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About Us > Clients > Client Success Story up Mt Whitney

Return to the Mountains - Client Success Story up Mt Whitney
Trip Report by JS

May 25, 2010. That’s the day I received the e-mail that ended a long (over 35 years) absence from climbing, and put me back on the path to the peaks of high mountains.

The chain of events stimulated by that unexpected e-mail from my college roommate culminated three months later in a trip to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro with my daughter, my friend, and his son. After returning from Africa, I could no longer resist the temptation of Mt. Rainier, whose silhouette I saw on a regular basis (it was a relatively sunny August in Seattle!) during my daily commute. On a crisp autumn morning the following month, I reached the summit of Mt. Rainier.

I found myself increasingly drawn to the hills, although at age 56 it takes a bit more planning and preparation to act on such desires than it might have decades earlier. I arranged to join a guided climb to Mt. Whitney (14,495 ft.), and shortly thereafter decided to enroll in the Seattle Mountaineers basic alpine climbing course. Although my self-designed conditioning program was apparently adequate for Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Rainier, it began to seem prudent to take a little more systematic approach to conditioning, particularly because most of the other students in my climbing course were young enough to be my children, and I was determined not to be a weak link in the chain.

I purchased Courtenay and Doug Schurman’s book, The Outdoor Athlete, and arranged to meet with Courtenay in order to get her assistance in developing a conditioning program that would help me step things up a notch. My goal, I told Courtenay, was to be able to climb Mt. Whitney ten weeks hence carrying a 50-55 pound pack, and not only to make it, but to enjoy it.

After conducting a thorough assessment, Courtenay prepared for me a daily calendar for the first month that included a nice balance of aerobic conditioning, resistance and stretching exercises, and weekend hikes. The package she prepared included written descriptions and pictures of the exercises, and recording forms to track progress. All I had to do was follow the schedule—and report in by e-mail on the dates she stipulated!

We met again at the end of the first month, and Courtenay designed a new program to accommodate the fact that I had several business trips scheduled and might not have access to a full gym.

Well, it worked! I joined a group of 8 other climbers and three guides on a climb up the Mountaineers Route in late March. The trip began with a bit of uncertainty, as recent snow, high winds, and avalanche danger had turned back several parties in the preceding days.

After the first couple of hours, the wisdom of the conditioning program started to become clear. As we gained elevation and the route got steeper through knee deep snow, the rationale behind a number of the elements of the training program became clear, and I regularly found myself thinking, “Now I understand the value of those forward dumbbell step-ups” or “I feel the same muscles that started to burn doing the leaning dumbbell lunges.”

The last several hundred feet of the Mountaineers Route pass through a steep, snow-filled, and windy gully, which we ascended with the assistance of fixed lines, and again the value of Courtenay’s coaching was evident.

The night we spent at high camp before descending was pretty windy (okay, there were 70 mph gusts that shredded one of the tents!), so no one got much sleep. Despite that, the trip down was pretty easy, and I had a little more gas in left in the tank than I expected I would. Particularly because I had to fly home that night and go to work the next day, I was very grateful for the preparation that came from the Body Results program. Thanks, Courtenay!


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