We started out on a trail bathed in light from a nearly full moon, but things got ugly as the light went away when we entered a more wooded area. The three E's pulled out high-tech head-mounted headlights to wear but I (who was under the impression that all of our hiking would be during daylight hours) was left bumping through the night. After over two hours of steady ascent we decided to grab a few hours of sleep and hit the trail hard at dawn. Unfortunately, nobody warned me that the Daxer brothers liked to snore, so I basically got no sleep during our quick pitstop.
At 5:30 the next morning we got up and watched the sun rise, then it was time to hit the trail with the goal of summiting Whitney by late afternoon. It soon became obvious that my pack weight, lack of sleep, and out-of-shape body were conspiring to foil my summit attempt. While the three E's were chugging up the side of the mountain like pack mules fueled on nitromethane, I was starting to wheeze and fall back. In an attempt to keep the mood more upbeat, the Daxer Duo regularly impressed me with their amazing prowess of their gastrointestinal music. It was almost like dualing banjos, except that the note was of a more comical tone. Just when I was about ready to keel over, I was informed that we had yet to reach the dreaded "switchbacks" that entailed some 99 wickedly ascending zig-zags that topped out on the 13,600-foot-high Trail Crest.
After hours of slow climbing I finally perched my derriere atop a rock at Trail Crest and promptly slumped into a 30-minute power nap while the three E's ingested turkey jerkey, trail mix, and liquids all while mocking my gelatin-like status. I awoke to a, "C,mon, let's go," and before I knew it, we were off again. As bad as I thought the previous sections were, the last push to the top was in thin 14,000-foot air with seriously dangerous drop-offs at nearly every step. Finally, right at sunset we summited the oh-so-evil Mt. Whitney, with just enough time to take a few proof-of-existence photos. Earlier, my plan was to shoot scads of scenic photos and video from the top, but now my lone goal was to go to bed atop the 14,497-foot rock. A quick "I'm alive" call was placed to my own very pregnant wife via our Iridium Satellite phone (which worked flawlessly atop the arid peak) and then I was out, sawing logs.
Ironically, I awoke again at 5:30 the next morning hearing, "You hauled all that camera gear to the top, and you're going to sleep through the sunrise... Aye!" so I thought it best to partake in and document the dastardly event. Afterwards, we packed up, ingested fistfuls of Powerbars, and started hiking down. I quickly learned that sleep, food, and gravity (when descending, as opposed to ascending) do help, and I actually made great time on our 5 1/2-hour power push to the bottom. We were happy to see the H2 un-mauled and, without much chatter, we flopped down onto the plush leather seats and set our sights on the solid food awaiting in Lone Pine. After scarfing down yet another extra-large "Eagle Special" pizza at the Pizza Factory, we gassed up and headed for our last adventure at the Olancha Sand Dunes.
We stepped out onto the dunes with the goal of testing the H2s sand-clawing prowess and to snap a few quick pictures of the Hummer having fun. However, the wind was blowing strong and a good sandblasting was the last thing any of us wanted, so we moved with speed. After some hill-climb testing, Steve Daxer was asked to perform a mild jump off one of the dunes for photo purposes -- a challenge he quickly accepted. As the nearly 6700-pound H2 approached the lip of a sizable dune, I knew something memorable was about to happen. Somehow my "not too much speed" request was overlooked, and consequently, the copper H2 sailed off the dune with unbelievable height. We all waited to see exactly how many pieces would explode off the H2 upon landing, but amazingly, the big rig sucked up the crash-down with amazing ability. Steve asked if he should do another jump (for photo purposes, of course) but I figured it was best that we leave while everything remained attached and still functioning.
We rolled back into Los Angeles tired, but not defeated. We'd racked up a solid 5641.4 miles on the H2's odometer and it showed no signs of weakness thus far. However, that's just Leg One of our two-part journey. Starting August 3 we're off for Leg Two, so be sure to check back to monitor the H2's progress.