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Mike Contos

Go. Travel. Let the world change you.

11

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Morning Solitude

One of the best feelings in this world is wakinng up and rolling out of your tent to a warm breakfast in the mountains and watching the sunrise. Here, my buddy Dave is soaking up some mountain solitude as the sun rises over the high sierras and we prepare for our last leg to the summit of Mt Whitney.

While growing up, winter and the cold of the northeast didn't affect me - I grew up in a small town, with 3 ski resorts at the time, so there was always something to do to embrace the winter. When I moved away to the city for college I began to loathe the winter and the miserable cold that it brought. In the winter, there was nothing to do in the city besides hunker away in a warm, cozy place indoors and scowl and curse at every second you had to spend brushing off your car or walking through the slushy mess. After college, I just accepted the idea that I was someone who needed a warm climate, so I moved to San Diego and loved it!

I'd always loved the adventure and bravery that I saw in big mountain climbing. The fact that you had to plan and work hard to train yourself in preparation for such a momentous undertaking - it wasn't just a drive up and take a walk deal. But, with a sad heart, I thought no way could I endure that kind of cold. Not willing to accept that, last spring, alongside my buddy Dave, I put my new found hatred for the cold aside and tested myself on the highest peak in the contiguous United States - Mount Whitney at 14,505ft. I loved it! The training, the fresh air, the solitude, the shear danger - it was a two day rush of adrenaline.

We didn't summit on that trip. We had gone in early spring to avoid the need for a reserved permit and banked on the fact that we wouldn't need technical gear due to the very little snow coverage in the Sierras as a result of the continual drought. When we got there, unknown even to the rangers, the switchbacks were completely blown in with snow and we hadn't brought ice axes and crampons for ascending a nearby chute. So, after pushing it farther then we should have, we turned back. None the less, it was a completely successful trip in my eyes. My paradigm of the cold and its beauty (in certain places) was completely reversed that weekend, and this year I plan to do several '14ers' here in SoCal including Mount Whitney again. This time, prepared for anything! =)

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