100 Peaks – Tough Decisions and Even Tougher Actions

A man, a quest, 100 Peaks. By age 15,  Derek Loranger: • Camped in the desert, beach, and on Catalina Island • Canoed 50 miles along the Colorado River • Climbed Mount Whitney at the end of a 9-day hike from Cedar Grove (age 12) • Hiked for 7 days cross-country through the Sierras • […]

Written By Clayton Kessler

On November 12, 2009

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A man, a quest, 100 Peaks. By age 15,  Derek Loranger:
• Camped in the desert, beach, and on Catalina Island
• Canoed 50 miles along the Colorado River
• Climbed Mount Whitney at the end of a 9-day hike from Cedar Grove (age 12)
• Hiked for 7 days cross-country through the Sierras
• Snow-camped on San Jacinto

What have you done lately? A book is surely on the way from Derek. Until then, if you want to learn about 100 different peaks in San Diego County and how to scale them, check out Derek’s site at 100Peaks.com and read about the man behind the quest in the interview below.

How and where were you introduced to the outdoors?

When I was a child, my parents had a small trailer and stayed in parks around Southern California. Since there were six of us in such a tiny space, we spent all of the day, except for sleeping, in the outdoors. My family also formed a tradition of driving to Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park and staying in their cabins. We hiked every day and learned to pick up trash from the trail. I was in awe standing under the giant trees and hiking through the lush meadows.

When I was older, I was in Boy Scouts and was lucky enough to have a scout master that was enthusiastic about camping and backpacking. How many kids at the age of 12 get an opportunity to climb Mount Whitney? Well, I did. I was also able to experience a great deal of Southern California while in scouts. We hiked San Jacinto Peak and camped in the snow, and also canoed down the Colorado river for several days, camping on its shores.

What has been your favourite outdoor recreations area?

While in Boy Scouts, I went camping on several occasions to Joshua Tree National Monument (It is now a National Park). I loved it then. Later, while in college, some of my co-workers wanted to go, which started a tradition. I’ve probably been to Joshua Tree 15 times, taking all of my out of town friends out there.

Please share an outdoor story related to one of the above areas.

My friends and I camped out in Joshua Tree on New Year’s Eve, 1990. There was a halo around the full moon and the temperature was 14 degrees F. We saw and heard coyotes and went for a night hike without flashlights. The next day, we climbed to the highest point near Indian Cove, which we found by accident. It was truly a magical trip and it is a climb that I repeat nearly every time I visit the park.

Have you ever experienced a wilderness medical emergency or been lost in the wilderness? If so please describe this adventure and any lessons learned.

We were backcountry backpacking in the Sierra National Forest, from Courtright Reservoir to Wishon Reservoir and hadn’t seen a soul in days. We were five days into the multi-day trip when we heard that one of the group had broken his ankle behind us. He was set up with a tent, plenty of water and food while a member of the party had taken a sleeping bag, some water and a flashlight and had started trail-running out of the park. The rest of the group followed the set schedule and was out in two days. When we exited the park, we learned that the injured member of our group had not only made it out, but he was already in the hospital. The running member of our group had run two days of hiking in one day and a pack train had managed to get in and out by the time the rest of us had made it out.

I was amazed at the stamina of our group member who ran over 15 miles after a day of hiking, and slept on the ground, tentless, alone along the trail, and managed to scramble a rescue crew in a very short time. He made quick, smart decisions and was prepared to go the distance.

I learned that backcountry trips don’t always turn out as planned and may require some tough decisions and even tougher actions. Being prepared, the Boy Scout motto, goes a long way in the wilderness.

Can you share any unique encounters with wild animals?

I was able to go on a winter trip to Jackson, Wyoming. It wasn’t a camping trip, but I was able to go on a wildlife tour with a local guide. Luckily, my wife and I were the only two on the trip, so we had personal service while being able to get pretty close to moose, elk, mule deer, coyotes, snow geese, big horn sheep, and bison. We even went dog sledding while we were there. Truly a wonderful experience and one I would like to repeat while backpacking.

If not previously mentioned, have you ever completed a thru-hike or multi-day backpacking trip and what nuggets of wisdom did you glean from it?

I’ve been on many multi-day trips, most of them in the High Sierras. I have learned that it is rarely the mountain that you are fighting. Yes, you are fighting your conditioning, but mostly it is your mind that you are struggling with. Once you get into your Zen-like state and find your second wind, you can truly concentrate on the world around you and have a lucky wildlife experience or notice that tiny flower fighting for the sun among the redwoods. You must get past what is inside to truly appreciate what is outside.

What is your favourite outdoor website?

I enjoy browsing Twitter and reading the tweets from those in the outside community. I get linked to articles, trip reports and gear reviews from all over. I don’t favor any one website.

What is your favourite outdoor hiking gear store?

REI. Although REI’s prices are rarely the lowest, they sometimes have some great deals during their clearance sales. In addition, they never sell shoddy merchandise, have a pretty good selection and their return policy is amazing. I find myself browsing their aisles, even when I don’t need anything.

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