Thursday, November 22, 2007

Final Summit Views (Mt. Langley Part 3)

(GPS: N36 31.410 W118 14.365)

Here is another shot of the north side with Mt. Whitney to the right. The clouds and shadows were all over the place that day.When I mentioned that the cloud shadows were everywhere this makes an interesting picture. Can you tell which ones are shadows and which ones are lakes?
The western divide side was not that clear on this day.
According to Wiki this peak is 14, 026 ft. My gps had 14,038 ft. The benchmark a the top says 14,042 ft.
Once I reached the top I was up there for only about forty minutes. Most of that time was taking pictures and video of the views. All the summit logs in the box were full so I left a small notebook which I signed and left for others to sign. I took in the moment one final time and realized my summer vacation was over at this point. It was all downhill from here. I went down, got back to my truck, went back to Lone Pine for gas, then headed on home. It was a great final day and conclusion to my vacation.

As a side note, I have enjoyed reading High Odyssey by Gene Rose. It is an account of Orland Bartholomew's 1928-29 winter hike up the John Muir Trail. He was the first to climb Langley and Whitney during the winter. The book has a few of the same pictures I have shown that he took of this area.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Movin' on up (Mt. Langley Part 2)

Continuing from my last entry, where I was looking back south to the Cottonwood Lakes, here is looking more southwest. There are a few lakes and shadows around.
A little higher. On the middle left side of the picture is an arrow or "great than sign". The tip is where Army Pass is and where I came from. Cirque Peak is the prominent peak in the picture with Olancha Peak being in the far left background.
There was a lot of looking up like this the last part of the hike, but this is near the very end.
At the top I looked over the eastern side to see the Tuttle Canyon, Alabama Hills, and Lone Pine below.
Here is a zoom in of the southern side of Alabama Hills with Lone Pine just beyond.
Of course, my favorite areas in Alabama Hills are usually on the northern side. If you look closely you can see certain areas that I have shot from down there looking back up here. I always like looking at the pictures from opposing viewpoints. Click the picture for a bigger view.
It is interesting to look at Lone Pine Peak from this angle. From Whitney and Lone Pine it looks different. One of these days I need to climb that one.
Of course, looking at Whitney five miles away is interesting.
I'll finish up this series tomorrow with a few more pictures.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Magical Stairs to Langley (Mt. Langley Part 1)

Taking a right, avoiding the trail that continued into the Sequoia National Park, I saw my destination. I saw a trail that headed into that direction, but I knew at some point it would just be a matter of either picking any trail I could find or making my own.
As I headed further there were some interting rock formations along edge of some of the cliffs. The clouds had started to come out. I think the next picture is one of my most powerful of the day.
At this point of the hike I was walking along a sandy scree area. It was actually pretty easy to traverse. A lot of people say this seems like a desert peak hike, but I did not feel that way about it. In any case, my usual strategy is to always pick trails that go higher rather than pick something that I gain nothing on or lose elevation. I saw some people hanging out near a rock in the distance to stay out of the cold wind. They waved at me. I assume they came up much later or were on a totally different hike altogether. I started to ascend more and looked back at the Cottonwood Lakes area to the south:
This is to the west:
This is another one a little higher looking to the western side:
I was making really good time, but I started to get a little nervous since I was not sure which area to climb up. It would be a sad day to get to this point and have to turn around. All I could see was a bunch of boulders to cross. That was something I wanted to avoid if I could. It turns out my hiking intution was working well today. Here is what I finally found at N36 31.126 W118 14.569:
I do not know of any easier way to do this since I did not look more on the southern side, but this was the perfect climbing area. I just started climbing the rocks which seem like a natural stairway to me and about 50 feet higher here I was:
That was the only real climbing on this trip where I had to use my two hands a bit. So, this whole hike was basically a class 1 walk up with this section being a few minutes of class 2. With that said, it still was a lot of work on the legs since 500 feet still needed to be ascended. The trail was obvious with a few dux (small rock piles) along the way. I finally looked back to see where I had been two hours earlier. Cottonwood Lakes #1-3 are pretty obvious and a few others to the upper right of the picture:
It was just a matter of time now to get to the summit. About 20 minutes or so from this point.

To be continued...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Reaching Army Pass (Cottonwood Lakes Part 2)

As I was reaching the main area that has all the Cottonwood lakes I was marveling at Mt. Langley. I had seen it in so many movies since it is just to the left of Lone Pine Peak from down below. This was a different angle. Although I had an idea in my head how the trail went I was not totally sure how I would get up to it. I was just using my intuition on the trails; there were a few times it split off.
The following is Cottonwood #3. That morning I had hiked to this area and thought how fun it would be to get up to Mt. Langley and not see anyone at all. I truly felt I had entered the wilderness. It was right before I got to this lake that I noticed that everyone camped near this lake. Everyone was packing up for what the intended to do on this day. Some were getting ready to fish. I saw a couple take off before me. It was obvious that they were heading to where I was going.
It was good to see this couple in front of me since it helped me in figuring out where I would go. They stopped a little further on the right side of this lake below and talked to a fisherman. I greeting them nearby and passed them. They said they would be right behind me, and I told them that they would probably pass me up. I was feeling good, but I figured they would have fresh legs and get up quicker than I would. This is Cottonwood #4. The trail goes on the right side of the lake. Then it starts to switchback up the headwall. You top up just a little over the middle right of the picture.
As I around and started to switchback up the headwall I looked back. The couple I had seen earlier was not going as fast as I thought they would. I believe the woman had some problem with her legs. So, I never saw them again. I knew there would be others coming up eventually since I had heard someone say they would meet them on top.
As I got higher up and I had a great shot of Lakes #4 and #5.
I can not remember how long it took to get up the headwall. It was probably no more than forty minutes to an hour at most. I was amazed at how quick I was doing this hike. Usually, I expect a few mistakes that throw me off, but since I was so adjusted and had exercised so much during the previous weeks I was really fast. Near the top of the headwall I took this:
A little explanation on the trail. I started out using the New Army Pass trail. You can use that to get to the top of Langley, but I decided I wanted to use the older Army Pass. If there is a lot of snow in the season then the headwall may be a problem. Since it was late in the summer and not a good snow year I took the obvious choice, even though it is not maintained, with Army Pass. New Army Pass goes around into a different area; someday I intend to use the new trail all the way. With that said, the one minor issue one has to deal with in regards to this headwall over Army Pass is a small rock avalanche that covers the trail. There is some exposure for a fall, but if one goes slow and is careful than one can traverse this with no problems. It is not that difficult.
At this point I was over the headwall. The trail continues toward the west. I followed this trail just past this sign, but my intuition told me that something was not quite right. Mt. Langely was obviously to the Northeast. I could see it, but this trail was going in the wrong direction.
I examined the area and did notice a faint trail heading in the correct area to Mt. Langley. I started heading into that direction. As I continued I did see more use trails people have made so it was just a matter of picking one and going with it. If I continued on the trail with the sign above I would have gone down with some lakes below. I do not know much about that area, but it will be seen in later pictures in my next few entries which I get to the top.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

