Mount Whitney! TALLEST PEAK in the lower 48

Discussion in 'Scenic, Architecture, and Travel' started by Nathanael, Sep 5, 2016.

  1. Nathanael

    Nathanael Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 12, 2015
    29413199205_553805fb29_c.jpg P8310536 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr

    After a fair bit of hiking this spring and summer in preparation, I got the chance to take a stab Mt. Whitney via the standard hiking trail. Mt. Whitney is the tallest peak in the lower 48 at 14,505 feet.
    29333532701_ae9368e00e_c.jpg P8300112 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr

    Admittedly, this is barely higher than the numerous other 14'ers in the country, and significantly lower than a lot of stuff in Alaska, the Alps, etc. But it's still something of a claim to fame, plus it's within driving distance of millions of Californians, so it draws a lot of hikers.

    29333553491_47a86b2bd3_c.jpg focus stack by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr

    We opted to do it car-to-car in a day. A lot of people break it into a 2-3 day hike, with a night(s) spent camping part way up the trail to make it a bit more manageable. The trail is about 11 miles one way, and gains 6,100 feet of elevation from the trailhead to the summit.

    29413245555_6863055b69_c.jpg P8310445 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr

    But while this can be a casual 6-8 hour (or less) "day hike" for an elite hiker/trail runner, for most hikers it will require pushing the definition of "day" towards "24-hour time period". We fit into the latter category, so we planned for a 2.30 am start, allowing around 10 hours to summit and another 7-8 to get down.

    I had just gotten the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye on ebay ($90!), and was excited to test it out. I'm hoping to use it for some Milky Way photography. The night before our 2am hike I stayed up long enough to see the sun go down and try a few long exposures. Unfortunately the sky wasn't quite clear, but it did give an idea of what the lens is capable of.

    29304746072_b19bb38d57_c.jpg P8300210 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr

    Before we knew it 2am was here and packed up camp and started hiking. My usual hiking kit is just EM-10 and Panasonic 14mm f2.5. This time I was of course going to try the 7.5mm fisheye, and decided to supplement with Oly 45mm f1.8. The lenses are small enough that the extra one could fit in my shorts pocket pretty easily. I didn't use any lens caps (front or back), so that I could quickly swap back and forth as needed.

    The trail is well marked and we had no trouble making good time with our headlamps and starlight. A full moon would have made hiking easier, but I enjoyed the chance to capture some of the night sky.

    29304738582_2e3d2677b1_c.jpg P8310238 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr

    The sun rose, we kept hiking.

    29378773946_78f951c15c_c.jpg P8310310 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr

    There were some alpine lakes

    28789033574_b5c83bb057_c.jpg P8310325 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr

    It may be vain, but honestly one of the best things about hiking with a fisheye is how easy it is to take selfies. Oh wait this is a photography forum. I mean self portraits.

    28789014954_059e4a6cc7_c.jpg P8310365 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr

    The Samyang has decent flare/sun star performance. Not perfect pointed stars by any means, but it adds some interest without taking over the frame.

    29413257735_bfb66dfc34_c.jpg P8310414 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr

    Don't forget your friends to watch their elbows if you ask for a picture.

    29333424891_6e8427bc12_c.jpg P8310516 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr

    No pictures from the 8 hour descent. Suffice to say that as the sun went down and we were still hiking spirits took a bit of a dive. But we pushed through and finished the hike at 10 pm at about 19 hours car to car.

    29413188525_81a4b94bce_c.jpg riverstack-mean by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr

    Anyways. Might be over-sharing here, but honestly was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Can't wait for a return trip.
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  2. Bif

    Bif Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 28, 2012
    San Angelo TX
    Bruce Foreman
    Enjoyed your images!
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  3. Giiba

    Giiba Something to someone somewhere

    Aug 19, 2016
    New Westminster, BC
    Not over sharing at all. I very much enjoyed that, thanks!
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  4. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    Great images and awesome story! I grew up with Mt Whitney visible on the horizon, snowcapped part of the year, and it was quite interesting to see your experience hiking it. Living as I do now on the Oregon coast is beautiful and all, but I do miss real mountains sometimes.

    oh and um...
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  5. gnarlydog australia

    gnarlydog australia Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 23, 2015
    Brisbane, Australia
    Damiano Visocnik
    nice images and story
    Not sure how much of an outdoor person are you and how comfortable you feel away from people, now that you have a taste for the Sierra, consider a less crowded place?
    I did a lot of outings on the East side when I lived in Los Angeles but never went to the claim-to-fame Mt Whitney: I just could not bare the procession. :hide:
    I went to a peak nearby, just a bit lower than the big one and I was alone with my friends, for a few days!
    If you are into nature photography and landscapes consider other much less frequented places to have opportunity for capturing striking images.
    Of course, if being around a lot of people is your thing, stick to popular routes and you will have company :)
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  6. NoSeconds

    NoSeconds Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Great set Nate! :2thumbs:

    The one thing we're missing here in WA is decent peaks, our tallest "mountain" is only 1241m and only 800 odd meters elevation from the trailhead to the summit... :shakehead:
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  7. Nathanael

    Nathanael Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 12, 2015
    Haha thanks. I definitely have done more remote things, with a number of week+ backpacking trips around the country, though none in the Sierras as of yet. I don't think Whitney is necessarily as bad as you pictured though. I was a bit hesitant, but it's not that much of a procession. Sure a lot of people will summit in a given day, but every gets pretty spaced out over the 22 miles of trail, so aside from occasionally passing or being overtaken (and the summit itself) you can spend most of the day in solitude.

