In two months, UNC sophomores Scott and Ben* will embark on an adventure that is by turns brilliant and dumb, hilarious and potentially painful. The admittedly out-of-shape fraternity brothers will climb the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, Mt. Whitney, with zero physical preparation. And they've set up a Tumblr to document the journey. It's great, and it's deservedly making the rounds in Chapel Hill.
The duo can point to Kendall Marshall—former UNC point guard and Twitter maestro—as the lightning rod for the idea. Marshall's Twitter bio reads "I once climbed a mountain, just to see how tall it was." Scott read the line, thought, "There's no way Kendall actually climbed a mountain," then thought, "But I can." He announced his goal to friends while they watched Duke's March 2 win over Miami. No one took him seriously. Except for Ben, who told Scott he'd join him on a trek up Whitney.
"Everyone was like, 'You’re full of shit. You’re not going to do it.'" Ben told me. "The next day I woke up, he asked me if I was still in, and we booked the flights.
"No one believed us. So we put up our flight itinaries online."
The duo started the Tumblr, "Started from the Bottom," to detail the major steps of their training.
Step One: Don't actually train. After a Spring Break spent on a booze cruise, here's what they wrote:
Since last week was light in terms of mountain related things, we’re ramping it up for the next 2 months, here’s what the week ahead looks like:
The ACC tournament starts today and goes through Sunday, so were going to watch that in full to help us visualize ourselves doing something athletic. Ben has a few interviews and presentations this week so he’ll be wearing a suit a lot he tend to sweat when he’s in a suit so that will help him maintain weight
Speaking of maintaining weight, we both have set goals for our hiking weight, to keep pace we needed to hit this week's benchmarks.
Scott felt that he needed to be below 220 this week to be on track, he managed to stay just under at 150 pounds
The more muscular Ben wants to be hiking at no more than 235, after throwing up this morning he’s at 158, certainly work to be done but feeling good 2 months away.
They weren't kidding. "We've gone on the Mt. Whitney message boards and read that stuff a little bit," Ben said. "But we think that the mental preparation is more important than the physical.... This is our calling. It’s been 20 years of mental preparation at this point. There’s not much more that needs to be done."
According to one popular Mt. Whitney hiking guide, the peak is accessible to those who lack extensive training and the most up-to-date technical equipment. However, it's considered incredibly difficult to climb without practice or preparation. Scott and Ben have gone all-in on one of the most time-honored of all bro traditions—the impulsive road trip—but they're admirably taking the experience to another level. An action this damn impulsive is exceedingly rare. This isn't a drive down to South of the Border to stock up on fireworks. This is a pretty serious climbing excursion.
I asked Ben for an assessment of his physical shape.
"Poor," he said.
I asked how he plans to make up for the poor physical shape when it comes time to climb.
"We're staying at the hostel at the base of the mountain the night before. It's at an altitude of 8,000 feet. That'll help our body acclimate... We’ll probably get a night of heavy drinking in before we accllimate. Just to test the body.
"Then, we’ll do the climb over two days. People CAN do it in a day, but we didn’t want to rush it."
If Death does find the two on the mountain's peak, they have taken the time to think how they'd like it to come. In the Tumblr's highlight, the two created a single-elimination bracket ("because life is single elimination") that picked possible death outcomes. The top seed in the tournament is actually "3," because "3 is the best number."
It's too good to not list in full:
Here are the rest of the seeds and their regions (regions named after people who either died great deaths, or will undoubtedly die great deaths)
3. struck by lightning at summit
2. choking on a bone as we eat a bear that we killed with our bear hands
1. tripping on the 97 switchbacks and having a rock split our heads in half
4. sun poisoning
Tony Montana Region
3. Mount Whitney is a dormant volcano, it erupts, causing an avalanche of lava, we fight through the lava to get to the top, but then we die because lava is hot as shit
2. saving a native lady from a mountain lion by drenching ourselves in barbeque sauce which everyone knows is mountain lions favorite food
1. one of us killing the other because they are hungry
3. While hiking, we meet the native people of the mountain. They take us in, we learn their language, and live long and prosperously up on the mountain with them. After many years living in peace, we die of old age and our ashes are spread across the land
2. the list of haters is flammable, and when we burn it at the top of the mountain, we too go up in flames
1. we read a map wrong, go in the wrong direction and walk off the side of the mountain. We survive the fall but are left paralyzed, our bodies slowly decompose and become soil, leaving the mountain more fertile which is utilized by park rangers to plant a small zen garden, which is used by nomads for years to come
4. our car explodes on the way to the mountain
Marshall Henderson Region (because he deserves it)
3. to nobody’s surprise because we are heroes, we find sasquatch, he agrees to walk the rest of the way up the mountain with us, so that he can become the first yeti to climb mount whitney, but when we take naps, sasquatch turns out to be a real dick and a backstabber and murders us as we sleep
2. accidental gunshot wound
1. while training on the rock wall at Rams (which just opened again today) we prove too strong for the walls weak foundation and it tips over on us, crushing our skulls
4. heroin overdose
now that you’ve been educated, the bracket is below
The climb takes place on May 15. We will update you about their progress then.
(One more thing: The guys would like us to mention that this is also being done for a good cause. "This summer we are volunteering with Camp Kesem. Camp Kesem is a college student-run summer camp for kids whose parents have (or have had) cancer. As counselors we are responsible for raising enough money to send one kid to camp. If you are interested in donating to either our individual Kesem pages, please email us email@example.com, and we can direct you to our personal pages.")
*Last names not included to protect the innocent. Also, please read every quote with your tongue firmly in cheek.