2018 HIGHPOINTERS SCHOLARSHIP
I would like to thank all the 2018 Highpointers Scholarship participants.
This year we received six outstanding essays for the Highpointers Scholarship Program.
The 2018 Highpointers Scholarship winners are Caroline Baker, Joseph Cermak and Alison Blake. Each of this year’s winners have been awarded with a $500.00 check from the Highpointers Scholarship Fund. Congratulations!!
I would like to thank volunteers Kathy and John Mitchler, Marion Bauman, Lizzie Brammer and Laura Newman for making this year’s judging a success.
It has been an honor for me to be involved with the Scholarship Program because of the opportunities it gives our younger members. It was also an honor for me to present the first three years of Scholarship Awards for the club. It’s time for me to move on now and let others lead this great program into the future. Good Luck!
Please read the 3 winning essays below!
Scholarship Winner 2018 – Essay by Caroline Baker
I’m 16 years old and standing on the 13,527-foot summit of Kings Peak, in the Uinta Mountains of Utah, and countless thoughts are running through head. My legs ache from the endless hours and miles of climbing yesterday and today, and my lungs burn to remind me of the insufficient levels of oxygen at this altitude. But, the 360-degree view pushes such mundane problems aside. The rocky surrounding mountains, light-drenched valleys, and sparkling lakes seem close enough to touch in the thin, pristine air. The way the earth precipitously falls away on all sides of the peak is frightening and exhilarating. I’m grinning from ear to ear, and it doesn’t matter that my mind is wondering if my body has the stamina to make it back down. I’m thinking about how foreign, pure, and conquerable the world looks from up here, a feeling the people who won’t make the effort to complete the climb will never know.
Kings Peak will forever be burned in my brain because it was the longest, most difficult highpoint my dad, my two sisters, and I had completed up until we did it, and it definitely left its mark. Our plan had always been to build up to climbs like this one. Before this, I had completed all the highpoints east of the Mississippi River. Most were drive-ups or short hikes that required little planning, but some, like Mount Rogers and Mount Katahdin, made us think about actual hiking logistics, such as water, food, routes, maps, weather, and fitness. In comparison, Kings Peak took preparation to a new level. We had to buy tents, sleeping bags, hiking packs, and a water filter. In anticipation for the climb, we practiced filling our packs and setting up the tents in our backyard. My dad was a Boy Scout and had been in the Army, but he had never attempted anything like this, let alone with three teenage daughters, so there was no one who I knew could confidently get me to the summit.
We flew into Salt Lake City and drove east, into southwest Wyoming. Looking out the rental car window at the landscape, I already knew this was a different animal. The tree-covered hilly and mountainous lands stretched as far as I could see, wild and beautiful. I grew up in the suburbs outside a relatively small city, but now I felt like a real city kid – out of my element. It was both exciting and intimidating. They didn’t say it, but I could tell my 14 and 18 year old sisters, Catherine and Julianne, were nervous to make the climb. I thought, “If they could make it, then I could…maybe.” I prayed – not for the last time – that my dad knew what he was doing. We spent the night in rustic, Native American-themed cabins in Mountain View, Wyoming and had what I hoped wasn’t our last meal at the Crazy Ate Café. Before we went to sleep, we organized and packed our gear, so we could get an early start the next day. Why do these hikes always start so painfully early?
Since we were planning a two-day hike, we waited until it was light to find our way to the Henry’s Fork Trailhead. I thought Mountain View was a pretty remote location, but 30 miles of dirt roads and unlabeled logging trails led us into a different world. At the parking lot, there wasn’t much else to do except shoulder our packs and start down the trail. The first 5 miles was a pleasant hike through the woods along streams with a gentle rise; more importantly, it wasn’t too taxing. Eventually, we broke out of the forest into a vast valley meadow, surrounded by snow-speckled peaks, with Kings Peak far off in the distance behind these mountains. It’s hard to describe the collision of feelings. It was nothing I’d ever experienced before. The enormity of scale and purity of unspoiled wilderness were wondrous, humbling, and daunting. I thought, “This is why people do this.”
