I came up with a plan a bit ago for a nice outdoor challenge and it’s almost time to try and pull it off! I’m going to try to do The Grand Canyon (South Kaibab to Bright Angel), Mt Whitney, and Half Dome all in the same week. Seems like a fun week of vacation, right?
I’ll be heading to the Ten-X Campground just outside of Grand Canyon National Park on Friday, September 2nd. My friend is celebrating his birthday up there and reserved one of the group campsites. I’m going to head out midmorning to get up there, get the tent set-up, get comfy and chill. I’m excited for the adventures, but also for some car camping, living in comfort in the outdoors! After a night of relaxing outside, I’ll get up, drive into the park and hop the Hikers Shuttle out to the South Kaibab Trailhead. My goal is to do the hike in under 8 hours, but I’ll be happy just enjoying myself on the hike. After hiking I’ll head back to the campground for some chilling out and helping my friend celebrate his birthday.
Sunday morning I’ll going to get up, enjoy some breakfast and coffee, pack up my stuff and hit the road. I’ll be heading for a stop over in Las Vegas during my drive to Mt Whitney. It’s too long of a drive in one day so it makes for a nice stop over and one last shower before a solid week in the tent.
Monday morning I’ll get up, grab some breakfast and hit the road around 8am. I’ll stop by Star Wars Canyon again in my hopes of one day seeing some jets there and hopefully get to the Whitney Portal Campground around the 2pm check-in time.
After getting my campsite set up, I’ll do a little walking around and then relax before an early dinner. I’ll crash out for as long as possible and probably get up around midnight.
Since I didn’t get a Half Done permit in the lottery I need to drive down the portal road until I get internet service and get in the 2 day out Half Dome lottery for Thursday. After that I’ll drive back up to the trailhead and get the hike started.
I hope to get started by 1 or 2 am, so I can set a nice sustainable pace for a just after sunrise summit. After a bit on the summit I’ll head down and try and rest up as much as possible. Later that afternoon I should find out if I got the Half Dome permit, fingers crossed!
Wednesday morning I want to get up early and get on the road to Yosemite. I might just grab breakfast in Lone Pine, we’ll see. It’s a four hour drive (not including any lines to get into the park) and I want to maximize my time in the valley.
If I get a permit I’ll pick it up and then cruise around the village and check out some of the sights. I’ll probably start the hike about 4am, I want to get up and down the cables before any crowds or afternoon weather.
If I don’t get a permit I think I’m probably going to do the Clouds Rest Hike, it’s supposed to be pretty awesome, just no cables. Overall I’m stoked to be able to hike in Yosemite Valley and I’m going to try to have as much fun as possible!
So that’s the plan , I think it’ll be fun no matter what, definitely expect some tough hiking. Also very looking forward to some car camping in amazing places!
I’ve gotten most of the planning done for this summer’s adventures. There are still a couple of things up in the air, but most of the important details have been taken care of or there’s a plan to do so. Right now I’m starting to concentrate on getting in shape for this challenge, not digging too deep yet, just trying to get a solid base built.
I hiked both days this weekend, yesterday was a nice 7 miles in South Mountain Park. I love this hike, 1600ft vertical and lots of rolling hill once you get up high!
The Status of the Plans
The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne trip is all set. Plans, permits and all reservations have been made. The only thing left to do will be buy supplies, load up and head out. The hardest part will be waiting almost 3 more months!!
The September Challenge is almost all set with an important hurdle still to get over.
- Grand Canyon Campsite ✅
- Whitney Portal Campsite ✅
- Mt Whitney Day Permit ✅
- Yosemite Valley Campsite ✅
- Half Dome Permit ❌
I was unsuccessful in getting a Half Dome permit during the seasonal lottery, my plan is to enter the daily lottery 2 days out from the hike date, The only complication is that’s the day I’m hiking Mt Whitney, so I’ll wait until midnight and drive down the Portal road until I get service, sign-up for the lottery, drive up to the trailhead and start my hike, hike out in the afternoon and find out if I got a slot. If I don’t get that slot then my last opportunity will be permit jumping. Apparently you can hike to the base of the sub-dome and ask the rangers if there have been any open spots on permits, if there have been up you go. If anyone out there has any experience with this please hit me up! If that doesn’t work out I’ll hike around for a bit and enjoy being in Yosemite Valley!
See you on the trails!!
I’ve been getting together the plans for this summer and the outlook for excellent adventure seems high! The first and main backpacking trip of the summer is the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. I have never been to Yosemite and it’s been on the list for a long time. Since it’s in the middle of the crowded time I was pretty happy that this is the permit I ended up getting my hands on! We’ll be in Tuolumne, the Yosemite high country, which should be a little less crowded than the valley, To make things better I’ve got two longtime friends coming along, one I met the first day of kindergarten.
