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Begins: Oct 4, 2016
Date: Thu, Oct 13th, 2016
Start: San Diego
End: San Diego
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Trip Distance: 144.5
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Planning notes for future hikers
Lowest to Highest Planning Notes
I always like to write something up at the end so here are some thoughts:
I really loved the L2H. Just the fact you can walk across Death Valley is amazing. It was incredibly gorgeous. It was also pretty hard but actually not as hard as I had expected (my expectations we very high on difficulty so I ended up finding it easier than expected). Much of this is probably due to nicer weather, see below. On the one hand I'd be careful about choosing this route if you have don't much hiking with water and no-trail issues, on the other hand you can cache a lot of water if you like so that helps a lot and navigation is pretty straightforward.
Most hikers do this hike as recommended by Blisterfree, around the last week of September or first week of October. You are trying to catch the coolest weather possible in Death Valley but still be able to climb Whitney without snow. If you have winter skills then you could probably climb Whitney later and have a cooler hike. One interesting thing is that it seems to me that the few blogs out there that are detailed also seemed to have the hottest weather which skewed my weather view before the hike. These folks the last couple years had like 110+ going across the playas. When I was at Badwater, a sign showed the average temperature around 10/1 to be about 98. That's a pretty big difference. I got very lucky and had a cooler period and my high temperatures were about 90. I'd say this made the hike a lot more Type 1 enjoyable as opposed to Type 2, suffering in the amazing heat of Death Valley.
You are unlikely to have rain other than near Whitney although Death Valley does get the occasional crazy storm but that should be forecasted. Also, some folks have hiked in Spring using some winter skills to climb Whitney and possibly Telescope. This probably allows for better temperatures across Death Valley. But most hike in the Fall.
CACHING AND WATER:
This is your biggest issue / pain in the ass. Here's what we did and other thoughts:
-We didn't cache at mile 6, West side highway. The road is dirt and looked OK for a car.
-Hanaupah spring at mile 15 was flowing near the trail. This is a year round source you can count on unless you hear otherwise.
-Tuber spring at mile 24. I think this generally runs year round but you probably don't want to count your life on that. From Hanaupah to Tuber you are going up and over Telescope, a massive and very slow trailless climb. Prior year hikers and myself all had water in Tuber. The first possibility is where you drop into Tuber canyon, walk a couple minutes up canyon and there was lots of water flowing. Later on around 5,000' there is an obvious area of water where you have to search for a way to access it through the dense vegetation to where it is running here and there. I found the best water near the very end of the area where a tiny stream was running and accessible as others had beat through the brush. Much lower down there is another lush area but you are way up on trail on the hillside and I didn't go down to see if there was water.
Warning, Blisterfree and the Park don't count this as guaranteed water so be careful with your decision.
-Trona Wildrose cache: I didn't cache here as the road was closed as it was washed out in a flood and is currently being rebuilt. I tried to cache nearby down Panamint valley road and down a dirt road (Minietta) but my little Corolla was weighed down with 3 people and the dirt road scared me. It wasn't too bad but it was dark and not worth the risk. This probably won't be an issue next year and the cache should be easy and if the temperatures are hot, you'll probably want this cache. The walk across the Panamint valley is easy but man it could be brutal in the heat.
-Panamint: Good restaurant here. Also a campground/RV park and a tiny general store where you can't afford the prices. There has been mixed results with trying to leave a resupply box here. I don't think anyone has been successful trying to mail a box. Depending on who you ask, you get a different answer and I get the sense they are confused with L2H hikers. If they say no, just put your food in a 5 gallon Home Depot bucket and hide it in the desert nearby. Although not required, you might as well do a food cache here to make your hike easier as you'll be driving right by.
-Saline Valley road: We cached a gallon at the junction here with 190 and then drove 8 miles up the dirt road (which is the trail) and did a big cache where the road splits since this was our last guaranteed water to Lone Pine 40 miles away. The road is a high grade dirt road and fine for a regular car. You could keep driving up White Mountain Talc road 10+ miles (which is the L2H) and do another cache. This road is narrow but fair, I would want a truck or SUV but we did see another hiker doing a cache in a rental passenger car and he made it although a tow would be very expensive out here!
-Cerro Gordo: This ghost town is very, very cool. There is a caretaker and they seem to like L2H hikers. They had a ton of bottled water on hand and had no problem sharing it. There were also lots of jeeps and trucks driving up from Owens valley to visit and you could easily yogi some water, everyone was friendly. You can call ahead to the caretaker to ask about water to make sure. I'm a bit unclear if they want any money, I feel like hikers have offered but I'm not sure they are really looking for money, feel it out and leave a donation if they give you water for free.
Cerro Gordo was my last water till Lone Pine. I didn't cache near town as it was so close and the Owens river is year round but I'd probably skip it. You are close to town and who knows what's in it.
PACK OUT YOUR CACHES!! DO NOT LEAVE WATER FOR OTHER HIKERS. No one wants your water, we are all prepared and you are just being lazy and an asshole if you are leaving your plastic bottles out there. I read a good tip from another hiker years ago. Cut up all your gallon jugs into strips and slip the strips into one jug. Makes it so you can then carry all your bottles out in one jug and was nice and easy.
Theoretically you could make it without any caches if you don't have a car and don't want to cache while hitching. If you can count on Tuber and Cerro Gordo then it's actually not bad at all. Especially if you can do a quick food cache at Panamint while you are hitching, I'm sure your ride would pull over for 2 seconds. Of course, counting on Tuber and Cerro Gordo isn't a great situation, tough call. I feel like with Cerro Gordo there will always be a truck if you wait a bit so you won't die there if the caretakers are gone.
The Whitney permits get reserved way, way in advance and there are none reserved for walk in. However, hikers are required to reconfirm their permit 2-14 days in advance and then there are a ton of cancellations and daily there is a lottery for walk ins for those cancellations,. I heard there was like 30+ available daily so no problem. There are day permits and overnight permits. If you can't snag a day permit you could get an overnight and then just come back down. The lottery works such that at 11 am it's for overnight permits (starting later that day or the next day) and 2 pm it's for day permits (for the next day). A bunch of hikers this year took the Mountaineers route up which I know nothing about but sounded cool and a lot of class 3 scrambling so that's an option too.
I'm sure you know your gear so here's just a few thoughts:
-I thought I'd really need zip off pants but there wasn't a lot of overgrown trail. A few areas, but no big deal.
-Go light on the rain gear, shelter and water treatment (there are barely any natural sources).
-Go heavy on the sun protection, whatever works for you. It's Death Valley!
-Bring an umbrella!!!
-You'll probably be nighthiking a bit, a decent headlamp will help.
-Navigation was pretty easy. It's wide open most of the time and the maps and gps track are great.
-Time: It took us a week. It's been done in about 5.5 days at the fastest I believe. The timing of the Whitney permit can be a pain and add time to your hike. You'll want to plan out your days more than normal since water is so scarce.
-I had cell service on top of Telescope and then a ton for the rest of the trip. I have AT&T. Loveline had Verizon and it didn't work much, only occasionally. Slaughter had Sprint which didn't work at all.
Lowest To Highest - Badwater To Mt. Whitney
The Lowest-to-Highest (L2H) is a 130 mile, backcountry hiking route between Badwater and Mt. Whitney, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere to the highest place in the contiguous United States. Learn more: www.simblissity.net/L2H.shtml
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