(Continued) Mt Whitney Revenge: A Mt. Whitney Day Hike – part 2
Written by Trevor Luepton – August 21, 2013.
As we were Getting up to the 99 switchbacks on the Mt. Whitney Trail, the sun just started to peak above the mountains parallel to us. It was also at this time that altitude really kicks in.
Altitude can do many things to people and can vary person to person. There are some tell-tale signs altitude is affecting individuals such as like red eyes, slurred speech, loss of balance, aggressiveness, and others. Although our group was moving at a quick pace, we started to slowly separate and the gaps in between us widened.
Our group gathered at Trail Crest to rest and prepare for the final stretch to the summit. We chatted with other hikers who were making their way up who had mentioned one of our group members, Eren, was taking a break further below and would meet up with us further along the trail.
The final part of the hike to the summit is a real suffer-fest.
It is simply large blocks of stones strewn about with small bits of intermittent sand to distinguish a trail as well as the ant line of other summiteers. A few dizzy spells and more resting and pacing, we are finally getting closer. All the sudden, Greg gets a spurt of energy and darts off towards the summit! I try to keep his pace but last a few steps…then simply stop for air. Greg happily greets me at the summit while I scribble nonsense on the summit registry. The next person to summit is my brother, Rory. He always gives the best hugs and envelopes me in his lanky arms. I choke up but pretend its the altitude. The moment is one I will remember for life. When we hug, I tell him how thankful I am he is here with me to which he replies, “Of course, it’s for your 30th birthday!”
After many great photos, Facebook posts, phone calls, high fives and celebrations with strangers, we got news that Eren wasn’t doing so well.
“He’s on his way up, and will make it,” a stranger says.
Right as we start to head down the trail to catch up to Eren, we all notice his profile…along with an older gentlemen assisting him. I walk over to them both as Eren reaches for me and the water. We thank the older gentlemen and he is off after the summit. Eren quickly drinks some electrolight water and hobbles on in a very confused manner. He looks very weary and frail. We quickly realize, as tears run down his face, this hike was for something bigger than himself. We don’t exactly know what it was for, didn’t ask, but it was understood it was very important. We all banded together as a group – hugged, and shared in the very important moment.
What a summit! A few aspirin, some energy gels, and more water and we were all happy to be on the descent together.
Our entire trip was 22 miles done in a day and is listed as an extreme hike in California. We summited Mt. Whitney at 14,505ft it is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States also boasting the highest maintained trail in the US. The entire trip was roughly 14 hours of hiking altogether including summit time.
Pizza and Beer! We decided to go to Pizza Factory in downtown Lone Pine for their delicious pizzas and a round of beers. There wasn’t much left of the pizza and side orders when we were done. Eren had to leave that Sunday evening to head back for work on Monday. We said our goodbyes and he was off in a flash. It was a good trip for him and for us all. We drove back to camp at Horseshoe Meadows and talked about our trip around the campfire. Rory couldn’t stop exclaiming, “I can’t believe what we just did…it doesn’t seem real!”
It was real…but it takes a few days to process. We slept peacefully expecting to leave late morning and sleep in. However, at around 6:30am we all seemed to be awake getting our gear ready, packed, and off by 7:30am. After a breakfast stop at Carls Jr. (burgers for breakfast!) we left Lone Pine, CA. Greg graciously drove back while he and my brother discussed everything from religion to politics in the most peaceful and accepting manner I had ever witnessed from both of them. I was quiet, deep in reflection pondering what all this means…to summit a mountain? These feelings were mixed with the emotions of accomplishing something great…together!
We arrived at the park and ride back in Fallbrook, CA. I waited patiently for my family to arrive. It was the longest I had been apart from them thus far and was a great reunion. Seeing Christopher do his signature excited wobble made me incredibly happy to be home. I think a trip like this helps remind you what life is all about – and for me, it’s my family.