Family bike adventure came to fruition!
A while ago, I posted about how excited I was to come down to California not only for the Death Ride but because of the possibility that I could join my brother and his friend Cedar Wright on the tail end of their bike-to-and-climb-all-the-14,000-foot-peaks-in-CA adventure.
Well, it just so happened to work out. I called Alex on Sunday afternoon to let him know that my bike had finally arrived (somewhat worse for the wear, but rideable) and I was ready for adventure.
“Great!” he said. “Why don’t you bring my van down to Lone Pine [about a 5 hour drive]? We’re going to bike to Mt Whitney tonight and you can climb it with us tomorrow!”
I have to admit I was a little nervous about the prospect, not to mention startled by how quickly it was all unfolding. Biking, no problem, but Mt Whitney is the highest peak in the contiguous United States, and I was slightly concerned about my ability to keep up with Alex and Cedar—who are, after all, professional athletes. No problem, said Alex. They had a photographer with them (Sam Crossely); I could hike with him once Alex and Cedar split off for their separate routes up the summit.
So I packed up my bike, hopped in my (Alex’s) van and drove down to Lone Pine, catching Alex, Cedar, and Sam just as they were ordering dinner. I joined them, ate, went back to their hotel room, re-packed, and then biked the 14ish miles and 4500 feet or so of gain up to the Whitney Portal trailhead. No problem. We left around 7:30 p.m. and were there maybe 2 and a half hours later. Alex and Cedar were a little tired of being on their bikes, but I was super into it, giddy at the beautiful Alabama Hills landscape and psyched to be biking with my bitty bro. I like to think I provided a bit of needed enthusiasm.
At the trailhead, we met up with Sam, who’d driven up with his photography equipment and taken pictures along the way. It was probably a bit after 10 when we set down our bags near the trailhead to sleep; at 2:25 a.m. Alex’s alarm went off and we got up for breakfast-in-the-dark. This is what’s considered an “alpine start,” and it gets you well into your adventure before the heat (or thunderstorms) of the afternoon. It also meant that by 4:45 or so, as the sun was rising, we were already almost at the base of Mt Whitney, a few miles up the North Fork trail and mountaineering route (which is a 6-mile route much steeper and way more fun than the normal 11-mile hiking trail that most people take).
There, we split up. Alex went to free-solo the Keeler Needle; Cedar climbed the East face of Whitney, and Sam and I scrambled up the mountaineering route to the summit.
I was sort of expecting that the 14,000-foot elevation (and the hike in general) would wreck me, especially since my humble home in Portland is, oh, 25 feet above sea level. But having spent the last few days in Tahoe at 5,000-something feet plus my excursion up Dick’s peak two days before must have been good training. Though I was definitely (and annoyingly) shorter of breath than I’m used to, that was the only ill effect—no headaches or nausea or anything. And pure fricken exuberance at the top.
(Honnold sibling world domination! Or at least Mt Whitney summit-standing:) If you look at the background, you can see Lone Pine–the green part at the end of the road–from whence we came. Photo by Sam Crossley)
Sam and I were at the summit at almost exactly 8 a.m., 5 hours after we started. Cedar was already there, but shortly thereafter scampered off to meet up with Alex (whose route took him not quite to Whitney’s summit yet) and then tag another of the nearby 14ers, Muir Peak. I sat at the summit and marveled, barely able to suppress the fairly frequent surges of “holy shit I can’t believe that yesterday I was in Lake Tahoe and right now I’m fricken at the top of Mt Whitney and it’s so beautiful and I’m going to explode with happiness!” Sam took some amazing pictures and napped; we wandered the summit some and took in the miles and miles and miles and miles of surrounding mountains. There is seriously nothing like this in Oregon. It’s absolutely breathtaking, which still doesn’t even begin to describe it.
By 10, Alex had come back from Muir Peak to join us at Whitney’s summit. I gave him a high five, we hung out a bit, took the above picture, then he and Cedar both scampered off again to climb their 3rd and last peak of the day, Mount Russell. “Scampered” may be too spunky a word for how tired they seemed, but I like to think they were scampering on the inside;). Sam and I, on the other hand, opted to take the tourist’s 11-mile route back down Whitney, stopping at Lone Pine Lake on the way. Being me, I plunged right into the super cold water for a rejuvenating swim. Being him, Sam took an excellent nap.
Alex and Cedar successfully climbed Mt Russell, and we met up with them afterward back at the Whitney Portal trailhead—then hopped back on our bikes for the crazy descent back down into Lone Pine. Home by 6:30 or so, a wonderful day’s work.
I’d been expecting, like I said, to be super worked by this adventure—or at least sore—but some combination of excitement and marvel and who knows what else made me feel pretty darn good. Though I have to admit I was not super excited by the prospect of getting up again at 2 a.m. to bike to and climb Mt Langley, the last peak of Alex and Cedar’s 15-peak adventure. Luckily, we all decided to sleep in and rest until 7:30 or so the next evening—much more civilized. And all the soreness I didn’t feel with Mt Whitney came back double after Mt Langley, which kind of kicked my ass. Though not enough to destroy my enthusiasm or my desire to bike back from the trailhead.
I have to say, Alex and Cedar are pretty darn awesome for this adventure of theirs. I came in at the tail end full of energy and exuberance and buoyancy, right when they were feeling particularly crushed and tired, worn down by three full weeks of alpine starts and no real rest between biking and climbing. I hope my “I love life and everything is so awesome” approach wasn’t too obnoxious. But that being said, they fricken rocked their adventure, which, according to Cedar’s triumphant finishing Instagram post, was over 700 miles of biking, 100 miles of hiking and 100,000 feet of climbing over the span of 20 days.
It was rad to be able to finish out the adventure with them. Plus, now I’ve biked the Sierra Nevada (heh—at least a few miles of it;) and climbed my first two 14,000-foot peaks, PLUS gotten to hang out with my bitty bro for one of his adventures. Best thing ever:) And nice job to Alex and Cedar, rocking it sans car. Lots of hippy-big-sister points from me for that one;)
And tomorrow, the Death Ride! Bring it!! :)
Update 8/3: I finally have pictures up in a semi-accessible form:) Here!