Mt Whitney’s Revenge

“Ninety two switch backs on Mt Whitney, ninety-two switchbacks! You hike up one, you’re calves ache, ninety-one switch backs on Mt Whitney”

Two years ago was my first ascent of Mt Whitney, my first hike over 12,000 feet and my first over twenty miler. As I raced up the ninety-nine switchbacks of Mt Whitney, practically twirling my trekking poles in the air like batons and rewriting the words to 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall to coincide with my latest adventure my friends struggled up the mountain behind me.

Altitude sickness.

They all had it and I did not. I bragged about living at seven thousand feet and already being acclimated when facing this, the highest peak in the continental U.S. ( Only Mt McKinley in Alaska is taller at 20,308 feet) Years later my best friend told me how annoying I was at that point of the ascent as everyone else in our group battled nausea, queasiness and dizziness. I just raced ahead on the trail, practically prancing up the trail like a deranged musical chipmunk. Well Mt Whitney, your revenge is here.

This camping trip to the sierras the altitude sickness has hit me and it has hit me hard.

I spent the last twenty-four hours woozy, dizzy and nauseous and dying to get back to sea level and off a desolate mountain that we were supposed to hike the following day. Suddenly I understood what my altitude sick friends had been going through and thought,

“Man, I really am an asshole”

Luckily my boyfriend did not dance around me, poking me with trekking poles and singing ridiculous songs while I was battling White Mountain Fever. He put up with me huddled up sleeping in the tent in the middle of the day, only getting up to guzzle water and eat mass amounts of pasta salad (I make the best pasta salad and there are no open flames above 10,000 feet so even before I got all pukey I was not planning on making us a hot dinner that night) So in closing I would like to say I’m sorry friends, for once again being a hyper chipmunk! All in a day in the life of The Hungry Mountaineer!


  1. Meg

    Haha. I too live in high altitude – but it really can happen to anyone. I’ve gotten AMS in both Breckenridge and Nepal. Nepal came to as no surprise – hiking up to 18,000′ is no easy feat! But, Breckenridge was totally random. I remember heading down in Nepal, Once I dropped to 14,800′ I was dancing and full of life! Glad you were alright.

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      Amber Woodyard

      Yup! That is exactly how altitude sickness is! We are going to Breckenridge in June; I can’t wait!

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