On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
I’m not brave enough to climb mountains, so these vicarious mountain climbing trips are the next best thing! Amazing.
Remember, you can always do a 2-part On The Road, and I’ll plan to run them either back-to-back or early morning and then After Dark.
Its crazy to edit it down to eight pictures, but here it is. I introduced my nephew to mountaineering climbing Mt. Sill (Norh Col route – class 4) in the Palisades located in the Sierra Nevada. Five years ago, he and I led 5 others up Whitney on the Mountaineer’s Route, which was pioneered by John Muir climbing solo. The five were my two adult children, my nephew’s wife, and a couple that were friends of my daughter. The first two days were modest backpacking days to get to Iceberg Lake at 12,600, which reduces the climbing day to 1900 feet. The route used to be cross-country, but so many have stomped it that there is now a well worn use trail. The route is class 2-3 mostly, with a few spots that are class 3 for a few feet.
Ebensbacher Ledges which are famous on day one. I forewarned everyone that this was not going to be your typical trail hike. The wall is precipitous, but easily climbed on decently wide traversing ledges. I am in the front pointing the way with my pole.
Little Boy Scout Lake, end of first day. There was a major forest fire on the west side of the Sierra creating color and a smudged sky (that is the Sun in the picture), but which largely cleared the rest of the trip. Whitney is visible peaking over the foreground ridge on the right, and the other pinnacles are various needles of Whitney (Keeler, etc).
Beginning of the climb on the third day – I have gone about half a mile and climbed a few hundred feet. I start earlier than the younger set, so I am solo until they catch up (they will). The alpenglow on the east face of the Whitney peaks is magnificent — there is nothing blocking light shining a vast distance through the atmosphere from the far eastern horizon. I have countless pictures of the alpenglow showing it in the various stages in many places in the Sierra, but this is the highest and largest unobstructed big wall in the Sierra for dawn alpenglow.
The first light, and the rocks are grey. Then as the very first rays start to get a line of sight, the color is a soft rose mauve color — faint. Then it starts to transition to red-orange to orange and gets brighter. Then it transitions to a yellow color and is brighter still, which is the last color phase. This picture is the transition between the orange to yellow, as the earlier color moves down from the top and is replaced by the next phase.
Whitney is the high point on the right, and the route heads up to and through that deep notch to the right of Whitney. The notch is 14,000 feet, or around 1,000 to 1,200 feet higher than this vantage point. The peak is 14,500, although for years it has had a number of figures around that. The last 500 vertical feet, you climb just past the notch, and turn hard left to go up a very steep broken slope that is out of view. The top of the mountain is surprising huge and flat.
Half way up the chute to the notch — my nephew took this shot as I was still ahead of them. That is my daughter’s friend followed by my son. Below is Iceberg Lake where we camped – at 12.600, it is well above timberline. In the background are the eastern ridge line that leads to Mt. Russell, which is out of view to the left. In the far background throught the left over smoky haze, you can make out the faint image on the Inyos that are across Owens Valley to the east, and reach 11,000 in height. I have spent a lot of time in that range fossil hunting, and also visiting Saline Hot Springs in Death Valley National Park which is immediately on the other side.
Most of the way up the chute to the notch. This is probably at 13,700, and that foreground flower is polemonium (also known as sky pilot). There are a lot of species of this type of flower, but this particular one only grows in the Sierra at very high elevation on talus slopes. You pretty much have to climb mountains to find this flower, and there was a lot of it.
Closer polemonium shot. I have lots more because I live for wildflowers. California has no end of them in wildly diverse landscapes.
Now past the notch and in the steep broken slope just below the summit. This is probably at 14,300. My nephew and I are together where this picture was taken, and from right to left, it is my daughter, my nephew’s wife, my daughter’s friends, and my son taking a wild line on the far left.
The summit, which is usually something of a party with a ton of people on top. This is looking slightly southwest. The hut was built in 1909 by the Smithsonian for astronomy observation. Our approach crested onto the summit plateau about 200 yards to the right, and we go back down the same way. The traditional trail approach ascends the gradual western slope, and you can see tiny people on the foreground horizon making the last 1/4 mile on an 11 mile 6,600 gain from Whitney Portal.
The rugged range directly over the hut are the Kaweahs, which are famously remote and rugged (and also crap volcanic rock like the Minarets in the Ritter Range further north — a “roof pendant” of much older rock than the Sierran granite. The pendants are remnant pieces of the older rocks into which Sierran granite intruded from 80 to 140 million years ago when everything visible was then several miles beneath the surface, with the granite being formed as the ancestral Farallon oceanic plate subducted under western North America) . The peaks further left and further out are the southern extension of the Great Western Divide. Mineral King is directly on the opposite side of that subrange in that view. Most of what you are looking at is the remote backcountry of Sequoia National Park. I have other pictures with the views in other directions, which are obviously panoramic.
This is an easy mountaineering trip, but one of the most satisfying as it is one of the very few times I climbed with both of my children. Afterwards, my daughter told me that the Whitney climb was one of the coolest things she ever did. Now that is a nice memory.