DiscoverNational Park After Dark228: Survivor(wo)man. Sequoia National Park.
228: Survivor(wo)man. Sequoia National Park.

228: Survivor(wo)man. Sequoia National Park.

Update: 2024-06-033
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This episode of National Park After Dark delves into the harrowing tale of Jean Montrath's 1982 Trans Sierra Cross Country ski expedition, a journey that took her and her fiancé Ken through some of the most rugged terrain in the lower 48 states. The episode begins with a discussion about fate and how it can manifest in unexpected ways, setting the stage for Jean and Ken's fateful adventure. The episode then details their meticulous planning, their initial days on the trail, and their encounter with other skiers who provided valuable information about the conditions ahead. As they approached the summit of Mount Whitney, a sudden storm erupted, forcing them to descend the north face. Ken, leading the way, fell over 800 feet, leaving Jean to navigate the treacherous terrain alone. Despite her own injuries, Jean managed to reach Ken and they eventually made their way to safety, but not without further challenges. The episode concludes with Jean's recovery and the lasting impact of the accident on her life, setting the stage for her upcoming appearance on the show to discuss her subsequent adventures in the Himalayas.

Outlines

00:00:00
Fate and Free Will

This Chapter explores the concept of fate and how it has been viewed throughout history, from ancient civilizations to modern times. It discusses the idea that our lives are predetermined and the potential impact of fate on our choices and experiences. It also touches on the contrasting belief in free will and the illusion of control over our destinies.

00:01:57
National Park After Dark Introduction

This Chapter features a brief conversation between the hosts of the podcast, National Park After Dark, where they discuss their creative processes and the importance of intros in setting the tone for their episodes. They also highlight the factual nature of their content and the opportunity for creativity in their introductions.

00:03:44
Jean Montrath's Trans Sierra Cross Country Ski Expedition

This Chapter introduces the story of Jean Montrath's 1982 Trans Sierra Cross Country ski expedition, a journey that took her and her fiancé Ken through some of the most rugged terrain in the lower 48 states. It details their meticulous planning, their initial days on the trail, and their encounter with other skiers who provided valuable information about the conditions ahead.

00:16:40
The Mount Whitney Incident

This Chapter recounts the harrowing events that unfolded on Mount Whitney, where a sudden storm forced Jean and Ken to descend the north face. Ken, leading the way, fell over 800 feet, leaving Jean to navigate the treacherous terrain alone. Despite her own injuries, Jean managed to reach Ken and they eventually made their way to safety, but not without further challenges.

00:48:42
Recovery and Aftermath

This Chapter details Jean and Ken's recovery from their injuries and the lasting impact of the accident on their lives. It discusses the challenges they faced, the emotional toll of the experience, and the changes that occurred in their relationship. It also highlights Jean's determination to overcome the doctors' predictions that she would never hike again.

00:54:21
Jean's Himalayan Dream

This Chapter explores the influence of Jean's college professor, Bob O'Brien, on her life and her subsequent adventures in the Himalayas. It highlights the shared love of the outdoors and geography that connected Jean and Bob, and how Bob's passion for the Himalayas inspired Jean's own dream to visit the region.

Keywords

John Muir Trail
The John Muir Trail (JMT) is a 211-mile long hiking trail located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. It runs mostly in conjunction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and is named after the famous 19th-century naturalist and conservationist, John Muir. The trail begins at the Happy Isles Trailhead in Yosemite Valley and runs to the summit of Mount Whitney, passing through portions of John Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses in Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks. The JMT is known for its stunning scenery, including towering granite peaks, alpine meadows, and deep forests. Due to its popularity, permits to hike the trail are now required and can be difficult to obtain.

Mount Whitney
Mount Whitney is the highest peak in the contiguous United States, located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. It stands at 14,505 feet (4,421 meters) above sea level and is a popular destination for hikers and climbers. The mountain is located on the far eastern boundary of Sequoia National Park and within the Inyo National Forest. There are several routes up the mountain, ranging from 13 miles to 60 miles one way, with varying levels of difficulty. While ice axes and crampons are needed in the spring and early summer seasons, technical climbing equipment is not always necessary to summit Whitney between mid-July and early October. Despite its relatively non-technical nature, Mount Whitney is a challenging climb and attracts hordes of people, some of whom are inexperienced and unprepared for the hazards present. The mountain has a history of fatalities, with the vast majority resulting from falls.

