Mount Whitney: The Crown Jewel of the Sierras

There is something truly romantic about the Eastern Sierra mountain range.  The sharp jagged peaks and beautiful granite caught the souls of great individuals like Ansel Adams, John Muir and Norman Clyde.  The Sierras call out to you and invite you into this majestic range.  I have been blessed to live and play in this range.

The crown jewel of this majestic range is Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states.  This peak looms down at all those that pass by her on Highway 395 showing her East Face with pure power.  For many years I have been looking upon Mount Whitney and greatly desired the opportunity to stand on top of this great American peak.  Each Spring season would pass and my opportunity would be lost to a number of excuses.

This Spring finally marked the time in which I would be invited to climb the Crown Jewel of the Sierras.  The timing, team and weather all came together to allow us our attempt.  When all the route planning and preparation was done our team was made up of me and two close friends, Scott Parlett and Brandon Caskey.  Brandon is a true mountain athlete and lives to play in this range and other ranges around the world.  Scott on the other hand is just starting to experience the joy of climbing in the mountains.  Both Brandon and Scott are tough and fit guys which made for a great team for an enjoyable climb.  The mark of any good trip is the company that partakes in that adventure along side you.

The camaraderie of being in the mountains with friends is truly a remarkable journey in developing a friendship.  In the mountains you get to learn a lot about a man and what drives his soul.  This to me is what makes every journey truly worthwhile.  Climbing Mount Whitney turned out to be a great experience that went out of the scope of our planning.  We got started early on Friday morning with large packs full of climbing equipment and base-camp necessities.  The weather was exceptionally hot for the time of year and I spent a majority of the approach hiking in my long underwear.  There is no need to make fashion statements in the mountains, its all about comfort.  We took a steady pace up to the base of the Mountaineers Route at Iceberg Lake.

Our impatience took the better of us and we decided to set-up camp and make a late afternoon attempt of Mount Whitney.  It was about 2:00 PM when we started up the narrow mountaineers couloir.  The snow conditions were soft which made for easy kick steps up the couloir.    We reached the notch on top of the couloir with great afternoon lighting and a good look at Mount Russel.  Our next obstacle was a technical class four snow and rock section on the West side of the Mount Whitney.  We carefully made our way through the tricky section with a few intense moments to add effect to the summit.  After successfully navigating the technical section we stood alone atop the football field size summit of Mount Whitney on a clear and windless day!  It was a true gift to have this summit with two good friends and the background of one the most incredible mountain ranges in the world.  We sat atop the summit for an hour taking in the moment we had all wanted every time we drove past the infamous peak on highway 395.

There is something deep within the soul that draws humanity to stand on top of mountains or explore the areas that we are warned not to go.  This brings life to those that dare explore and find freedom in wilderness.  Each time we take on such an invitation we learn about ourselves and those that go along with us.  No matter how secular or modernized we become as a society there will always be a deep soulful need for the wilderness and what it has to offer.  I look forward to driving South down Highway 395 now so I can look up at Mount Whitney with a smile and gratitude for the time I got to spend at her summit.