Mt. Whitney Climber Claims Record


A 29-year-old forest ranger from Bishop claimed a 2-hour, 8 1/2-minute speed record Tuesday for climbing Mt. Whitney, which at 14,494 feet is California’s highest point and the highest peak in the United States outside of Alaska.

Marty Hornick, a trails ranger for the U. S. Forest Service, hiked and climbed about six miles and ascended nearly 6,200 feet Sunday. He left from Whitney Portal and climbed the peak by the so-called Mountaineers’ Route pioneered by John Muir in the 1870s.

Hornick rested for 10 minutes on the cloud-shrouded summit, which carried a light mantle of snow, and plunged back down the same route. He returned to Whitney Portal, the road’s end, 13 miles west of Lone Pine, 3 hours and 23 minutes after beginning the ascent at 9 a.m. Friends clocked his times at Whitney Portal and at Mt. Whitney’s summit.


“I was mildly hypoxic at the summit,” Hornick said Tuesday in a telephone interview, referring to a lack of oxygen from the elevation and exertion. “I was really pushing it to pull a record. I was pushing beyond sanity at that point.”

While records are unofficial, the previous fastest time reported for climbing Mt. Whitney from the Whitney Portal trailhead was 2 hours, 17 minutes via the 11-mile Whitney Trail.

Hornick acknowledged that some might challenge his record because he traveled fewer miles by using the Mountaineers’ Route. While his trek was shorter, Hornick had to negotiate the rugged North Fork canyon by following a faint, unmaintained trail and at times climbing an intricate series of rock ledges to reach the base of Mt. Whitney.

Hornick’s trip up the Mountaineers’ Route also involved boulder-hopping and rock-climbing, and encounters with ice and snow for about 2,000 feet at the foot of Mt. Whitney’s eastern buttress. Most climbers shun the Mountaineers’ Route as unappealing drudgery in favor of the more challenging and aesthetic lines up Mt. Whitney’s east buttress and east face. The Mountaineers’ Route is the standard line of descent for such climbs.

The Whitney Trail is a far smoother and more gentle route to the top of Mt. Whitney, allowing would-be record-setters to run or jog a good portion of the way. Thousands of hikers reach the summit via the trail annually, some of them making the 22-mile round-trip from Whitney Portal in a long day and others camping overnight en route.

Hornick, a self-described “peak bagger” and rock climber rather than a marathon-style athlete, consumed drinks fortified with carbohydrates and electrolytes along the way, but no solid food.


As a ranger, Hornick said he has been to Mt. Whitney’s summit “hundreds of times,” but has never attempted to set a record by way of the trail.

“I hate to run,” said Hornick, who is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs about 155 pounds.