Chantal Foster, Portland resident, is an accomplished hiker. We are delighted to share her fascinating, humorous, and gripping tale of friendship, strength, trail sanitation regulations, and the effects of Acute Mountain Sickness as part of our “Alive Outside” creative writing initiative. Many of us are not capable of such an adventure ourselves, but this story will make you feel (almost) as if you were there.
Climbing Mt. Whitney, by Chantal Foster
Back in the beginning of 2018, esteemed hiker Bill Korp (aka Cupcake) came up with the harebrained idea of hiking Mt. Whitney in CA as a way of commemorating his 70th birthday. Apparently, he didn’t feel like doing it alone, so he asked three of his favorite, well, maybe not favorite but “good friends,” well, maybe not good friends, but he did ask Steve Crusberg (Shuttle), Gina Wildermuth (Nurse), and yours truly (Olive Oil) to tag along.
Whitney is the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states at 14,496 feet (or 14,505, depending on where you look) which makes for a busy trail — so busy that would-be hikers need to apply for a permit through a lottery system. Nurse and Cupcake coordinated the necessary paperwork to apply for such in February and in April, with luck on our side, we were awarded a permit to hike Whitney on the auspicious date of Wednesday, July 25th.
Travel and lodging plans were discussed, determined and made, and we proceeded to study how to hike “Whitney in a Day,” training accordingly while waiting for the big event.
Soon, mid-July was upon us. With much training, a couple of challenging “prep hikes” under our belts and a lot of anticipation, we flew into Las Vegas and made the approximate 5-hour drive west to the town of Lone Pine, CA where we would make our home for the next five days. On our way, we passed through Death Valley with elevations around three hundred feet BELOW sea level. We would be on both the highest and lowest points of the lower 48 during our trip.