April 2012

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2012.

Note: Updated training hike list can be found here.

As we’ve mentioned before, one of our goals for 2012 is to summit Mt. Whitney. At 14,504 feet, Mt. Whitney is the highest point in the lower 48. The most popular route to the summit via the Mt. Whitney trail does not require any mountaineering skills and most people do it as a long day hike (it is 22 miles with 6,600 feet of gain). We plan to do it as a 2 or 3 day backpack since we are not very fast hikers and prefer to take our time and take lots of photos. Although the hike is not all that technically challenging, the high altitude makes you weaker and proper preparation and training is a must, especially if you want to enjoy the experience. Unfortunately, its relative ease and the fact that it is the highest peak in the lower 48 means that it is extremely popular and entries are strictly limited by a permit system. We applied for the permit lottery in March, but unfortunately we didn’t get one. Still, we are hopeful we can get a permit day-of, so we haven’t given up hope on our goal and have already started training.

Moon Over Mt. Whitney - Photo © by Jim Baumgardt, Image Counts, www.ImageCounts.com

At the beginning of the year, I began researching training strategies and tried to find local hikes to prepare for Mt. Whitney. The 6-pack of peaks by SoCalHiker was a great place to start, then I added a few other hikes with long mileage, lots of gain, and/or high altitude. Some we will do as backpacking trips, others just as day hikes with car-camping near the trailhead as needed. There were a ton of other hiking sites that inspired my list including Modern HikerNobody Hikes in LALocalHikes, and Dan’s Hiking Pages. In the end I upgraded the 6-pack of peaks to a 10-pack and scheduled them each for a weekend, counting back from our planned date for Mt. Whitney.

The 10 major training hikes:

Mt. Wilson (5,710’) – 14 miles, 4000 ft gain [completed]

Mt. Baden Powell (9,400’) – 8 miles, 2800 ft gain

Cucamonga Peak (8,859’) – 11.5 miles, 4300 ft gain

Mt San Antonio aka Baldy (10,064’) – 10 miles, 3900 ft gain (depending on route)

San Bernardino Peak (10,649’) – 16.5 miles, 5000 ft gain (2-day backpack)

Santiago Peak (5,689’) – 15 miles, 4450 ft gain

Mt. San Jacinto (10,800’) – 10.6 miles, 4300 ft gain (depending on route)

Telescope Peak (11,050’) – 14 miles, 3000 ft gain

Mt. San Gorgonio (11,502’) – 21 miles, 4600 ft gain (2-day backpack)

White Mt. (14,246’) – 14 miles, 3300 ft gain

Compared to: Mt. Whitney (14,504’) – 22 miles, 6600 ft gain



The trail to Mt. San Jacinto when we attempted to summit in May, 2011

However, all of the above hikes besides Mt. Wilson and Santiago Peak are at such high elevations that they will likely still be snowy through May, so we took the first few months of the year to warm up with some easier hikes. For most we weighted our packs with water to make the hike a bit more challenging and to get used to carrying a heavier load.

Completed hikes:

Mt. Islip Attempt – 4.6 miles, 1000 ft gain (Jan)

Echo Mountain – 5.5 miles, 1400 ft gain (Jan)

49 Palms Oasis (Joshua Tree NP) – 3.1 miles, 600 ft gain (Feb)

Towsley Canyon – 5.1 miles, 1100 ft gain (Feb)

Griffith Park – 7 miles, 1200 ft gain (Mar)

Mt. Wilson – 15 miles, 4000 ft gain (Mar)

Smith Mt. – 6.2 miles, 1800 ft gain (Apr)


As you can see, the hike to Mt. Wilson had significantly more distance and gain than any of the others, and we definitely struggled with both aspects, so we know we still have a lot of work ahead of us. Also, we have really only been hiking at low altitudes, so we are looking forward to challenging ourselves with higher altitudes on future hikes.

This weekend we are headed to Bryce Canyon National Park for a couple days of photography and relatively easy hikes (although likely in snow), and then we will do a 2 day / 21 mile backpacking trip in Buckskin Gulch, the longest and deepest slot canyon in the Southwest. Soon after we return from that trip, we will really start tackling the list. In addition to doing those hikes on the weekends, I’m hoping we’ll also be able to do some short but relatively steep hikes during the week with loaded packs… there are a few options that are conveniently on the way home from work.

But for now, I’ll leave you with the picture of Buckskin Gulch that inspired me to plan a trip there (courtesy of Kolby, TheHikeGuy). I’ve been wanting to go since he blogged about it in 2010! So here’s hoping for clear weather on Monday and Tuesday… keep your fingers crossed for us!

Buckskin Gulch - Kolby Kirk - www.thehikeguy.com

Last weekend Katharine and several friends competed in the Merrell Down & Dirty Mud Run at Castaic Lake. The race was a 5k course with about 15 military-inspired obstacles along the way culminating with a giant mud pit just before the finish line.


Nathan designed the Tshirts for team “CGM”

We had all done a little training for the race to get in shape, but we didn’t really run it to finish with a fast time, mostly we just wanted to have fun and enjoy the obstacles.


