Snowshoeing the Mt Whitney Trail
Experienced by and written by Kurt Sjobert, GH Sports Team Member.
Every winter I try to break up my regular workout schedule and go do something that’s outside of my normal swimming, biking, and running routine; really anything to help me from getting burnt out throughout the year. This winter I thought I would try to make it happen at a little bit of elevation. In planning though, a little became a lot and my plans spiraled into hiking up at the highest point in the continental United States.
For our holiday break my sister and I decided to attack Mt.Whitney on a two-day, snowshoeing adventure. Having never done mountaineering we were biting off quite a bit. Luckily, our gear was picked out by experts at the rental shop, but we hadn’t really tested much. We did a five-mile hike the day before we were going to attempt the climb, so we could decide on what gear would be necessary, what clothes to wear, and to make sure we could find the trail-head the next morning.
The goal when hiking at elevation in subfreezing temperatures is to stay both dry and warm. Soaking through a shirt with sweat while pushing hard up a mountain can mean hypothermia when you stop and your body temperature cools. So during the hike, I found myself wearing nothing but my base layer to avoid sweating. Of all the technical base layers I had brought nothing kept me dry as well as my GH Dri Top.
The Dri Top, for the three months since I’ve had it, has been my go-to for brisk morning jogs. I had brought it along with me as a light jacket to wear around town the day before the hike. But when I was unable to wear any of my other base layers without sweating, it became an essential piece of my hiking attire. It was the first of quite a few lucky breaks we had on the trip.
The biggest stroke of luck though, came the night before the hike. We were in the local mountaineering shop getting some last-minute supplies when four guys walked in intending to hike the next day also and looking just as unprepared as we were. We joined forces, which proved to be invaluable. First having four extra people to push down the snow and cut the trail helped immensely, and when our tent proved to be near useless, they let us pile into theirs. Two person tents with three people each made for crowded but comfortably-warm sleeping conditions.
The hiking itself was tiring work. A pretty big departure from my normal workouts of running and cycling. Snowshoeing and traversing snow chutes at over 10,000 feet was definitely the best workout I’d done in months. We finished our hike at the end of the Mt. Whitney trail, about 500 feet below the actual peak. Running out of fuel to melt snow kept us from making a final push. But with the view we got of the high sierras from 14,000 feet, we were far from disappointed.
I’m a cyclist, mostly; a runner, sometimes; and a swimmer if it’s warm enough. So when I found myself on the face of a mountain in crampons with ice axe in hand, I was a bit out of my element. But with the luck we had, the right gear, and a lot of effort, it was a great trip; I highly encourage putting a little adventure into your winter training.