APPLICATION DEADLINE MARCH 15TH
July 13-21 | July 20-28 | August 10-18
The Mt. Whitney Youth Challenge is an 8-night, 9-day, 75-mile educational trek across Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks to the summit of Mt. Whitney (14,505 feet) for students age 11-17.
To join a summer Mt. Whitney Youth Challenge, online applications must be received by March 15th, 2018. Notifications of conditional acceptance will begin March 19th, 2018. A note of recommendation from a teacher, coach or youth leader highlighting the student’s character, physical fitness and academic commitment will be required for final acceptance.
Overview and Registration Details
The Mt. Whitney Youth Challenge is an educational experience that takes motivated young people on an epic 75-mile trek through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park to Mt. Whitney. There are “summer camps” – and then there is camping in the summer, while backpacking across some of the most remote, least traveled regions of our nation's back country. Making that journey as a junior high or high school student can be a life-changing experience.
Educational focus: Each Mt. Whitney Youth Challenge will use the remote wilderness of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks as the setting for a week of hands-on education focused on History and the Environment, Leave No Trace, and Life Skills. Academic goals of the program will be centered around environmental education, and include:
- History of Sierra exploration and evolution of wilderness stewardship;
- Implementation of best practices to minimize wilderness degradation, including Leave No Trace;
- Appreciation of Sierra diversity, including ecology, geology, and flora over elevations traversed;
- Stimulate critical thought on environmental, water and land management challenges facing the Sierra;
- Instill confidence for future safe and self-reliant experiences in the outdoors with life skills including how to safely purify water, start a stove, prepare food, pitch a tent, start a fire and more.
Challenge dates: Three Mt. Whitney Youth Challenge treks are scheduled for the summer of 2018: July 13-21, July 20-28, August 10-18. Group size is limited to 15, including two guide instructors. All treks depart on a Friday and return on a Saturday. Privately sponsored experiences for individual schools or organizations may also be arranged. Contact us to inquire about group outings for your organization.
Route: All Mt. Whitney Youth Challenge experiences will traverse a trans-Sierra route across some of the most remote, least traveled regions of the Sierra to the summit of Mt. Whitney. Outings will travel from west to east and include a crossing of the Great Western Divide. Over the course of a week, students will hike more than 75 miles, with roughly 20,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain, and 18,000 feet of elevation loss.
Eligibility: Students must be between the age of 11 and 17 on August 31, 2018 to be eligible for participation. Due to the rugged nature of the hike, participants must be in excellent physical condition and weigh at least 75lbs. Adult family members or chaperons are encouraged, but not required, to accompany minors on the experience.
Pricing and scholarship opportunity: The 9 day, 8 night all inclusive experience costs $1,500 per person and includes all food, major gear and group equipment. To help enable access to Mt. Whitney for more youth, up to twenty $500 scholarships are available for students from Title 1 Schools.
Logistics and transportation: Optional one way, or round trip transportation will be available from select California REI locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California and Central Valley ($125 one way; $250 round trip; 10am departure and as late as 10pm return). Once treks are finalized, information will be shared among participants to encourage and facilitate car-pooling when possible. The formal program will commence at 3:00pm on the day of departure at Grant Grove Visitor Center in Kings Canyon National Park, and end around 1:00pm on the final day in Lone Pine, CA.
When to apply: To join a Mt. Whitney Youth Challenge, online applications must be submitted by March 15th, 2018. After submission, you may be contacted by one of our representatives to discuss suitability for the trek. Notifications of conditional acceptance will begin March 19th, 2018. A $500 deposit per person is required upon notification to confirm your spot. Completion of a medical and experience questionnaire, risk acknowledgement form, and submission of a note of recommendation from a teacher, coach or youth leader highlighting the student’s character, physical fitness and academic commitment will be required for final acceptance. Balance payment is due 60 days prior to departure.
History of experience: Since 1983, TSX founders have led close to 900 people across its trans-Sierra route to the summit of Mt. Whitney. The Mt. Whitney Youth Challenge is modeled after similar backpacking treks led by Clovis, CA educator and TSX Challenge co-founder Mike Murphy. “Over the last 25 years, I’ve led hundreds of kids across the Sierra to the summit of Mt. Whitney, including over 120 students exiting the 5th grade. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the face of students and adults alike who complete this trek and realize what they can now accomplish,” said Murphy, who has stood atop Whitney 45 times. Read our story.
Life on the Trail
- Up with the sun, breakfast and briefing, break camp by 8am
- Full day of hiking, instruction and observation, end hiking between 3-5pm
- Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack breaks as a group
- Evening group discussions
- Pack weight between 25-40 lbs, depending on body weight
- Participants share responsibilities around camp
What You'll Need
Joining a TSX experience is easy. Don’t own a backpack or tent? Not a problem. We provide backpacks, tents and sleeping pads for those who need them, at no additional charge. We also take care of all group items like pots, stoves, food, food storage, water filters, first aid and more. Just show up with your boots and personal items, ready to hike!