Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Mount Whitney Climb in 1955

Letters to the Editor submitted to The Coronado Times are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher, editors or writers of this publication. Submit letters to [email protected]

Submitted by Vince Flynn

While reading your article on the CHS freshmen that climbed Mt. Whitney recently, I had a flashback to 1955, Labor Day weekend. Our friend, Bud Bernard, was an expert mountain climber. He was a contractor in Coronado and was noted for his fine brickwork around town. He let us know he was going to join some other friends to climb the mountaineer route up Mt. Whitney. I was just entering my senior year at CHS, as was my good friend Steve Jordan. We asked if we could go along and climb the traditional trail route for beginners. Bud said yes, be at my house on Ocean Blvd. at 5 am.

The three of us drove up in his GMC pickup and arrived at Whitney Portal on Friday afternoon of that three day weekend. Bud took off with his climbing friends on Saturday morning and said he would meet us here Monday morning for the drive home.

Steve and I hiked to Mirror Lake, which was on the way to the trailhead as I remember. We had perfect sunny warm weather, great for swimming in the lake and floating in our air mattresses. We let the time slip away and realized we ran out of time for a day climb up the trail to the summit. So, we did the next best thing. We climbed it at night! We started out at about 4 pm with some food, water and sleeping bags. The people coming down the trail said we would run out of daylight soon, but the trail was in good condition and we forged on. We kept on walking up and soon there were no other hikers to be seen coming down the trail. The sights of the setting sun were magnificent and we trudged on.

Once it became dark, the moon came out and provided us with enough light to see the trail without any problem. We could see lights for many miles off in the distance, both east and west. At about 4 am we came to a small hut near the summit, it was made of rocks. The wind was so fierce and the temperature was about 25 degrees that we could not remain there and went back down the trail out of the wind and climbed into our sleeping bags for some rest.

At about 5:30 am we decided it was time to get to the summit and watch the sunrise. This we did and it was the most fabulous sunrise I have ever experienced, before and at any time during the next 67 years. We were lucky enough to witness the sunrise from the highest point in the United States at the time. Hawaii and Alaska were still territories and not yet states. This was also before the time when you needed permits to climb the mountain, we just went with our parents’ permission, that is all we needed.

Bud Bernard completed the mountaineer’s route, we all met at the truck Monday morning and drove home. It was a great adventure for two 16 year old CHS students that I will always cherish and remember. We both finished our senior year and graduated in 1956.

Vince Flynn
Mount Whitney. Image: Wikimedia. Creative Commons Attribution 1.0 Generic license




Managing Editor
Managing Editor
Originally from upstate New York, Dani has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is happy to call Coronado home and to have raised her children here. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercising, trying new restaurants, and just walking her dog around the "island." Have news to share? Send tips or story ideas to: [email protected]