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San Francisco, CA


The Mount Whitney Challenge

Jennifer Ronda

Recently, I overheard someone talking about their plans to attempt to summit Mount Whitney in one day. My first thought was, "Where is Mount Whitney? I've never heard of it before. I need to Google that." (Okay, so that was actually three thoughts.)

Mount Whitney. Photo credit: Geographer, Wikimedia CommonsThen when I heard this person say it's the highest summit in the lower, contiguous 48-states, my next thought was, "I want to do that someday!"

A few years ago, Matt and I successfully summited Half Dome in Yosemite National Park in one day, so hiking Mt. Whitney sounded like an adventure we should try someday; the next big challenge; something to add to my ever-growing bucket list. (Which now stands at over 4 pages long, and I'm starting to think I may not be setting myself up for success in completing all the items.)

But it wasn't until a recent visit with some friends that the generic "someday" would turn into a very specific date in late September.

As it turns out, our friends are planning to hike Mt. Whitney this fall. Not only were they able to obtain a much sought-after day-use permit for themselves (a permit is required to hike on Mt. Whitney), but they had extra permits and invited us to join them on this demanding and extreme one-day hike! (I'm sure to some that doesn't sound like an enticing invitation. Our friends obviously know their audience quite well.)A view of some switchbacks on the trail. Photo credit: Cullen328, Wikimedia Commons

This was opportunity knocking. A chance to spend time with great friends and create unforgettable memories. An epic hike with my husband on new terrain. A possibility of checking off an item from the bucket list. I could feel that obscure and latent competitive gene of mine floating to the surface.

So then, why did I suddenly have a huge pit in the bottom of my stomach, feel apprehensive, and hesitate in immediately accepting their invitation? Oh, that's right: fear.

Fear of failure. Fear of not making it to the summit. Fear of getting altitude sickness. Fear of having to give up and turn around. Fear of not succeeding.

After mulling it over for several days, I realized fear is a pretty stupid reason not to even give it a try. How unfortunate (and dare I say, cowardly?) it would be to completely pass on this opportunity just because I'm afraid I may not complete the ascent. 

So, challenge accepted! We'll attempt to summit the 14,505 foot tall mountain in a single day via the Mount Whitney Trail

And even if failure becomes inevitable, I know it will still be an amazing day with incredible scenery, and it will be time well-spent with my husband and wonderful friends. I'll just have to submerge that competitive gene and save it for another challege.

Facts about the hike

  • Mount Whitney elevation: 14,505 feet
  • Total distance: 22 miles round-trip
  • Trail begins at Whitney Portal, elevation 8,360 feet
  • Elevation gain: over 6,100 feet
  • Timing: Requires 12 - 18 hours of strenuous hiking

Plaque at summit of Mount Whitney. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons