Into Thin Air | Mt. Whitney
It was midnight, dark and cold, when we began our ascent to the highest peak in the contiguous United States. At an elevations of 14,505ft., Mt. Whitney, is a beast that we have yet to summit.
Our first attempt was thwarted due to weather. Snow storms in June, were not a risk worth taking. So this year, we set our sites on a later date. Hoping and praying that there would be no snow on the mountain, we set out to hike Mt. Whitney in September. The problem was, we were unable to get our two day permit, when we applied in February. We did, however, manage to get our hands on a one day permit, when someone cancelled their trip and released the date back into the "available" pool.
What this meant was, our original plan of hiking up to Outpost Camp, or even Trail Camp, and spending the night to rest up and acclimate to the high elevation, was now gone out the window. We would have to do the 22 mile hike in one day. One 24 hour period.
We prepared all our gear, our food and water. For a hike like this, electrolytes are essential as they are lost so much faster at the heightened elevation. So, at midnight, before we began our journey up, we treated our bodies to Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes, electrolyte replacements. We took these every few hours, and they truly helped keep us hydrated. I can't stress enough, how important it is to stay hydrated when doing a long distance, high elevation hike.
It is also extremely important to feed your body every hour or so, while doing such a hike. The major problem for me, was that at this high elevation, my appetite completely diminished. I had to remind myself to stop and eat. I had packed my pack full of Hammer Nutrition Hammer Energy Bars, which tasted great and kept me going, giving me all the nutrients I needed to keep walking up the mountain.
It took us 6 hours to get to just above tree line, which is just about 12,000 ft.
The struggle was real! For me, hiking in the dark was not the most pleasant experience. When I hike, what keeps me going is the nature around me. I need to see the beauty of the place I am struggling to get to, to keep me motivated. Without that, I felt like I was just struggling in the dark.
The thin air did not help one bit. I struggled to catch my breath with every step, and eagerly awaited the warmth of the sun.
When the sun finally rose above Lone Pine Lake, which we saw from above Mirror Lake, it suddenly gave me new hope. I say me, because Jessica, my dear friend and hiking buddy, had no such struggles. She was full speed ahead!
Watching the sunrise from above the tree line was an absolutely breathtaking site.
Our goal was to get to Trail Camp, and rest a bit, even nap, before continuing up to the summit. But as we stopped to watch the sunrise, the wind began to pick up. With no trees to hide behind, I quickly realized that the rest I so desperately needed would not be possible.
As I sat there, I had to make the very difficult decision to turn back.
It was heart breaking, to once again, not summit. I hated that decision the entire way back down the mountain, even though I knew that it was the right one to make.
Exhausted, and rather upset, we still had miles and miles to go, before we were safely down the mountain.
The only thing that kept my tired legs going was the majesty of the nature around me, now that we could clearly see what we were unable to see on the way up. Nature, and a little help from Hammer Nutrition's Hammer Gel, a fuel that absolutely saved my life up there.
Walking back down the trail, we were in awe of the meadows, and prairies, the water falls, and babbling brooks, and the beauty of the changing colors of the native flora as it was preparing for the changing seasons.
The sense of relief was overwhelming when we finally made it down to the Whitney Portal. A feeling that is probably only surpassed by the feeling one would have when they summit. A feeling that one day, hopefully next year, Jessica and I will know well.
It was noon when we made it back down that mountain. Tired and hungry, we had lunch at the Whitney Portal Store, and chatted a bit about our experience, with Doug, the owner of the store. He had given us some great pointers prior to our ascent, and checked in on how we did.
It felt amazing to get back to our camp site and get some much needed sleep. We slept for several hours, we read by the fire, we snacked and had hot cocoa, and fell back asleep by nightfall.
We did see the mood rise from behind the mountains around us. Just another amazing site on a journey of many.
Looking back, while not summiting was and is disappointing, the journey was still a lot of fun. Next year's trip will be the one, and I will once again, do it with the help of Hammer Nutrition.
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