Eastern Sierra: Day 5 – Piute Pass / Mt Humphreys
I love Tang!
For some reason, I have never been able to eat, first thing in the morning, and it’s even worse out here… well…unless it was my Mom’s Sunday morning breakfast when I was a kid…I never had a problem with that.
After I’ve been up and moving around for a while, eating’s no problem. But I learned the hard way; you can’t start your day on empty when the first thing you’re going to do is, strap a pack on and walk up a hill all day.
Even, auto-pilot-guy couldn’t get me to eat in the mornings…I would go through the motions…but, told-you-so-guy always won that one, hunched over, heaving.
Out here, though, some things are not negotiable…
- You need energy
That’s where Tang comes in. That stuff has been my go to breakfast in the field for about the last ten years. I’ve tried Kool-Aid and Country Time…but there’s just something about Tang, for me that never gets old. It does add weight to the pack, but it would be one of the last things I would choose to leave behind.
I can usually drink a liter just after I get up, and then mix another for the first part of the hike. That keeps me going until I can start munching on jerky and trail mix, and those little gel cube things…those things are good!
That’s what I was thinking about while standing, staring at Piute Pass…drinking my morning Tang on day five.
The route today would take me over Piute Pass and into Humphreys Basin. The plan was to camp at the base of Mt Humphreys tonight. I’d stay on the trail until I got to the top of the pass, there I would break off-trail, into the basin.
Even though Piute Pass is a pretty big, steep hill, I was feeling great and wasn’t intimidated at all.
The climb went quicker than I expected. I gauged my distance again in pictures looking back.
Once up on the shelf, there was still a little way to go to get to the switchbacks. YAY. It’s funny…when you measure the distance from one place to another on a map… One often forgets to factor in the switchbacks…
As I gained elevation, Loch Leven came into view, and then I could see Piute Lake again.
I was also getting my first glimpses of Mt Humphreys.
It was quite the site, standing looking back from the top of the pass! I could see all the way back to Loch Leven.
Mt Humphreys missed being a California Fourteener by fourteen feet. Coming in at only, 13,986’, it is still an awesome sight!
After I left the trail, I wanted to stay high on the ridge and skirt around Marmot Lake, moving toward Humphreys Lakes.
The way was made up of a bunch of hills. Every time I would top a rise, I’d see another one in the distance that I’d have to cross. I’d climb down the other side of the one I was on, cross the small basin and repeat the process over and over…and over…and over…
After a few of these, I took a break. I hadn’t taken my pack off since I put it on this morning, and I needed a little more than jerky and M&Ms to keep me going at this point. I walked up on a great boulder with a flat top, and I was able to sit down and just release the straps on the pack and it sat there. And so did I.
I was using my Gregory Whitney pack for this trip. It’s an older model pack, from around 2007. It had been out on a few trips before and I didn’t have any problem getting ten days worth of clothes, gear and food in it. I’ve been a fan of Gregory packs since I bought a Robson Pro in 2000, and I’ve also had a Palisades, but the Whitney has been my favorite.
I sat for about a half hour, ate some chili mac and then got climbing again.
Every time I thought I was on the last hill, I’d get to the top and see another one, until after what seemed like an eternity, I was finally there.
This had been the longest, most difficult day so far, in terms of elevation gain and overall distance. I was drained, but wasn’t in pain. I was camping around 12,000’, and was above Humphreys Lakes, sitting right at the base of the mountain.
I wanted to be in this particular spot for one reason… the sunset. Even though there were no clouds, Humphreys rivals Half Dome when the sun hits it just right. During sunset, Humphreys lights up on fire and as the sun goes down, the colors on the mountain start to change.
I still had a little while before the show started, so made dinner and then set up the tripod. The moon was just about full and was rising just to the right of the mountain, which added a nice bonus to the shots I would already get.
After sunset, I just sat. I was the only one out here and I was enjoying myself. I watched the moon rise and the stars come out and sat for what must have been a couple of hours… in my church…and then I went to sleep, happy and at peace.