August 2004
Backpack trip to the top of Mount Whitney
14,496 feet elevation - Highest spot in the 48 contiguous States

Day 7 Aug 24 6 miles back to Horseshoe Meadows and the 328 mile drive home.

We slept eleven hours that night, awakening every few hours to reposition. The half-moon was so bright that I could see everything inside my tent. The mountains on the east side of the lake were detailed in the moonlight. Don and Doug told me that the stars were bright that night after the moon had set, but I was too exhausted to go out to see them. 

The next day, the hike was an easy two and-a-half hours from 11,000 to 9,400 ft. My 20 year old hiking boots had fallen apart, held together with tape and strap on the right, and on the left the outer sole had completely separated. The steel insole, fortunately, gave protection if lacking in traction, so I had to be careful with foot placement among the steep, granite rocks. I had blisters on my heels, dirt everywhere, all my muscles were sore, and my waist was bruised where my pack hip strap dug in. I was glad to get back to our rented Impala. We celebrated with a delicious breakfast at 11 at the Mount Whitney Restaurant in Lone Pine courtesy of Doug. In the restaurant there were many pictures of the stars that had come to the area to shoot westerns. 

On the five-hour drive home we amused ourselves trying to think of all the cars, besides the Impala, that were named after animals. We came up with some unlikely candidates, like the Dodge Humpback. That night I enjoyed the hospitality of Doug and his wife Karen at their lovely home. 

Writing this on the plane home, I am thankful for this physical and spiritual experience shared with such wonderful new and old friends. 

Len Glaser

Grubby Dr. Len

Grubby Dr. Don

We think Len should sue the company for these defective hiking boots.

Time to pack it up and head down the hill for a real breakfast before the drive home.

Dr. Len Glaser gave us a nice inspirational essay which I spread out to the appropriate pages.  Here, Dr. Don Edberg gives us a bunch of practical tips for the new backpacker .

AND be sure to check out the comments at the bottom of Don's words from our other Connecticut friend Doug Schumann!

What I did on my summer vacation
by Don Edberg

I went on a long hiking trip (64 miles total over seven days!), climbing to
the summit of Mt. Whitney in the middle, with some friends.  Never mind
that I hadn't hiked since my Boy Scout days (33 years ago) and that I had
NEVER hiked as far as we had planned for this trip.  Well, needless to say,
I did learn a few things.

Weight is everything!  Do not bring any unnecessary items, you just have to
carry them around.  If you won't use it, don't bring it.

Be sure to "test drive" your backpack before long hike.  Its weight should
ride on your hips mostly, with a small fraction of the weight on shoulder
straps.  Be sure that you understand the purpose of each strap.  It
actually took me several days to get the pack to fit me properly.  By then
my shoulders and hips were achy.  Wear an old tee shirt for backpacking, as
the shirt gets worn out and stained by one's sweat interacting with the
backpack straps.  Len, our hiking mate, used an old towel under his fanny
strap to spread out the load.  I personally noticed it was much more
comfortable without a belt ... in fact, bicycling shorts were the best.

Even if you wear shorts with pockets, the pockets may be hard to reach
because they are underneath the waist strap of the backpack.  Instead, wear
something around your neck, or a fanny pack or sternum-strap pack, or
something, to keep your chapstick, handkerchief, etc. handy while walking.
Could also keep power bars, napkins, etc. there.

Keep water handy somehow so you don't have to stop.  A Camelback hose
positioned near your mouth seems pretty ideal.  I had to ask my hiking mate
to hand me my water bottle, which isn't good if no one is nearby.

Your feet are the most important part of your body on a hike.  Treat them
well.  Be sure to break in your boots a minimum of a month before the hike,
if you haven't already.  I hiked about 20 miles in mine the two weeks
before the hike, and that wasn't enough.  I got blisters!  Bring MOLESKIN,
enough for repeated applications!  I also noticed that my boots stretched
after I bought them.  So I would recommend wearing very padded socks and
getting what seems to be a half-size too small boots when you buy them, and
plan on them stretching.

