In my opinion, the largest challenge of the Shorty’s Well route is determining the right gear to take for the climb. If you are considering the route, you should be aware that you will need a variety of gear to deal with the various conditions and temperatures from -262 feet of elevation to 11,043 feet of elevation.
Start in darkness. End in darkness. This is what I was thinking at 11:49 p.m. on March 14, 2015. At that point, David Wherry and I had been mountaineering for almost twenty-four hours straight. Minutes before, we had exchanged a few words about how it would be nice to be back at the car before the next day began at 12:01 a.m.; but despite this conversation, we are still shambling along at a crawl into the Badwater Basin our normally powerful gaits reduced to pitiful zombie-esqe shuffling. My legs hurt. My back hurt; and as of 11:32 p.m., my feet had finally started hurting. I felt more dead than alive. At that moment, a mere quarter mile from the car, I was thinking of nothing but two things: “Start in darkness; end in darkness” and its “not mountaineering until someone draws blood”. What we had been doing was mountaineering; there was no doubt in my mind about that. As we finally reached the car, there was one thing I understood fully though: the Shorty’s Well Route was indeed the “impossible hike” and the hardest mountaineering route in North America.
Although California is a "young" state historically to many people, it does have a rich pre-European history, and a rich post-European history. From Fort Ross, the first Russian settlement in California, to the Kings Highway (El Camino Real) and the many missions present on it, California has many historic locations - some of which are secret, and some of which are not. Although it is hidden in plain sight, Fort Point is perhaps one of the more obscure destinations in California, even though it is the state's only Civil War fort.
California is a state with natural beauty that stretches the entirety of the state to each of its borders. It is also a state where the beauty above ground in some areas pales with the beauty below ground. Like a sunset on an unknown beach, each of these areas offer solitude, otherworldly beauty, and in some cases, some of the most unique terrain on the planet. Even if you've never explored a cave before, each of these spots will interest and intrigue you, and provide you a great introduction to the world below your feet.
The most unique thing about Lava Beds National Monument are its many lava tube caves, which were created by lava flows over a period of fifty thousand years from 10,000 to 60,000 years ago. As the lava flowed from the Medicine Lake volcano, the surface cooled and solidified. Underneath the surface, lava continued to flow to various areas, eventually emptying the “tube” underneath. Over the course of time, the rock cooled, cracked, and collapsed, producing openings to the surface. Today, there are over 700 lava tube caves in the National Monument, of which over twenty (20) can be explored.
On the Northern border of Lassen National Park in the Lassen National Forest is the Subway Cave, a remnant of Northern California's volcanic past. This portion of California is part of the Cascade Range of mountains, ancient volcanoes that shaped the geology of the region thousands of years ago, and continue to shape the region even today.
One of the top ten hikes in California is not in Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, Death Valley National Park, nor Joshua Tree National Park. Nor is this hike secreted away in any of the other National Monuments located in California. It is also not located in a park of the state that is easily accessible, nor well known to the rest of the United States, nor to a majority of Californians.