Alone, I scrambled to the top of Mt. Whitney, by way of the mountaineers route, a gully filled with terrible scree and no discernible path. Winded by the altitude and encumbered by a headache either caused by lack of oxygen or dehydration, I arrived at a notch a few hundred feet from the top. I caught my breath and then began a class-four climb up a steep face of large, broken rock, partially covered in ice.

I arrived at the top of Mt. Whitney, at 14,494 feet—the highest point in the lower 48 states—in just two hours after parting ways with my brother, Matt, and his two clients, who climbed the East Buttress. I spent the next four hours peering over the ledge looking for the sight of them. Finally, they appeared.

The day before, at our base camp five thousand feet below, Matt and I joked that you haven’t lived until you plunged into a 40 degree lake at 10 thousand feet, which we both did. (Imagine being a single beer in a cooler filled to the brim in ice.)

Matt shivers after jumping in the lake

After he and his clients got to the top, I climbed 10 feet over the edge and under some rocks so that I was out of view, and took a dump into a large plastic bag provided by the forest service. The leave-no-trace policy for the park included poop. You haven’t live till you’ve taken a dump at 14 thousand feet, looking out on the mountains and valleys below, packaged it up, and then hauled it back down the mountain with you.

Jamin on Mt Whitney

It was also great to get away from the computer for a few days.