My Mount Whitney Climb
by Sierra Richins (age 10)
(updated 9/18/08)

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This article, written by Sierra Richins (age 10), is her account of climbing Cirque Peak, Mount Langley, Discovery Pinnacle, and Mount Whitney on September 19-22, 1991. Mount Whitney is the highest peak in the U.S., outside of Alaska, and Mount Langley is one of the 13 summits in California exceeding 14,000 feet. The following article appeared in the Mountain Democrat newspaper on October 30, 1992.

Related articles--An Arduous Cross-Country Ascent of Mount Whitney, Subtitle: Climbing Whitney With an Eager and Athletic Ten-Year Old, A Ten-Year Old Girl Climbs Red Slate Mountain by Sierra Richins, and Climbing California's 14,000-foot Peaks (by age 13).

My dad (Paul Richins), Gene Leach, and I climbed four beautiful mountains in the Mount Whitney area--Cirque Peak, Mount Langley, Discovery Pinnacle, and Mount Whitney. Two of the four peaks were over 14,000 feet. Mount Langley is 14,042 feet and Mount Whitney is 14,491 feet. Mount Whitney is the highest peak in the United States outside of Alaska. 

I had a fun, but tiring trip. Most of the time we were hiking cross-county where there were no trails. We were gone for four days--September 19-22. I was able to miss two days of school so I could go on the hike and climb.

In the morning of the first day I did not feel well but by lunch time I began to feel a little better. Dad said that I had a mild case of altitude or mountain sickness. I had a stomach ache, head ache and felt tired all over. It felt like I had the flu. 

The first day we hiked about eight miles. We started from Horseshoe Meadow (10,000 feet) went up and over New Army Pass (12,400 feet) and down to a small meadow and spring where we set up camp.

That night, after dinner, Dad wanted to climb Cirque Peak by moonlight. I wanted to go as I was feeling 100% better, but Dad did not want to take me. He thought it would be too long of a climb for me. I convinced him to take me. 

It was almost dark and the full moon was just rising when we started. After we had been climbing for an hour Dad kept saying to me, "Just five more minutes to the top, Sierra, just five more minutes". I was getting scared in the dark because I couldn't see very well and we had to climb over some very large rocks and boulders. I was also afraid that we might get too close to the edge of the ridge which dropped straight off for about 1,000 feet. 

It was hard to see the top in the moonlight. The ridge we were climbing just kept going and going. Finally after an hour and a half we reached the top of Cirque Peak. Dad's, "five more minutes," had turned into thirty minutes.

On the way back I was worried that Dad would not be able to find our tent in the dark. I was so happy when we reached camp. It was 10:20 PM. I was very tired.

The highlight of my trip was climbing to the top of Mount Langley. Near the top I felt like I was going to throw-up (mountain sickness) and I was gasping for breath. It was the hardest mountain I have ever climbed. From the top of Langley we had a spectacular view of Mount Whitney and Discovery Pinnacle about six miles to the north.

It took us a short time to climb down Mount Langley to where we had left our packs. I didn't feel so bad coming down. The lower we got the more oxygen we had to breathe and I began to feel much better. We then hiked cross-county for six more miles to Sky-Blue Lake (11,600 feet) where we camped. The hike along Rock Creek was beautiful.

The start of the third day had begun. I knew this day was going to be very rough. For about two hours we hiked and climbed up Rock Creek to Crabtree Pass (12,560 feet). On the other side of the pass we had to pick our way down through steep rocks to upper Crabtree Lake at 12,100 feet.

From this low point we climbed for three hours on loose rock and sand to the top of Discovery Pinnacle (13,760 feet). The climb was so steep and loose that I often took a step up just to slip back down to where I started. This was the hardest part of the day.

We climbed down the other side of Discovery Pinnacle where we caught the Whitney Trail at Trail Crest. I was glad to finally reach the trail. We had only two miles to hike to the top of Mount Whitney. We reached the summit in one and a half hours. It was 5:00 PM. Climbing Mount Whitney was easy in comparison to Mount Langley.

From the top of Whitney it only took us two hours to hike down five miles and 97 switchbacks to Trail Camp at 12,000 feet. It was just getting dark as we arrived at camp. We had hiked for eleven hours that day. I was happy to camp for the night.

The next morning was our last day in the mountains. It was an easy and fun day. We had to hike out seven miles. I stayed in front of my Dad and Gene the whole way down the trail. We made it down to Whitney Portal in just three hours and five minutes.

I was so happy to get to the top of the four mountains we had climbed. This trip was the most outstanding and roughest mountain climbing trip I have been on. I have now climbed thirteen peaks in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

At the Whitney Portal Store I bought a Tee-Shirt saying, "I Climbed Mount Whitney". On the way home we stopped at Walker Burger.

I would like to someday climb all thirteen of 14,000 foot peaks in California. I've climbed two. I have eleven to go. I wanted to climb Mount Muir (14,015') as we passed it on the trail to Whitney but it was too late in the day.

Backcountry_Resource_Center--Paul Richins, Jr.

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