The hike is a 33 mile point to point hike that follows the Tuolumne River through an amazing looking canyon with a number of awesome waterfalls. We’re planning on 4 days and 3 nights of hiking, most of the days shouldn’t be too bad distance-wise so hopefully we’ll get some time to chill by the waterfalls and check things out! My friends are flying in and out of Vegas, so we’ll cruise through Death Valley National Park on our way back. Maybe stop by Star Wars Canyon or Badwater Basin! Really looking forward to a point to point backpack in an amazing place with good friends.
The next adventure will be a big one! It’s my friends 50th birthday the first week of September, and he reserved a group campsite right outside of Grand Canyon National Park. I’m going to drive up Friday, get the campsite set-up and chill for the evening. The next morning I’m going to wake up early and do the South Kaibab to Bright Angel Hike. I’d like to do it under 8 hours, so I’m going for fast and light mode. That puts me back at the campground in the early afternoon. I’ll hang out Saturday night and Sunday assisting my friend in his birthday celebrating.
Monday morning it’ll be time to get up and get on the road to the Whitney Portal. That’s right, I scored a day permit for Mt Whitney! I have a reserved campsite at the Whitney Portal Campground, and hope to get there and get all set up by 4pm. After that I’m going to try to sleep for a few hours and get started with the hike about midnight. I’d like to do the hike in about 12 hours, putting me back at the campsite around noon. The rest of the day will be about refueling and resting up as much as possible, while still getting a good night’s sleep.
Wednesday morning will be another morning to get up and get going because we’re headed back to Yosemite. It’s time to tick Half Dome off the list! I’ll hit the road to the Lower Pines campground as early as possible, once I get to the valley I’ll get set-up, get my permit and take in the majesty of Yosemite Valley. I hope that being there in September will take the crowds down a little compared to the height of the summer, we’ll see…
Thursday morning I’ll probably try to start hiking about 3-4am to ensure I beat the crowds and any weather. After what I think will be an amazing hike, it’ll be back to the campsite to chill the rest of the day and then head back to Phoenix Friday morning.
Permit/reservation-wise, the Grand Canyon campsite is taken care of and I don’t need a permit for a day hike. I have a Day Whitney permit and reserved campsite at Whitney Portal. The only big hurdle left is the Yosemite stuff. I find out Monday the 11th if I get a Half Dome Permit, and on the 15th I can try and make a Lower Pines Campground reservation. If I don’t get a half dome permit but am able to get a campsite I’ll probably still go and try and get a daily permit lottery slot.
I’m going to have to be pretty fit and get a little lucky with the weather, but I think I can pull this off. It’ll be fun to try, one way or another!
Looking into Sierra National Park from the Mt Whitney Trail
After 3 years of trying and the pandemic interrupting my efforts I finally got a Mt Whitney permit! I ended up getting an overnight permit the day they released the unclaimed lottery slots, and planned for 3 nights in the Whitney Zone. That way if I dealt with weather or acclimation issues I would have some extra time.
I headed out on Sunday, July 19th, and made my way to Las Vegas to break-up the drive. Stopped to check out Hoover Dam for a bit. Depressing to see how low the water level is, but it’s always an impressive structure to see!
I stayed at the El Cortez Hotel just off Fremont Street. I was just looking for a cheap room and it did the job! Strolled around the Fremont Street Experience to do some Vegas people watching, always entertaining!
I wanted to have a nice meal before living out of my backpack for the rest of the week, and luckily wandered in to Carson’s Kitchen just a block away from my hotel. It was exactly what I wanted- Deviled Eggs with Pancetta and Caviar.
Cocoa-Espresso NY Strip, and Glazed Donut Bread Pudding (not pictured because I couldn’t wait to eat it), all amazing!
The next morning I woke up about 5am, grabbed some breakfast and hit the road! My plan was to drive through Death Valley National Park and hit up Badwater, the lowest point in North America, before heading to Mt Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48!
While it is a very different National Park, Death Valley is very beautiful in it’s own way and super cool to drive through.
When I got to Lone Pine I headed down the Whitney Portal Road, but made a stop in the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area. There’s a cool, short loop hike that takes you past some natural rock arches, like Mobius Arch below. Usually you can see Mt Whitney through the arch, but the incoming weather scuttled that view! The area has been used to film many movies from The Lone Ranger (1938) to Iron Man (2008) and many more!
After that it was time to make the drive up to the Portal and move in to my campsite for the night.
When I first booked a campsite no spots were open at the Whitney Portal Campground, so I had booked a spot at the Lone Pine Campground at the bottom of the road. I randomly checked a few weeks out and a spot had opened at the Portal campground and I snagged it! This ended up being a great development. The Whitney Portal campground is at 8000 ft and in the beautiful trees, so much better than down in the hot desert!
