L2H Day 7 – Whitney Wipeout

Celebrating finishing L2H on top of Mount Whitney
Celebrating finishing L2H on top of Mount Whitney
“When your life hangs from a knot, it helps to know who tied it.
~Peter Zuckerman

April 3, 2015 – Final Day
Whitney Portal up Whitney and back to Whitney Portal
22 miles
6,188 feet elevation gain, 6,188 elevation loss

A day of triumph, fright, and genuine thankfulness and gratitude…

So fitting for the finish of the Lowest to Highest, the trip of extreme contrasts.

Ya think that after all this hiking up and down, up and down that we would be zooming up Whitney with no problem. Well, I wish. Historically, altitude does not really get to me, but today I struggled. Both Dan and I just had to push through. And we did.

It is always hard to force a body out of a warm, cozy, sleeping bag for those alpine starts, but so worth it. Our plan was to hit the deep snow early to avoid post-holing and get down off the mountain before it was too icy and dark.

There were only 2 other climbers today. They started at Trail Camp, 3/4 the way up Whitney at 7:00 am. Climbers usually take the chute up the southeast side of Whitney instead of the snow-covered 99 switchbacks. The chute is long and steep.

It was butt cold the entire day which made the snow super tricky. The high temps over the last week and now the cold, created an ice crust on top and soft stuff underneath with intermittent solid ice.

We reached the top at 1:00 pm and quickly made some hot tea, ate oranges, and fresh deli lunch meats and cheese in the shelter. After a very rejuvenating break, hugs, high fives, and pics we quickly started our descent.

We reached the top of the chute just as the sun was covering the bottom half.

In 2010, a high snow year, I descended this very chute with my good hiker friend, Arrow. It was soft, fluffy snow and scarier than snot. How had I forgotten that minor detail in this plan? In 2010, we glissade down on our sides with our ice axes securely planted, using it as a type of rudder and brake.

Today, after securing any outside equipment inside the packs, including electronics, we carefully descended using various techniques: side-stepping, sitting down and stepping, digging in steps, and sliding a bit with our ice axe dug in. The snow changed to ice as we went down.

With a quarter left to go, I started accelerating with my ice axe dug in and close to my side. I kept going faster and faster and had trouble hanging on with the hand closest to my body.

I have been in a few mountaineering classes and know how important it is to keep the axe next to your body or you are in deep trouble. I couldn’t hang on with the blows to my hand over and over. My grip let go. The ice axe started flipping around and I knew I had to get that thing away from me afraid of being impaled.

After that things flew.
Racing down on my back feet first.
Ice flipped me around.
Sliding face first.
Ice tossed me up in the air several times.
Landing each time hearing body cracks.
All the time knowing I was heading for rocks at the bottom.
Flying in the air one last time and plopping to a dead halt.

So what goes through the mind at a time like this? For one, I was pretty sure I was done for or broke my neck, but all I could think of is that my dear husband had to watch the whole mess of a thing in horror. I wouldn’t want that for him.

I am very lucky, fortunate and very blessed. I know that God was looking out for both Dan and I on that mountain.

Poor Dan had to make his way down to me gathering all my equipment along the way. By the time he reached me, I had assessed all my parts, had some blood and figured nothing was broken. He was so sweet and said I had all my teeth.

Everything fell into place after that, I was okay to descend the 8 miles on my own. Dan was super worried I had a concussion and kept me moving down one step at a time. Above Lone Pine Lake, we met 2 older gentleman that showed up out of now where. I think they were my guardian angels. They talked to me the way down and offered to give us a ride to Lone Pine where our car was parked. When we got to the trail head, another young guy, Kip offered to give us a ride even though he had just arrived and wasn’t going down. Pretty amazing really.

So I am okay. Really bruised, scraped, and have a few pulled muscles, but all will heal with a bit of time.

Thank you for following along. This has been one heck of a spring vacation. Yes sireeeeeee.

What We Did or Wish We Did:

-Get an early start even if you are climbing with no snow in the fall.
-On a normal snow year, the snow level usually starts well below Whitney Portal. We have snowshoed from Lone Pine Campground to the Portal at this time of year.
-Bring extra clothing layers, you will wear all of them.
-The Pizza Factory in Lone Pine is open until 9:00 pm, if the Whitney Portal Store is open, get a burger there before heading down.
-Do not to fall going down the chute if climbing in the winter and please wear a helmet.

