mt. whitney wednesday: training progress!

Hi everyone! This post is part of my series the Mt. Whitney chronicles, which is comprised of journal entries from when I climbed Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, ten years ago. If you missed the earlier post in the series, you can read them here.

mt whitney chronicles

Sunday, June 22, 2003

We went on an eight-mile hike today, our longest thus far. And — guess what? — I actually felt pretty good! There was a lot of steep uphill, and I was breathing hard, but I was able to keep going at a fairly fast pace and my legs weren’t as sore as they usually are. I can feel myself getting stronger. Plus the wildflowers were in bloom and the sky was a gorgeous, clear blue, and I felt truly in touch with nature. There is something about hiking up to a deserted clearing, and looking out at the greens and browns and blues of the world below you, and breathing in the crisp, cold mountain air that just makes you feel so alive.

Saturday, July 5

It’s still three weeks until our summit attempt of Mt. Whitney, but Mom is already starting to get all our supplies ready. We are taking two medium-sized backpacks, each filled with enough food and water to feed a family of five! But I guess it’s good to be prepared. As Mom always says, “Better safe than sorry — or thirsty!” The last thing we need is to be stuck on Whitney without enough provisions.

However, as I learned firsthand, water is heavy. Today I loaded up my backpack and put it on to test the weight … and I nearly fell over backwards! How am I ever going to carry that thing twenty-two miles?? At least it will gradually get lighter as I eat and drink during the journey.

Saturday, July 19

Today we went on our last real training hike. We will taper off this week to allow our bodies to recover and build up energy for the real thing. It’s crazy to think that at this very time next week, we’ll be climbing Mt. Whitney! We’ve been preparing for so long, yet I can’t believe The Big Day is almost here.

mt. whitney thursday: training hikes

Hi everyone! This post is part of my series the Mt. Whitney chronicles, which is comprised of journal entries from when I climbed Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, ten years ago. If you missed the earlier post in the series, you can read them here.

mt whitney chronicles

Sunday, May 18, 2003
I just got back from my first training hike! Mom says we are lucky to live in Southern California near the beach and foothill mountains because there are so many great hiking trails nearby. I guess she’s right, but right now I don’t even want to think about getting up at 6 a.m. next Sunday and doing the same thing all over again! Today we only hiked for two hours, and I’m in pretty good shape from running cross-country and track for my high school, but it seemed like for-ev-er. And, to be honest, there wasn’t even that much uphill! Climbing Mt. Whitney in one day is supposed to take at least fourteen hours — the first eight of which will be spent hiking up, up, up the mountain. Right now, that seems so impossible!

Saturday, May 31
Mom and I went to Patagonia today to look for hiking boots because she thinks we should break them in a little during our hike tomorrow morning. I found a pair that is pretty comfortable, and I got some hiking socks, too. We also each bought a walking stick, which hard-core hikers say are invaluable, especially when climbing mountains like Whitney. They provide leverage going up the trail and make the constant pounding of going downhill easier on your body by bearing some of the impact. Also, very importantly, they can help prevent you from slipping and falling on rocky and dangerous trails.

Still, a part of me thought the cashier might laugh at us when we went up to purchase the hiking sticks. I felt like an old lady buying a cane. But I shouldn’t have worried: the cashier smiled and asked if we’re preparing for a specific hike. When we told him we’re going to climb Whitney, his eyes grew wide and he looked impressed. “Wow, you’re serious hikers, then!” he said. “Good luck!”

Walking out of the store, my heart swelled with pride and excitement. Me, a serious hiker! Hopefully in a couple months I’ll be able to go back to that store and tell him we made it to the top.

Thursday, June 13
Now that we are “serious hikers” Mom has been going to all the local outdoors-y stores and talking to people about Mt. Whitney. She’s managed to come across a few other hikers who have made it to the top and is soaking up their advice like a sponge. She also found a book, How to Climb Mt. Whitney in One Day, that I’ve been reading. Maybe it’s just me, but the author makes climbing Mt. Whitney seem really scary! She says that for the last mile, every step will be a struggle, and you will feel dizzy and nauseous while hiking only a few steps away from hundred-foot cliff-drops. For someone like me who is so afraid of heights that even the Ferris Wheel makes my insides do cartwheels, maybe this isn’t such a great idea after all …

But then I think about Julianna’s photos from the top. I really want to be there. I really want to see that view for myself.

mt. whitney wednesday: planning & prep

Hi everyone! This is the second post in my Mt. Whitney chronicles, which is comprised of journal entries from when I climbed Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, ten years ago. If you missed the first post in the series, you can read it here.

mt whitney chronicles

Saturday, May 10, 2003
I talked to my former kindergarten teacher, Stacey, the other day when she was driving me home from babysitting her two little kids. I told her I want to climb Mt. Whitney, and it turns out a mom of one of her kids in her current kindergarten class just climbed it last summer. Stacey wants to climb Mt. Whitney too, so we are trying to form a group to go together. So far about ten people have signed up, including my second-grade teacher Diane, my mom, and some of their friends. Our group is all female — yeah, Girl Power! — and I am the youngest one.

Sunday, May 11
I did some homework and learned that Mt. Whitney was “discovered” by a California State Geological Survey team in 1864. It was named for the team’s leader, Josiah Dwight Whitney. During that trip, survey team member Clarence King attempted to climb to the summit. Twice. Both times he failed.

What am I getting myself into??

More history: it was not until Clarence King’s third attempt on September 19, 1873 {nearly a decade after his first failed try} that he successfully reached the summit. Ironically, statistics show that today 1-in-3 climbers make it to the top of Mt. Whitney.

Wednesday, May 14
Tonight we had a Whitney Meeting at Stacey’s house. We decided to do the 22-mile-round-trip hike in one day instead of camping out on the trail overnight. I know it sounds crazy, but it actually seems like the better way to go because:

1. We’ll be able to pack much lighter; we won’t have to carry huge overnight backpacks with sleeping bags and tents.
2. It is much easier to get a permit for day hiking than for overnight hiking.
3. We’ll get to sleep in a real bed in a hotel after the hike and soak our tired legs in the hot tub! For me, that is much more tempting than sleeping on the cold, hard ground in the wilderness.

At the meeting, we filled out the permit forms. They only allow a certain number of people on the trail at a time, so we’ll hear back in a few weeks as to whether our permit was accepted or not. Our tentative date for the hike is Saturday, July 26 — which seems far away now, but I have a feeling it will be here before we know it!

Julianna, the mother from Stacey’s class who climbed Mt. Whitney last summer, came to our meeting to talk about her hiking experience. She said it took a lot of hard training and determination to get to the top, and there were times she just wanted to turn around and give up … but that the blisters and sweat and aching muscles are all worth it in the end.

Then she showed us her photos. They were amazing — like something out of a nature magazine or off a postcard. The photos from the peak of Mt. Whitney were my favorite: nothing but blue sky and clouds all around, like you’re standing in a castle up in the sky.

And Julianna said the photos don’t even do Whitney justice. She said it’s something you have to see in person to truly appreciate. I hope I have what it takes to find out for myself. Our first training hike is this Sunday. Mt. Whitney, here I come!