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Badwater/Whitney Trip

3 Oct 1998 - 6 Oct 1998

Photo by Bruce Binder
Erik in Death Valley
The purpose of the Badwater/Whitney Ride/Hike seems to be to wear yourself out. You start on bike at 282 feet below sea level. Then you ride 135 miles to almost 9000 feet above sea level (see the ride profile). Then you hike 10.7 miles to 14495 feet above sea level.

Bruce Binder, Dave Cowan, Debora Curless, Erik Kenas, and Bill Peckham left San Diego at about 11am Saturday heading for Lone Pine. We were in Bruce's short utility vehicle and Bill's (normal height) utility vehicle. We stopped at the In-N-Out in Hesperia, where some of us (vegetarians and not) learned what an "Animal Style" was.

Photo by Bruce Binder
Bill on Bruce's Bike
We left Bruce's car near the USFS Ranger Station in Lone Pine, and after Erik bounced around the Ranger Station for a while (you can't leave him in a car too long...), we ate dinner at Mt Whitney restaurant, and then drove to Badwater with five us in and three bikes on Bill's car. We passed several bikes riding out of Death Valley on our way into Death Valley. At one stop, we talked to some of the rider support people and learned that 28 people had started a sponsered ride at 3pm that afternoon. We arrived under moonlight in Badwater at about 8:30pm.

Elevation 282 feet below sea level. Bruce, Deborah, and Erik got on their bikes and rode off in the moonlight at about 9:30pm Saturday night. Dave and Bill walked around the salt flat for a few minutes while a steady, hot, dry breeze blew over us. Unfortunately we didn't see any Salt Duckcicles.

Somewhere between -282 feet and 2000 feet, Bruce and Bill traded support and rider duties. Somewhere along the route, Bill's car wouldn't start. Dave and Bruce enlisted the help of some passers-by to push the disabled vehicle. After Dave tried to start the car again by standing outside and reaching through the driver's window to turn the key, Bruce mentioned that you must push the clutch to the floor, all the way to the floor, to get the vehicle to start. [I got a good chuckle out of this story, but given the recent electrical problems my car's been having, I imagine that Bruce and Dave were quite worried.]

We saw a few coyotes run across the road. One rider (we won't tell you her name) saw a prancing Meerkat--we think she might have been a little delusional. Riding through the desert at 1am in near-full moonlight is an interesting experience.

Elevation ~2000 feet. We arrived at our sleep spot about 55 miles outside of Badwater at about 3am. Bruce had set up our sleeping bags and pads, and we quickly fell asleep. Erik rode past the sleep spot up the hill a bit. Dave had to go fetch him. Otherwise, Erik probably wouldn't have stopped until the Whitney Portal. We woke up around 6:30am Sunday morning.

Photo by Bruce Binder
Deborah and
Bruce's Shadow
Elevation ~5000 feet. Bruce, Debora, and Erik crest Townes Pass and head down the big hill. Bruce: 48 mph. Deborah: finally broke 50 mph. Erik: No speedo, but really fast.

Elevation ~1000 feet. In Panamint Springs (Motto: Our water price will break your heart--$4/gallon) a very chipper old waiter served us breakfast at the restaurant. After breakfast Deborah, Erik, and Bill climbed on the bikes at 11:15am to head up and over the next pass near Darwin. Dave and Bruce drove support.

Photo by Bruce Binder
Erik Resting in
Panamint Springs
Elevation ~5200 feet. The riders crest the pass on the Darwin Plateau and start the descent into Lone Pine.

Elevation 3700 feet. The group had dinner at Mt Whitney restaurant and starts the ride to Whitney Portal at about 6:30pm.

Elevation ~8800 feet. Erik and Bill arrive at the Portal between 9:00pm (Erik) and 10:00pm (Bill) Sunday night.

Bruce had prepared the best spaghetti dinner I'd ever had (not the Dudley's Principle). Then I promply passed out.

At 6:30ish on Monday, the group woke up, ate some breakfast, and started the hike up the trail around 8:30. Bruce and Deborah turned back in the morning, Dave and Bill turned back around 12500 feet, but Erik went all the way to the summit, completing the trip from the lowest point to the highest point in the lower 48 states. Dave and Bill were back to camp by 6:30pm. Erik returned to the trailhead by 10:00pm.

Photo by Bruce Binder
Deborah at
Townes Pass
After the hike we ate a bunch of turkey burgers, veggie burgers, veggie dogs, and beans. We had a very nice centerpiece for our table. We had a really hard time getting and keeping warm. Heat radiation and retention didn't seem to be working correctly. My personal opinion is that the laws of physics had been temporarily suspended: The hot beans stayed hot for only one spoonful, the food took forever to cook, and you had to put your hand inside the flames of the fire to feel any heat. On the plus side, Deborah had fun making things explode in the fire.

Tuesday morning, we went back down the hill and home. Bill's car's electrical system acted up again, so Dave and Bill didn't have AC for about half of the ride home. It felt really good to reach the San Diego coast and roll the windows down. We celebrated with happy hour beers at the Bahia Don Bravo in La Jolla.

Note: All photos by Bruce Binder
Copyright © 1997-2009 Bill Peckham, all rights reserved.