Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Mt. Whitney 7/9/05

Earlier this year, a group of my friends thought it might be fun to climb Mt. Whitney. Joanna Lee, Michael Grosso, Paul Durant & Keith Gayheart twisted my arm and begged me to go one day after a particularly tough trail run where I was so whacked out that I didn't even realize I said yes. (Although their version of this part may differ substantially). In February, Joanna Lee was able to get the requisite amount of the coveted permits. Joanna, Mike and myself were Whitney rookies, while Paul Durant had come within 1,000 feet of summitting Mt. Fuji last summer and Keith Gayheart had summitted Whitney before, so I thought of him as our fearless leader (putting his fear of heights aside, he was pretty fearless). After standing in my own living room while wearing the full backpack, I knew the following day's journey was going to be the toughest thing I would ever attempt. My suspicions were confirmed around 5:15am the next morning during the first half mile of the climb. To begin, I am not a "carrier" - I don't like to carry water bottles, camelbaks, gel packs, nothing. I've even been heard to complain that my socks are too heavy. But all the experienced Whitney day hikers suggested that a minimum of two quarts of water is mandatory, as well as warm clothes, gloves, dry socks, hat, windbreaker, trekking poles and snacks. It seemed like I was preparing for a lengthy stay in Siberia, rather than a trip up and down a mountain, which made the task even more daunting. It took seven hours of frequent pit stops and snack breaks between intermittent bouts of sweating, freezing, and wondering how much further until I could take the next break. Considering some of my past undertakings, I suspect the rest of the group had some rather lofty expectations of me. If not for this thought, I seriously would have gone back to the parking lot within the first 45 minutes. Once I got used to sucking air and figured out how to manuever while using trekking poles without skewering the rest of my companions, I was actually able to notice just how flippin' pretty everything around me was. I had forgotten how beautiful snow is when it glistens in pure, unpolluted sunlight. Getting to the top became a slide show of one astounding postcard-like view after another. The best part of the summit was the "throne" where one could relieve themself without any walls obstructing their view. Our group napped, signed the summit book, posed for some photos, then reluctantly began the descent. When I think back, words really can't describe. Luckily, Joanna took some amazing pictures.

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Until next time ...