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If I Live Until Morning: A True Story of Adventure, Tragedy and Transformation

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Her grand adventure turned into a nightmare. After skiing 200 miles along California's John Muir Trail, Jean faces death from a mountaineering accident on Mount Whitney. Broken and bleeding on the highest peak in the continental United States, she vows to realize her greatest dreams if she lives until morning. Her escape from the Sierra Nevada Mountains turns into a five-day ordeal for survival. Jean's recovery is equally daunting. Her journey spans three decades and takes her from the depths of despair and chronic pain to the heights of the Himalayas. When the specter of Mount Whitney continues to shatter her world, Jean befriends Tibetan lamas. Their ancient wisdom guides her on a path beyond her wildest dreams.

274 pages, Paperback

First published March 18, 2018

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About the author

Jean Muenchrath

2 books9 followers

Jean Muenchrath’s insatiable appetite for adventure has taken her on mountain escapades across North and South America and Asia. She loves to explore wild places under the power of her own two feet. She has been a park ranger for over thirty years, led treks in Nepal and Thailand, and worked in Bhutan for the World Wildlife Fund. To balance her outer and inner worlds she spends two months a year in solitary retreat.

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5 stars
625 (38%)
4 stars
543 (33%)
3 stars
328 (20%)
2 stars
106 (6%)
1 star
30 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 130 reviews
Profile Image for NicholeReadsWithCats.
275 reviews33 followers
March 5, 2020
Ummm...if you can not say something nice don't say anything at all comes to mind. I can't really think of anything positive to say about this read. Due to the nature of being the authors life story I don't feel comfortable sharing my thoughts so I will just let this one go with my rating and say I am surprised it is so highly rated by others.
Profile Image for Smitha Murthy.
Author 2 books238 followers
October 22, 2020
I thought this would be a much-needed inspirational lift for my jaded soul. But while I understand the grit and courage behind Jean’s story, I just wish it read more like a story.

I can’t put my finger on it - I lost the story right from the beginning with long, overly detailed accounts of Jean’s attempt to ski the John Muir Trail. Courageous. I know. I can’t even dream of doing anything like that. But while I admire Jean, I can’t admire the way this story was written. Sadly. :-(
Profile Image for Susan Yoon.
135 reviews1 follower
May 12, 2021
I love mountain disaster/survival stories, and there aren’t many written by or about women. Most of this book was about the aftermath of the accident and the author’s subsequent conversion to Buddhism. And the writing is full of poor cliches. I don’t recommend.
Profile Image for Rhonda.
161 reviews
October 28, 2018
It was great to hear Jean speak at Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, CO and see slides of her epic skiing adventure on Mt. Whitney in 82 before reading the book. I know & love the physical therapist who helped her heal her once broken body 20 yrs after the accident.
Mt. Whitney is a magical place that could have turned so tragic for both Jean & Ken. I found the book full of adventure. Jean’s travels in Asia were delightful and the meditation piece very critical to her healing spiritually. I have a friend who has summited Whitney twice. I plan to give him a copy.
I especially enjoy Jean’s energy & spirt exuded in this story. She wrote in my signed copy of the book.
“May you always be surrounded by the beauty of nature. Follow your heart & dreams to new places.”
Love that.
123 reviews
February 7, 2021
This one didn't do anything for me, so like some other reviewers, I am confused at the ratings and acclaim awarded to this book.. I, too, was surprised that the main story was completed only one-third of the way through the book. This story takes place in my backyard, so I was interested in the descriptions of the John Muir Trail, Mt. Whitney, Lone Pine. I've read several wilderness adventure memoirs set in this area, so looked forward to adding this to my collection. But, I found the writing to be stiff, just a recital of events with too obvious and forced an attempt to use flowery descriptions. I also quickly became very frustrated with the author's perception of her relationship with her skiing partner and mainly kept reading only in hopes to learn that she wisely left him. So, I pushed through the book, mainly by skimming to get the gist and focusing when sections attracted more of my attention. I am not recommending this to fellow readers to whom I normally do recommend backcountry wilderness memoirs.
Profile Image for Lizzy.
14 reviews
December 5, 2018
Jean shows through firsthand experience that disaster can open the door to a new perspective and even new adventures. What at first appears as a journey to conquer physical pain soon reveals itself as a journey to overcome the emotional trauma from dealing with the aftermath of a near-death experience. This inspiring book is well worth the read, especially for others dealing with their own difficulties.
Profile Image for Judy Churchill.
2,311 reviews22 followers
February 5, 2020
The author has a true love for mountains - and climbing them. She and her future husband were undertaking the trip of a lifetime. They were following the John Muir trail across the Sierras on cross country skis culminating with the ascent of Mount Whitney. On the descent Muenchrath fell 150 feet and was grievously injured. This is the story of her survival and long road to healing.
57 reviews
August 31, 2020
Amazing story and beautiful read

