Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Otzi Expedition - Mt. Whitney Part I

In 2015, Mr. Black from Operational Extras fame - attempted with a few other fellows to make the trek up to the top of Mt. Whitney with clothes and gear inspired by 5,300 year old Otzi the Iceman. However, their attempt was shut down by an untimely blizzard of snow and rain and sleet that made conditions just too hazardous to get very far. The journey would have to wait for another time. "Too be continued is better than the end" was the mantra. And 3 years later, the attempt would be made again.

The journey really began soon after Otzi was discovered and news began to spread around of the man found frozen in ice in the Tirolean Alps on the Italian/Austrian border. Images and descriptions of the kit he carried were circulated worldwide. This kit and knowledge of how humans lived 5,300 years ago sparked a young Mr. Black's interest. It's all history from there.

Over the years, Black had developed various elements of the replica kit. But in 2014, the news was made that Black was going to attempt this and the kit really kicked into gear. Goat hide clothes and pack, wooden and natural fiber pack frame, leather snow boots with fiber netting, bearskin hat, arrows and quiver, knife, belt kit with tinder and fungus, leather thongs to keep the bugs off, various pouches and containers, antler, bone, and stone bits of kit, even a couple of copper axes made in the style. Otzi and ancient humans were being rediscovered as the kit evolved.

The spirit of the adventure had caught on. Auctions and donations and encouragement had developed out of the kindness of peoples' hearts as the time for the journey had neared. It was a beautiful thing to see.

After the first attempt, Mr. Black made a few presentations on the kit and its inspirations at bushcraft gatherings in Texas and Nebraska. And good times were had by all.

The years went by, but no one forgot about the journey to the top. And in early 2018, the call went out that the expedition was to be attempted again. Being situated in California's Central Valley on the opposite side of the Sierras almost directly west of Mt. Whitney, I couldn't pass up the opportunity at the second round.

So to make a long story short, after 8 months of waiting, the time had come. With Black coming in from Texas, and CY coming in from the SERE School in Spokane, we met up at the basecamp in October for a couple nights to camp and acclimate to the altitude.

Continued in the next post...

The Otzi Expedition - Mt. Whitney Part II

We really enjoyed our time at the basecamp going over various stories and what not. Me getting to know Black and CY since we had never met before and vise versa. And them two reminiscing stories over many years of training others at the various Air Force SERE Schools and the adventures they've had in that arena. We had fun, but thoughts of the mountain were always there to put a hint of trepidation in the air. On the night before the journey uphill, Black had gone to bed and CY and I had stayed up a bit longer, discussing farming in California and Ohio among other things. As the fire died down, it.... began.... to.... snow!

A brief little dusting of powder puff balls fell for a few minutes. We could hear Black wondering what was going on as we told him "Wouldn't be the iceman without a little ice". But we all laughed as it only lasted a few minutes. Just enough to remind Black of the fury of three years ago. Just enough to remind all of us that this was not going to be some cake walk in the woods.

So from here on, the rest of the story plays out in the video. It was the most difficult two days of hiking I've ever done, but we made it to the top and accomplished our goal. This journey was not just for us, but for all those who joined in along the way. And it was a good feeling to be a part of it all.

I'll just say this though, this hike is for someone in their 20's and 30's. Not for those in their 40's and 50's like we were haha !


Lone Pine Lake

Bighorn Park

Rest stop at Outpost Camp - 10,360'

Looking back at Bighorn Park

Otzi Find Complex Elevation - 10,531' - Here Mr. Black paid tribute by caching some red deer meat and einkorn wheat flower

Consultation Lake

Trail Camp and a frosty night down into the teens. No fires allowed so had to get in the sleeping bags as soon as possible.

Mt. Whitney (far right) and the ridge in the morning light

Otzi Glacier

Looking back at some of the 99 Switchbacks and Wotan's Throne - Trail Camp is near the tarn

Trail Crest second breakfast

Hitchcock Lakes below Mt. Hitchcock - beyond that the Kern River Gorge, the Kaweah Peaks, and the Mineral King area off in the distance

Looking back at the trail with the Siberian Plateau in the middle distance

Many short breaks to catch our breaths - the goal is in sight!

Crabtree Meadow, the Kern River Gorge, and the Kaweah Peaks

CY and Black on the summit!

Mission Accomplished!! Now to get down off this thing...