just laughed. But we really didn't laugh, it was more of a moan because our faces were frozen, but the laugh was there, merely masked by frozen skin. I sat there for a few minutes trying to warm my hands, my frozen fingers unable to have the strength to turn the ignition to start and once I did we had the heater on full force and we were off- back to warmth and civilization and beer. The big old bad rocks that nearly gave me a panic attack on our way up seemed like mere pebbles now as I sped down the once frightening road. Remembering the last couple hours of torture we call fun as we drooled over the sunset.
THE SUNSET WAS INCREDIBLE.
(I somehow have only purchased Taylor Swift albums- so that will be the soundtrack to all my videos)
The sun quickly set as we drove passed the ancient Bristlecone pines and straight to Bishop Brewery were we met up with my friends Dave and Shauna visiting from Squamish, BC. They had just climbed Mt Whitney for the first time in the same weather conditions and we all sat there looking pretty beat up by Mother Nature. That night we decided to camp at the Buttermilks, we quickly set up camp and without a word everyone passed out. Well at least Lani and I set our tents right up against each other and giggled and munched on snacks before finally going to sleep.
The next day we took our time to pack up camp, eat breakfast in Bishop and explore Big Pines. We managed to wonder around Big Pines lake and North Fork Loop trail and we were glad we did, it was gorgeous.
After parting ways with our Canadian friends we mustered the strength to drive back to LA. Back to our jobs, traffic and the sounds of constant sirens.
When I first started writing this post in November, I would've quickly exclaimed my feelings toward not attempting White Mountain again. Not because of the trail but because of the drive. Now that I've decided to finish this post, two months later, I've had time to simmer on my thoughts, our experience and my feelings about the entire trip and I think I definitely would go back. Preferably not being the one to drive, but I'd like to make more of a day out of it, visit the ancient Bristlecone forest and actually run all the way to White Mountain Peak. I feel as though it is definitely the easiest of any 14er I've done and would like to have the opportunity to enjoy it sans wind.
Till next time.
Peace love and all the happiness,