But, the hike across the valley seemed to take forever. The miles and altitude with packs on our backs were starting to take their toll. We stopped to eat and rest when we passed Dollar Lake, but a troublesome trend began to develop: Like the rookies we were, we had trouble eating. We just didn’t feel like it, and nothing tasted very good. I wasn’t hungry. I’d eat when I was hungry. We each swallowed a sandwich with some difficulty, knowing we should eat. However, Julianne still hit the wall, for the first time, at the base of the climb up to Gunsight Pass, and our progress slowed to a crawl. We traded to give her the lightest pack and inched our way over enormous boulders to the top of the pass. There, we rested and got invaluable information from a trail runner about running water locations up ahead where we could refill our bottles. This runner was going up and down the mountain in one day, and I was half dead at Gunsight Pass. Luckily, the next mile descended about 500 feet. Feeling good, for a change, walking downhill, a small voice in my head whispered that, tomorrow, I’d have to climb back up this descent. Before the hike, we picked a spot for our camp based on our maps and other climbers’ trip reports on Summit Post. It was perfect: flat and near running water.
Trying to sleep that night, I quickly realized two things. One, the ground wasn’t flat. We had no sleeping mats (another rookie mistake), and the ground was rocky. Two, it’s cold at 11,000 feet, even in August. And, either I didn’t have warm enough clothes, or my sleeping bag was not equipped for that weather. We were supposed to get a lot of calories and energy from at least one meal at camp earlier that night, but I could only force down one sandwich again: a price I’d pay on Day 2. We woke as dawn broke and were treated to a colorful sunrise over Painter Basin. It was only about 2.5 miles to the summit, but it felt like 20. My older sister, Julianne, began to really struggle. She had kicked all of our butts on Katahdin, but a combination of the altitude, lack of fitness, and not eating here got to her. We inched our way up to Anderson Pass. What should have taken 90 minutes took much longer. Then we had to climb the last half-mile scrambling over boulders taller than we were. My father, Catherine, and I all made slow progress toward the summit, but halfway through the boulder field, Julianne reached her limit and sat down. We were only a quarter mile from the top. We cajoled, encouraged, threatened, and tried to bribe her. I was devastated that she wasn’t going to make it after coming so far, and I never wanted to do this climb again with her, but there was nothing we could do but leave her and climb the rest of the way. 15 minutes later, I reached the summit. As I looked around to enjoy the view, I saw that Julianne was moving again. She had found a second or third or tenth wind. She couldn’t quit after coming this far. When she made it, we posed for the requisite group photo on the summit and talked to two hikers who were planning on summitting a few of the next closest mountains, too. We were exhausted, but we couldn’t keep from smiling. This was incontestably our greatest highpointing achievement, so far. If we could do this one, we could do any of them.
Unfortunately, now it was time to get all the way back down to the car. The hike down was notable for a few reasons. As we headed down from the peak, the wind picked up, and it began to snow, sleet, and rain, all at the same time. When we got back to camp, we had to take down and put away our tents, pack up all our gear, and filter another 8 liters of water in an hour-long winter storm. We could have gotten in our tents and tried to wait it out, but how long would it go on? Having summitted so slowly, we were already behind schedule. The short hike up to Gunsight Pass from our camp was torture after already getting up to the peak and back that morning. And, it was still another 10 miles back to the trailhead. We hiked for hours wondering over and over again, “How much farther?” By the time we saw the parking lot, we had two ankle injuries in the group and hadn’t made it to the car until sunset. We hiked 17 miles for about 15 hours that day, and we learned that the trip isn’t over when you reach the top.
Kings Peak wasn’t the highest mountain I’ve climbed, but the 29-mile round trip makes it my longest hike, so far. I’ve been highpointing with my father and two sisters since March 2014, and our travels have taken us across the country, past cities with millions of people and past places so isolated that satellites are our only means of navigation. We’ve driven for miles on dirt roads that I couldn’t find on the map, hopeful that the moving blip of the iPad’s GPS tracker was moving in the right direction. I’ve learned that humans can exist – and even thrive – in places where cell phones don’t have a signal, and there are no stores of any kind for miles. While hiking, I’ve worried about rattlesnakes, bears, and all manner of insects. I’ve been too hot and too cold, hungry and thirsty, and on a couple occasions, injured. Despite all of it, the best part of this is doing it with my family. Long hours in the car and struggles on steep terrain with loaded backpacks have brought us physically and mentally closer in ways that would have never happened without Highpointing.
