Hi. My hiking Partner (Paul) and I successfully summited for the first time on Sunday 8/14 after an overnight at Trail Camp.
We both received lots of great information out of this forum to prepare us for our hike, so I'd like to return the karma by posting a trip report here in case there's any information of value to any future first timers..
My partner had some backpacking experience I have very little. We are in okay but not great physical condition. I think we had pretty good gear and supplies.
My partner spent the night on Thursday at Lone Pine campground in order to get an extra day of acclimation. I joined him on Friday at the Portal Campground. Lots of reported bear activity at the campground, but we didn't see/hear anything that night.
I was sure to carbo-load the night before with a big container of my wife's whole wheat pasta I'd brought from home.
We were up at 7:30 and I started chowing on power bars. Had a GU before setting off. It took longer than expected to get our gear ready and get parked (all the lots were full) and to the the trailhead. I ended up with a 45lb pack (my partner 40lb). In retrospect I was probably carrying too much water. I'd rather have filtered along the many opportunities along the way.
We were on the trail at 9:45AM.
We made the creek just below Lone Pine Lake by noon. We took a long break here and I fueled up on power bars, GU and trail mix. My partner used the opportunity to filter some water.
1:00 we made the meadow and Outpost Camp. We were fortunate to have good weather, but light cloud cover that really helped protect us from the sun as we left the tree line above Mirror Lake.
4:15 we made Trail Camp.
I started to get a low grade head ache. My partner was having trouble with his sinus' and allergies the entire time up. We were too exhausted to do much at this point but set up camp, eat and sit around getting cold (as soon as the shadow of the mountain reaches the camp site the temperature drops pretty dramatically).
Protein bars and Pasta for dinner.
We sacked out at 8:00PM set for a 5:00AM wake-up. Sleep was difficult but not impossible.
Woke up at 4:00AM couldn't sleep. Got up at 5:00AM feeling tired--still had a mild head ache, but rested enough to tackle the switchbacks. We did not bring day packs. We unloaded everything from our packs but our water bladders, trail food (power bars and GU for me), and emergency supplies.
Tiny bit of nausea but still had an appetite. A couple of power bars and GU. No nausea. I took some low-dose aspirin and did so regularly (maybe one every 4 hours) while above 11,000.
My partner has had migraine-style head aches due to AMS above 10,000 on previous hiking trips, but did not report any severe head aches on this trip.
5:30AM hit the trail.
I filled up a second bladder at the spring as we made our way up the switch backs. I'm carrying about 3.5L
99 Switchbacks were brutal but we were rested enough and the pre-dawn excitement made it one of the high points of the trip, personally.
6:30AM reached the cables.
7:30AM reached the crest. Walking up to the view of Sequoia NP made the entire trip, even if we hadn't summitted. Really breathtaking stuff.
9:35AM reached the snow field below the summit.
10:00AM summit. Plenty of people here during "prime time." Lots of friendly people both directions along the trail.
Still had a mild head ache but nothing major. Maybe a '4'.
10:30AM started back down.
12:00 noon reached the crest
99 Switchbacks were more brutal coming down than going up. They seem to last forever. Really took a beating in the lower legs.
1:45PM back to Trail Camp. More power bars/GU. Packing full packs with exhausted legs was pretty demoralizing at this point. It was going to be a long haul down.
2:30PM depart Trail Camp.
3:45PM reached the tree line again above Mirror Lake. Thank God! With no cloud cover the sun was brutal while descending the rocky terrain with exhausted legs between Trail Camp and Mirror Lake. Tough stuff. Do not forget the sun screen, people.
4:20PM reached the meadow.
5:00PM reached Lone Pine Lake. Lots of mosquitos! Bring insect repellent, people. They were biting me through my shirt!
Now at 10,000 realized that my head ache (which had been with me since 11K the previous day) was completely gone.
6:45PM reached the trail head. Exhausted.
Two days later I still have difficulty walking due to my sore calves and some blisters.
Lessons learned (what I would do the same or different next time):
* Powerbars and GU make great trail food for this type of physically demanding trek. Don't regret them at all. They gave me lots of energy and were convenient along the trail. When you're tired and just want to get "there" it's difficult to talk oneself into stopping and eating. So I think the GU/powerbars were convenient enough to keep fueling me. I would steer away from the GU with caffeine next time though as it made hydration more challenging.
* Trekking poles were helpful up and down.
* Carry less weight in water and plan on filling along the way given many good sites for water. I think a water filter is a must for this trip.
* Leave earlier to arrive a Trail Camp earlier. I would have liked to get a rest upon arrival then had more energy/time for the lake and to enjoy the view.
* Bring and use sun screen, bug spray, chapstick, and plan on blisters.
* I appreciated my hiking boots for the ankle support, but would rather have worn something more breathable for better care of the feet. On way down I started rotating socks--carrying used socks on the back of my pack to dry. I would rotate socks more often if I did it over again.
* Layers and warm yet weight-economical clothing is essential. We were blessed with good weather but temperature changes at Trail Camp in the evening and behind the mountain on summit morning were dramatic.
* My physical conditioning could have been better, of course. If you're a first timer planning this trip spend plenty of time on the stair-master, run, and take demanding hikes with a full pack and work out the kinks in your gear.
* Don't really know if water, fuel, acclimation and/or aspirin helped with the AMS, but it didn't seem to be a problem with either of us.
Overall a fantastic experience. I don't think I'll do it again until my boys are old enough to join me--then I think it would be a wonderful family experience.