After getting the tent up I went for a quick hike up the first part of the Mt Whitney trail, just to get the legs moving and to help get used to the altitude. It was nice to hike in such beautiful weather, a big change from Arizona. Spent the evening chillin’ in the campsite enjoying being outdoors!
My plan was to hit the trail before 9am. I got up, made myself some breakfast, did a final organizing of the backpack and drove up to the trailhead. Both the hiker lot and overflow parking were full so I had to park on the side of the road, fortunately there’s a large shoulder and it was easy to find a decent spot.
Weighed my pack at the trailhead scale, 42 lbs, a little on the heavy side but I wanted to have enough food and warm clothes to comfortably stay up high for 4 days if necessary. After that I shouldered the pack and headed down the trail.
The trail starts uphill pretty quickly, makes sense as you’ve got a lot of elevation to gain! After about a mile you enter the John Muir Wilderness, this part of the hike is pretty relaxing overall, just cruising through the forest with some amazing views. The first real milestone is Lone Pine Lake, a cool mountain lake on a rocky shelf about 3 miles in. The trail seems to flatten out a little bit as you head towards Outpost Camp, a popular lower camp inside the Whitney Zone. As you pass Outpost the trail climbs steeply towards Mirror Lake, another amazing lake that’s worth a quick stop!
A little ways after you pass Mirror Lake you head above tree line. Most of the rest of the hike is on rocks, and you really start to feel like you’re high in the mountains. The section from Trailside Meadow to Trail Camp felt like the most difficult of the entire hike to me. Maybe I knew I was getting close and was ready to take off the full pack, but I was very glad to have that section behind me.
Once you reach Consultation Lake it’s just a short bit up to Trail Camp. I thought about hanging out at the lake, but wanted to go ahead and get a campsite at Trail Camp before the good spots were taken.
I’m happy I was able to make the hike in one push without taking off the pack, I really wanted to be fit for this hike. Arrived at Trail Camp about 12:30ish, found a great little spot, nice and flat and a little sandy for some cushion. Got all set up, got the solar panel going to start charging stuff, had a snack and start hanging out, for about 8 hours…
This is the time it would have been nice to have somebody else along, I met and talked to a few of my tent neighbors and looked around at the beautiful views, but it was a long evening just hanging around.
I had planned to start hiking by 3am, but it was a cold night at 12,000 ft for this Arizonian. When my alarm went off about 2:30 I decided to be warm for a bit longer and not hike quite as much in the dark, very glad I made this decision!
Cooked up a little oatmeal with peanut butter, threw a few things in my backpack, turned on the headlamp and headed for the summit, a hike I had been waiting a long time to start!
Trail Camp sits right at the bottom of the 99 Switchbacks so you’re into the business quickly. Overall the switchbacks aren’t steep, there’s just a lot of them and they seem to go on for a long time. Pretty much just put my head down and cranked them out. It was great to get to Trail Crest, it’s an amazing view and a major milestone for the hike. It was cold and windy there so I just kept moving after taking a few pics.
There’s a sign that says it’s 1.9 miles to the summit, as many have said it’s the longest 2 miles I’ve ever hiked. It took me 1 hour 49 minutes to cover that distance, and I was feeling great and moving at a decent pace the whole time. There are some really cool sections around the JMT junction and a little past that, but after a while you’re just walking through a huge field of rocks, As you continue to head up it seems like you’ll never get there, and then you come over a small ridge of rock and the summit hut is right in front of you! A little navigating through the big rocks and you’re on the summit!
I spent about 30 minutes on the summit, got the required summit sign pic. I had cell service, so I was able to call my wife, which was nice! After a bit of taking pics, checking out the hut, it was time to head down. The hike down is pretty easy, just a lot of down.
As I descended I started to run into a lot of the day hikers on their way up. Some people looked great, but there were definitely people who looked like they were struggling pretty badly with a long way to go just to get to the summit, and some who just had no business being there. I hope that they all made wise decisions that day, because as we all know the top is only half way.
I had my GoPro on for the cool section along the JMT junction, but somehow lost all the footage due to operator error!!!
I made it back to Trail Camp about 12:30. Originally I had planned on staying at there again that night, but the prospects of another long afternoon/evening of just hanging out and another cold nights sleep didn’t seem that great. So I packed up camp and hiked on out! The hike out is really cool as well, you kind of get a different perspective than going up. The last mile or so I was ready to be done, a little over 16 miles for the day made the Whitney Portal a welcome sight. Grabbed a burger in Lone Pine, and found a dispersed campsite out in the Alabama Hills. Slept good!
The next day I packed up my campsite and headed back through Death Valley on my way to Zion National Park to continue the adventures!!