Like it probably did for most highpointers, my experience started out with a narrow focus aimed simply at getting to the top of a mountain because it was there, because it was a challenge. On our first official expedition, on the way to Mississippi’s highest point, we passed a small unassuming sign with an arrow pointing to the local Coon Dog cemetery. As we drove by, we laughed, but something clicked, and we slowed down, stopped, and turned around. During the hour detour, we wandered, laughed, and discovered what all highpointers do: that it’s not simply about peak-bagging. On the way back home to Birmingham, Alabama, we took the long way, passing a 20-foot gold Egyptian statue in an anonymous yard in a tiny town and then climbed to the top of the longest natural bridge east of the Rocky Mountains. Since that moment, we have made highpointing our excuse for seeing America together. We found a Corn Palace in South Dakota, the Ben and Jerry’s headquarters in Vermont, a UFO museum in New Mexico, and a hundred other places I hadn’t known existed. In the course of chasing America’s tallest mountains, I’ve passed by and stopped to visit many of the country’s greatest landmarks, such as Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, and Yosemite and Zion National Parks.
Just a few years ago, if I had stood at the base of a 14,000-foot mountain, the summit would have seemed unreachable. Now, I’ve learned to overcome obstacles that at first seem insurmountable and that big problems can be broken down into manageable components. I’ve discovered that to climb a mountain I need to be in good physical condition and be mentally tough. Through necessity, I have acquired technical skills, such as pitching a tent, reading topographical maps, and planning the logistics involved in reaching a difficult peak. I’ve learned that I need to work with the other members of the team to distribute the food, water, and gear needed to reach the top. I’ve discovered that sometimes I can race up the mountain ahead of my sisters, that sometimes they need my help, and that sometimes I need theirs.
When I was 4 years old, my family drove to the top of Mount Cheaha, Alabama’s highest point, long before we knew Highpointing was a thing. I never dreamed mountain climbing would become a hobby of mine or of the myriad places and experiences it would bring me. I never thought I’d be able to do the things I have now done. I’ve set 41 goals and achieved every one. This summer we have our sights set on two more big western highpoints, Boundary Peak, Nevada and the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states, Mount Whitney, California. Sometimes when I tell people about Highpointing, they smirk and ask if I’m going to climb 20,000 feet to the top of Denali in Alaska. I’ll admit that does seem a bit daunting, and even though I only have nine highpoints left, that one seems like a distant dream. But you know what? Why not?
Scholarship Winner 2018 – Essay by Alison Blake
Adventure is Addicting
Picture this: Strong, tall pine trees blowing in the warm breezes, a gorgeous, sunshiny, 75-
degree day, nothing but the smell of fresh air and wildflowers around, happy birds singing their songs, and a 180-degree view of the entire state of Minnesota and more. Breathtaking! I am at the top of Eagle Mountain! I don’t want to leave. I am here with my family that consists of my parents, my younger sister, and my older, crazy fun cousin. We have set up our hammocks and are chilling, taking it all in, soaking it up. From this moment, I know I need more mountain tops.
Adventure has always been something I craved. From a young age, I always looked for
something to do and somewhere to go that revolved around the outdoors. It never mattered where, and time was always irrelevant. I was fortunate and blessed in that I had parents who encouraged my adventurous spirit. As I got older, the passion for adventure never faded. I am constantly looking for a new place to travel, a new fear to conquer, and a new view. Along with this love for adventure comes determination, perseverance, and a view on life that nothing is impossible. My mother often tells me on our mountain climbing adventures that I am fearless. I will always be the first one to walk the edge of a cliff, jump across an abyss, or make it to the top.
My first experience climbing high points was Eagle Mountain in West Cook, Minnesota. This was the mountain that sparked and inspired me and my family to continue hiking and climbing the highest points of the 50 states in the United States. Eagle Mountain is located in the upper northeast corner of Minnesota. Access and route to the mountain was an eight-hour drive away for my family from Menominee, Michigan. It was not at all difficult to find with enough signage to lead you easily to the starting point. Those who have hiked Eagle Mountain know, in comparison to other high points, it can be strenuous, especially to inexperienced hikers. We went mid-summer, so it was important along this hike to have proper shoes, bug spray, food, water,etc. The path was quite rugged at points along the hike, which was something that excited me. Jumping from rock to rock without spraining an ankle seemed like an easy enough challenge and seeing how fast I could get to the top without completely exerting myself was always motivated by the view that was to come. Stopping to dip our feet in the quiet stream running off Whale Lake along the way helped us refresh and continue our way up the moderate to difficult pathway. This hike helped me gain appreciation for the world around me and the people in it. We talked to everyone we crossed paths with, whether it be a simple hello or an actual conversation. Everyone was willing to help us, give us direction, and smile and ask, “Where are you guys from?” Overall, friendliness and stewardship has been something that has stood out to me, not just on this hike, but at every other high point location I have visited. I have only just begun this mountain high point journey and have only been to eight high points so far. My family and I have had the opportunity to talk to people from all over the country, hear their stories, and have even met other Highpointer members that have told us about their journey. The characteristics of everyone we have met, whether they be tourists or serious hikers, have all been similar. Everyone has the same appreciation for the creation around them and it shows.
