Two newbies acclimatize without camping

Posted by Click, 08-07-07
Location: Westford, Mass

First of all, I want to say that I have been lurking on this site for over a year, and it is an amazing resource. Thanks to all of you who are so willing to share your expertise and opinions with us newbies, with a special nod to VersatileFred for the huge amount of orientation info he has pulled together.

My husband and I love to hike, but we are not campers, so when we decided to attempt a day hike of Whitney, camping beforehand at the usual high-elevation campsites wasn't an option for us. In addition, it is our custom to rest for several days before a really big hike, and my husband's knee is bothering him a little these days, so we ruled out the usual suggested multi-mile acclimatizing hikes. Since we were coming from sea level, we knew we needed a serious acclimatization plan, so we did the following, taking suggestions I've seen on this board.

On Saturday night, we slept in a tent cabin in Yosemite at the White Wolf Lodge, 8000 ft. (It's a tent, but it's not really camping--they even supply you with linens!) We spent Sunday touristing along Tioga Rd (9000ish ft) and exploring the Mono Lake area before heading to the Mammoth Mountain Inn (8900 ft) where we spent Sunday night. On Monday, we took the gondola to the top of Mammoth Mountain (11,000 ft) and spent the day alternating between snacking, people watching, studying the exhibits in the Interpretive Center, and walking the slight uphill to the "Scenic Viewpoint" (less than 1 mile round trip). These short walks were the key, I think--we learned how to find our "zone" in thin air by slowing our pace until we could walk uphill without panting.

On Sunday night, we stayed again at the Mammoth Mountain Inn. On the way to Lone Pine on Monday morning, we stopped at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest to see amazing 4000-year-old trees and get in one last short high-elevation hike (10,000 ft). Then we drove to the Portal (8000+ ft) to scope it out and chat with returning hikers. We checked into our motel in Lone Pine early on Monday afternoon (the Trails Motel, which proved to be clean, comfortable, and quiet) packed our packs, then rested and napped.

We began our hike at almost exactly midnight on August 1. Neither of us felt any neasuea or headache as we plodded along slowly but surely, taking breaks to eat and drink. Each time we found ourselves getting breathless, we slowed our pace a bit. We reached the summit at 8:15. Woo-hoo!! We both had a good appetite on the top, and we felt good on the trip down. Our plan worked well for us.

Doing much of the uphill hiking before sunrise also worked well for us--it was cool, so we didn't sweat much, so water wasn't a big worry. Hiking by the full moon was wonderful, and the views on the way down (that we missed in the dark on the way up) were a great surprise and kept us moving along happily on the way down! Something else that kept us moving on the way down were the darkening clouds building behind us over Trail Crest. We didn't see any lightning and we didn't get rained on, but the sky was menacing enough that a few of the backpackers we met on the way up were trying to decide whether to continue on or hunker down where they were. Does anybody know if it rained (or worse) that day (Wednesday, August 1)?

A tip: By the time we got our Whitney dayhike permit confirmation in March, there were no high-elevation accommodations (White Wolf and Tuolumne Meadows) available in Yosemite. About a month before we left for our trip it occurred to me to start checking online for cancellations. In just a few days, we got a reservation for the tent cabin at White Wolf.

Another tip: We paid for Mammoth Mountain gondola tickets online before we left and took advantage of a promotion to get 2 tickets for the price of one. If we had waited and bought them at the mountain, we would have paid full price.

Another tip: A bearclaw from Schat's bakery (bought the day before as we passed through Bishop) made a great breakfast the morning of the hike!


Posted by corazon525, 08-07-07
Congratulations! Sounds like a great vacation and successful summit. My past Whitney day hike summit adventures have been preceded with similar acclimation strategies. Too many nights trying to sleep in a tent just wears me out, especially at altitude. Yosemite and Mammoth are wonderful places for spending time at altitude. Next time try hiking to the top of Mammoth. The gondola ride down is free for those who make it to the top under their own power. Also, you didn't mention one of the most popular Whitney Portal experiences - a burger and fries at "Chez Doug". If this wasn't part of your recent trip, you now have another reason to return.

PS: Try the jalapeno cheese bread at Schaats!

Posted by Click, 08-07-07
We came very close to hiking to the top of Mammoth Mountain, but in the end decided in favor of fully resting my husband's knee and riding up. We definitely did not forget a visit to "ChezDoug"'s after the hike. Maybe I was especially in need of a carb/fat boost after a long day, but those hand-cut fries hot from the frier were the best I ever tasted--even with that yummy burger sitting there on the plate, I couldn't stop scarfing down the fries.

Posted by VersatileFred, 08-07-07
Wow! You even hiked two days after a full moon to have the moon up during the early morning hours. It sure sounds like you did your research. Just out of curiosity, did you fly in and out of Reno (and if so, did you like the drive)?
Orientation Notes for Whitney First Timers

Posted by Click, 08-07-07
Fred, we flew into San Jose and out of Long Beach. After a recovery day in Lone Pine (including a visit to the Manzanar National Historic site north of Lone Pine, which is quite an experience), we headed to Death Valley--we simply couldn't pass up the opportunity to stand on the highest point and the lowest point in the lower 48 on the same vacation. We know, we know, it was the wrong season to visit, but we made a point of getting up very early and we were out well before the heat of day hit. We also visited Joshua Tree National Park (again, hitting it very early in the morning) and finished our vacation with some hiking on Santa Cruz Island (Channel Islands National Park). In case you can't tell, we are big fans of National Parks! The entire trip was absolutely amazing, and the scenery was consistently mind-boggling!

Posted by Ken, 08-07-07
Cindy, great report!

You guys sure did it right. For those who don't enjoy camping, I can't imagine a better program than the one you followed.

I was sailing around Santa Cruz Is about that time, I wonder if I saw your shuttle coming into the island!
Bonatti backed off the Croz Spur 7 times before doing it.
He said "Great climbers die in their rocking chairs."

Posted by VersatileFred, 08-07-07
Santa Cruz Island! I see it in the distance quite often on my my to work. We have been having ash/smoke fallout in the area the past two weeks from a wildfire up in the Santa Barbara area. It makes the sunsets more orange.
Orientation Notes for Whitney First Timers

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