Sunrise over the Inyo Mountains
Sunrise over the Inyo Mountains
Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake
Ledges before Trail Camp
Ledges before Trail Camp
Trail Camp
Trail Camp
One step at a time
One step at a time
View of Owens Valley and the Inyo Mountains
View of Owens Valley and the Inyo Mountains
Heading up
Heading up
Early morning ascent of chute
Early morning ascent of chute
Almost to the top
Almost to the top
Hitchcock Lakes and Guitar Lake
Hitchcock Lakes and Guitar Lake
Top of Whitney in sight
Top of Whitney in sight
Smithsonian Shelter at the top of Mount Whitney
Smithsonian Shelter at the top of Mount Whitney
Hikers getting ready to descend chute
Hikers getting ready to descend chute
Chute I slid down in afternoon shade
Chute I slid down in afternoon shade
Ice scrapes and bruises from sliding and tumbling
Ice scrapes and bruises from sliding and tumbling


  1. Yowza! Glad you had a happy ending (relatively speaking) to that story. Wow. So glad to hear you’re doing okay.


  2. I have just caught up on your blog. I am very thankful for you, your husband and your family that it wasnt worse. Best wishes to you on healing up. I can’t even imagine what it was like for you both mentally in those moments but I am glad your son encouraged you to add it. You have been one of the most inspirational and educational female hikers for several years and I look forward to your next adventure. God Bless, Happy Trails and Thank You for sharing your journey.

  3. Whoa! I’m heading to Mt Whitney in August so I was reading your post with interest! I didn’t expect that. Glad you are ok. I did knock my teeth out in a bicycle accident last year so I chuckled at Dan’s comment about your teeth.

    • Seriously, the teeth thing. You know things are bad when the person looking at you keeps mentioning just one thing. I didn’t have a mirror and his eyes were so big, that after about an hour I took a photo to see what he was looking at. Not pretty. Ouch with your teeth!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Wow! So glad you are ok. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  5. Wow – so glad you are OK. I know there were quite a few folks praying for you!
    I’ve so enjoyed following your trek, than you for sharing even the scary parts.

  6. When I saw the photo, I got chills and was so happy for you both (envious too). Then I read the post and was shocked. I can’t imagine the fear you had and am so happy all turned out well. God is good!!!

    • God is good! Yep, I was a mess. Dan kept it together and I have healed so quickly. My daughter told her friends I would be disfigured and a week later everything was almost gone. Crazy. Hope you are planning upcoming hikes. Boy, Yosemite is wide open. Crazy.

  7. Elmers Glue

    Glad you slid down okay! I was at whitney late November and it’s shocking that the snow level looks exactly the same this early into spring. Can’t wait to go back

  8. Immediately on hearing you and Dan were taking this particular trip, I was impressed to pray for both of you. Though I am not familiar with that terrain, some “inside itch” made me a bit uneasy about it. This morning, here’s what came to mind: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – Tolkien. Even so, we all know there’s always risk in venturing into the outdoors. It’s part of what we sign on for, what blesses us with marvel and exhiliration, and a price we gladly pay to explore God’s wonders. I pray peace for you and Dan and your family as your process events.

    • Thank you for your kind thoughts and prayers. They were answered. Believe me. I just love your sharing the Lord of the Rings quote, especially “marvel and exhilaration”. It is so true. There is always a risk and a price to pay, but oh the joy.

  9. I’ve seen too many accidents on the mountains.
    Close friends and people I’ve never met. Each impacted me differently…but never the love of my life. I enjoy your posts because of your
    love of the wilderness and the closeness you share with your family. Never complaining even under the most stressful of circumstances.
    My prayers will be for you and your family with a swift physical and mental recovery. Helmets..go for impact strength..give me your sizes and I will be glad to send you a pair 🙂

    • Thank you for your kind thoughts! Ya just never know how incidents like this will have lingering thoughts afterward and effect decisions. I think I learned a lot and for the better. I got right back riding my bike, which helped because of the speed fear factor. I still am taking late afternoon naps. Healing does take some time. I am learning that also. Thank you for your offer. Guaranteed we will be wearing helmets on our next snow or rock exhibition. You rock.

  10. Thank you. Thank you everyone for your well wishes and support. Here is a quick update: I am healing quickly, my face looks a ton better, bruises on my body are turning lots of lovely colors, I am moving around faster, swelling is gone, and more importantly I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

    Oh and Drop n’ Roll gave me a great helmet recommendation.

