Lone Pine

White Mountain Windy Wonderland

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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. 

Smile is completely forced. Articles of clothing included tank, long sleeve, puffy underneath the windbreaker, shorts, pants, beanie and gloves.

Smile is completely forced. Articles of clothing included tank, long sleeve, puffy underneath the windbreaker, shorts, pants, beanie and gloves.

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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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,

Sawna 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures in the Sierras

My first experience in the Sierras was the day after Broken Arrow as we parked at the Onion Valley campgrounds to hike up Kearsarge Pass. Broken Arrow had been difficult in itself, due to spraining my ankle a few days prior. The hike up Kearsarge Pass, although beautiful, was intensely painful as I cried silently to myself with each step forward.

Since then, I've been determined to return, mind you healthy and able to run these magnificent trails. And I have! Mind you, with Juniper it is difficult to go far but I've definitely gotten a taste of the mountains. Merely a taste- but I was thirsty. 

After returning from a few weeks in Colorado (blog post in process) I have been itching for another mountainous adventure, preferably closer than a 14 hour drive. 

Originally I had planned to camp at Horseshoe meadow over the weekend because I had Saturday off but due to longer work hours and just life- I was unable to go. Le sigh. 

I received my schedule that Sunday for the next week and realized I had two days off in a row, a rarity in the service industry. My mind started racing with possible plans. I figured a good Sierras trip would be in order and possibly my first California 14er of Mt Langley. I was checking feverishly for extra permits for Mt Whitney on Thursday, figuring a good nights rest the day before would be wise. However, any movement on the site for that day was scarce. 

On Tuesday two permits popped up for the following day, Wednesday, and I immediately reserved them. I then proceeded to call and have them saved in the overnight lock box. I instantly called Vince, best friend and mountain runner extraordinaire and asked if he was down for an adventure. 

The answer is always, YES!

All we had to do is get there safely. However, when we both get off work past 11pm- it's questionable. 

We arrived at the Sierras Interagency Visitor Center at 3am- after three hours of driving, windows down, coffee, singing loudly to Queen and a good few slaps to the face. We then continued onward to camp at Alabama Hills and finally able to sleep around 4am. We both woke up at 5:30 during the sunrise, bats flying overhead, and eventually rose at 6:30 with much anticipation for the day to come. 

MT WHITNEY

At an elevation of 14,501 ft, Mt Whitney is the tallest mountain in California, 11th tallest in United States, and the tallest peak in the Lower 48. Mt Whitney trail is pretty do-able for Southern Californians considering it's only a few hour drive to get to the trail head and has a well maintained trail that leads you straight up the mountain.

Because it is the most frequently climbed mountain peak in the Sierra Nevada, a permit system is in place to minimize impact of backpackers as well as day hikers in the backcountry. Everyone, backpackers and day hikers are required to obtain a permit. The shortest and most popular trail to the peak is a 10.7(17.1 km) trail from Whitney Portal. If climber during the summer to early October you don't normally need any technical climbing equipment but it is necessary in late spring/early summer.

Keep close to Nature’s heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.
— John Muir

Vince and I began our adventure at 8 am as we jogged away from Whitney portal, grin exposed from cheek to cheek unable to hide our excitement. Within a mile we crossed a flowing creek without a hesitation we both ran through it- a pattern that will quickly form in today's quest.

We joked, we laughed, we gagged at everyone's poop bags we ran by, we took photos and, yes, there was a bit of huffing and puffing running up the trail, but once that started we simply hiked. Today was to be fun. Vince, having Tushars 100k a mere three days from this adventure couldn't risk pushing to hard and I simply was enjoying my best friends company out in some of the most beautiful scenery. 

Fun is enjoyable because you don’t have to worry about results. You can strive for triumph, or you can putter around, tinker, and explore, without worrying about efficiency or outcomes

Both of us having never been on this trail were shocked at how well maintained and pretty straightforward it was. Yes, there were two snow crossings, but as long as you don't try to dance across- you were fine. For how difficult one strives to get a permit for this trail, to experience this beauty, we were both shocked at how much trash was left purposely on the side of the trail! COME ON GUYS! 

Crossing the snow on the top right. Although there was a clear path to cross, some hikers turned around due to how dangerous it seemed with the sound of water underneath. 

Crossing the snow on the top right. Although there was a clear path to cross, some hikers turned around due to how dangerous it seemed with the sound of water underneath. 

We continued across the 1,329 water crossings and then up the 99 switchbacks to the Trail Crest pass and continued to run along the ridge, laughing and enjoying the smooth ride with the best view.

