(All photos taken by Brett Davey)
We started two hours ahead of sunrise… My sense of time was somewhat off considering I’ve never really been up and functioning before the Sun.
Coleman, Brett and myself slept on what felt like the most slanted part of the earth the night before. I would cozy up in my sleeping bag, bundle up in a fleece blanket, then zip the sleeping bag back up only to find myself sliding to the other side of the tent two seconds later. My pillow would slip up from under me, and before I could get my arms back out of the blanket to readjust, the right side of my body was lower than the left, my neck was strained upward, and my legs slightly elevated. Needless to say, it was somewhat of a sleepless night-quite annoying really. Meanwhile, Brett was in a long sleeve shirt, shorts and had only one blanket- he slept like a ROCK (lucky).
It felt like I had closed my eyes for only a few hours before we were cued to wake up. The air was the freshest I’ve ever felt it. My nose felt as cold as ice and my nostrils would flare every time I took a deep breath. The air was so crisp that breathing felt like such a vivid and intense sensation. I could feel cold air passing through my nose to the back of throat and into my chest.
The sky was a sea of darkness, lit by a school of stars that twinkled as if they were brand new and before I could acknowledge them, we were making our way towards the trailhead.
Let’s skip the part where BOTH my flashlights fail me, and jump ahead to the John Deere trail. A few miles into the trail, I heard the sounds of a waterfall. I couldn’t tell whether it was in front of me, beside me, above me, or all of the above. I was consumed with its mass. Before I knew it, I’m stepping on these huge, flat rocks to get myself across the top of a waterfall relying on Coleman’s headlamp so I can see my path.
We get to the first body of water on the trail- a perfect place for a pitstop and a perfect place to catch the sunrise (finally). There’s something truly humbling about Nature. You don’t realize how small you are until you decide to climb a mountain.
This was all a great adventure until we came to this….
At 1.9 miles, you pretty much think you have it in the bag and the rest of the journey is near the end. WRONG! This last stretch to summit was the longest 1.9 miles in my life. At this point, both Coleman and myself started to get altitude sickness, even after proper nourishment for months, and a week and a half of taking all natural Ginko pills. Nothing could have really prepared us for the elevation, except training above sea level of course, which is impossible to do when you live in the Silicon Valley.
The sickness is different for everyone. Climbing up to summit, we both started to get headaches, and my heart was beating more rapidly then it should’ve been considering the pace I was going. I wasn’t nauseous…yet. The nausea didn’t kick in until the last 4-6 miles going down back to the campsite. In short, I suffered going up, and puked when I got back down. But- the moments in between was nothing short of perfect. Imagine training for months to embark on one of the toughest and challenging endeavors you’ve ever done, and achieving it with people you love. That’s exactly what we did and I’ve never experienced anything more gratifying, humbling, and simplistic. I’ll never do that shit again, don’t get me wrong, but I’m glad I did it at least once.
Here’s what hiking a mountain of that mass makes you realize: 1. The world is HUGE; explore it, and be present. 2. Life is very SHORT; so set goals and achieve them. 3. When you get an opportunity to go camping, DO IT. 4. Nothing epic is ever waiting for you with out a little bit of hard work, and sometimes extreme struggle and agony. 5. If you go camping, camp with Coleman’s parents because they have a shit ton of gear that you never knew you needed.
When we got to the top, I was relieved. Sue turned to get a look at all of us. She was happy all the kiddos got to celebrate her birthday with her. How many people get to say they celebrated their birthday with their kids by climbing Mt.Whitney in one day? yea, not many. We took a photo at the top, signed our names in the famous guest book, and said to each other, “What’s next?”