  11. Thank God your safe ! Injuries heal..in mountaineering sooner or latter you’ll experience
    the slide either as a witness or the fallen.
    I salute your description of the incident and
    composure afterwards. Don’t let this stop you..learn off the incident and march forward.

    Full crampons or micro spikes ??

  12. I go away for a few days and see what happens! But really, I am so very thankful God intervened. Your story of grace and mercy is amazing. Having lived on for another day is such a blessing for you and your family and really, for all of us. I absolutely admire your candidness and integrity. You just Rock!

  13. I’ve loved following your adventure! It makes me think, “Some day…”. So glad you both made it out intact.

  14. Oh my goodness, I’m so glad that you are ok. You’re definitely keeping your guardian angel very busy!!! Talk good care!!

  15. You scared me! I came down the same section in June snow, approx. 1989. A huge tropical storm came in, I hiked out in snow then heavy rain. I will never forget coming down that snow chute at the beginning of the blizzard. Yesterday I read your post and was watching the front coming right at you guys. I was afraid you would see the same weather that I did. So glad you are OK. How is Dan?? Lightfoot

    • Hello Lightfoot! Blizzards and high mountains are just plain treacherous. Dan is doing great now. He was super scared and protective for a couple days. We are both recovering from the extreme trip and happy. Thank you for your concern.

  16. Jonathan Greenberg

    I’ve been following and enjoying your hiking trips for a while now. I’m glad you are OK!

  17. How about “Lady on a rock and roll!” Enjoyed your account of the trip.Love your photos.

  18. Wow! Amazing, and oh so lucky you came out of that without broken bones or worse. I have taken some hard and long falls mtn biking..and know the moments of self assess when movement stops..yes fingers still move, arms, legs..then usually followed by uncontrollable laughter…maybe just joy to be alive..not sure why. This adventure will be one to remember, glad you survived so you can remember it!

  19. annathrax

    Gee that fall must of been terrifying. Glad all is well. Thanks for bringing us armchair hikers for the journey!

  20. I ,too , am so glad you were not hurt worse than you are . That chute is steeper than it looks in pics and you and I had a terrifying (for me ) experience in that same place in June of 2010 with SOFT snow . You must have been tumbling down so fast on that hard icy snow . Very scary and Very grateful you are ok . Nine lives… And lots of grace

  21. Christy and Dan:
    Thanks for sharing your adventure with all of us. I know the last day was terrifying – I’m not a mountaineering type but I understand the risks of descent on steep snow and ice. Your safe return was the result of your extensive experience in the mountains and a handful of guardian angels. Now that you’re back, I’d love to hear your feelings about the trip. How did it change you? How did it change your relationship?

    • Wow well that is a whole new blog entry. It is one of those kind of trips that is extreme in all ways: physically, mentally, and emotionally requiring many different skills. I have asked Dan his after thoughts and we both agree we need some time to mull things over. I admit I tend to make things look more glamorous than they often really are. My son even convinced me to add the accident to this blog post. He said, “Mom you cannot leave it out, it is part of the story!” Thanks for the inspiration.

      • I would encourage you to trust your readers and share your emotions. Reading the comments, I think you can see the love and concern we all share for you and Dan. Take a chance and I think you’ll be amazed at the response. I would also love to read a guest post from Dan.

  22. Dang !!!! What an Incredible Journey you two just had, and with quite the finish… Congrats & Ouch !!!
    Just Bruce..

  23. Oh my. What another grand adventure! So grateful that you are OK after that fall.

  24. Green Tea

    What a unique adventure-filled hiking trip you’ve just had – and with all that bruises & scrapes to prove the level of what you’ve accomplished & survived! Congratulations – and am looking forward to many more of your adventure blogs!

  25. davejbillingsley

    Really enjoyed following your L2H expedition, thanks for the stories and photos. Scary thing, that last bit. Happy you both made it home in good spirits and with all your teeth. Rock on!

  26. Georgette Theotig

    Dan and Christy, Congratulations on completing a most challenging adventure. Your photos of Whitney take my breath away. Christy, I am so glad you are OK after the chute tumble! You’ll heal, and be ready for the next exciting plans on or off the trail. Meanwhile, enjoy a very deserved rest at home!

  27. OUCH! Glad you’re okay.

  28. Whew had me on the edge of my seat. So thankful you’re alright. Just goes to show even with wisdom and experience shit can happen. It definitely wasn’t your time, glad we’ll get to share more adventures. Ouch!!!

  29. oh gezz! Glad you’re ok. That feeling of not being able to stop after taking a fall is one of my biggest fears.

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