The Sweet Lemonade

Mt Whitney towers above the Sierra (14,500 ft.) as the Lower 48 States’ tallest peak. I usually guide the “Mountaineer’s Route” in the early spring where there is much snow and, with the altitude, it becomes a full-on alpine climb. When someone signs up for a trip, they will have put a lot of time and money and focus into it. When I tell them we have to turn back, they are defeated and rightfully so. I always have feelings of  abhorrence when making the decision to turn folks around. It is never an easy decision, I think a fellow guide and friend of mine explains it well here: Will Gadd Blog

It is easy for folks to get so focused on a high point that they become unaware of the other options around. I always try to have options for clients instead of just saying, “Sorry, your trip is over.” After descending on this past Whitney trip, we played with all kinds of options like back-country skiing, rock climbing, ice climbing, an avalanche awareness course, and so on. Everyone decided that the ice and rock climbing were good choices and had to throw out a few other options due to snow instability.

What I find most compelling about these trips is the fact that the clients leave with a better view of climbing and the mountains, as evidenced by the following comments:

“This trip ended up being so much more challenging in different ways than I had ever expected.”

“I didn’t think I would like ice climbing. Now I love it!”

“There is so much more to climbing than I imagined.”

“Where can I sign up to go rock climbing again?”

“How can I learn to do this on my own?”

“This was amazing! I will definitely be back….and maybe even try Whitney again.”

“I am not very good with sudden change. This trip has opened my eyes…”

I think reaching the summit is one of the best experiences one could ever have. I also believe it offers the least number of learning opportunities. I am grateful to my clients for trusting me on the decisions that I have to make in the mountains and want them to know that I will try to make the best decision for their safety and learning and provide them with a truly memorable experience.

More photos here: Mt Whitney 3-24-12


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  • Trevor


    Thank you for a great experience! Although our team did not reach our ultimate objective given the weather conditions, you provided an incredible alternative opportunity for learning. Your unparalleled professionalism, patience, and expertise was greatly appreciated. Looking forward to the opportunity to climb with you again! And have a foot race down Willow Street, or any street for that matter! :-) Thanks again!

  • Greg


    Thanks again for a great trip! I thoroughly enjoyed myself and learned more than I bargained on with the time off the mountain. I was disappointed not to achieve my goal in going on the trip but very pleasantly surprised by the addition of the alternatives. The day of training before the climb was excellent as well. I hope I can make it back some day and would love to have you lead the way again. Happy trails :)

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