Orion International

Veteran Low to High Challenge Blog

The Veteran Low to High Challenge hike is happening October 10th-18th, when our team of Orion Employees, Veterans, Partners, and Corporate Sponsors hike from the lowest point in Death Valley to the summit of Mount Whitney.

It is our goal to raise $100K for Veterans for our partner organizations as we embark on the Low to High Challenge and gain national recognition for Veterans by completing this trek, which will take place over 7 days and cover 120+ miles with a 14,787 elevation change. View the full course map here.

We will be accepting donations through December 15, 2014. Donate to our Veterans.

Check out the posts below for updates, pictures, and more from each day of the culminating event of the Veteran Low to High Challenge!




Congratulations to all the participants in the Veteran Low to High Challenge!

While the journey in Death Valley has ended, we continue in our efforts to raise funds and awareness for the Veteran charities we are sponsoring.

We have one last 5K in San Diego on November 8th, and will accept donations through December 15th. Donate or participate in the 5K in San Diego.




Veteran Low to High Challenge – Team Two

Mount Whitney Summit

October 18, 2014

Team Two has made it to the top of Mount Whitney!

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge




Veteran Low to High Challenge – Team One

Mount Whitney Summit

October 17, 2014

Team One has made it to the top of Mount Whitney!

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Team Two will be ascending Mount Whitney tomorrow.





Veteran Low to High Challenge – Team One

Cerro Gordo/Lone Pine

October 15, 2014

Team One awoke well rested and enjoyed biscuits and gravy before heading out on Day Five. This was the second straight great day for Team One. They continued down the road from Cerro Gordo and turned towards the town of Lone Pine, 13 miles away. It was a generally flat route with a great view of Mount Whitney the entire way.

At a resupply break at about noon, they were just over five miles from the hotel, with two more miles past it to put them on Whitney Portal road where they would get picked up and shuttled back to get cleaned up and enjoy a meal and great night’s rest at the Comfort Inn Lone Pine.

Once they reached the hotel, four members of the team continued on the last two miles to their planned endpoint, while the rest went to the Visitors Center to check in and get the permit needed to make the ascent on Friday.

They readied all the gear and food to ensure we were only taking up on the mountain what they needed and would leave behind any extras in the hotel until we get back on Friday night.

This was another great day for Team One, and their spirits are soaring as they are energized to tackle the next two days and reach the summit! They got up this morning (10/16), and the team was shuttled out to yesterday’s endpoint to begin the trek up to Whitney Portal Campground. It will be a climb of over 5,000 feet in about 13 miles. They'll set up camp and get some sleep before they begin the ascent at around 3am on Friday.

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge




Veteran Low to High Challenge – Team One

Mill Canyon/Cerro Gordo Peak

October 14, 2014

Team One woke up Tuesday morning wondering whether the nightmares they had in their sleep about climbing out of Mill Canyon was just a dream or if they had actually done that. They had of course done it and were charged with energy to start the day knowing they had likely faced their hardest test.

They stepped off at 7:30am en route to Cerro Gordo Peak at an elevation of over 9,000 feet. Today's trek was going to be along roads and trails and go downhill for a good bit before a stretch along Lee Flat's before ascending to Cerro Gordo.

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

The plan was to meet in Cerro Gordo Town, an old abandoned mining town, for resupply between 4pm and 5pm. John Herath (John rode shotgun today as he was recovering from the effects of dehydration that he'd been fighting since Day One and was taking a day to recuperate) and Brian made it up to the town early figuring there would be some cool sights to see. They were lucky to meet a man named Robert there that has been taking care of the town since it closed down a number of years ago. Robert wowed them with the incredible history of the mining town and the surrounding area and even opened up the old hotel to show them around.

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Team One arrived on schedule looking as motivated and happy as Brian had seen them at the end of a day. After a quick break and some pictures in the town, they pressed on another three miles down Cerro Gordo Road to a great campsite where they'd spend the night.

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Todd shared the mileage log, and Team One had trekked 86.6 miles through Day Four.