Every high point I have been to so far has been incredibly clean. It is rare if I see trash on the trails or vandalism on structures. People care about these places. It is obvious. My
generation has a reputation of being particularly earth friendly and with recent publicity to save the planet, I can only look forward to the possibilities that not just high points have, but state parks, and even local city parks all over the country. Being able to physically see change in the way we take care of our planet is amazing. It shows respect and progressiveness and enhances all the natural beauty this country has to offer. It truly proves that little things, like picking up trash, truly make a difference.
Not only have high points shown me how beautiful this planet can be, it has provided me opportunities that not everyone gets to experience in their lifetime. Experiencing high points with my family has brought us closer together. My mother has always struggled to keep up to my dad, sister, cousin, and I. It has been a long-running joke in my family that we could hike a trail ten times before she could reach the end. But all jokes aside, it has been humbling being able to see her get healthier by hiking not just high points but other trails that we have visited. At Eagle Mountain, my sister and I would go back and forth along the trail to make sure mom was still moving along. This was her first serious hiking excursion, so it was challenging for her. At one point along the hike she actually thought she wasn’t going to make it, and while that was just an exaggeration, the fact that she made it to the top and back down, was really an accomplishment. She notes often that she is always the slowest, but always finishes. Now, she can keep up with us on the trails and although my sister and I are still more agile because we are younger, it has been
an opportunity for us to encourage her and bond and grow even closer as a family.
Highpointing has taken us all over the country. Once we finish one high point, we are
already planning our next high point adventure on the way home. What a great way to learn and educate yourself in geography! We research and read about all the Highpoints and follow other Highpointer’s experiences. We now plan our vacations around Highpoints. For Christmas this last year, we all became Highpoint Club Members! We ordered the newsletter for my cousin as a Christmas gift and he was thrilled. We now all have Highpointer T-Shirts and wear them proudly. It’s a great conversation starter. We now have people following us on our adventures. We are constantly being asked by friends where we are going next. Friends often ask about our adventures and it feels great to inform and encourage others about a great organization. It’s been a ton of fun. Meeting other Highpointers while reaching a summit has been one of the most enjoyable parts of highpointing. When we first started we would always wonder if the people we passed might be club members. Now we just go right up to people and ask. We are surprised by how many we have met. Members are always willing and ready to share their knowledge and experiences and so are we. It’s been a great way to meet people. People often ask me and my family, “Why do you do this?” My answer to “why” is honest and simple in that it easily and quickly became addicting. Once you start, you are driven to want to check more off the list. I am also blessed with a family that likes to travel, travels well in long car rides together, and has a ton of fun doing it. We like to do what we call power-drive vacations. We once did Michigan to Florida and back in four days. People thought we were nuts, but we had a blast. We enjoy stopping and visiting off the beaten path attractions along the way. Did you know Kiln, Mississippi, the birthplace of Brett Favre, has a gas-station wall you can sign your name to? Yup! Look for Alison Blake from Menominee, Michigan. Another power-drive vacation was jumping in all five Great Lakes in under 16 hours. Our love of traveling was a natural fit for Highpointing. We started with attempting and conquering Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota one Memorial Day Weekend, my crazy, fun cousin’s idea. That’s all it took. On our way home, our dream of highpointing, me not yet knowing there was a club, was brewed. Another question people often ask is “How did you learn about the Highpointing Club?” As we were on top of South Carolina, Mount Sassafras, we met a couple who asked us if we were Highpointers. We said, “What club?” We then proceeded to ask them a ton of questions. As soon as they told us you only need five to join, we decided indeed we were going to be Highpointers as soon as we could get down this mountain and connect to internet. A big shout out to those people for
introducing us to the club. As said earlier, everyone is more than friendly on mountain tops. My goal is to spread the word about the Highpointers Club.