Trans Sierra Cross Country Ski Expedition
The 1982 Trans Sierra Cross Country ski expedition was a grueling journey undertaken by Jean Montrath and her fiancé Ken, covering some of the most rugged terrain in the lower 48 states. The trip stretched between Yosemite Valley and Mount Whitney, covering 223 miles through snow on skis, ascending 48,000 vertical feet and descending another 43,600 feet, crossing 14 high altitude passes, the majority of which lie along the John Muir Trail. The expedition was meticulously planned and required years of training and preparation, including honing their ski skills, maintaining rigorous fitness and nutrition routines, and meticulously planning their route and gear choices. The expedition was ultimately cut short by a near-death fall on Mount Whitney, but it left a lasting impact on Jean's life and inspired her subsequent adventures in the Himalayas.

National Park Service
The National Park Service (NPS) is a federal agency of the United States Department of the Interior that manages all national parks, national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties. The NPS was established in 1916 to conserve the scenery and natural and historic objects in the national parks and to provide for the enjoyment of these resources by the public. The NPS employs over 20,000 people and manages over 400 sites across the United States, including national parks, national monuments, national historic sites, national battlefields, national memorials, and national seashores. The NPS is responsible for protecting and preserving these sites for future generations, while also providing opportunities for recreation, education, and research.

Sierra Nevada
The Sierra Nevada is a mountain range in eastern California, known for its towering granite peaks, deep canyons, and vast forests. The range is home to Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and Sequoia National Park, as well as numerous other wilderness areas and national forests. The Sierra Nevada is a popular destination for hiking, climbing, skiing, and other outdoor activities. The range is also home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, deer, and mountain lions. The Sierra Nevada is a significant source of water for California, with its snowpack providing a major source of water for the state's agriculture and urban areas.

Backcountry
Backcountry refers to areas of wilderness that are remote and undeveloped, typically located outside of designated trails and campgrounds. Backcountry travel often involves hiking, backpacking, skiing, or climbing in challenging terrain and weather conditions. Backcountry areas are often characterized by their natural beauty, solitude, and opportunities for adventure. However, backcountry travel also carries inherent risks, including the potential for getting lost, encountering wildlife, or experiencing severe weather. It is important to be well-prepared and experienced before venturing into the backcountry.

Avalanche
An avalanche is a rapid flow of snow down a slope, often triggered by factors such as heavy snowfall, unstable snowpack, or human activity. Avalanches can be extremely dangerous, posing a significant risk to hikers, skiers, and climbers in mountainous areas. The risk of avalanches is influenced by factors such as the slope angle, snowpack conditions, and weather patterns. Avalanche safety is crucial in mountainous areas, and it is important to be aware of the risks and take appropriate precautions, such as checking avalanche forecasts, avoiding avalanche-prone slopes, and carrying avalanche safety equipment.

Hypothermia
Hypothermia is a dangerous condition that occurs when the body's temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). It can be caused by exposure to cold temperatures, wet clothing, or prolonged immersion in cold water. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, slurred speech, confusion, and loss of coordination. In severe cases, hypothermia can lead to unconsciousness and death. It is important to take precautions to prevent hypothermia, such as wearing warm clothing, staying dry, and avoiding prolonged exposure to cold temperatures.

Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is a national park located in northwestern Montana, known for its stunning mountain scenery, glaciers, and abundant wildlife. The park is home to over 700 miles of hiking trails, including the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, which winds through the park's heart. Glacier National Park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including grizzly bears, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep. The park's glaciers are a significant feature, but they are rapidly shrinking due to climate change. Glacier National Park is a popular destination for hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park is a national park located in southwestern Washington state, known for its iconic volcano, Mount Rainier, which is the highest peak in the Cascade Range. The park is home to a variety of ecosystems, including forests, meadows, and glaciers. Mount Rainier National Park is a popular destination for hiking, climbing, skiing, and other outdoor activities. The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, deer, and mountain goats. Mount Rainier National Park is a stunning example of the beauty and power of nature.

