Posted by whiskers, 06-19-07

How do you reach the summit when you are 80 lbs overweight and totally out of shape? I know, because I did it on Sunday; very slowly, one step at a time. About two weeks before the trip, I was invited to join a group who had lost a member, so I had very little time to engage in any sort of conditioning activity. I did, however, have previous backpacking experience (including Whitney) and a thorough knowledge of where exactly my limits lay. I knew that (1) I would need to pace myself carefully, and go very slowly, avoiding overexertion, and (2) If things were going poorly, I would descend rather than exceed those limits.

We got a later-than-hoped-for start on Saturday at 7:45, and proceeded at a glacial pace (mine; my hiking buddy very patiently slowed to my pace), arriving a trail camp at about 5:00. We hit the switchbacks at 6:00am Sunday, and summited about noon. On the way back down the switchbacks, my hiking buddy and I split up -- she made it down in 45 minutes, it took my old knees twice that long! Another member of our party did not descend until 7pm, so we left for the portal at 8pm, guaranteeing that most of our descent would be under cover of darkness (ironically, my last Whitney trip also involved descending by flashlight, due to one party member's wet equipment). We didn't reach the car until 1:00am, and then had an 8 hour drive home, since some in our party had to work Monday afternoon.

If I had known I would have the opportunity for this trip, I would have trained in advance, and I would not do it again without training first (the extra weight is too hard on the knees!) but I did want to make the point that even hikers who are not in top shape can do this climb if they are willing to slow the pace to one that they can handle. Many hikers more fit than I am have failed, and I suspect it is often because they set a pace that they are not capable of sustaining for 22 miles and 6,000-odd feet of elevation gain/loss. I calculated that my time on the trail (including rest stops but not our time at the summit) was about 24 hours; much longer than the day hikers routinely spend. Listen to your body, set the pace that is right for YOU, drink plenty of water, eat even when you don't feel like it, and be willing to abandon your attempt rather than overextending yourself, and you CAN do this hike!

Posted by jaridge, 06-19-07

Congratulations! You knew your goal and you went for it. I always rate hikes after I have completed them. If I were to rate them during the hike most would be difficult. After you've achieved them you have a little more perspective. I'm hiking Mt. Whitney for the first time as a day hike on July 16th (my 50th birthday). Wish me luck.

Posted by FF Ron, 06-19-07
Great job Whiskers! Congrats.

The wife and I have recently started up hiking again and hope to make an attempt next year.

The family and I(wife and a 9 & 6 yr old) will be up tomorrow hiking in to Lone Pine Lake for the afternoon. It's a scouting trip for further exploration.

One again Congrats!

Posted by whiskers, 06-19-07
Good luck! And good weather-karma. It was glorious for us -- hope it stays that way. I'll be watching for your after-hike report :-)

Posted by norweejunwood, 06-20-07
i'm a big fan of the buddy system, and too often hikers use the argument of having to "keep their own pace" and they dump on the slowest members or member of a group. i know there are pros and cons of that argument but i just hate to see someone left alone if hiking with a group; things happen like dehydration, altitude sickness, or twisted ankles and it's always nice to have a buddy nearby to help out. anyway whiskers, your pal made a gracious move by hanging with you on the way up and don't be hesitant to continue to express your appreciation long after the hike is over. he or she must be a heckuva person.

Posted by MooseTracks, 06-20-07
Whiskers: Congrats! That's the exact same approach I take when I'm out hoofin' around, especially if I'm out with Richard or Mike or some of the other speed demons. The whole process is one foot in front of the other!

Sounds like you made a lot of important decisions, the greatest of which was listening to and respecting your body and it's abilities. I have been exactly where you are, and my kick in the pants came when a coach told me I was "too big" to paddle for the first crew in our outrigger canoe club. I remember that line now every time I take off my heavy pack: I can take the weight on and off at will now!

BTW: Are you using trekking poles? I LOVE them for saving my legs and knees!

Kudos to both you and your hiking partner! You should be extremely proud of your accomplishment, and I can't wait to hear about more adventures!


Posted by fish395, 06-20-07
Hey Whiskers,

Congrats on your summit.It's amazing what you can do when you pace yourself and take your time.I haul my 6'3",276lb.butt all over the Eastern Sierra.I was up over 500 lbs 6 years ago and still hiked only alot slower.Now I float up and down the trails.Happy hiking.
"At least I have a Peak named after me"

Posted by bobcat, 06-22-07
Whiskers, congratulations. I made my first summit when I was not in the best of condition but I had done a summit of White Mountain a few months previous. I guess that hike helped more than I could ever imagine I did White Mountain while not even being able to run a hundred feet without turning blue! I have since started a running program and do a couple of miles every few days just to keep the cardio/vascular system tuned (at 62.) I don't ever want to not be able to go up at least some portion of this great mountain. I also lost a ton of weight too and the mountains help keep it off.

Posted by DocRodneydog, 06-22-07
Congrats Whiskers,
Great job. I agree with you that it is about the pace you set for yourself.I don't think going too slow ever stopped someone from summiting.I know that too fast a pace has ended many attempts.Way to go. I took 15 1/4 hours from Outpost to Summit back to Outpost on Wednesday arriving at 10:00 PMin total pith black darkness..

Posted by josh, 07-03-07
Take it at your own pace (weather permitting.) In June '02, I averaged 1.5 mph. Don't have any notes on the second trip in '03, but in June '07 it was more like 1.0 mph (not counting overnighting at Trail Camp each time.) Oh well, went to the summit and back again anyway.