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Backpacker Magazine – January 2014

Readers' Choice 2014: Whitney '13: Readers Set Record

Last spring, 60 BACKPACKER readers pulled off the biggest grassroots mountaineering fundraiser in U.S. history.

Six reader teams summited Mt Whitney.
Six reader teams summited Mt Whitney.

Climbing with longtime editor Jonathan Dorn, guides from Sierra Mountaineering International, and athletes from The North Face, six reader teams summitted 14,505-foot Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the Lower 48. For many, it was their first time wearing crampons and camping above 12,000 feet. Most impressive: We raised $280,000 for Big City Mountaineers, a nonprofit that provides wilderness mentoring to urban teens. Special thanks to DeLorme, LOWA, and Liberty Bottleworks for their generous support.

Our Whitney climbers came in all shapes, sizes, and ages, with diverse careers, hometowns, and outdoor skill sets. Here are a few of their stories.

1. Sonja Evans

This über-positive Idaho teacher has a personal tie to the mountain: Her grandfather helped build the cabins at the iconic Whitney Portal. But this trip was her first time on the peak—and atop a 14er. Surrounded by family back at the trailhead, the beaming Evans said, “I never thought I could accomplish something like this. Now I can’t wait for the next one!”

2. Denise Lanier

We hope to see this intrepid mom—who took inspiration on the climb from a message her daughter drew on her helmet—on TV soon. Lanier is currently developing a one-woman adventure series for Valley PBS in Fresno.

3. Liane Lau

Recently settled down in San Francisco after almost 500 days without an address, this EMT and recovering accountant is a tireless adventure advocate. In addition to her Whitney efforts, Lau also raised money last year by biking across America and competing in an Ironman.

4. James Viggiano

Voted “most likely to bonk” by teammates, this wisecracking electrician from Rochester, NY, gutted out the endless couloir ascent to the Notch and the roped scramble atop the Mountaineer's Route, dispelling all doubts and becoming Team Adventur-USs hero. Choked up in the moments after he struck this pose, Viggiano told us “this is the biggest thing Ive ever done.”

5. David Heinze

Veteran of numerous Colorado Fourteeners, this environmental engineer from Denver relished the change of scenery—from the Rockies talus slopes to the High Sierras granite domes, shark-toothed spires, and legendary alpenglow.

6. Saveria and Paul Tilden

These experienced climbers from California deserve another high-five for what might have been the climb’s most innovative collection of fundraising postcards and presentations.

7. Steven Reinhold

Sea-level lungs didnt stop this easygoing North Carolinian from joining 40-plus other readers in signing Whitneys summit register. (A handful didnt make it to California due to pregnancy, illness, or job loss; altitude stopped a few more.) A top-10 fundraiser, Reinhold was one of several climbers profiled by their local TV stations.

8. Eddie Boyer

What does a Texas youth minister with a sweet backpacking tattoo do after bagging the Lower 48s highest peak? He meets hiking buddies for a Grand Canyon backpacking adventure, of course. Team Four-Teeners left Whitney wishing their childhood preachers had been this cool.

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