Zack Thurman vs Mount Whitney

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Zack Thurman observes one of the many sunsets on his hike.

Jake McAllister, Staff Writer

A baseball player turned into a hiking star climbs one of the toughest peaks in Continental U.S.

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Zack Thurman is a senior at Sage Creek.

Zack Thurman, starting catcher for the Sage Creek varsity baseball team, conquered one of his biggest fears this summer, when he persevered through a treacherous 16 hour hike up Mount Whitney. Accompanied by his best bud and a couple of girls, they fought their way through bears, snakes, and altitude sickness, and managed to survive one of the most intimidating mountains in the world.

Thurman’s first ever hike, was a big one: 26 miles. He battled intense migraines and was able to march his way to the halfway checkpoint. Thurman and his friends set up camp, but they had a tough time putting the tent down. In fact, “it actually flew away once,” Thurman said.

Later that night, Thurman was awakened “by an intense rattling and shuffling coming from outside of the tent.”

He “looked out [his] tent, and saw a big fat bear. [He] stood up, looked it straight in the eye, [and] stared him down. [The bear] growled at [him] and staggered back towards the tent and then… he just walked away.”

The encounter with the bear “made him a better man” and he claimed he has learned a lot from this experience. After this startling encounter, the group went to sleep safe and sound.

“The rest of the hike up the mountain was the hardest part. It was cold and difficult to breathe. The trail was starting to fade away,” Thurman said. The group made its way along, but Thurman was suffering from some massive migraines. After giving him Advil at a brief stop, they continued their trek toward the top.

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After reaching the top, they took a minute to enjoy the view.

After a total of 8 hours of hiking, the team finally reached the peak. They took selfies and sunset pictures and then began the sketchy descent down Mount Whitney. Thurman recalled that they “were pelted with hail within the first few hours of the hike down,” so they needed to set up camp early despite the “huge welts on [their] bodies beginning to form.”

“99 Switchbacks,” said Thurman, with a slight cringe. A switchback is a path or trail with alternate sharp accents and descents, and Thurman claims Mount Whitney has 99 of them. Emotionally, he was able to withstand this challenge, even though physically, his legs were drained and his head was pounding.

“Overall it was an amazing experience. [We] saw tons of wildlife and experienced breathtaking sunsets. There were some tough times, but we made it out uninjured and hyped to do it again,” Thurman reflected.

This hiking experience has grown him so and after returning to school, he has a solid GPA and his work ethic in the classroom and on the baseball field has given him opportunities to succeed. A scary dream turned into a reality for Thurman, who stated he was grateful for the opportunity to finally hike and be able to create the memories he had on Mount Whitney.