On top of the world

From the local hike up Mount Baldy to the formidable trek up Mount Whitney, the travails of mountain climber and math teacher Paul McLaughlin are no laughing matter.

McLaughlin completed his third hike up Mount Whitney on Saturday, Sept. 12. This was his first hike up Mount Whitney in a few years, so to train McLaughlin spent weekends hiking local trails and doing workouts at the gym.

“I felt the altitude more, I started getting dizzy toward the top. It seemed like it was harder this time,” McLaughlin said. “It’s been three years since I hiked Whitney, so I’m older now.”

Beginning the hike at 3 a.m., McLaughlin progressed in the dark as the air got thinner and the trail got steeper.

“We started hiking in the dark and I wasn’t thinking about how steep it was. I just thought to keep going and then when it got really hard I put up some rock music to inspire me, and that worked pretty well,” McLaughlin said. “I just put my head down and kept going.”

McLaughlin trekked on, keeping in mind that hiking keeps him physically healthy and grounded in his everyday life.

“It’s kind of like in the sense that I like to set goals for myself, and it keeps me physically fit,” McLaughlin said. “If I know I’m going to try to do something like that I know I have to be in tip top condition so I know I have to take care of myself I have to exercise.”

McLaughlin first got the idea to start hiking four years ago when his brother-in-law was recalling a story of his own trip up Mount Whitney.

“He was bragging, so I asked him if he thought I could make it to the top of Whitney. He said no,” McLaughlin said. “So I went, and I did it.”

The Mount Whitney Portal Trail is a 22-mile trail from start to end with over a mile in elevation gain. In hiking this trail, McLaughlin has found many benefits.

“I’ve overcome my weaknesses,” McLaughlin said. “It’s made me stronger in my resolve to do things, and it’s helping me fight old age too.”

Along with Mount Whitney, he has added Mount Baldy, Gorgonio, San Jacinto, San Bernardino, Ontario Peak and others to his growing list of conquered mountain trails.

“I think what attracted me to [mountain hiking] at first was the beauty. When I first saw Mount Whitney it looked so ominous,” McLaughlin said. “I looked at that mountain, and it drew me to it. And I didn’t realize that some forty years later I would be climbing it. ”

Never would he have foreseen that on a Saturday in September decades later, he would be completing his third hike up that same, ominous mountain.

By Angela Zhang, Staff writer