The last half mile is a rocky, technical climb, straight to the peak where we enjoyed the 360 view along with the other 30 people around us. It wasn't even noon yet and we had reached the summit, shocked at how quickly time flew by and how happy we felt!

The air was crisp yet warm. The clouds looked as though they were marshmellows- soft to the touch and oh so sweet.

We savored the moment, sitting on a rock as I stuffed my face with half my SUPER BURRITO from Trader Joe's. My taste buds exploding with happiness. My stomach- happy at first, not very please during the run down. Instantly feeling nauseous, I slowed my pace until I had to stop to.... burrrrrp. 

Burped I did! I few times, hoping it wasn't going to lead to anything more severe I began running again. Instantly feeling better. We chatted with some girls hiking up, watched a nice fatty marmot try to get our attention and off we were. Down the switchbacks. 

Down the switchbacks. 

Down the switchbacks. 

Still... down the switchbacks. 

The never ending switchbacks.

And when you thought it was almost over...

It kept going. 

Both Vince and I were silent, hoping the end was near as we continued begrudgingly running forward. Finally, what seemed like forever, we were off the switchbacks and on, still technical and wet, but pretty straightforward. The time flew by and before we knew it we were back at the trail head. 

As we basked in how incredibly fun our day we hung around collecting ourselves before possibly eating. At the Portal market we ran into some guys we saw on trail and ended up sitting with them for lunch. They had just finished hiking the JMT and coincidentally two of them live within a mile from me... small world! It felt as though time had stopped. Here we were a group of strangers, wide grins chatting as if old friends. Sharing what we have in common- the love of fresh air, the trails and just these beautiful mountains and all that they offer. 

We parted ways and Vince and I were off to horseshoe meadow after a quick(not so quick) pit stop into town to find some kind of "fresh" food. 

Once camp was set up, (I was definitely very excited to not be sleeping in my car for once) we began making dinner- or should I say I began making dinner. 

Dirtbag dinner special: Spaghetti with the only fresh veggies we could find topped with pasta sauce, tahini, nutritional yeast and of course avocado!

If you want to start off somewhere (and on the cheap) go HERE.

We both fell asleep by 8 that night. Vince slept till 8am and I'd like to say it's because of the symphony of spaghetti farts that eased him to sleep, you're welcome. #fartbombs

 

MT LANGLEY

For people looking to explore the highest elevations available in the contiguous United States, Mt Langley offers a good introduction to thin air at 14,026ft without requiring any technical mountaineering skills. With it being 500 ft shorter than it's neighbor Mt Whitney, Langley's summit provides expansive views, solitude and a deep feeling of accomplishment. Langley is the 9th tallest peak in California and is considered one of the easier 14ers to climb.

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity...
— John MF Muir

The sun's warmth on my face gently bekoned me awake to enjoy the nights end and the new days beginning. Sleep still hoovering I rise and sit outside- enjoying the silence and beauty of my surroundings. As other campers are already packed and heading off to the trail, I begin making coffee as I write in my journal, waiting for sleepy Vince to wake up.

Today's adventure is to run up Mt Langley. Since my first taste of the Sierras, more specifically Cottonwood lakes, I've had a thirst to run both Mt Whitney and Mt Langley on back to back days. Considering this being my last training week for Fatdog 120  what better time to quench that thirst than NOW?

Vince and I began running around 9am. He was only planning on running the first 5-6 miles with me and then turning around before heading to Utah for Tushars 100k skyrunning race.

It was gradual and we were basically gliding our way up. We had ran into some of Vinces friends from LA, chatted and continued forward. By 3 miles there's a fork in the road Old Army Pass to the left and Cottonwood Lakes to the right. Due to snow levels on New Army, it was reccommended I run up Old Army Pass. 

We continued running along, pass lakes, exposed rock fields and a few rock lake hoping later we stumbled upon a creek flowing down with snow completely overlapping it with a small tunnel underneath. 

It was magical.

"It's a difficult task, defining beauty, yet so obvious when you see it".

"It's a difficult task, defining beauty, yet so obvious when you see it".

At this point Vince turned around and I was on my own. 

Yesterday was cool, storm brewing in the distance with a cool breeze and today was far from the same. Continuing forward on an exposed trail, up switchbacks in what seemed like an oven. My breathing was light and my legs were moving. I was able to run every step to the top, passing a few backpackers on the way. Not knowing they would be the last people I'd see until the summit. From Old Army pass I accidentally ran on a trail downward until I realized the trail I was supposed to be on was above me. With the mindset of staying present and happy- I brushed off the extra time and climb I put on myself. If there's a wrong way to go, leave it to Sawna to take it! Because I took the wrong trail, however, I had the opportunity to watch a family of Bighorn sheep run by. I caught a glimpse of the last one running in front of me. I call that a win, thank you very much.