New Army Pass Trailhead (Cottonwood Lakes Part 1)

(GPS: N 36 27.200, W 118 10.195)

This is one I have wanted to do a write up for a while now. A few months ago I headed home from vacation and, with some luck, I was able to get a place to stay overnight in Lone Pine, CA. I was fully confident I would be able to do this long hike if I got a place to stay, AND was able to drive up these long switchbacks up Horseshoe Meadows Road. One ends up driving up about 6,000 feet to an elevation of about 10,000 feet.

The overall goal was to get to Mt. Langley which is another 14er about five miles south of Mt. Whitney. The first two entries will be up to the Cottonwood Lakes area, and then the rest will be the rest of the hike to Mt. Langely.

I arrived at the New Army Pass trailhead right as the area started to lighten up. The sun would not be out for half-hour or so. I hit the right time to get started on this trail. This was one of those days that everything pretty much went better than planned. I really had no problems at all as you will see. The only problem I had, which turned out to not be one, was that I did not get an quality sleep the night before, but that was the only thing. As usual, since there was not enough light out at the time, and to save battery power for the peak, most of these early pictures were shot on the way down, but I arrange them in a way to show you how the trail is from trailhead to summit.
Since I had already had about two weeks of exercise hikes at high altitudes I just went flying up the trail. I felt great. The hike is a long 21+ mile hike, but a lot of it is on flat ground. There is very little uphill in the first two hours of the hike. One gains about 1000 feet to the Cottonwood Lakes, and then another 3000 feet to the top of Mt. Langley.
Somewhere along the way there is an area called Golden Trout Camp which I assume is an area that Golden Trout are sent from their parents for camp for a week during the summer. Ugh...yeah...okay...moving right along...
It is always nice to enter John Muir Wilderness. I like people, but when I think of a real wilderness there is a lot of forest features and very few people. People tend to be more friendly and respectful in these areas. Not always, but usually.
I finally crossed a bridge I recognized from the photos I have seen others take. I was really moving a long quickly. I will probably say it a few times, but I really viewed this day as my last day of vacation. I was taking in the air and trying to enjoy every moment of it. I knew when I reached the top of Mt. Langely that the moment I headed down my vacation was basically over.
There is a sign that splits the trail. I used my intuition (which was excellent on this day) and took a right up this short switchbacking trail.
To this point, most of what I saw was a beautiful forest area with lots of trees. I topped out and reached the above meadow. Cirque peak and Cottonwood Lake #1 are in the background above. As much as I wanted to go to that lake, I had to stay on the trail heading right of the above picture to this:
There is another lake in the above picture which should be Cottonwood Lake #2, but more importantly Mt. Langley, which is the highpoint in the picture, is shown. This was my first glimpse of where I was headed this morning. I was making really good time. No one was around at all. At the time there weren't any clouds around. It really was a great experience.
This is further on looking back. One thing I encountered on the way down were some horses. Apparently, they take a pack of people on horses to the lakes back here. The trails were filled with horse dung so I knew I might see some eventually.

In my next entry I will wrap up this part of getting to the Cottonwood Lakes area and start getting to higher elevations.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day at the Nixon Library

(GPS: N33 53.375 W117 49.095)

I spent part of the day at the Richard Nixon Birthplace and Library today. Part of it my reason to go there was to show support for all veterans, but it helped that it was a free day at the library. I have been here a few times, but it has been a few years since I was last there.

I always like California Historical Landmarks. I try to make a point of visiting them when I can find them. Click the picture to see a bigger version to read the details:

Here is the house Richard Nixon was born. They give tours of the bottom floor, but are not allowed to give tours of the second floor due to safety and building ordinance rules.
Here is the well known helicopter American Presidents used in the 60's and 70's.
You can compare that to this picture:
It was very small inside. I was surprised. I had to duck down a bit while going thru:
A different angle:
His birthplace is also a few feet from his gravesite. Click the picture to see the lettering.
The birthplace house is in the background. The new East Room is the big structure on the right side. It is an exact replica of the East Room at the White House. The main parts of the library are behind me and to the left.
Presidential libraries are fun to go to. There are some things I like about them and there are things I do not care so much for, but I think if you have a chance to visit this one or any other president then you should.

The official Richard Nixon Library site.

The story behind the helicopter.

My next entry will be a quick follow up video to this entry.