It was a chilling, exciting wake-up call at 2:30. After a good twenty mile hike the day before, there was only six hours of sleep to recharge our bodies and mind. However, it was all going to be worth it. We were summiting Mount Whitney!
The four of us had decided to wake up then, so we wouldn’t waste energy or hurt ourselves in post-holing. Post-holing is where the snow becomes so soft from the sun (especially when the afternoon hits), that when you hike on top of it, you can create a hole that would go down to your ankle, or, to your hips. It’s not fun either way and can lead to injury if you’re not careful. Half asleep still, I stuck my head out of my comfy tent only to see darkness. It was a calm, inviting one though; a sense of anticipation almost. The stars conquered the early morning sky. Everywhere I looked, lights twinkled and hung in the distance. As my eyes adjusted slowly, the only thing I could see was a shadow, a silhouette, of the mountain we were about to climb.
River crossings, falling behind, and having little to eat was the morning struggle going up the first section. Headlamps were at full blast and positioned only three feet in front of you on the rocky, snowy ground. All you could do was compose yourself and keep on going, even if you didn’t know WHERE you were going. Just follow the footsteps I told myself. When light arrived it captured the total beauty of Mount Whitney. Rainbow colors illuminated the sky. Pink mixed with red and blue with black. It was an indescribable dream. About eighty percent of the trail was covered in the thick, solid whiteness. Slanted parts had us thinking only one step in front of the other. One little mistake and we would be sliding on our asses at a speed unknown back down the mountain.
It was a grueling climb up, even with our packs lighter since we chose to day hike Whiney. Legs and lungs worked endlessly, anticipating are first look at the top. With two miles to go, we turned a corner and saw the cabin sitting peacefully alone, and nothing but blue sky behind it. Doubt crept in whenever it had the chance, continuously pounding us as we imagined the top. Climbing finally to 14,000 feet, the top was reachable. Rocks were the only thing between us and the cabin. As usual, the wind started to pick up, especially with no cover in sight.
A half hour later, with teary eyes and hands touching the concrete cabin walls, I made it. 14,505 feet. The tallest mountain in the lower forty-eight states. Looking out to the North and West, all you could see was snow capped mountains. To the South, where we just traveled, and to the East, low plains that had a desert feel to it.
It felt like we were in a movie, waiting for something to happen as we looked on in awe, but nothing ever did. We were caught in this one image and time ceased to exist. Every emotion flooded to the surface as I cried, knowing what I just accomplished. Somehow, cell service was available, and I called my parents to tell them; only it took a few minutes to compose myself because of my uncontrollable tears. To share something like that with them made it that much more memorable. Every time I think of that memory, I can’t help but tear up and smile. We conquered the mother beast and it took every ounce we had, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Those experiences, that’s what it’s about. Being fully in the moment, with friends that you’ve grown to admire. There’s no better feeling of going past your own perceived limits and blowing them away.