Posts Tagged ‘rarefied’

Mt. Whitney Hike – A Rarefied Experience

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

A Rarefied Experience:
My Mom passed away Jan. 10 of this year and that ended the Cancer Warrior Moms time period that spanned three years. If you remember my Mother-in-law also fought her brain cancer and passed away a year and a half ago and with universal timing working perfectly one month later my Mom moved in when she could no longer care for herself having been fighting the war for the last three years. So in Feb. with an upcoming big birthday in April I decided to do something BIG. So I asked my three hiking buddies (my husband and two other husbands of camping/hiking friends) if they wanted to hike Mt. Whitney this year. They all said yes and I put in for the lottery.

The Mt. Whitney hike can be done in one day and is probably one of the most amazing one day hikes around as it goes up to the top of the highest peak in the continental US. Mt. Whitney stands a little over 14,500 feet. I won the lottery!!

June 29th was the day given to us to hike. One of our A-team members dropped out due to a medical issue. We started our five month long training hiking mostly every weekend and doing P90X workouts 3-4 days a week during the strength building push.

During the training we all had to upgrade our hiking boots to waterproof ones and we also added sweetfeet inserts as the down part of all the hikes were grueling on the feet. And to our great surprise, this doable one day hike, turned into a full mountaineering trek due to the more than normal snow accumulation this year. At one sports shop I was asking about the little attachments to our boots for not slipping on ice. The technically savvy guide asked where we were going and then showed us these “crampons” with 10 points measuring over 2.5 inches long each and said we’d need them. He also handed me an ice axe and said I’d need that too. I ask why? He said “to arrest your fall.” I did a double take, turned to my husband and informed him that I didn’t sign up for any fall I needed to arrest!!

Well keeping an eye on the Whitney blogs, reading and researching as much as we could we eventually did procure crampons and ice axe and scheduled hikes in the snow so we could “practice” with crampons and hiking poles, crampons and ice axe, hiking poles alone and then the looks-like-fun-but-dangerous glissading. Glissading is sliding on your butt over the softer snow on very steep slopes with an ice axe, anchored to your wrist, used as rudder and definitely learned the flip over to stomach, self arrest and not go flying off any cliffs!

In the last weeks up to the trip we hiked Mt. San Gregornio, Mt. Baldy, Rock Creek, went to Mammoth to acclimate, and all the ascents we could around the Pasadena, Malibu, Topanga, and the drivable local mountains.

Going up a few days early to acclimate and do a few other high altitude hikes we felt very prepared. I was drinking coco leaf tea of the kind that was given to us in Cusco, Peru as a remedy for altitude sickness nonstop. Also, Maca is a Peruvian root used for hormonal health that is also used to treat altitude sickness. I was determined not to get sick! We hyper hydrated, ate a lot to build up our stores and then at 1 am on the morning of June 29th, we set out with our 20 pound packs.

We heard that 6,000 calories are burned during this one day trek and after experiencing it I’m sure that’s an understatement. Reports from other folks and from our informal question asking at the ranger station about 20% of those granted permits made it up to the top that week.

I can no longer call it a hike because it was so much more than that. A hike doesn’t usually got up, over, through, many mountain sides, multiple meadows, cliffs, ice fields, snow chutes longer and steeper than any double black diamond ski run I’ve ever been on. Now I say journey (ordeal sort of matched but had more of a negative connotation) and I’m sure I didn’t get up my self. Not only were my hiking companions helpful but with that much time to think and work and experience mountain highs (literally) I know beyond a shadow of doubt that we had help from God/Universe/Mother Nature to get us safely up and down. The experience changed each of us, we are no longer the same person who started up that mountain range.

So we accomplished a great goal and have been feeling the rush of it as well as being exceptionally tired since we returned. I’m also experiencing a sort of lull as I’m thinking “now what?”

I did put together a video and put it on youtube (you can find it if you search for “Ragan Whitney”) but the link is posted above. That was fun and therapeutic.

Oh, I have a new word, mantra:
Rarefied – this means
the air of high altitude, less oxygen
belonging to a select group
a grand purpose, lofty goals
of high moral or intellectual value
esoterically different from the concerns of ordinary people