The race actually was a lot of fun. The first half had a lot of uphill and a steep climb, but the obstacles helped to break it up. And once we got to the downhill section it was smooth sailing.

Nathan and Aditya stayed near the finish line where there were a bunch of final obstacles and took pictures. We had to climb some walls and wade through waist-deep water in the lake.


But by far the toughest obstacle was the “slippery mountain” – they coated the incline with soap and you weren’t allowed to use your legs to help you up it at all, only upper body strength.


The mud pit at the end felt like a rite of passage… There was definitely no way to get through it without getting soaked with mud. Felt like being a kid again!



At the finish line we all got dog tag medals and celebrated by hosing each other down to rinse off the mud.


We’re already looking forward to doing the race again next year!

The goal for this day hike was to reach the summit of Smith Mountain (5,111 feet) in the San Gabriel Mountains.  The 3.5 mile trail to the top starts with a steady but doable climb for 3 miles to Smith Saddle (4,290 feet). The trail continues on into the San Gabriel Wilderness, but we were headed off-trail to the peak. To reach the top of Smith Mountain you start climbing up a steep fire break that soon degrades into a use-trail through boulders. The path climbs 820 feet in just a 1/2 mile which definitely felt steep.

Katharine at the top of the fire break

Resting at the false summit looking back at another peak and trail to Smith Saddle

While boulder scrambling to the top we startled a lot of lizards basking in the sun.  Some lizards were paralyzed by the warmth so I took the opportunity to try out my new 24-105L lens.

King of the Boulder

Western Fence Lizard

The lizards remained perfectly still while I spent 10 minutes taking 41 photos adjusting my camera settings and reviewing my photos.

This is why I love my new lens, 7D, and Lightroom 3: the photo below is the original photo and the one below that is cropped.  This is where the 7D 18 MP has an advantage over my older 40D 10 MP camera.

24-105 mm @ 84mm, ISO 250, f/5.6, 1/2000 sec

You can see the unique blue markings on the underside of it’s chin.

Katharine enjoyed the view at the false summit while I stalked lizards around the boulders.


We finally made it to the top and enjoyed the 360 degree view including snowcapped Mount Baldy.


We then quickly headed down the mountain maintaining a pace of 3 mph for the last 3 miles to the car.

All in all it was an enjoyable day hike with incredible weather.

We’ve hiked in Santa Anita Canyon starting at Chantry Flats a few times in the past.  One time we went fishing with Rick and another we did a short weekend backpacking trip camping at Spruce Grove.  This time we had a much longer hike ahead of us, so we didn’t have any extra time for fishing or much photography.  It had rained a couple days earlier so the streams were full of water and there weren’t as many people on the trail.


The canyon is really beautiful and the first part of the trail goes by a number of private cabins. Most of the trail is pretty shaded by the trees, but occasionally there were some spring flowers.


Our goal for the day was to summit Mt. Wilson. Although it’s only at 5710 ft, it required 4,000 ft of gain to get there over 7.5 miles. We started around 10 am and after 3 miles of gentle grade began the tough climb to the peak.


It took about 3.5 hours to get to the top and we were exhausted.  The weird part was reaching the top, which has an observatory accessible by car with 50 or so visitors. Since you can drive to the top we found ourselves surrounded by energetic kids and people in suits and dresses probably after church.  We grabbed a cup of hot cider and a crappy cup of hot chocolate and ate lunch in the parking lot.  After resting we were tempted to hitch hike down, but left civilization once again for a grueling 7.5 mile hike back to our car.

On the way back we passed a lot of casual day hikers enjoying the streams and cool shade.



We can generally tell how tough a hike was and how tired we were feeling based on the amount of photos we took.  This hike was 15 miles, 4,000 feet of gain, 8.5 hours and we took only 28 photos.  The next weekend we hiked up Smith Mountain which was only 7 miles, 1,500 feet of gain, 4 hours and we took over 100 photos.

The tough climb to Mt. Wilson definitely exhausted us, but it was a good experience for training for Mt. Whitney and showed us where we still need to gain some strength.

By Nathan

Katharine and I recently spent the weekend in San Diego, she attended the American Chemical Society conference while I hung out with my parents.  Saturday morning we decided to do a short day hike up Cowels Mountain, which apparently is pronounced “Coals.”  The mountain was cloaked in the morning marine layer, which blocked the view of the city, but kept the hikers cool into the late morning.


The hike is 3 miles roundtrip and climbs almost 1,600 feet.  It is the most popular trail in San Diego County and on a nice weekend might get 800 visitors a day.  This saturday it wasn’t too crowded probably because of the fog, but you could tell there were some regulars running up and down passing us several times as they got their morning jog in.

We of course made it to the top and waited our turn to get our photo taken then quickly headed down since the view was blocked by dense fog.  We had done this hike in the past so I wasn’t as disappointed by the fog.


On the way up we could hear a quail calling, but couldn’t see him.  On the way down we spotted him on a tall rock between the switch backs.  Considering the rare photo opportunities on this hike with the fog and even rarer animal sighting I hiked into the bushes to get a closer look.


The quail sat there patiently while I took a couple photos every few feet I got closer.



All in all it was a fun hike and it is always fun to share one of my hobbies with my parents.