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Re: Planning for a July 9 day hike Drake Thomas 07/20/24 10:36 PM
The trip went pretty well! We did almost exactly the itinerary outlined. On Saturday we did the Dana Canyon trail up into the talus fields to dip our does in Dana Lake, which was also a great hike. Sunday was Mount Dana itself, which we were about 5h going up, and was our last substantial pre-Whitney hike. After setting up camp on Monday at the portal, we started off at 12:40am, making decent time at the start but slowing down substantially after Trail Camp around 7am.

One of our party members turned back at the 23rd switchback spring around 8:30AM after experiencing some altitude sickness symptoms; the other three of us went on, with one party member splitting off to summit around 10am and me and a friend plodding at a much slower pace to summit right around noon. (In our defense, we were hampered by the 5 pounds of inflatable couch we were hauling up to deploy at the top.)

We spent around an hour and a half at the peak because we were lucky enough to have clear skies for the whole early afternoon, then headed back the way we'd came at a pretty leisurely pace with a very brief nap at Trail Camp. We picked up speed after Lone Pine Lake when we realized how far we had left to go, but still only got back at 8PM. Ignoring time at the peak, we were about 11h up and 6.5h down.

Datapoints for other readers / things I didn't know before the trip:
  • There's a store 50 meters from the trailhead that serves hot food until 7:15 PM - you don't have to plan around camp stove usage if you don't want to. It also has an okay stock of some common hiking supplies if you've forgotten a critical item.
  • We arrived at the trailhead at noon the day before and had to look a bit for parking but found a campsite very easily.
  • The wag bags are dispensed from a serve-yourself box at the trailhead, so you can still get one if you leave at a strange hour of the day.
  • Wag bag use isn't guaranteed, and especially if you take an anti-laxative like loperamide beforehand you might be able to spare yourself the use of one. I think one of the four of us ended up using them?
  • I had pretty unpleasant chafing around my rear end starting at about 5AM, which I really regretted not preparing for. The pain slowed me down a little but didn't stop me from suffering through the next 12 hours.
  • If you set out well before dawn, look up sometime on the ascent! The stargazing is pretty excellent, especially once you've gotten away from the trailhead.
  • I wish I'd been stricter about pushing my sleep schedule back - I was hiking on maybe 3 or 4 hours of sleep (7pm-11:40pm), and some members of the party were going on less, which is bad for your physical fitness, your happiness, and your safety. Given our slow pace I don't regret starting early though; it would have been a huge bummer to miss the summit from afternoon thunderstorms.
  • Snow was pretty minimal, just a couple patches on the side of the trail during the switchbacks and maybe 30 feet of walking over a well-trodden snowpatch during the last mile.
  • I was hiking at a pretty typical pace for me up until the switchbacks, and then I slowed down substantially, plodding along very slowly above 13k feet. This didn't affect me at 13.7k in Colorado last month, so my guess is that it's a mix of slightly worse acclimation, sleep deprivation, and general exhaustion from having already climbed 5k vertical that day.
  • Water consumption varied a LOT. I probably drank 1.5 - 2 gallons on the way up, while our fastest party member only drank half a liter on the entire ascent (including 2h at the summit waiting for us). Wish I'd thought of Steve's tip to stash a bottle at Trail Crest!
  • The party member who turned back from worrying altitude symptoms (painful chest tightness when inhaling and mild to moderate headache) was the only one of us who took Diamox, so it's certainly not a panacea. (I do expect that it helps, though.)
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Re: Onion Valley to Whitney - best side hikes? Kenjamin 07/17/24 04:34 PM
That's all fantastic info, thanks! We're planning to camp out for a night at or near the Onion Valley campground for a night to help acclimate. And we already have enough Diamox for the group for the duration of the trip, thankfully.
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Re: Onion Valley to Whitney - best side hikes? Steve C 07/17/24 05:51 AM
Not sure how far you plan on hiking the first day.... Stopping before Kearsarge Pass? Matlock Lake might be a good first night location.

Over Kearsarge Pass, you might like to visit Charlotte Lake -- and maybe spend a night -- before you drop down into Vidette Meadow.

Almost 20 years ago, my group and I hiked over the pass and all the way to the center basin junction, and I forgot to put my trail snacks into the bear box. Was awakened when the bear grabbed my pack and dragged it away. I got it back, minus the snacks.

Also, we camped overnight at the trailhead in Onion Valley, then at Center Basin junction, and third night at Wallace Creek -- pretty fast hiking. By the third night, I was suffering from AMS (altitude sickness) so much that I couldn't eat anything. I have since found Diamox (you need a prescription), and would take it a day before starting the hike. We camped on the summit the fourth night!

I visited Arctic Lk on one hike, on my up and over Whitney Russell pass. Arctic Lake is well above tree line, no vegetation. I wouldn't take a side trip to see it.

If you have the time, there is an almost non-existent side trail "Lower Whitney Creek" trail, actually shown on the CalTopo map. If you look for it, (maybe using a gps to locate it: 36.55318,-118.35911), you can drop down .8 mile, dropping 200' elevation, to a sweet isolated spot by Whitney Creek to camp. Horse packers used that spot years ago. I once melted my lighter there trying to light some twigs to fry the (small) fish I'd caught in the creek. Twigs and all wood was too wet due to a recent rain storm!

Good luck with your hike! Read up on altitude sickness.
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Onion Valley to Whitney - best side hikes? Kenjamin 07/16/24 09:01 PM
Hey all,

My friends and I are making the titular hike first week of September via Kearsarge Pass. We're taking almost a full week, so we should have time and energy to make some hikes tangential to the main trail. Is there anywhere specific you'd recommend? I've seen Arctic Lake and Matlock Lake recommended-- but anywhere else? Are there any side hikes worth structuring our week around (i.e., planning campsites), like maybe Vidette Lakes or Wright Lakes?

Thanks!
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