View From the Top – Hiking Mt Whitney

On Tuesday, September 2, 2014, I summited Mt Whitney, the highest elevation in the continental US  (14,505 ft above sea level).  The Mt Whitney Trail gains over 6,100 ft in elevation in 11 miles and hikers attempting the trail have a 30% success rate.

Starting the trail at 1:30 am

Starting the trail at 1:30 am

Sunrise between the mountains

Sunrise between the mountains

Things I Learned on Mt Whitney:

The size just can't be properly represented in pictures

Size just can’t be properly represented in pictures

Being on top makes everything else seem small

Being on top makes everything else seem small

– Do make friends with strangers

– Don’t forget sunscreen

– Do bring your tent, even if you don’t think you’ll be sleeping

– Don’t hike 22 miles when you have to be at work the next day

– Do eat Gardetto’s that fell on the ground (the ants aren’t judging)

– Don’t overpack

– Do use trekking poles

– Don’t pass up the opportunity to sit on the perfect rock

– Don’t underestimate your ability to prove yourself to that one person who doubted you

– Don’t believe anyone when they tell you it’s only another hour, they don’t know how slow you are (that is why they’re on their way down and you’re still headed to the top… duh)


I love backpacking, I absolutely love it.

I have had a really hard time over the last 9 months putting into words my reasons for wanting to hike the Appalachian Trail.  I have talked to literally hundreds of people about my plans: my parents, my friends, coworkers, and perfect strangers.  Surprisingly, few of them have actually asked my reasons for wanting to go, being far more interested in the fun details, like how will I survive and where will I poop.  A few people have asked and since I had never done anything like it before, the best I could do was “I just think it will be awesome”.  I have been researching and reading other people’s stories for the better part of a year and I am inspired and I have wanted to be in their shoes, but now I have an answer.

I hiked Mt Whitney with little preparation and nothing but my stubbornness to get me through.  In my mind this is my proof that I am capable, mentally and physically.  I carried a 20 pound pack 22 miles in 20 hours (yeah, that’s pretty slow – but I’m still new at this, remember).  I pushed myself well past my breaking point, just to get to the top of Mt Whitney, and I sat at the summit thinking spitefully of that sign at the trailhead that says “The top is only halfway!” knowing that I had already overexerted myself and had 11 miles downhill to go.  Thank god for my Komperdells and the Brownie Baker peanut butter brownie cookie (700 calories of baked goodness).

I can honestly say, I have never felt a higher high than standing at the top of that mountain, thinking to myself over and over again, “I did it, I can’t believe I did it, I am literally standing at the highest point in the country and I can see everything, and I did it!”  And I have never felt a lower low than finally walking off that trail after what felt like forever and dropping my backpack on the ground, thinking “I can’t believe I did it, I seriously just want to sit down in the road and cry”.  But at every moment in between I was able to marvel at the beauty around me, see things not everyone gets to see and just be present in the moment.  I hiked a little over half the time alone, having left my friend around mile 5 due to altitude sickness, and I loved every minute of it.  I talked to other hikers and shared stories, I was offered encouragement from every person I passed and was overwhelmed by the outpouring of general positive energy.

There is life here and there is purpose, and some people will never understand it and the rest won’t be able to explain it.




Shelter at the top

Signed the LogBook

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