A Charged Experience in a Brisk 14-Summit Journey.

By Tom Stienstra 

Sunday, July 23, 2006                                    The former supermodel huddled in a rock crevice on the flank of 14,018-foot Mount Tyndall in the Sierra Nevada, praying she would not get hit by lightning.

"My ears started buzzing from the electrical charge in the air -- that's a warning that you're about to get zapped," said Jacqueline Florine of Lafayette, who had a cover shot with Vogue in her model days and now is a mother of two.

"I found a hole in the rocks and stuffed my pack and myself in it and looked up at the storm," she said. "The thunder was so loud it was like gunshots were going off in my ears, with lightning strikes all around me, within a quarter mile, half mile. It was very humbling, because there is nothing you can do about it -- but magnificent."

Florine, 42, hid out in her fox hole for two hours until the storm passed, and she was able to climb down to safety and complete her epic adventure: Last week Jacki Florine became the first woman in history to climb 14 14,000-foot peaks in California in 10 days.

In June, her husband, Hans, helped set another climbing record: In Yosemite Valley, he teamed with Craig DeMartino, who had a leg amputated below the knee, to make the first one-day ascent of El Capitan by an amputee in history.

The Florines are a husband-and-wife team unlike any other in the world. Their shared passion is the mountains, rock-climbing faces and summits and completing long-distant treks. They balance this between taking care of their kids, Marianna, 5, and Pierce, 3, running their family outdoors business and staying in peak athletic condition.

JMT in six days

Though her husband is world renown for his epic treks, in recent years Jacki has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with him. She is the only woman in history to solo the nose of El Capitan in Yosemite and also set a record by hiking (unsupported) the 211-mile John Muir Trail, from Yosemite Valley to the 14,497-foot Mount Whitney summit, in six days, 53 minutes. The trip takes most people about three weeks.

"We don't have to go to Everest or Kilimanjaro," she said. "We can do it right here in California. I love climbing, and I'm particularly fond of the Sierra, the endless granite."

Jacki is tall (5-10) and sculpted (143 pounds) and, like the Bay Area's Brian Robinson, the first to complete America's Triple Crown of Hiking in one year, she runs cross-country on trails at Bay Area parks for fun and fitness.

In 2003, when her husband became the first in history to climb 14 14,000-foot California peaks in less than four days, she knew she wanted to try to duplicate the feat: 14 epic climbs that total 41,000 vertical feet and 90 miles cumulative hiking.

"I wanted to do this so it would be fun, not a death march," Jacki said. "No other woman has done this (in succession), so I had plenty of time to set the record. To prepare, I created a folder for each mountain, so I could plan the strategy for each summit."

She started at Mount Shasta, where she caught a break with perfect weather and ideal snow-surface conditions. She reached the 14,162-foot summit in six hours. From there, she ventured south to the Sierra.

Jacki's magic days were trekking among the Palisades, the spectacular mountain peaks south of Bishop Pass (11,990 feet). Cutting above the John Muir Trail, she summited Thunderbolt, Starlight, North Palisade, Polemnonium, Mount Sill, Middle Palisade and Split Mountain.

After bagging Mount Whitney, Mount Muir, Mount Russell and Tyndall and White Mountain (east of the Owens Valley). That left remote Mount Langley near Cottonwood Pass. With one last huff-and-a-puff from Cottonwood Pass south of Whitney, she had triumphed.

It was Tyndall that provided the biggest challenge.

"Clouds were coming in, but I did a wind check and saw the clouds seemed to be patterning," Jacki said. "I ran up Mount Tyndall and got to the top, and the wind shifted, the clouds started building up all around me, and the snow started coming down. Then there was lightning and thunder everywhere."

That was when she retreated to her hiding place in the rocks.

"At one point, I thought I was going to die," she said, then added. "As a climber, you choose your weather. You don't force your schedule on the mountain. If you're not spot-on, you take yourself out of the picture."

For more information about Jacqueline Florine: 

jacquelineflorine.com & speedclimb.com

Link to photos.

mailto:tstienstra@sfchronicle.com

2009 Jacqueline Florine

All Rights Reserved

Contact: jf@jacquelineflorine.com