Loved this book. Mountainiers and rock climbers, adventurers in general just fascinate me. In Jean's book the end result of what her mind could accomplish was unbelievable, especially that she could get her and her pack out of the mountains with broken and shattered bones, is truly remarkable.
Profile Image for Story Circle Book Reviews.
636 reviews59 followers
September 12, 2018
The title of Jean Muenchrath's book, If I Live Until Morning and the book's moody cover of high mountains provide more than a hint of what story awaits readers. Something tragic is going to happen that will leave the author near death. And that is exactly how the tale unfolds. Caught in a storm high on Mount Whitney in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the author slips and falls. She comes close to death before she and her cross-country skiing companion painfully make it down the mountain five days later.

Muenchrath's book, however, is much more than this. It's about going forward, afterward. It's about finding ways to overcome pain and fear so the author can continue hiking her beloved mountains, including those in the Himalayas. It's about doing what she promised herself she would do—if she lived until morning.

As a reader who has her own love affair with mountains, I was especially appreciative of Muenchrath's vivid descriptions of the high landscapes she set foot upon. Of standing in the shadow of the mighty Mount Everest, she writes:
Heavy frost covered the ground. The moonlight had transformed it into a field of shimmering diamonds. The highest peaks on Earth glowed like silver-white goddesses reaching for the sky. With steam coming from my breath, I walked to the hilltop to maximize the view. The soundscape was equally enchanting; glacial rivers rushed in the distance, yak bells chimed in the pastures below, and occasionally an avalanche rumbled down a mountainside.

On reading these words, I was able to experience a world I will never visit, which is the best of what reading is all about.

The path forward for Muenchrath, after trekking in the Himalayas, continues to be filled with potholes and painful obstacles—different perhaps, but not that unlike the ones faced by those of us with questioning minds. Muenchrath's search for answers, adventure and fulfilment, which is the heart of her book, includes over 30 years as a national park ranger, student of Eastern philosophy and heartfelt friendships with Tibetan lamas.

Muenchrath doesn't claim to be a heroine in her own book, one that some might call an action thriller. Instead, she is simply a woman who wants the kind of answers most of want. She won't give up or let her past rule her future. Even when she falls down, you know she's going to get right back up.

This is an inspiring book, and well written. Highly recommended for all who love mountains, nature—and life.

