Local Boy Scout troop ascends Mt. Whitney

Five Boy Scouts, four scout leaders trek though the Sequoia National Forest to climb Mt. Whitney

EXETER – Local Boy Scout Troop 309 tested their mettle on a five-day trek to reach the top of Mt. Whitney last month.

Five Boy Scouts and four adult leaders from Troop 309 embarked on an epic 60-mile trek along the spine of the Sierra Nevada in July, reaching the summit of Mt. Whitney in five days.

Boy Scouts Ben Watson, Tripp Rice, Carter Lang, Ryder Stimpel and Gabe Ramirez, Jr. signed up for the challenging hike to the tallest peak in the continental United States, along with Scoutmaster William Stimpel, Gabe Ramirez, Sr., and two of the troop’s most recent Eagle Scouts who served as adult leaders on the trip: Jacob Watson, 18 and Alex McEwen, 19.

Due to the challenges presented on this high adventure trip, Scouts had to be 14 years old and at the rank of 2nd Class to participate.

The nine backpackers assembled in Mineral King and camped overnight to acclimate at 7,500 feet. The next morning, they hiked to Franklin Lake, over Franklin Pass—elevation of 11,800 feet—then descended to Rattlesnake Canyon and spent their first night camped at the upper end of the canyon at 10,500 feet.

On day two, the group traveled 13 miles and descended into Kern Canyon. After a long hike, Scoutmaster Stimpel said they enjoyed cooling off in the Kern River, fishing and soaking in the natural hot springs, which all agreed soothed their aching joints.

At daybreak, they continued up the Kern Canyon and camped that evening at the Wallace Creek trail junction. They also saw plenty of does, bucks, lizards and snakes, but did not encounter any bears.

A tough 11.5 miles later, the group emerged from the Kern Canyon and camped at Guitar Lake at the base of Mt. Whitney at an elevation of 11,500. As they traveled through the canyon, the Scouts noticed foliage beginning to grow in the area after last summer’s wildfire. They saw very few other backpackers until this point of the journey.

Sleep was minimal as the group broke camp at 4 a.m. to make the ascent of Mt. Whitney on Sunday, July 25. After dropping their heavy backpacks at the pass (removing all food so the marmots wouldn’t devour it) they reached the summit at about 9 a.m., breathing heavily at 14,505 feet but feeling exhilarated at the accomplishment. About 30 other hikers also made the climb. After making phone calls to family, taking photos and signing the logbook of visitors, the group began the 11-mile descent down 97 switchbacks.

Parents made the 4.5-hour journey to Whitney Portal by car to transport the group back to Exeter, but first, all enjoyed several slices of fresh pizza in Lone Pine, a delicious treat after 5 days of freeze dried food.

Several younger Boy Scouts also were hiking while the older Boy Scouts conquered Mt. Whitney. This group hiked 13.6 miles round trip to Twin Lakes, departing from Lodgepole Campground in Sequoia National Park.

Aside from sharpening their outdoor skills, Troop 309 also participates in several community events, including posting flags throughout downtown Exeter on national holidays, respectfully retiring worn flags, and leading off the annual Fall Festival Parade. Their charter organization is the Exeter Lions Club.

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