After months of planning and training, we have finally summitted the tallest point in the continental United States: Mount Whitney. Much thanks to this awesome group of folks for the epic adventure!!
This journey started in February of 2020, when we applied for (and won) day hike permits in the lottery system. A few months later we were starting our physical and mental training by doing various day hikes in the Southern California area (San Bernardino Peak, Ontario Peak, etc), a backpacking journey, cardio workouts, etc. The two main guiding principles were 1) get into good cardio shape, and 2) spend time above 10,000 feet. Mount Whitney is a grueling 22+ mile hike with a 6000+ foot elevation gain to 14,508 feet – Not exactly a walk in the park.
2 weeks before our Whitney trip, we did the nearby Mount Langley hike (~20 mile, ~5000 feet gain to 14,000 feet). In my opinion, this was probably the best thing we did for our preparation – It is a very similar hike to Mount Whitney, and we were able to get used to elevation effects at 14,000+ feet.
Our permit is for Saturday. We arrive to Lone Pine camp on Thursday night, and spend Friday above 10,000 feet in the nearby Onion Valley to help with acclimation. On Friday night I pack my bag with all food and supplies, wear my hiking clothes to sleep, and get in bed at 9PM for our lovely early alarm.
My alarm goes off. I am groggy but excited. After stumbling out of my tent and shoving some food in my mouth, I double check my gear and we drive up to the trailhead.
We reach the trailhead and officially start our hike. My body is confused that is hiking instead of sleeping, so it was a bit of a rough start. But headlamp hiking under the stars was still an awesome experience. The highlight was probably the bats flying around!
We take a break to watch the sun rise, drink coffee, and eat our second breakfast. The caffeine, food, and sunlight increase my mood greatly. The sunrise was so beautiful–hard to put into words!
We are a bit over halfway to the top, and we take a longer break to filter water at this last water source. I am experiencing minor altitude sickness and major mental apprehension looking at this rocky, steep trail ahead of us. We are making good pace, so I just focus on my breathing and continue onward.
I am feeling the full effects of the altitude, leaning into the silliness and having a great time. We have intense discussions that shall not be repeated (what happens above 12,000 feet stays above 12,000 feet). The human experience and the nature of reality are questioned. We break the ceremonial Pop Tart in communion for our last mile.
We reach the summit. There is no better word to describe how I feel other than “drunk”. We take our photos, explore, and nap. I am euphoric, but a bit sad that this journey is over. I still soak it all in as we break for an hour (which only seems like 10 minutes).
We start our descent. The throbbing headache fades away, but is replaced with raw exhaustion. Amazing views going down, including the parts we didn’t see in the dark. I get to use my “wag bag”, which was an experience.
We finish our adventure! We get back to our campsite, celebrate our success with some champagne, and eat a delicious dinner that Scott and Claire made (Much love to these two for manning the camp and hanging out with us!)
I feel very blessed after doing this adventure. We used our incredible human minds and bodies to achieve a feat we have tirelessly worked towards for months. We have access to beautiful land, and the ability to respectfully use it. There is nothing but positive vibes associated with this adventure, and I have nothing to share but gratitude. Thank you to Vish, Rebecca, Alex, Sam, Olivia, Scott, Claire, and all others whom I have shared experiences with in the outdoors. I hope there is more to come!! I will leave you with a quote:
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.
- John Muir