On this hike, there were some tricky trails and stream crossings. I
strongly recommend a walking stick, which is very helpful.  I made my own
using an aluminum tent pole with a plastic handle.

I brought a homemade bugle, made from a metal trombone mouthpiece, plastic
tubing, and a long funnel (for oil changes) to serve as the bell.  This was
a fun thing to have, the echoes in some places were awesome, and we got to
be known all over the mountain.  Next time: a plastic mouthpiece, some
tubing changes to improve intonation (the 7th partial on the plastic bugle
was terrible, making common bugle songs difficult), and plenty of sunscreen
on my lips.

Be sure to bring/use sunscreen and Chapstick or equivalent with sun screen
built in.  I severely burned my lips and it took two weeks for them to
finally heal... not much fun for a serious trombone player trying to bugle
from time to time.

For cooking, one needs a large thermos cup to eat from, a metal pot for
boiling, a spoon, and a knife.  Bring your own cooking stove and a spare
cannister of fuel, don't depend on others. Be sure to have a cigarette
lighter or piezo sparker for gas stoves.  Bring food seasonings in film
cans.  A little salt, margarine, etc. is handy on a trip and not much

For clothing, bring layers.  I forgot to bring long-sleeve tee-shirt, but
the lightweight leg warmers and arm warmers I brought were very helpful.  I
also had a too-heavy windbreaker which came on and off as personal comfort
temperature dictated.  A lighter windbreaker and long-sleeve shirt would
have been better.

Miscellaneous stuff: bring a rope/clothesline (so to be able to hang wet
clothes), a light towel, washcloth, and a small hotel bar of soap to wash
daily.  For repairs, I would bring a small roll of duct tape, one or two
spare straps to secure items, some extra grocery bags for trash (we were
not allowed to leave any trash at all).  A pair of small 2-way radios could
have been handy if our party was separated, but remember the weight factor.

I brought an old digital camera.  Its battery of 2000 mAH NiMH cells lasted
the entire seven days.  I believe that this happened because I turned off
the backlight on the image screen, and used the optical viewfinder instead
(chargers are hard to find in the middle of the sierras).  I took some 250
photos on one set of batteries.  Be sure to charge them, and maybe bring a
spare set of alkalines, if you bring a digital camera.

A treat for the "summit" was a nice touch, but heavy.  Is it really worth
carrying around a half-liter of soda pop for three days?  (Yes, it was!)
Cell phones will work if there is a line-of-sight to the cell towers.  This
meant we were able to call home from the Whitney summit (but nowhere else
on the hike).

Bear canisters were required on our trip; make sure your food will fit.  Lots
can be crushed into them, including rolls which expand again when allowed,
and lasted our whole trip, as did Hebrew National salami which we had for
lunch each day (on the rolls).  20-cent ramen is a tasty dinner, and
crushable.  Doug pointed out that he didn't eat as much as he expected on
these hikes; this turned out to be true for me also.  I ended up losing
about seven pounds, but I believe a lot of it was water, as I felt
dehydrated three-four days after returning.

I would probably schedule the hiking so as not to exceed about 10 miles
each day.  Our fifteen-mile days got to be pretty long and grueling.  Of
course, I was in perfect shape at the time... but a little less would have
been better for me.

Would I do it again?  Yes!  But I will read these notes before I go, next time!

From an EMail from Doug Schumann:

Len loaned me the video you created of your trip. I watched it today.
Looks like you had a lot of fun!
I was reminded of why I don't like camping when you showed everyone
turning in just after 7:15pm and the frost on the tents when you wake up.
Everyone has to carry their own tent, sleeping bag, food, water, trash and
you have to poop outdoors!
I never even thought about not taking a shower for nearly a week!
Glad you had fun?

My answer back to Doug:

Mr. Doug,
Geee - sounds like we all must be totally insane...... OR?????

Doug Malewicki
(Already enthusiastically planning next years adventure!!!  Len too!)

Day1 - Day2 - Day3 - Day4 - Day5 - Day6 - Day 7

Back to Table of CONTENTS