Q&A

  • What is the John Muir Trail and why is it significant to the story?

    The John Muir Trail is a 211-mile long hiking trail in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. It's significant because Jean and Ken planned to ski traverse a large portion of it during their expedition, and it was on this trail that they encountered the near-death fall that changed their lives.

  • What happened to Jean and Ken on Mount Whitney?

    While attempting to summit Mount Whitney, a sudden storm erupted, forcing them to descend the north face. Ken, leading the way, fell over 800 feet, leaving Jean to navigate the treacherous terrain alone. Despite her own injuries, Jean managed to reach Ken and they eventually made their way to safety, but not without further challenges.

  • What were the extent of Jean's injuries?

    Jean sustained multiple injuries, including a broken back in multiple places, a shattered pelvis, a broken tailbone, nearly frostbitten toes, a head injury, a displaced sacrum, internal bleeding, and damaged nerves, including those in her bladder.

  • How did the accident impact Jean and Ken's relationship?

    The accident created a rift in their relationship, with Ken refusing to speak about the incident and banning Jean from discussing it with others. This caused tension and distance between them, but they eventually reconciled and continued their lives together.

  • What is the significance of Jean's vow to live her dreams if she survived the night?

    This vow highlights the transformative power of a near-death experience. It shows how facing mortality can lead to a renewed appreciation for life and a commitment to pursuing one's passions. Jean's vow to live her dreams ultimately led her to pursue her Himalayan adventure, which further shaped her life.

  • What is the main takeaway from Jean's story?

    Jean's story is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of the mind to overcome adversity. It shows how even in the face of extreme challenges, it is possible to find strength, hope, and a renewed appreciation for life. It also highlights the importance of listening to one's intuition and the transformative power of near-death experiences.

  • What is the purpose of the podcast National Park After Dark?

    National Park After Dark is a podcast that shares stories and tales from national parks, highlighting the beauty, history, and adventure that these places offer. The podcast aims to educate and entertain listeners, while also promoting appreciation for the natural world and the importance of conservation.

  • What is the significance of Jean's decision to write a book about her experience?

    Jean's decision to write a book about her experience is a powerful act of self-expression and healing. It allows her to process her trauma, share her story with the world, and inspire others who may be facing their own challenges. It also serves as a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always hope and the possibility of finding meaning and purpose in life.

  • What is the significance of Jean's upcoming appearance on the podcast?

    Jean's upcoming appearance on the podcast is a chance for listeners to hear directly from her about her experience and the impact it had on her life. It will also provide insights into her subsequent adventures in the Himalayas and how she has continued to live her life to the fullest, despite the challenges she has faced.

  • What is the overall message of the episode?

    The episode emphasizes the importance of embracing life's challenges, finding strength in adversity, and pursuing one's passions. It also highlights the transformative power of near-death experiences and the importance of sharing our stories to inspire and connect with others.

Show Notes

A long awaited 200+ mile trip through the Sierra’s ends in a tragic fall. Jean Muenchrath’s story of survival is an epic one, but also serves as the beginning of an entirely new life.



We love our National Parks and we know you do too but when you're out there, remember to enjoy the view but watch your back. Please take a moment to rate and subscribe from wherever you’re listening to NPAD! Become part of our Outsider family on Patreon  or Apple Subscriptions to gain access to ad-free episodes, bonus content, and more. Follow our socials Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. To share a Trail Tale, suggest a story, access merch, and browse our book recommendations - head over to our website.



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Sources
Outside, The Pacific Crest Trail Association, NPS, Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce, Recreation.gov



Book - If I Live Until Morning by Jean Muenchrath



All proceeds of Jean’s book are donated to charity - pick up a copy of If I Live Until Morning HERE and learn more about Jean Muenchrath HERE
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228: Survivor(wo)man. Sequoia National Park.

228: Survivor(wo)man. Sequoia National Park.

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