It's been almost two months since we last featured Ben and Scott, the two UNC fraternity brothers who were inspired one fateful, frightful day to climb the tallest mountain in the lower 48—with zero preparation. Their story, and their Tumblr, "Started From the Bottom," have touched many. Now, the duo stands just one week from possible greatness, or more probable hangover-induced disaster. This was occasion for a phone call.
"The games have stopped," Ben told me yesterday.* "I would say that physically I've definitely deteriorated. I’m running parallel to the guy from Supersize Me. But thankfully, I'm mentally STRONG. I’ve watched a lot of inspirational YouTube videos. I read. I'm in a really good place, mentally and emotionally, to take on the mountain."
He'll need to be. Since the publication of Ben and Scott's first article, the two have faced adversity. More than a few of you pointed at that Mt. Whitney is essentially a "hike." "There's no snow, and you already start out at 8600 feet. And its only 14500 ft! Even my fat grandma could hike this one," said one reader. A similar article on GrindTV inspired other disbelieving, even angry comments. And Kendall Marshall, the man who wrote the tweet that inspired the whole excursion, has gone from supporter of the climb to a non-responsive Twitter friend. "We've had a falling out with Kendall," said Scott. "We thought, 'Okay, maybe he's a straight shooter like us. Maybe he wants to climb a mountain too. It's the offseason, the Suns suck, why not? So we extended an olive branch via direct message, but he didn't respond.
"We're going to kind of be directly looking at Kendall with every step we take on this mountain."
Perhaps the greatest injustice, though, came from Scott and Ben's student paper, the Daily Tar Heel. The two agreed to an interview and lengthy photo shoot, but the paper refused to run a story after the two—still operating under a needed vigilante-esque level of secrecy—refused to give their last names for print. The falling-out was a disaster.
"We write you sadder men than we woke up this morning," they wrote in an until-now unpublished letter to the editor. "Today, we were withheld our most fundamental rights, to be in the DTH when we do something awesome. On Tuesday, March 19th, we were approached by this communist publication for an interview about our journey, a thinly veiled attempt by the paper to piggyback on our fame. (69 word mark). As we bid the interviewer adieu, we were told the story could be run without our last names (so that we can continue to say what we want online without fear of future consequence). After answering every question in an honest and professional manner, we were asked to attend a photo shoot later in the week. At the photo shoot, we were treated like toddlers in tiaras, asked to pose and smile for the camera for hours without any offerings of so much as a bathroom break. On March 24th, we were notified that our article would run the next day, it did not. We contacted a staff member only to learn our article was being withheld until we released our full names and social security numbers. We will not be bullied; we will not be controlled by the liberal media (FRAT!). For our fans disappointed by this development, we apologize, and we have more articles coming on other websites this week. Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame, Daily Tar Heel, it won’t last.”
The two burned a copy of the DTH that day. And, after sharing the fact that no one from Duke has ever successfully climbed Mt. Whitney, they refined their list of haters, making sure to include the Daily Tar Heel, Scott's hesitant parents, and, of course, Ryan Kelly.
Perhaps the biggest development over the last two months was the inclusion of a "rescue team," from the University of Southern California med school, who will volunteer their services on Climb Day. The three new members will help with any hangover, fall, or bear attack-related issues. Said Scott, "They'll also prescribe us with the best remedies and elixirs the night before."
This week, the two continue their preparations. Ben has "torrented a discography of transcendental meditation," and plans to spend hours locked in his closet, envisioning his climb. Scott will focus on hibernating. Their fraternity house cook has left for the year, so they've "had to eat out a lot and really build up the carbs and fat to burn." A lot of Bojangles, Taco Bell, and Cookout.
It all starts May 14.
*As with the first story, don't take most quotes at face value. The two are accepting donations for Camp Kesem, a college student-run summer camp for kids whose parents have (or have had) cancer. To donate, email email@example.com.