John Muir Trail / Mt. Whitney Challenge to benefit Project Main St. raises $25,000.

image_01 image_02 image_03In September 2009, Project Main St. supporters, Jason Gandy and Siobhan Towey, completed a 17 day, 200 mile hike & climb to help raise money for ALS patients in need.

The fundraiser was a resounding success, raising more than $25,000 for ALS patients in need. Project Main St. immediately issued grants to 8 living with ALS for medical equipment, home healthcare assistance, emergency living expenses and more.

Jason and Siobhan, amateur outdoor adventurers, from Brooklyn, New York, began their journey in Yosemite National Park, continued through the unbroken wilderness of the Sierra Nevada’s and culminated atop Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the Continental US (14,495 ft).

Thank you to Jason & Siobhan, as well as everyone who donated to the John Muir Trail/Mt. Whitney Challenge. Your support of Project Main St has already made a significant and immediate difference in the lives of 8 individuals and their families who are fighting to live with ALS.

We will continue to accept donations- Please help us by spreading the word.

A message from Jason & Siobhan

Now that we have recovered from our 17 days on the John Muir Trail we are able to properly reflect on the journey. What an incredible 200 mile adventure it turned out to be! The combination of high altitude and high mileage days was compounded with an incredible amount of climbing and long steep descents. The sheer size of everything out there was magnificent and the vistas we hiked up to were breathtaking! With your generous donations we were able to raise over $25,000 for Project Main st.!!!

We were joking yesterday that hiking the John Muir Trail was a lot like life itself…only much harder! Even when we stopped to take a break, that break was spent filtering water or tending to our blisters. There was always something to do or take care of. While the hiking was tough, the trip preparations turned out to be a challenge as well. Organizing our food, sending food to food drops and training on local stair masters and mountains with dumbbells in our backpacks all proved to be demanding. However, these preparations made the long days of climbing and descending on the trail manageable. After meeting many hikers who had given up because of altitude sickness or their gear falling apart, we were appreciative of the time we had spent training and preparing and for the good fortune that repeatedly guided us on our journey.

On the trail, we formed an improvised hiking team with Michelle, Bruce and John, all solo hikers that we met along the way. We hiked and camped with them for most of the trek, until John’s knees gave out forcing us to leave him for the buzzards. Just kidding! He was escorted out over a mountain pass by a woods nymph. Forming a gang proved very helpful. We found ourselves motivating each other, making jokes and benefitting from the skills and knowledge of different individuals. Bruce for instance caught us fish for dinner and as a local knew the surrounding landscape. John and Michelle had both previously climbed Whitney and their experiences verified that it was indeed possible to make it to the top of the 14,495 foot climb.

After the first week of hiking many 12 hour, 16+ mile days, we felt rushed and unable to fully enjoy this beautiful region. We decided it would be more fun to set up camp earlier in the afternoons and take in the scenery and wildlife. Marmots, picas, chipmunks, blue jays, deer and butterflies greeted us daily. Coyotes sang for us on a few choice evenings and we even caught site of a bear strolling along a stream in Yosemite.

Every day seemed to involve one huge mountain pass, so we began a routine that involved climbing over the big passes in the morning, going downhill during the heat of midday, and then climbing again to 10,000 or 11,000 feet to camp. This elevation was of rare beauty with many terraced lakes, smooth rock outcroppings, stunted trees and unique alpine flowers.

After our last food resupply, we had to carry enough food to get us to Mt. Whitney, 100 miles away! No stores, no roads, only wilderness for the next 10 days. The extra burden of weight may have been a bigger problem, but we both had lightweight backpacks to begin with so the additional 25 pounds of food did not drag us down too badly. For the final ascent of Whitney we stashed our packs on a small ledge and enjoyed the weightlessness of walking without a load for the final three hours. Because Mt. Whitney is the only actual peak that is reached along the JMT, it was very exciting to have a full 360 degree view of the mountains and to look back at the distance we had travelled over the last 17 days.

Many fears and doubts came up for us along this trail. Will we both make it all the way? Will we get altitude sickness? Will we raise any money for Project Main Street? Will there be a bear around the next tree? People keep asking if we have any words of wisdom from our adventure. I think one realization was that all the speculation in the world is no substitute for taking action. Our doubts were extinguished by the simple act of walking. If we got tired, we slowed down. If we were freaked out, we sang a song. We figured it out as we walked and learned about our individual comfort levels, boundaries and limits. We were amazed by our bodies and the amount of physical work they were able to accomplish.

While coming down off of Mt. Whitney our packs had nothing but our lightweight gear and 10 days worth of trash in them. Jason basically ran as Siobhan sauntered down the 11mile 6,500 ft. descent towards the legendary trailhead cantina. It was said you could get a pancake the size of a pizza there! –But we were really looking forward to the Snickers, Cherry Coke, burgers(veggie) and beer.
Thank you again for your supportive donations and motivation to finish what we started.

This is a video we made while on the trail.

Siobhan and Jason