Veteran Low To High Challenge

The plan for tomorrow is pretty simple. Five miles down the road to the main road leading into Lone Pine, 13.1 miles away. 18.1 miles along what should be a relatively easy route should get the team into Lone Pine and the hotel by 3:30pm. They'll be looking at majestic Mount Whitney all along the route!

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Day Four was a great day and the team is full of energy and excited to get into Lone Pine and then up the mountain. John is now back on the road again with the team.




Veteran Low to High Challenge – Team One

Panamint Springs Resort/Mill Canyon

October 13, 2014

Team One had an early wake up from the luxurious rooms at Panamint Springs Resort. The first group of three hikers departed at 5:05am to shuttle back to the endpoint from the previous day. The second group was shuttled, and they started off on what was to be about 17-18 miles going past Panamint Dunes and then into Mill Canyon. The team made great time and entered the canyon at about noon - right on schedule.

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Then things got a bit crazy. They began a very steep ascent up the side of the canyon and were met by crumbling rocks and soft footing that created some memories that Team One will never forget. John Herath said he knows he lost one of his nine lives and doesn't know how many he has left. Lucky for Bill and Rob, they were at the end of the line and diverted away from the treacherous route. Bill and Rob made it up to the resupply and camp point at about 7pm. It would be another two hours before the rest of the team made it. Weary, battle tested, and having a new appreciation for life! Spirits remain high nevertheless and plans were made for the next day where they will head towards Cerro Gordo Peak at 9,000+ feet elevation.




Veteran Low to High Challenge – Team One

Mahogany Camp/Panamint Springs Lodge

October 12, 2014

Team One broke camp and stepped off from Mahogany Camp a bit after 7am, en route to Highway 190 and a stay in the Panamint Springs Lodge.

Once the hikers departed, Brian headed out to try and get the flat tire fixed. The spare was a "temporary use only" tire and not suited at all for driving off paved roads. Unfortunately, there was no chance of getting it fixed on Sunday, so that would have to wait till Monday morning.

Brian was able to connect with the Team Two driver and give him a better route to take to Wildrose, which hopefully spares (no pun intended) them the trouble of facing a flat as he did.

He got a satellite message from Team One that they expected to arrive at Highway 190 at about 4:45pm. About an hour and a half later, Brian got a radio call to see if he could start driving down the "road" they were hiking to get some water to the team. Not wanting to risk taking the spare tire on the rough trail, he loaded a bag with Gatorades and started hiking to meet the weary hikers.

Bill Laughlin grabbed a few bottles to walk back to the group trailing the lead while the lead group got driven to Panamint Springs Lodge. By the time Brian returned a few minutes later, the rest of Team One was ready to pile five people into a space for four in order to make it back in one load.

After getting cleaned up and taking some cold showers, they met for a great meal and a few drinks at the restaurant on site. The meal and drinks hit the spot!

While there, they began to make plans for the remaining days and come up with contingency plans in case Brian ran into any problems getting the tire fixed.

Brian wound up having to buy a new tire Monday morning, as the flat one had a side puncture from a thorn and was not able to be repaired. He got the tire fixed in Lone Pine and got a good look at the final destination, Mount Whitney. Quite a sight!




Veteran Low to High Challenge – Team Two

Las Vegas/Shorty's Well/Hanapaugh Canyon

October 11-12, 2014

Team Two arrived at Las Vegas airport as planned and proceeded to gather supplies and dinner in Pahrump, NV. The stops were quick and they were on our way to Furnace Creek Visitor Center ahead of schedule. At Furnace Creek Visitor Center they met up with team member Lee Juckett, organized our gear, filled up the water jugs and loaded into the vehicles to head to Shorty's Well to begin their trek.

From Shorty's Well they hiked a little over five miles into Hanapaugh Canyon and pitched camp for the night. They were supposed to hike 6.7 miles, but due to support vehicle access they had to stop a little short. It was a nice night and good start to the trip.

