Mt. Whitney is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states, with an elevation of 14,505 feet.
It is a grueling hike for anyone — let alone a person with a spinal cord injury. Yet that is what Jack Ryan Greener set out to do. Mary Forgione wrote about Jack's journey to the summit, and in an interview for "LA Times Today," she and Greener joined host Lisa McRee with this inspirational story.
Greener was accompanied by his friends when he ascended Mt. Whitney and said they were a great support system.
"They were my emotional backbone when I didn't necessarily believe in myself," he said. "As much as the story centers on me, it's just as much their story as well. And I, I honestly could have done it without them."
Forgione explained that she found out about Greener's journey while she was hiking Mt. Whitney.
"When I was at the mountain, there was a woman who had learned I was an LA Times reporter," she said. "I had done a little bit of reporting on the summit. I was coming down, and she said I had to meet this guy, Jack, and I'm thinking in my head, when you summit, all you want to do is get down. And I thought, oh, what is this? And I met Jack. We huddled at 13,500 feet somewhere around there on a ledge. I took out my iPhone; I made a video, and Jack told his story. And it was just spellbinding. And what he left out, his close friend, now an ICU nurse, filled in because he was there at his side. So I knew right then this is an incredible story, and we just went from there."
When things got tough for Greener during the hike, he relied on a mantra that has helped him overcome various challenges.
"The mantra was, hey, John, stay focused, believe. And it was an affirmation I carried with me through all of my training pretty much the last two years. I think it's essential to have positive affirmations around you at all times. With my spinal cord injury and the strokes that occurred, it's very easy to go to dark places, and I could go to dark places in 2019, and I recognized that I had to have these affirmations. I had to have this positivity around me."
Forgione has summited Mt. Whitney 20 times in the last 30 years, noting that the hike requires a lot of preparation.
"Most people, particularly those doing the long route that Jack did, would start at 1:30 or 2:00 a.m. You would have your headlamp, you would be carrying as much water and food as you can for the day, and you just startup; this is a hardcore hike. The trail gets very rocky. Your footing isn't good. It's very narrow, and you're at elevation, so you get to 12,000, 13,000, 14,000 feet. And, you can't even think at some point, and all you can think to do is put one foot in front of the other. That's why when I met Jack, and he was doing what I was doing, only it was harder for him, it was incredible to be with him on that mountain, and it is truly one of my favorite stories I got to tell in the LA Times."
Since completing the challenging Mt. Whitney hike, Greener now looks forward to new adventures.
"I'd really like to go do Mt. Hood with two childhood friends who are both cancer survivors, one being stage four or the other being brain cancer. And currently, I'm looking forward to leaving to Yosemite and my sprinter van to go live in the Valley; climb, work remotely and put up some adaptive ascents on some big walls."
Watch "LA Times Today" at 7 and 10 p.m. Monday through Friday on Spectrum News 1 and the Spectrum News app.