As I stated earlier, I have just begun my highpoints journey. My points include Eagle
Mountain, Timms Hill, Mount Arvon, Brasstown Bald, Sassafras, Mount Mitchell, Mount
Washington, and Taum Sauk. I closely watch and follow others on this Highpointing quest and it’s inspiring to say the least. Sure, I would love to continue and be among the elite 50 someday. In my favor is not only my age which provides time on my side, but mostly my adventurous spirit. My family is planning a Memorial Day vacation soon where we will seek out Hawkeye Point and Black Elk Peak (Harney Peak). I am very much looking forward to the trip, the views, and more family fun. I singled out Eagle Mountain because it’s what started this beautiful and amazing adventurous dream.
I am 19 years old. I am strong, I am fearless, I am adventurous, and I am blessed.
Presently, I am a nursing major at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin. I have been blessed with a love for the outdoors, a healthy mind and body, and an amazingly supportive family. I have my future ahead of me to look forward to. I am thankful and grateful for having the opportunities of seeing God’s beautiful creation from its highest points. I know that my future includes the goal of as many highpoints as God will bless me with being able to visit. I am a Highpointer.
Scholarship Winner 2018 – Essay by Joseph Cermak
On the journey to complete my goal of climbing the highest point in each of the fifty States, I have faced many challenges and obstacles, had successes and failures, and traveled to places I may never have visited otherwise. My journey began when I was just 9 years old after hiking in New Hampshire and reading a Scholastic News pamphlet in elementary school. A small article about a fourteen year old who had just set the record for being the youngest person to complete the highpoints caught my eye. I remember going home, showing my dad, and looking up what some of the nearby state highpoints were. Before I knew it, highpointing became the focus of summer vacations with my mom, dad, and two younger brothers as we went state to state to climb the highpoints. Each one of the thirty six highpoints I have completed has presented a unique set of challenges and its own beauty, but the one experience that stands out more than any other is Granite Peak in the rugged Beartooth Mountains of Montana.
Long before arranging a trip from Ohio to Montana to climb the beast of a mountain, I knew it would be a challenge. Back when my dad was in college, he and some friends had attempted Granite but failed to summit. Twenty five years later, the mountain had not gotten any easier. We first attempted Granite in 2015 and made it as far as the bottom of the technical climbing section near the summit before a storm turned us back in defeat. As we hiked out inthe rain the following day, we vowed to come back the next year and conquer the summit.
In 2016, we planned a return to the Beartooths. My dad, two brothers, and a friend of the family, Jeff, who had heard stories of our highpointing adventures and wanted to come along so he could return to the beloved backcountry, would make the journey. We spent all summer training daily and studying route and climbing maps so we would be ready. A few
weeks before the trip, a makeshift climbing wall was built in our barn so everyone could practice their rappels and rope knowledge. When the trip arrived in August, we were ready.
Arriving in the small town of Red Lodge that would serve as the base to head into the Beartooth’s from, the weather forecast presented a perfect window of 3 days with clear skies after a day of scattered showers. With a big storm front predicted to move in afterwards, we knew this would be our chance. We were organizing our gear outside the hotel to get ready to head into the backcountry when a fast approaching storm led to a rush to get everything into the hotel room without anything blowing away or getting wet. What should have been an easy taskof packing our backpacks quickly became difficult and the first of many challenges on this trip. Cramming five people and all of their gear into a hotel room was almost impossible. We quickly realized the hotel was much too small for the task, resulting in Jeff laying out all of his gear in the bathroom, with his pack in the tub and sitting on the toilet with gear all around. A lot of frustration led to a lot of laughs and it was not long before everyone was packed and ready to go.
The next morning began with a hearty breakfast before making our way to the trailhead. The sun was out but some rain clouds were building in the west, which meant the forecast was probably correct in its prediction of some rain on our approach day. Our months of training paid off and we made quick work of the 3 miles up to Mystic Lake. With the easy part of the hike done, we broke for lunch before heading up the “Switchbacks from Hell” and hoped we could make it to our proposed campsite before the rain moved in. As we made our way up the valley towards the plateau, we ran into another group of six with the goal of summiting Granite. Being the outgoing person that he is, Jeff quickly made conversation with the leader of the group, Dave. In what is undoubtedly the biggest coincidence I have personally experienced, Jeff and Dave realized that they had gone to the same small college in Maine and even lived on the same floor of the same dorm their freshman year. The odds of running into each other forty years later on the same remote mountain trail are extremely small, but would turn out to be a blessing. It was not long though before our group outpaced theirs and headed up the switchbacks after wishing them luck. As we neared the tree line, it became apparent that rain was imminent. With some incredible luck, we rounded a bend in the trail and found what is likely one of the only small flat areas along the entirety of the switchbacks. We all acted quickly to
clear some stones and pitch the 3 man tent before the 5 of us clamored in with our packs just as the rain started. It was a tight fit, but did the job to wait out the short storm. Despite trying to take a quick nap, some inopportune cramping led to a laughter filled tent with stories we still talk about.
