AUSTIN (KXAN) - It's a small fraternity, those who get struck by lightning and live to tell their story.
"The first thought was seeing this extremely bright light, followed by immense pain," said Austinite Josh White. "When we got hit it was excruciating."
In a given year, there is about a one-in-a-million chance of being struck by a lightning.
The national weather service estimates about 40 people are killed, and 360 injured, each year from lightning strikes.
"We were extremely lucky," White said, "no doubt in my mind. Every day I think I should have been dead."
White and his buddies set out on a journey to test their physical strengths and friendship, and to be closer to nature.
His mother had a word of caution before he set out on the trip.
"She told me one thing before we left and it was, bring home my brother alive,' White said, "and I said, 'he's gonna come home alive, don't worry.'"
He never thought the trip he had been planning for a year with his younger brother Kolton, and their friend Ian, would test that promise.
Their plan was to hike 15-20 miles a day, navigating their way from California's Yosemite National Park, to the peak of Mt. Whitney in Southern California.
"Took us about 3 weeks to get to Mt. Whitney," White said.
On their way to the summit, the trio settled down above the tree line, in an area called an ‘approach zone.' The site is where hikers set up to prepare for their final climb.
"About 2 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon while we were getting ready for some lunch, some thunderstorms started to roll in," he said.
The group knew the chance of lightning existed, but they held their ground.
"I never felt in danger, you know," White said, "I was never worried about our safety. But we knew we were in a serious storm."
The three men huddled in their tent as torrential downpours pelted their shelter. Then, a bolt of lightning hits the tent.
"After it struck I ended up being (thrown into a corner) of the tent, and my brother and friend were in that other (corner)," White said. "It just threw us around the tent like a major impact."
"The next hour in that tent was the most terrifying hour of my life, because there was no doubt in my mind we were going to get hit again."
They waited out the storm, somehow managing to escape with minor injuries.
Instead of retreating down the mountain once the skies cleared, the group continued their journey up the trail.
"We essentially woke up about 4 a.m., cleaned up our camp, strapped on our packs and our headlamps, and headed up to the top and were able to make it to the summit during sunrise," he said, "and it was one of the most glorious moments of my life to have overcome and been at that summit, and it was amazing."
After returning home from their incredible journey safely, the three are passing on a valuable lesson.
"Just be prepared for the worst case," White said, "but at the same time, enjoy yourself and go after your dreams."
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