Finally, An Extreme Backpacking Challenge Within Reach for Amateurs

November 29, 2018

Extreme, by definition, is anything but ordinary. Enthusiasts are drawn to extreme challenges for, among other things, exclusive membership in a pack of only those willing and able to attempt freakish, fearless feats.

As such, extreme also has a reputation for being unattainable for some. Weekend warriors or those with less than stellar workout habits in the gym may feel that the adventure adrenaline will never be theirs.

The trek starts in the verdant valley of Kings Canyon National Park

After all, who could take on 75 miles of backpacking across Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains all before ascending Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 states at an elevation of 14,505 feet?

All are within reach, and all for those with little to no experience, of all ages, of all skill levels. The Trans-Sierra Xtreme (TSX) Challenge is indeed for anyone and everyone.

The Sierra Nevada are home to countless beautiful alpine lakes

“(We) deliver once-in-a-lifetime experiences where participants return to work, school or home recharged with inspiration to ‘hike on’ throughout life,” the TSX states in its mission. “While the treks can be intense, no prior backpacking experience is required, and all ages are welcome. Just bring your mental toughness, positive attitude and be ready for the challenge of a lifetime.”

The hike is open “to fit and motivated individuals” who will cover more than 75 miles in one week, complete with over 20,000 feet in cumulative elevation gain and 18,000 feet in cumulative elevation loss.

The journey involves crossing several mountain streams on your way up to the High Sierra

“We are casual day hikers, not in the most whiz-bang shape, but we trained every weekend for two months prior to leaving to get used to the 10-mile, heavy-pack days. And… we did it!,” one TSX reviewer wrote. “You’re going to sweat; you’re going to hurt at the end of the day; you’re probably going to smell awful. But you’re going to meet some incredible people, be taken well care of by your guide … and eat some potentially horrific snacks on the last day, as we did with our Snickers quesadilla, haha. And you’re absolutely going to earn some of the best memories of your life.”

As you journey farther into the mountains, it will become clear why these vistas inspired the likes of Ansel Adams and John Muir

The idea for the extreme-yet-within-reach excursion grew from Mike Murphy, a fifth-grade teacher from California, who for over a decade had been leading small groups of hikers ages 11 to 70 on week-long treks across some the most remote, least traveled regions of the Sierra to Mt. Whitney, TSX notes. By the mid-1990s, he teamed with 14-year-old Chris Casado for their first trans-Sierra trek together, and the spirit of the event was born.

By 2010 they grew their dream to expose others to their experience into the TSX through the most grass-roots of efforts.

Hiking for 9 days in the High Sierra will give your body plenty of time to adjust to altitude before attempting to summit Mount Whitney

“We are a local independent organization, not affiliated with national brands, national clubs, or outfitting organizations,” TSX states. “Since our modest inaugural treks with the public in 2011, we’ve grown organically. …This helps us better serve people of all ages, shapes, backgrounds, and sizes.”

Since 2015, they report, roughly 25 percent of participants were ages 11-33, and 50 percent of participants were under 45 years of age. About one-third of the participants noted that the TSX challenges were their first-ever overnight backpacking experience. The Hell For Sure Challenge is a 40-mile loop through John Muir Wilderness, the Grand Canyon Challenge is a three-night 35-mile loop through the Colorado River, and of course, there’s the TSX Challenge which takes on Mt. Whitney at the peak of a 75-mile dare spanning eight nights.

Mount Whitney, the crowning jewel of the Sierra Nevada and the highest point in the lower 48, will offer views that will make all the hard work worth your while

Youth and Corporate Challenges are also available.

Cost per person for the Trans-Sierra Xtreme Challenge is $1,799, and early August dates in 2019 already have a waitlist. “Every day was 8-12 miles, and every day is extremely rewarding,” Toby Chan wrote in a review after his experience. “ANYONE CAN DO THIS though. You just need to put your mind to it.”

MORE: Sequoia and Kings Canyon are two gems of the National Parks System, but you have to check out these 30 incredible, under-the-radar national parks from around the world!