Last night, our Mt Whitney summit team (minus one) did an overnight training hike up at Squaw Valley, USA by climbing to the four peaks that ring the Squaw Valley ski area.
I'm happy to report that the team passed the hike with flying colors.
We left the Bay Area at 8pm and arrived to Squaw Valley at midnight. We donned our boots and packs and headlamps and started hiking through the smoky pitch black up to the top of KT-22.
After bagging our first peak at KT-22, we traversed over to the top of Headwall, then across snow fields in Siberia Bowl to Squaw Peak and the Siberia Ridge and finally ended at the marker for Emigrant Pass before walking down the main jeep trail back to the Valley floor over 2700 feet below as the sun was coming up in the East (pictured above).
Why this overnight hike? I'd done the exact same training hike last summer in preparation for my first trip to the top of Mt Whitney. The training hike helped me get over my jitters that I could hike all night long (I can) as well as tested my ability to do the elevation gains and losses during the extended travel. From the sounds of it, the rest of the team appreciated being able to hike overnight, too... it was a first for everyone (and I hope not a last).
The wildfires all over Northern California made it a very hazy/smoky hike, though not to the extent that our lungs were bothered. The weather was surprisingly warm all night, yet we still had several snow fields to hike across on our adventure. In all, the team did a great job of pushing through and gaining the confidence we'll need for our single-day, overnight assault of Mt Whitney on July 11.
Personally, though... WOW, what a difference a year makes! Whereas last year I was near the beginning of my current health kick, as of today, I can say I'm now in great shape. While I struggled last year with some of the ascents at Squaw (especially from KT-22 to Headwall) with a lot of stopping and resting, this year felt like a walk in the park. Thanks to twelve months of endurance training for triathlons, my cardiovascular endurance is 1000 times better, as is my muscular strength, and I'm carry 35 pounds less on my frame than last year on the same hike.
All this has left me positively giddy about the physical progress I've made.
Most importantly, I feel like the trip up Mt Whitney in less than two weeks won't tap me out like it did last time when I bonked in the last couple miles on the return to the cars. Since I'm leading the group this year, I've got to have extra energy in my tanks to handle anything unforeseen.
And if last night's hike is any indication, I've got those reserves in spades. Can't wait to make it to Lone Pine on July 10 and the top of Whitney on July 11 at dawn!