Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hiking the Sierra Nevada – Part II – Mt. Whitney Weekend

A few weeks had passed, and now it was time for Eric and I to meet again and hike Mt. Whitney.  Eric was working away at a wine store in Berkeley, and I was in the midst of production on Fantasia 2000 in Burbank.  We had just moved our offices to the old Skunkworks building near the Burbank Airport, and everything, including my office, was new and never before inhabited.

Our plan was to meet in Lone Pine on Saturday, do an acclimation hike, and then summit Mt. Whitney on Sunday.  My routine at Disney Feature Animation was to work my ass off all week, and try my hardest to get through reports on Friday nights, no matter how late, so that I could have Saturdays and Sundays off.  This didn’t always work because at the time I was the supervisor for several departments; Animation, Clean Up, Sweatbox, Final Color, and I also acted as substitute supervisor in Editorial.  This meant many, many reports due at the end of the week.

But on this Friday, I had to finish by the end of the night.  When I finished my work around 10:30pm, I got into my Mustang, which was already packed with my hiking gear, and headed North up the 14 and the 295 to Loan Pine, arriving at our hotel sometime around 2am to find Eric already asleep.

 We woke up bright and early Saturday morning (I didn’t need much sleep back in those days), ate some breakfast and headed to the base of Kearsarge Pass, a hike that would take us to around 11,000 feet.  It was a clear, crisp early fall morning, which was the best time of year to hike these peaks since the summer had melted as much snow as possible throughout the summertime.

This hike took us through beautiful woods and skirted the sides of large outcrops.  As we got to the timberline, there was mostly shale, and the trail became harder as we had to work harder to get foot traction.  The last half-mile being very difficult.   

The air became very thin and Eric and I had to rest quite a bit.  Eric was not as affected by the high altitude, and so he was doing more waiting for me than the inverse; he’s just wired that way.  During this last phase of the hike, we were on the side of a very steep slope, in which the trail was cut into, overlooking what looked like a mini volcano lake a good thousand or so feet below.

As we made it to the summit and looked over the other side, we peered into what looked like the whole of Kings Canyon.  The panorama was magnificent; blue lakes and green forests at varying levels.  We stayed up there for a good hour taking in the views.  I ran into three other Disney people while we were up there.  The coincidence was stupefying; 11,000 feet up on some tiny trail a few hundred miles away from Burbank, and there are some of my co-workers.

Eric and I then headed down.   It was so much easier going back and nice to take in the views we had had our back to on the way up.  We arrived back off of the mountain late afternoon and got some dinner and went to sleep for the very long day ahead of us.