Jack loaded up for the hike to base camp
Jack is an avid rock climber, hiker, mountain climber, and outdoorsman. He's been up Langley using different routes three times. So this trip was in his wheelhouse.
For me, though, it was a new (ish) experience. It was the first time I had spent three days camping at over 11,500ft. It was my first multi-day hike. It was also the first time I had drunk water from a stream. Since Africa and the Himalayas are in the offing, it was also a chance for me to try out new high-altitude, cold weather gear.
The first day we hiked up and in to a camping spot we created near Long Lake. The lake is part of a series of high mountain lakes that dot that part of the Sierras. The water is clear and clean. Enormous, gorgeous rock faces covered two directions, with the lake and more expansive scenic views were on our other sides. It is hard to describe the beauty and the enormity of our surroundings.
Sunrise on one side of Long Lake
The nights were cold - 19F on the first. It was chilly at the campsite due to a no campfire rule. We cooked over small backpacking stoves and then popped into our Marmot Never Summer sleeping bags early on both nights.
On day 2, we awoke, packed up jackets, water, a GoPro, some food, and a couple of beers, and trudged up the New Army Trail toward High Lake and ultimately the summit of Langley. As with all 14ers, the uphill pace was a bit slow. The altitude and pitch combined to slow the speed.
After a couple of hours (maybe a little more) we found ourselves just below the summit. the Class 2 trail led off in the distance for a slightly circuitous route to the top. Jack suggested that we blow that off and climb a Class 3 boulder route that stood directly between us and the summit. Not having done that before (well certainly not at 13,000 ft), I said 'sure'. And with that we stowed our poles by a boulder and began to climb.
We spent a bit of time on the summit, taking photos, videos, cracking a beer, eating PB and cheddar sandwiches, and watching the incredibly cute little high-altitude rock mice. The views were spectacular. Whitney was visible a few miles away. Due to the time of year, Jack and I had the summit all to ourselves. We hung out for 30-40 min and then went back down through the boulders and glissaded down to where the Old Army Trail connects with the summit trail. Even though taking the Old Army Trail would add a couple of miles to our journey, we took it down a cliff wall in order to see a new set of bowls and lakes.
We came down the Old Army Trail along the wall at the far end of the photo above
Along the way back we passed deer and marmots (my all time favorite animal, if I had to choose). After the 12 mile roundtrip to the summit, we made dinner, had a couple of beers, and then hike out the next morning.
I had always thought of the Sierras as secondary to the Rockies. Well, no more. The range is at least as spectacular. And it has a much smaller group of people who use it. I will definitely be back soon.