by Pat Bean
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
November 28, 2020
I picked up this book because I hiked the JMT and love reading about other's adventures on the trail. I thought it was going to be more about the trail so at first I was disappointed because it was mostly based post trail/injury. However, as I got further in the book I realized that the book was more about the resiliency of humans. Jean leads an incredible life after experiencing a life threatening injury. As a healthcare provider, it brings me so much joy to read about someone who doesn't give up on themselves but rather explores options that allow them to live the beautiful life they want to live. We are so much stronger than we are told we are and this story is one that proves it. I highly recommend it!
Profile Image for Diana.
705 reviews4 followers
July 14, 2020
A reluctant 3 stars because the writing was pretty good and I finished it, though barely. Amazon promoted this book to me as a hiking survival story. It started off as that but I was surprised to be only one-third through the book when the author’s hiking ordeal ended. The rest of the book was part memoir, part bitterness over the end of her marriage, and mostly her new age woo quest for healing of her pain. I enjoyed some parts of her travel descriptions but the the mystical and new age parts of the book grew tiresome and tedious. If you’re into that sort of thing then you will likely enjoy this book. If not then I would avoid it.
Profile Image for Aaiza.
12 reviews
November 13, 2020
Inspiring and Tear Jerking

It feels like 2 books beautifully merged into one; one about adventure and tragedy, flowing into another about transformation. The transformation story deeply follows the author’s Buddhist beliefs. Even though I don’t follow Buddhist teachings, and have never suffered through the kind of physical trauma that the author did, I found a lot that I could relate to. This is an inspiring, attention grabbing and at times eye-watering story, with some strong writing. It is bound to make you look inward and ask how you want to live your life. I highly recommend it.
3 reviews
January 12, 2021
Not so great after a few Chapters

After the actual accident the book dragged on. I felt most sorry for Ken, as it seems she never really thanked him for saving her. Then even after getting married she never helped him cope. Seemed like a very cold marriage. Later in book I just read a sentence or 2 on each page. One chapter droned on and on giving turn by turn directions of how she walked to a doctors office. She definitely wrote this book as therapy and to resolve the guilt she feels and not as a good piece of writing to be enjoyed by the reader. Thankfully the book was free.
113 reviews1 follower
June 12, 2021
Awesome book - a Must Read

I expected this to be another adventure survival book, and I love that kind of book. And it delivered! Great writing, wonderful descriptions of the beauty of the Sierra outback...
But after she survives, the book has adventures with a deeper meaning, and many lessons in how she healed from trauma. For anyone with chronic pain, illness, or trauma, this book is a real help. She lights the way to a path of healing so if you're stuck with trauma or chronic pain, this book is a real treasure

It's a mountaineering book that goes way, way deeper than any other mountaineering book I've read, and I read all of them.

Read this book and be inspired!
March 23, 2020
Truly inspirational.

This survival story was a book I couldn't wait to get back to. It chronicles the author's near fatal accident on Mt. Whitney and her ability to get down the mountain in spite of her injuries including fractured bones. As a retired therapist, I became even more impressed with her inner journey of emotional healing from trauma that was unfortunately delayed. Her spiritual quest into Buddhism provided her with existential healing as well. It's a testament to human endurance, and what we can all accomplish by healing the body, mind and spirit.
Profile Image for Heather.
22 reviews
February 20, 2020
Not only was reading If I Live Until Morning a life-changing experience - SO WAS MEETING HER!
A story of growth and survival and perseverance, I still can't believe it. Because I'm no such mountain climber myself, much of this was difficult to envision. The pure natural gusto of it all is shocking, and then the pain and rebuilding she went through. I'll read this again. And then probably again. And maybe even one more time.
Profile Image for Karen.
963 reviews9 followers
July 24, 2020
This could have benefited from tighter editing and proofreading. Still, it's a compelling life story. For me, it was something of an exercise in not judging, and trying to understand why the author made some of the decisions she did. I appreciated that opportunity. By the end of the book I was moved to tears. I bumped my rating up to compensate for those who bumped theirs down due to their dislike of non-Christian spirituality. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.
Profile Image for Danielle Leick.
22 reviews1 follower
November 17, 2020
I thought the entirety of this book was amazing and awe-inspiring. I can only imagine how tough it must have been out there on Mount Whitney only to be silenced for so long after. It’s amazing how much courage the author gained in order to overcome her hardships. I’m a fan of adventure memoirs and this one really hit the spot. It invoked both a greater sense of adventure in me and the thought that I should be a little more cautious when out on the PNW trails myself.
Profile Image for Lisa.
61 reviews
July 9, 2021
This book was recommended to our group by the Johns Brook lodge caretaker (NY state) as she was hiking out and we were hiking in to our nearby cabin. After a few minutes of pleasantries and shared hiking/weather tips, she said 'I just have to share' and recommended this book.
Great read. If you love the outdoors, pushing limits, and/or how the human body and psyche recovers and continues to grow throughout life, this book is for you.
19 reviews
August 9, 2020