Once I got on the right trail pass New Army pass there's a worn path that makes its way up to a ridge line populated by rock towers. This section is exposed and the sun was wearing on me, with no on in sight, I was lonely and trying to remain happy in the moment. Beyond the towers, lies a berren slope of sandy gravel, yay. The Langely Plateau is much longer than it appears from down at the pass. Follow the massive cairns up the mountain as best as you can as this point, you're high, it's hot and extremely steep. I was hardly pushing, thinking this section was never ending. The option of turning around never crossing my mind when actually I was thinking I had all the time in the world to complete this task- as long as I get home to Juniper tonight! 

Above the climb, it "flattens" out for about half a mile until you reach the summit. 

The view was electrifying.

After spending some time taking photos and taking in the view, I began descending. 

This time I wanted to avoid Old Army Pass and try to go down New Army Pass. Yes, I was fully aware of the class 3 scramble and technical terrain- but by golly I was NOT going to go down the switchbacks of heated doom. No gracias!

I ran the entire way toward the pass, passed the same family of big horn sheep to my right as I danced along the ridge- excited for some new views of Cottonwood lakes. 

I ran up to the pass and began jogging down however a few feet down the trail dissapears under a sheet of white carpet. Snow. It's spotty and I was able to shimmy below the trail, seeing foot steps comforted me. However they could've been Chamouns from last Saturdays run (he did the same run). As much as I tried to follow the trail, it inevitably spit me into a chute and I had to go down a class 3 climb that led me to, surprise, more snow. This section was steep. 

My breathing was heavy, from fear of heights (shhhh don't tell anyone) and from this being possibly a very dumb decision. But I tied my jacket around my butt (my BOAUSA shorts are not good for 1. wind 2. butt slides down really steep snow chutes that I could possibly hurt myself but trying not to be scared of) and walked onto the snow, deep breath in hoping for the best, and proceeded to glissade/butt slide down then jumped onto the rocks. Few. That wasn't so bad. Not one point (maybe when I was hugging a rock with nothing but a cliff underneath me) did I think I should turn around or think I couldn't do it but I stood there looking up at what I just did feeling pretty confident but at the same time questioning my sanity. 

The adventure continued with two long snowfield to cross. I tug my feet in and climbed by way across, going slowly and cautiously until I realized what's the worst to happen? (Other than slipping and sliding straight into the lake) the snow was soft and if I slid, I'm capable of stopping myself. So I quickened my step, annoyed at how long this was taking me and probably looking like a buffoon, across the snowfields and finally onto the trail.  

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Down the class 3 rock climb and then my butt got frisky on the snow. You can see my path along the snow in the bottom left. (The snow was REALLY soft or otherwise I wouldn't have done this route-  meeeh probably still would've)

Down the class 3 rock climb and then my butt got frisky on the snow. You can see my path along the snow in the bottom left. (The snow was REALLY soft or otherwise I wouldn't have done this route-  meeeh probably still would've)

I got on the trail and took a moment to myself. 

Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Repeat

I loop up at New Army pass and remember my confidence and yet still question my sanity or lack there of. It was only a few years ago where I wasn't comfortable running Griffith Park alone then it was the San Gabes or Mt Baldy for that matter and now here I am.

The rest of the run was pretty uneventful. I didn't run into anyone else (because no one was on New Army) until the beginning of the lakes. Cottonwood lakes are beautiful and, yes, I was extremely thankful for new scenery and ALAS! Tree coverage! It's a few miles back to the car and everything was extremely runnable- for that I was grateful. 

I got back to my car, used my R8 Roller and was on the road back to LA- back to Juniper, beer, and a good vegan home cooked meal. 

The last 48 hours were a whirlwind of adventures- one for the books. I couldn't imagine a better ending to my last training week before FATDOG120. That, my friends, will be another story. 

Till next time,

Peace, love and happiness 

ADVENTURE GEAR:

Pack: Nathan sports VaporHowe 12L Vest (That Rhea and Andrew gave me for my bday!!)

L/S: Inov8 Long Sleeve half zip

Tank/Hat/Buff: Run highs tank by Territory Run Co

Windbreaker/Buffs: Inov8 Wind shell

Shoes: Inov8 Trail Roc 285

Socks: Stance run

Food: GuEnergy Gels FOR THE WIN and the Roctane drink is shockingly REALLY good. (if only the lemon berry wasn't backordered till after Fatdog 120... so sad)

(Trader Joes burrito made me sad- first time)