The Adventure Begins…

To begin my excerpts of The Mount Whitney Journals, I start at the very beginning way back in 1998. I was 38 years old the first time I attempted Mt. Whitney (14,997′) as 1-day hike from the Whitney Portal trailhead on the east side of the Sierras. There are many other ways to climb the mountain. There are trailheads on the west side of the Sierras with long multi-day trails that ascend through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and there are other, longer trails from the east as well. From the Whitney Portal, a 1-day attempt is 22 miles round trip, with a starting elevation of about 8,200′. There’s no way I could’ve known 13 years ago that this first trip would begin a long tumultuous and, at times, obsessive love affair with Mt. Whitney. I wasn’t quite Glenn Close, and I didn’t boil rabbits or marmots, but I was getting there. I begin with a quote from the Dalai Lama.

View of the eastern Sierras from Highway 395



Soul is at home in the deep, shaded valleys. Heavy torpid flowers saturated with black grow there. The rivers flow like warm syrup. They empty into huge oceans of soul.

Spirit is a land of high white peaks and glittering jewel-like lakes and flowers. Life is sparse and sound travels great distances.

People need to climb the mountain not simply because it is there but because the soulful divinity needs to be mated with the spirit.

Tenzin Gyatso, Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet (1936-  )

Journal 1- 1998


The adventure starts at the Thrifty car rental agency in Mountain View, California with an unnerving introduction to the driving skills of Mike Galli. Galli, unaware that Mike Gibbons and I had pulled in behind him in my ’82 BMW as he turned into the parking lot, uses an unorthodox braking system, a solid pole, to bring his Honda Accord to a full and complete stop. He only hit it at a few miles an hour: not fast, but decidedly more than a love tap and enough to dent his fender. As Gibbons and I sit laughing in my car, we conjecture that he‘s either trying to see if his air-bag system works or–being a tree-hugging environmentalist–he’s trying to save wear and tear on his brakes, conserving precious asbestos.


About victorvolta

I am a freelance photographer/writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. I grew up in the very suburban city of Santa Clara. Education: San Jose State University (class of '84) BA degree in Journalism with concentrations in Photojournalism and English. Favorite Foods: Ribeye steaks and Stan's Doughnuts (separate plates, usually). Favorite Drinks: Strong gourmet coffee and Trader Joe's Blood Orange Italian Soda (separate cups).
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