Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mt. Whitney training: Iron Mountain

Anyone remember my post about goals?  No?  Well, here is a little refresher.  Sometime around the new year I mentioned that I had some new years resolutions.  Some of these goals were easier than others (I did pretty darn well eating paleo for 6 months!).  Some have yet to be accomplished.  But that is a story for another time.

I only bring this up because the dear husband and I have set our sites on a much loftier goal for the both of us!  We have decided to climb Mt. Whitney for our one year wedding anniversary!

View of Mt. Whitney from the Whitney Webcam.  We'll be way up there!

Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the United States outside of Alaska and tops out at 14,505' above sea level.  This mountain is in the California Sierra Nevada range.  We will be attempting the climb over two days via the main Mt. Whitney Trail.  The total distance is 22 miles round trip with over 6100' of elevation gain.  Our anniversary is July 30th, and we have planned our summit attempt for the second weekend in August.  As we came to this decision just a week or so ago, we did not have the opportunity to enter the permit lottery for the mountain.  Our plan is to show up and try to snag a walk-in permit from a cancellation.  Cross your fingers for us!  It is going to be a tough one, but we have already started our training!

We are not complete strangers to high elevation hiking.  Both Erik and I have spent a fair amount of time at elevation.  We both lived in Tahoe City, CA and in Boulder, CO for years above 5000'.  I have hiked many miles above 10,000' and we summited San Jacinto last year (10,834').  We attempted to summit Longs Peak in Colorado (16 miles roundtrip, 14,259') but due to a very late start (try 10am when you are supposed to start before dawn...oops.) only made it to the keyhole (13,150').

Sitting on the top of San Jacinto Peak!

This is all well and good, but alas, living at sea level has made us soft!  We decided need to do some training hikes leading up to the big summit attempt.  We have decided to start fairly small and build up to longer and higher hikes every weekend.

Training Hike:
Iron Mountain, Poway, CA
6.63 miles round trip, 1000' elevation gain (plus side trip to the iron mine)

Our goal: Iron Mountain

We completed this hike on Sunday, June 17th.  The Iron Mountain trail is extremely well developed and easy to follow.  It was quite hot out on Sunday but the trail was still pretty busy.  We were sweating up most of the trail, but got a good rhythm going a mile or so in from the trailhead.  It was 91 degrees at the summit but it felt a lot hotter walking up the trail with no shade.  We completed this hike pretty handily despite the heat, so it was a good hike to judge our current fitness level.  There are a few picnic tables at the top to stop for lunch, and the view is gorgeous.

   Great view of north San Diego County from the top

On the way back down the trail we took the short but strenuous detour to the old iron mine.  This trail is very primitive and overgrown in spots, and was difficult to find.  It slogs straight up the hillside about a mile from the main trailhead.  The reward at the top is a small pit where people used to mine for iron ore (hence "Iron Mountain").  There were still chunks of the heavy, dark iron ore lying around the pit.  We tested a few of them with a magnet to confirm the identity.  I grabbed a nice, heavy chunk to use as a book end and lugged it back to the car.  Collecting iron at Iron Mountain?  Totally worth it.  We finished our hike with a BBQ bacon cheeseburger, fries and a shake at The Habit in Carmel Mountain.  Overall an awesome day!

More training hikes to come.  Stay tuned! :)

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