    I'll definitely be exploring a bit more around the area though. Any peaks you'd recommend? I'm particularly interested in technical rock routes rather than just hiking. Whether that be 3rd/4th class scrambles or 5th class stuff.

    To everyone else, thanks for the kind words. Definitely feeling blessed to live in an area with a lot of mountains to explore. Moved here from Michigan a couple years back and have been really enamored.
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  8. gnarlydog australia

    gnarlydog australia Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 23, 2015
    Brisbane, Australia
    Damiano Visocnik
    It has been a few years since I moved away from LA (to Australia) and have been back to the Sierra to hike only once.
    I like the high trailheads out of Bishop where I can gain elevation by just driving and get to the rock sooner. Since I always go hiking with a pack for a few days I didn't go to any alpine routes that would involve ropes. I like going off-trail and just pick a ridge that seems feasible and see where it leads me, usually to a place where others don't go :)
    No particular location that comes to mind but I ma sure there is plenty written and documented on hiking/climbing forums.
    I like this area best, trailhead Lake Sabina (from Bishop)
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  9. crlund

    crlund Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 28, 2016
    Thanks for the wonderful photos and the story. I climbed Whitney many years ago starting on the west side of the Sierras. It was a 10 day trip that ended at Whitney Portal. All I had was a point and shoot with 126 cartridge slide film. One of our best backpacking trips ever. This brought back some memories.
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  10. Nathanael

    Nathanael Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 12, 2015
    Haha thanks for the feature. Here's a few more pictures from the trip, just for fun.

    29304751632_5e8a97d849_c.jpg P8300108 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr
    Hanging out in the campground

    28789078224_16b0df0289_c.jpg P8300128 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr
    Blurry, underexposed, noisy, etc. Sorry. But just shared because it's my friend using her new E-M10 that she just picked up at my recommendation. She didn't want to go the eBay route, which is my usual recommendation, but the kit was on sale on Amazon for $399 which seemed decent.

    29304743312_72f5f7f3a4_c.jpg P8310219 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr
    More pictures from the night hike. No tripod, and the group didn't stop hiking to wait for me. I would find a flat surface, guess at a composition, and take the 45 second exposure. Then hike double time to catch up with the group while the noise reduction applied. So I only ever got one chance at each shot. Thankfully a few turned out. The manual focus scale is very helpful compared to focus by wire and never knowing if you bumped the focus ring.

    28791632223_00da07a563_c.jpg P8310230 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr
    Handheld 1s exposures in pitch dark hahaha. Not great photography but at least captures the mood a bit.

    29124848940_e808f6d7ab_c.jpg P8310274 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr
    Sun barely up enough for some shots, even at f1.8 and ISO 3200.

    29413280715_60675516f9_c.jpg P8310333 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr
    My favorite lake on the trail.

    29413250075_8d738b06f7_c.jpg P8310437 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr
    Learning how to use the fisheye on this trip. For the most part I tried to keep my subjects as close as possible, since it felt like they would quickly get lost in the picture seemingly miles away. But sometimes that can be used to good effect. Mostly just firing away at random while I hiked, and then sorting through things later.

    29378715066_c139db22e0_c.jpg P8310482 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr
    And sometimes you'd never know it was fisheye. (defished and heavily cropped, but I had to double check)

    29304664392_3baf56873c_c.jpg P8310484 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr

    29413206945_bff5bdc57c_c.jpg P8310504 by Nathanael Myton, on Flickr
    It just blows my mind ;)
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  11. Jonathan F/2

    Jonathan F/2 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 10, 2011
    Los Angeles, USA
    Great shots, I'll need to do this hike one of these days!
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  12. jimr.pdx

    jimr.pdx Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 5, 2010
    near Longview ~1hr from PDX
    Jim R
    Ah the memories - I came from the west side over Trail Crest in '89, what amazing scenery. Also popped in/out from the Bishop area many times (Pine Creek, Piute Pass, Lamarck Col). The Sierra are such a long chain that you can make many trips without seeing the same area twice - though I seem to see Seven Gables from nearly everywhere :)
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  13. John M Flores

    John M Flores Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2011
    Somerville, NJ
    Great story and photos to go along with it!
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  14. battleaxe

    battleaxe Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Love the shots, now you have me wanting to go hiking there. Do you know if the lakes are deep enough for a quick dip?
  15. Nathanael

    Nathanael Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 12, 2015
    Definitely plenty deep. We didn't stop though. It was pretty chilly just hiking, and we didn't bring many layers. I'm pretty sure if I stopped for a dip I would die hahaha.
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  16. RoadTraveler

    RoadTraveler Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 23, 2012
    Love your photos, interesting small kit you took, and like that you did it in one marathon day hike. In some ways it would seem that doing the trip all in one day would provide a more private and personal experience than over days, where one has to use designated and possibly busy camp sites.