CSUF News and Information
News Front
Browse by Topic
University News
Awards & Honors
CSUF in the News
In the Community
Titan Sports
Calendars & Events
Faculty Experts Guide
News Photos
News Contacts
Press Kit
Faculty / Staff Directory
Image Library
Get News by E-mail
Contact Info



Hiking to the Top of Mount Whitney All in a Day’s Work for Profs


From Dateline (October 23, 2003)

Scott Hewitt and Phil Armstrong on the top of Mt. Whitney
Scott Hewitt, left, and Phil Armstrong have found a new way to release frustration: run and power-walk to the top of a mountain – in this case, Mount Whitney. Armstrong, assistant professor of geological sciences, completed the late summer journey in 3 hours, 45 minutes, while Hewitt, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, followed 20 minutes later.

Some people run to the corner store. Others jog in a park or run around a school track.

Scott Hewitt and Phil Armstrong are serious runners. This summer they ran and power-walked to the top of Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental United States.

Hewitt, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Armstrong, assistant professor of geological sciences, rose early on a Friday morning in August and left Fullerton (elevation 155 feet) at 2 a.m. They headed for Lone Pine and the trailhead at Whitney Portal (elevation 8,360 feet), the starting point for a hike up Mount Whitney.

At 6:30 a.m., the adventure began. It’s 11 miles to the 14,491-foot top on the popular trail, but the altitude gain of 6,000 feet in those 11 miles takes its toll on hikers.

Hewitt, 40, and Armstrong, 43, ran the parts of the trail that were flat or sloped slightly uphill. For the steep parts – the majority of the trail – they power-walked, carrying 100 ounces of fluids, an extra shirt/jacket, food, some minor first aid items and a camera.

“We passed many hikers on the way to the top,” said Hewitt. “Most had heavy packs and were planning on reaching the top in two or three days.”

They reached the six-mile mark, a 3,500-foot vertical gain, in 2 hours, 5 minutes. At that point the duo felt they could reach their goal of making it to the top in four hours.

The rest of the way, however, was grueling.

“The top half was very difficult due to the lack of oxygen from the high elevation. Both of us had periods of dizziness, not being able to get enough air into our lungs, with muscles burning and fatiguing,” Hewitt said. “Consequently, we were forced to slow down.”

Armstrong, who has competed in four 100-mile races and a dozen 50-mile contests, was able to maintain a faster pace, reaching the top in 3 hours, 45 minutes. Hewitt, who ran his first 32-mile race last spring, arrived 20 minutes later. After a rest at the summit, the duo ran most of the way downhill to the trailhead.

“Our goal was to establish a ‘world record’ time from CSUF to the top of Whitney and back,” said Armstrong. “I think we set that record now at 17 hours. We could have ‘easily’ cut an hour or two off of that time by not lollygagging on the top for 45 minutes, pushing harder on the bottom half, driving faster and not stopping for a milkshake on the way home.”

The pair train by running twice a week, including weekend running in the mountains.

“We prefer the mountains for the challenge, to prevent injuries (softer running surfaces which help avoid repetitive motion injuries) and for the beauty and peacefulness,” said Hewitt.

Hewitt and Armstrong’s next challenge might be an attempt to do the three tallest peaks in Southern California in one day – Mount Baldy, Mount San Gorgonio and Mount San Jacinto. This would involve up to 14,000-feet elevation gains and 35 to 40 miles of trails, depending on courses. They also plan to do several mountain ultras, races that are longer than a marathon, usually 31 to 100 miles.

« back to People



Go View News by Date
View 2003
View 2002
Go top

Produced by the Office of Public Affairs at California State University, Fullerton. Contact the web administrator for comments and problems with the website.
California State University, Fullerton 2003. All Rights Reserved.