How This Park Ranger Survived Being Injured And Trapped In A Blizzard On Mount Whitney

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Photo: Jean Muenchrath 'If I Live Until Morning' HV 20190102
Jean Muenchrath, author of "If I Live Until Morning."

Jean Muenchrath's trek down the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevadas was supposed to be an adventure.

Instead, it turned into a fight for survival. The Rocky Mountain National park ranger suffered a mountaineering accident, breaking her back and pelvis. She was trapped in the middle of a blizzard on Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48.

Muenchrath escaped, but the trauma and chronic pain from her time on the mountain fueled further challenges. She chronicled her ordeal and recovery in a memoir, “If I Live Until Morning: A True Story of Adventure, Tragedy, and Transformation." It was a 2018 Best Book Award Finalist.

Muenchrath talked to Colorado Matters about how she survived and went on to climb the Himalayas.

Read Excerpts From f I Live Until Morning"

On April 14th we flew to Fresno on a small commercial airplane. For most of the flight, I stared out the plane’s tiny window. The Sierra Nevada Range stretched out along the eastern horizon as far as I could see. While I gazed at the serrated peaks cloaked in deep snow, the reality of our undertaking hit me. We were going to ski the length of those mountains on Nordic skis with ankle-high boots. Inwardly, I wondered if we could really do it. Then I quickly pushed all doubt out of my mind; if we were to succeed, I had to believe it was possible.


There was a sense of timeless simplicity on the 12,000-foot plateau. A cobalt sky contrasted with the bright snow-covered ground. Solitude prevailed in the vast white space above treeline. Except for the swooshing of skis gliding across the snow, the beating of my heart, and the inhaling and exhaling of air, it was utterly quiet. The deep silence penetrated into the depths of my being. I felt like I had merged with the landscape, as if there were no distinction between myself and the surrounding terrain. We were simply one. 


I repeated this mantra in my mind, over and over, hour after hour, day after day. I am going to live, I am going to live, I am going to live, I am going to live.