When the rain passed, we packed the tent back up and continued on through the now dreary weather. A few short hours later, we had made it to the camping spot we found during our first attempt the year before and made camp. As we made dinner, the sun came out for a gorgeous sunset and promising good weather for the next day. We moved to our second base camp the next day and spent the afternoon hiking around the plateau and checking out the mountain we would be climbing the following day. While on top of a short sister peak, we witnessed what we later found out was a helicopter rescue of a climber from the other route that had fallen and suffered what would become fatal injuries. Watching the rescue was a truly humbling experience that really put into perspective what we were about to attempt. At the base camp, both our group and Dave’s group were sharing the same campsite and we were discussing our plans for the summit day. Our group planned to start around 2 so we would be a little ahead of the Dave’s group, while Dave talked about how if all went well they would be back at camp in time for lunch. He could not have been more wrong with that timing.
We awoke early the next morning and got on the move up towards the saddles and the approach to the summit. By the time we reached the low point in the saddle and began the slow hike up the steep boulder field, Dave’s group had caught up to us. One member of his group, was having some trouble keeping up with his group on the boulder field. We stashed his climbing stick in the rocks and helped him find his way up boulder field, beginning the fusion of our two groups. As our group reached the base of where the technical rock climbing began, my younger brothers started getting nervous and wanted to call it quits at this point. I was not going to let them stop now after making it all this way, so after a quick pep talk, we roped up and began the first stage of the climb through some cracks. As both groups moved towards the base of the bigger multi-pitch climbing sections, Jeff caught up to Dave to get some assistance on route finding up the cliff face, as Dave had successfully summited the mountain previously. Before we knew it, he had offered to assist us in getting through the next sections, almost doubling the size of his group to eleven people. Both groups began to work together to belay, set ropes and anchors, and make our way up the final approach. With eleven people, it was slow going one at a time up each section, but in just a few hours, we were all standing on the summit together and taking in the incredible view from the highest point in the state of Montana.
It was truly an incredible feeling of accomplishment for us all to be there, as many of us from both groups had thought of giving up at some point during the summit day.
After some quick celebrating and everyone getting their photos, it was time to start the descent, as we all knew we had a long way back down, and certainly would not be making Dave’s predicted lunchtime return to camp. The descent from the summit is what made this climb so memorable for me. While getting the eleven of us all to the summit was a feat on its own, it was on the descent that our two groups really became one and were able to work together cohesively to get everyone down safely and effectively. We started off with a two hundred foot rappel over a ledge by using the ropes from both teams. With the ledge there, you could not see where you were going, just that the ropes dropped off the edge into space. While many of us were nervous, we all supported each other, with climbers both on the top and the bottom of the rappel yelling encouragement as we went down one by one. With the first rappel complete, the rest of the descent was done with several short rappels. My dad and I grabbed our rope and set up the next rappel. I went down with one of the other climbers and Dave’s group and went right over to the next point to set up the next rappel. As climbers came down the rappel they could get off that rope and hook right into the next one. With both ropes and a blended group, we “leapfrogged” down the rest of the mountain with the rappels so that we could move quickly and safely. When we reached the bottom of the saddle, we had about 800 feet of elevation gain back up to the pass before making the final descent into camp. We split up the group so those that were faster could get back to camp and get food going while the slower ones made their way back. One of my brothers, my dad, and I stayed back with a member of Dave’s group who was exhausted by this point. We carried his backpack and his poles as we helped him navigate back to camp. My other brother went ahead with the climbers at the front and headed to camp, where he refilled our water bottles and then brought them back to us as
we had run out of water. It took until 8 that night to get everyone back to camp, but we all made it safely.
Without both teams working together, I have my doubts that all of us would have summited Granite that day. Each of our two groups had its strengths and weaknesses and by working together, we were able to conquer the serious mountain that is Granite Peak. I learned a lot on that climb about the importance of teamwork and having the ability to adapt to new challenges presented in a situation, lessons that have proved valuable every year since that climb both in school, during internships, and in highpointing. Climbing Granite Peak with the group that found each other through pure coincidence and united through necessity to reach the goal is something that I will never forget.