Dear Jean
During these depressing COVID times I found your book very inspirational and positive. You write so well and connect with the reader from the first page. I am an armchair mountain climber and your book took me with you to every exotic location.
Well done. Be well.
Profile Image for Wendy.
451 reviews1 follower
March 19, 2021
Wow! What an incredible story

Jean has lived a life I have never imagined. She has also shown me that everyone is facing their own internal battle and that we are all looking for peace and enlightenment. I found much courage and wisdom to use in my own life. Thank you, Jean, for sharing your life with us.
181 reviews2 followers
April 18, 2021
Absolutely breathtaking!

I loved this book and you will too. If you are at all interested in mountaineering, read this book. It was enchanting, enlightening, and interesting. This is one of those books that are difficult to put down. Thank you Jean for sharing your experiences with us.
Profile Image for Jolene Elison.
390 reviews3 followers
September 19, 2020
I really enjoyed the hiking and skiing parts on John Muir trail and Mount Whitney. However the heavy Buddhist and enlightenment parts were ....? How can such a strong person put up with such a toxic relationship? That was confusing. Her
8 reviews
July 14, 2021
Review of If I live to tomorrow

I joyed the true life trekking experiences along with the descriptions of the mountains here in the US and in Tebet. The authors road to enlightenment was very inspiring.
Profile Image for Ashley.
311 reviews33 followers
Shelved as 'gave-up-on'
August 20, 2021
DNF @ 26%. I expected this book to be inspirational and moving but I’m finding it to be painful. 😕
Profile Image for Siobhan Ward.
879 reviews6 followers
May 2, 2022
It took me a little while to figure out what felt off about this book, and I think it was the pacing. There is so much detail surrounding her trip on the John Muir trail and that level of detail is not found anywhere else in the book. It almost feels like after her accident she is suddenly in Nepal hiking again without too much in between. I think the pacing threw me off in the second and third parts of the book and made it hard for me to enjoy them as much as the first part of the book.
June 30, 2021
Long & dull in many parts if you are not a hiker & mountaineer. She worked to overcome some serious obstacles as a result of her hobby but to me not too interesting. Reads as a memoir but not the best writing style. Not awful but not great.
23 reviews2 followers
May 17, 2018
This is a book that will be enjoyed by adventurers, travelers, hikers and climbers. It also explores meditation and belief. Readers who want to learn more about Buddhist healing and teachings will find fascinating insights. Jean tells a very gripping, fascinating, and beautiful story. Jean's love of climbing and of the mountains shine through in this story. Her real-life story is incredible. It reads like a fictional adventure story, yet it is real. Jean's honesty in describing her struggles both physically and personal is uncompromising and remarkable.
253 reviews1 follower
June 7, 2020
Generally, I love adventure stories, and I really wanted to like this book. The first third of the book, in which the author recounts her adventure, and then tragedy on Mt Whitney, was great. I was much less enchanted with the rest of the book and was grateful when it ended. I know I can't really know her heart and soul and motives, but she seems very focused on herself. It was all about her adventures and then all about her trauma and efforts to get relief. It is understandable that her pain drove her to this. It would just have been great to see more altruism.
2 reviews
March 7, 2022
Masterfully written

Extremely well developed and almost musical in its meandering through the strengths and weaknesses of the strongest of human spirit.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 130 reviews

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