By Mark Malkowicz
This is a story and video of how my girlfriend Rachel and I traveled across Death Valley from Las Vegas, Nevada to Lonepine, California with hopes of reaching the summit of Mount Whitney. Standing at 14,508 feet, Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. Our plan was to take the standard route known as the Whitney Trail but having left the first week of June, the trail wasn’t yet clear of snow. The snowy conditions forced us up by way of “the chute”, a winter or spring variation of the route.
The chute is a steep band of snow leading to the ridge that would eventually take us to the summit. In the early morning hours, the chute is icy, making it ideal for cramponing our way up. Later in the day however, the hot California sun warms it and the ice turns to a wet slush. Our plan was to get up while it was frozen and back down before it got too wet.
This was Rachel’s first climb but despite her lack of experience, she was strong all throughout the summit day, making her a killer climbing partner. Not sure if either of us would have made it without the other and I’m looking forward to getting back on a mountain with her someday.