INDIANAPOLIS — Brian Murphy had not planned to wear the GPS device, but his mother insisted.
She wanted to follow her son’s ascent to Mt. Rainier’s summit at 14,410 feet.
“That last 1,500 feet was extremely emotional knowing that my mom was basically with me, team members and family members were with me in a sense,” said Murphy (far left in the photo above), a fabricator for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was his first day back at the track since reaching Mt. Rainier’s summit last week. The climb completed a year-long journey of preparation that included training from SHR’s athletic department.
“This was a brand new thing,” Murphy told NBC Sports. “I was very nervous. Everybody being there to support me and make sure I had the confidence to do this was very important.”
It was only two years ago that climbing was even a consideration. A friend encouraged Murphy to join him on a hike during a race weekend at Bristol.
“When I got to the top, it was just an incredible feeling, great views,” Murphy said. “It turned into a challenge on how much I could take both mentally and physically.
“Now it’s gone into mountaineering.”
Murphy’s Mt. Rainier trip took two weeks. He went to the Camp Muir base camp at about 10,200 feet and spent a night there. He returned to lower ground for about three days to ensure his body’s recovery before going back up. Murphy, his group and guides returned to base camp and spent another day there before moving up.
After reaching high camp at 11,200 feet, the group’s plans changed on climbing the summit. With a storm forecasted later, the group woke up at 11 p.m. and left camp at midnight. They reached the summit at 5:15 a.m., greeted by wind guests that Murphy said were 40-60 mph.
“It was a blizzard up there,” he said. “The last 500 feet, the weather just changed dramatically. It was impressive to see. It was awesome.
“The whole trip went really well. At the end of it, the mountain tested us, so it wasn’t just an easy thing to get up there. The preparation, the help from everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing and the racing community as a whole got me to a level where this whole journey was much easier than I thought it was going to be.”
Murphy understood the challenges of the Washington mountain. According to the Mt. Rainier National Park website, 47.7% of the 10,762 climbers in 2018 reached the summit. One climber died in a rockfall in late May.
When Murphy reached the summit, he couldn’t see much because of the weather and it was still dark.
“Making it to the top was the goal,” he said. “The view wasn’t necessarily the goal. It was the journey up, the test. I did that. There definitely is a piece of me that wants to go back up there to see what I missed.”
Once he reached the top, he was taken back to his racing experience.
“You get up there and you’re celebrating with all of your guides and the other couple of people that made it, and it was a lot like winning a race, the same type of feeling,” Murphy said. “You work so hard with these people to make sure you get there safe and to reach that goal against all odds was amazing.”
Now, Murphy ponders going to Alaska to summit Denali, which at 20,310 feet is the highest peak in North America.
“I know coming back that I crushed Rainier,” Murphy said, “and I’m only looking up.”