One of the highlights of a very busy spring season in the Sierra here at SMI was hosting six climbs on Mt. Whitney designed to raise money and awareness for Big City Mountaineers. Big City Mountaineers is a very well respected organization with the mission is to transform the lives of under-served urban youth through wilderness mentoring expeditions that instill critical life skills. They partner with community-based youth organizations and caring adult volunteers who act as mentors in the field to help young people realize their potential. Their curriculum improves integrity, self-esteem, responsibility, decision-making abilities and communication skills in close to 1000 youth annually. BCM has a proven track record of improving young peoples’ lives with:
• Increased likeliness to stay in school
• Reduction in violence
• Reduction in drug use
Since the inception of SMI we have had a goal of guiding at least two climbs each year that help out a cause. On most years we exceed this number by 3x or more. In planning this year’s climbs with Big City Mountaineer’s the editor in chief of Backpacker magazine Jon Dorn invited readers to come join a Mt. Whitney climb to raise money for Big City Mountaineers. Each participant was required to raise a minimum of $4000. They could either get sponsorship by friends and family or write a check. The response was overwhelming. What started as one climb ended up being six groups of energetic climbers eager to climb Mt. Whitney and raise money and awareness for BCM.
Participants were given a training program to undertake many months in advance in preparation for this 4-day trip to the highest point in the contiguous United States. Each person maintained a regular schedule of hiking up and down hills carrying a 40+ pound pack to simulate the weight they would be carrying on the mountain. They also did exercises to assure their legs and cardiovascular system was conditioned. During the climb SMI guides offered lots of techniques for acclimating to the high altitude and also spent time at camp teaching and reviewing mountaineering skills including using an ice axe, and climbing with crampons while roped in with other climbers. The first day of the climb had groups ascending from the trail head at Whitney Portal (8365’/2550m) to Lower Boy Scout Lake (10,350’/3155m). On day 2 the groups packed up and moved higher to at camp at 12,000’/3658m putting them in position for a summit bid the following morning. On day 3 the teams rose early for the summit push. They were treated to spectacular sunrises as the morning sun cast its orange glow on the East Face of Mt. Whitney and teams learned why the Sierra is nicknamed the Range of Light.
Climbing the Mountaineers Route requires climbers to ascend a snow filled chute ranging from 25-35 degrees steep to a “notch” at approximately 14,000’/4267m. From here the angle steepens and climbers use their hands in places to scramble up some rocky sections with the security of a rope. This section of the route tops out onto the summit plateau of Mt. Whitney and it’s a short distance to the highest point in the lower 48 states.
Groups took time to admire the spectacular view while taking pictures and snacking before retracing their path back to camp. On Day 4 they packed up and returned to the trail head and down to Lone Pine where celebrations of their climbs took place.
While climbing a spectacular and classic route in the Sierra participants helped raise over $260,000 to help underprivileged youth experience the magic of the wilderness while learning critical life skills. They’ve also spread a lot of good will that reaches farther than any of use will ever see. Thanks to everybody who took part in this historic event!
Photo galleries from these climbs can be viewed here: http://www.kurtwedbergphotography.com/Sierra-Trips/2013-Sierra-Trips