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Whitney Classic History

Whitney Classic History

As we gear up for the 35th Whitney Classic, some of you might be wondering how this crazy bike ride fundraiser got started. Riding a bike over 130 miles in sweltering heat and freezing cold with nearly 15,000 feet of elevation gain might seem a little excessive to some, but the current Whitney Classic is actually pretty tame compared to the original.

We were lucky enough to get some detailed history from David Macpherson, a former Summit instructor who scouted the idea of riding from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney before it became the Whitney Classic. Macpherson passed along some of the early route maps and course descriptions, as well as the picture of riders in Lone Pine above.

The original route went from Badwater in Death Valley all the way to the summit of Mt Whitney! That’s the lowest point in the contiguous U.S. (-282′) to the highest point in the continuous U.S. (14, 505′). Unbelievable!

Have a look!

Whitney Map


Here’s an elevation map of the bike ride portion.

Whitney Elevation

As you can see from the course description below, the route didn’t stop at the Whitney Portal. Instead, riders dropped their bikes and climbed the rest of the way up Mt. Whitney. course description


description continued


Although some of the details have changed over the years because of safety and regulations, the spirit of the Whitney Classic lives on. It’s still an amazing physical feat that riders will remember for the rest of their lives!

In addition to the physical component, it’s also a time for people from all over the country to reconnect. Former Summit instructors and staff, previous course participants and friends and family all come together to celebrate the ministry of Summit Adventure during the Whitney Classic.

Please help us continue this tradition by donating now! 

Jake Wiens

Jake Wiens

Jake’s main role is to spread the good word about Summit in the twitterverse—and all other forms of social media, too! Originally from Washington, DC, where he worked in the fast-paced media and politics realm, he now calls Seattle, Washington home. Working at Summit gives him the opportunity to combine three of his passions: service, the outdoors and innovative social outreach. When he’s not connecting online, you can usually find him somewhere in the mountains, connecting with nature.
Jake Wiens

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