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

The next day Team Two struck camp a little after sun-up for what would prove to be a very challenging and frightening day. The trek started off with a two mile hike up through the river bed going further up into the canyon. At this point they began their challenging ascent to the first ridgeline. It was steeper and more challenging than expected. They eventually all made it through the day (and into the night) back to camp alive and safe. Though there were some very real concerns and scares for all involved.

Due to different skill levels and speeds, the team eventually split into two groups with communication between the front (David, Caleb, Karli, Mike) and back (Jay, Emily, Lee, and Tim) still established through walkie-talkies. That was fine for a while as they picked our way along the rocky and precarious center spur, to get to the exceedingly steep and difficult ridge that would take us to the trail crest.

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge




Veteran Low to High Challenge – Team One

Hanapaugh Canyon/Wildrose Campground/Mahogany Camp

October 11, 2014

Team One broke camp and stepped off from Hanapaugh Canyon at about 6:20am. Brian drove back into Furnace Creek and passed on some tips to Team Two. They ended up renting a 4X4 Dodge Ram Supercab, so they are even better suited for driving the roads/trails and can store all their gear in the truck bed and still have room in their vehicle.

It was a long and arduous day for Team One. It took much longer than planned to reach the trailhead at the top of the peak. The call came to put in play the emergency resupply plan just as Brian had reached Wildrose Campground (the intended end point for Day One) after a very rough drive. As he started up the road to Mahogany Camp (eight miles up from Wildrose), he noticed the tire sensor alert indicating 21 PSI, then 19, and so on. By the time he got to Mahogany, the tire was close to being flat. While the hikers continued their trek, Brian met another hiker, who helped him change the tire and donated $20 to the Low To High Challenge.

Team One finally arrived at Mahogany at nearly 8pm, more than 13 hours after they started out in the morning. A cooler of Gatorade was never a more welcome sight. They decided to set camp there at Mahogany for the night. The team cooked their chow and had a meeting to talk about lessons learned from the day and set the plan for the next day.

The plan was to step off by 7am. They would need to make up the eight miles down to Wildrose and then continue on with the original plan for Day Two with a slight modification to end at Highway 190, rather than push two miles past.




Veteran Low to High Challenge Update – Team One

Las Vegas/Shorty’s Well/Hanapaugh Canyon

October 10, 2014

Landed in Las Vegas. Todd Hecht, Mike Lampman, Todd Phillips, and Brian Henry got the van and SUV and went to Brian's brother-in-law Barry's house to pick up the supplies that were shipped to him and then went to Walmart to pick up more supplies.

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

By 2:15pm they had collected Mike Starich, Bill Laughlin, John Herath, Brad Hobgood, and Rob Gumpper from the airport and were off to the Furnace Creek visitor center in Death Valley.

After a short stop for dinner in Pahrump, NV, they continued to Furnace Creek. There they met Jacob Centeno from Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation and took care of fees and got organized for the start.

They headed off to Shorty's Well with Todd Hecht driving the eight hikers in the van and Brian in the SUV packed to the ceiling with all the gear. After a long and slow ride over a rough improved road, they finally reached Shorty's Well, the start point for the trek.

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

Brian headed out on the road, if you want to call it that, to Hanapaugh Canyon. After a few hundred yards of some unforgiving rocky road, the hikers took the lead and the SUV trailed lighting the way; they stopped about 5.2 miles into the trek and set up camp and had a quick meeting to plan the next day. 5:15am wake-up and 6pm step off on the Day One route. So far so good!

Veteran Low To High Challenge




The Veteran Low to High Challenge Hike is Officially Underway!


Veteran Low To High Challenge

Veteran Low To High Challenge

The Veteran Low to High Challenge hike has started! A group of Orion employees, Veterans, Partners, and Corporate Sponsors began the trek on October 10th and will hike through October 18th, starting in Death Valley (282 feet below sea level) to the summit of Mount Whitney (14,505 feet elevation). It will cover 120+ miles with a 14,787 elevation change. View a full course map here. Good luck to everyone participating in the hike!

Check out our Facebook event page for pictures, updates, and more from the trail, and feel free to post a word of encouragement to our hikers as they undertake this feat and raise $100K+ for Veterans in 2014.