Climbing Mt. Whitney

Melissa Marsted, Montecito resident and mother of two young children, was able to check off an item from her “1,000 Things To Do Before I Die” list. She, along with several other Montecito residents hiked up Mt. Whitney on August 21st. Among those that joined Ms Marsted on the hike were Mike Swan, Joe Devrees, Dr. Laura Corrigan, Michael Corrigan, Dr. Luc Maes, Barbara Maes, Dr. Bill Gallivan, Karen Gallivan, Wendy Bell, Brenda Nancarrow, Berkeley Johnson, Ken Saxon, and Rick Hogue.

“For a few years, reaching the summit of Mt. Whitney has called to me,” Melissa explains. “A fellow runner, Laura Corrigan, had secured sixteen permits,” she continues, “with plans for a relatively leisurely ‘stroll’ up Mt. Whitney. Wendy Bell, Brenda Nancarrow, and I left Santa Barbara about noon for a quick four-hour drive to Lone Pine and checked into the Dow Villa Motel.”

Hike leader Laura Corrigan, who is also a mother of three young children, had taken extra steps to make sure the group would not miss any of the action. Not only did she secure the permits, reserve the rooms, make dinner reservations for two nights, but she also left a note in the lobby advising the group to meet at 5:30 that night for a pre-climb dinner and arranged wake-up calls for the following morning. Eleven people gathered for a hearty dinner of salads, pasta dishes, and steaks the night before the climb.

“We all wanted to make sure we had enough sustenance for the first part of our hike in the morning,” Melissa recounts. “How would we manage to eat at 2:30 am? A few of us even indulged in a glass of wine, hoping that it might help us to get to sleep at 9 pm. Who could sleep? When we shared our stories most of us managed about four hours of solid sleep before Laura’s wake up call at 2:20 am.”

Early that morning Melissa had to deal with equipment failure. “The night before,” she says, “I had filled my brand new North Face bladder with a hundred ounces of an energy concoction that I refrigerated overnight, only to find out at 2:30 am that nearly a third had leaked out in the back of my car.” Melissa refilled it with a weaker, more watery mixture, but that too leaked. Barbara Maes came up with an extra bladder, which was good news; the bad news was that it was quite a bit smaller.

The hikers began their trek with headlamps guiding their way through the darkness. Laura had set a quick pace for the group; hike for an hour and rest for five minutes. The goal was to make it to the top as quickly as possible in order to have time to enjoy the summit and the hike to the bottom.

“By 4 am we were at the trail head at the Whitney Portal at 8,360 feet and 13 miles from Lone Pine,” Melissa reports. “We only had 6,137 feet to climb in 11 miles. At 5 am we couldn’t see much, but the space was open and we all looked up for shooting stars. It was cool and quiet; it helped to quell our nerves. All we could see was the step in front of us. The second stop was just as the sky was starting to lighten. It was only 5:45 am, but we were just below the tree line and some of us wanted to take advantage of discreet spots to use as our water intake was already starting to creep up.”

The issue of finding restroom facilities was a challenge; the Forest Service had removed solar latrines at Outpost Camp in 2006 and more recently, the final one at Trail Camp, so the group had to plan elimination stops.

By about 8 am, the hikers had reached the Trail Camp where most of the overnight hikers camp for a morning ascent. Even though Melissa and the others had to wake up at 2:20 am, she wouldn’t have traded places. “Lucky for them that they can sleep an extra three or four hours, but personally I was much happier in an $83 a night room and a decent dinner.” The weather was favorable, and the group reached the peak to find a level top. “Plenty of room to build a small one-room shed for protection; a stone cabin with a steel roof. Definitely not a good place to stay in case of lightening and thunder storms; supposedly three people had died in there this summer,” Melissa said. At the top, the group of about six ate, took photos of each other, signed the Whitney summit book, talked to other trekkers, and again looked for more discreet places to relieve themselves. “Thirty minutes at the top was ample time; plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and relish our accomplishment, but it was a bit chilly and we were antsy to start our descent.”

Not all hikers relished the accomplishment. Fellow hiker, marathon runner, and Montecito resident Rick Hogue, for example, didn’t have the best experience. “The bottom line is that the altitude above 13,000 feet crushed me. I anticipated the migraine, but nothing prepared me for the vertigo and nausea. It was very humbling to be sitting on the side of the trail, as women at least twenty years older than me motored by smiling and wishing me well,” Rick said. But asked if he would consider going through the challenge again, he answered in one word, “Absolutely!”

Winemaker Dinners at the Biltmore

The Biltmore has unveiled its Fall 2007 Winemaker Dinner Series featuring Executive Chef Martin Frost’s multi-course dinners designed to complement hand-selected wines from local vintners. Babcock Winery begins the series on Thursday, September 20 featuring owner-winemaker (and Montecito resident) Bryan Babcock. Reception starts at 6:30 pm and dinner is at 7 pm. Other upcoming winemaker dinners are Sunstone Winery on October 18, and Caymus Winery on November 29.

If you’d like to join them (at $95 per person), call Four Seasons (805-565-8232) for reservations and information.

Sherwin in Songwriter Showcase

Award-winning songwriter and Montecito resident Lanny Sherwin will be performing at the eighth Santa Barbara Songwriter Showcase, held on Thursday September 20 from 7 to 9:30 pm. The former Nashville staff writer, has just released his 4th music CD, “I Like Being Me!” geared to children aged 4-9 (his record company’s motto: “Don't Drive Parents Crazy!

”). Although his new CD is for kids, he will also perform tunes for adults (on a 50/50 ratio), including “Here for the Runnin’,” co-written with Steve Key.

The Santa Barbara Songwriter Showcase will be held at Jensen Guitar Mainstage, 2905 De La Vina. Cost is $10, with discounted $5 tickets for those under 21. Children under 12 are free if accompanied by an adult. Advance tickets are recommended and available at Jensen Guitar (805-563-3200).