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#14763 - 06/03/11 08:02 AM Mt Whitney Trail -- AMS report
Terry Offline

Registered: 06/03/11
Posts: 22
Loc: California
(Originally posted in Current Conditions thread, but better on its own.)

My sons are 17 (he'll be going off to college in September) and 14 (he'll be starting high school in August). The younger one got altitude sickness about 1/2 mile from the summit last time (in October) and the rest of the boy scouts (3 older teens and 2 Dads) left us behind to fend for ourselves.

My son had been complaining about not having any feeling in his fingers and toes plus he kept saying that he just wanted to go to sleep. The others were determined to make the summit so the went ahead and my son and I tried to follow but he started to not walk in a straight line and his eyes rolled to the back of his head. The others had taken the emergency radio and my blackberry had no reception so I didn't know if I should force him to go to the summit and then I could summon a helicopter to pick him up, or if I should turn back. When his eyes rolled back, I made the decision to go back...and as you know, it is not all downhill at that point. I held on to the back of his jacket and carried both sets of hiking poles and both backpacks. I'm only 5'5" and my son was almost 6' tall, lean and muscular but still weighing more then me. He slipped twice but both times I held on since I was not going to let him fall off the cliff. It had started to snow and there was lots of packed snow so it was slippery. Obviously, we made it down but the "windows" part I was really scared since my son kept telling me that he couldn't do it...but I forced him to walk in front of me while I held on to him for dear life. I have never forgiven the boy scouts and "men" for leaving me on the side of a 3 foot ledge with a 13 year old who was obviously in bad shape.

With all this said, my older son who is an Eagle Scout, is coming with us this time. Last time he had some exams in school that he couldn't miss or else, had he been there, he would have made sure that everyone stayed together (and he would have never left me and his younger brother on a 3 foot ledge while it was snowing, with an icy trail and an obviously sick hiker). Therefore, this trip is to make up for not reaching the summit the last time and we are NEVER going with the boy scout troop again. And this time we are going to do it in a day. I know we are strong enough but we will take it a little slower on the son ran up like a jackrabbit and I think that contributed to his subsequent illness.

Very long story to give you some idea of my motivation/experience.....

I thought 1:00 AM would be good since we probably won't sleep all that much the night before. We were all going to take a light sleeping pill around 6 or 7 PM so that we could get up and feel refreshed. If you think 1 is too early, what would you suggest? I want to make sure that we make it up and down in one day and I would like to get back while it is still daylight. Maybe if we get up at 2:30 and start hiking around 3 AM that might be better. I just want enough time to get this done. Last time we carried 30 - 40 lb back packs since we stayed at Trail Camp. This time we only need very light day packs so our time should be much better if we keep a slow and steady pace.

Please let me know what you think. Thanks.

Edited by Steve C (06/25/11 12:55 PM)
Edit Reason: topic change

#14765 - 06/03/11 08:48 AM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Terry]
Steve C Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7742
Loc: Fresno, CA
Wow, Terry! That's quite a story. There has been some strong discussion regarding Scouts and their behavior on trails. I'd put your troupe and experience on the negative side of the card.

There are others here who are scouting leaders, and they are the opposite: Fantastic leaders, and know about keeping the group together, as WELL as the proper acclimation for their scouts.

Since your younger son has demonstrated a serious negative reaction to the altitude, it is imperative that you get him to altitude and spend TWO nights at the altitude BEFORE you start hiking. The best recommendation is to drive up to Horseshoe Meadows (south off the Whitney Portal road) and camp there two nights. Elevation is 10,000, walk-in campground usually has ample space. It will get your son far better adjusted to the altitude than anything else you can do. Here's a thread: Trail Peak: Warmup / acclimatization hike

Also, go to your doctor and get some Diamox. 125 mg once or twice a day is the recommended level for the altitude. Do NOT take higher doses. Start it the day you start the acclimation process.

Keep the jackrabbit urge in check. Slow and steady will help prevent the exhaustion that can really increase the altitude issues.

Drink drink drink! About a pint an hour. 2-3 liters should be carried from last water spot (Trail Camp.) Some electrolytes will help. Urination should be every few hours, and should be clear. Snacking often, especially lower on the trail is good. Appetite could disappear as you get higher, so food in the belly earlier is good.

I like your 3 a.m. (or later) starting plan. You could camp at Horseshoe, and still drive to Whitney Portal that morning. Drive time is about 40 minutes.

I hope more people will add their input here...

#14778 - 06/03/11 03:15 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Steve C]
Terry Offline

Registered: 06/03/11
Posts: 22
Loc: California
Thanks so much for your suggestions. I really appreciate your input and feedback. If you hear anthing more about the trail conditions prior to June 28th, please let me know...and of course, I'll keep checking back and looking at any postings on this site. Thanks again.

#14780 - 06/03/11 03:32 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Terry]
2600fromatari Offline

Registered: 10/18/10
Posts: 453
Loc: San Diego
If the weather holds up and I can get a permit, I'll have a trip report for you next Sunday when I come back.

That's not a good story to hear Terry, but I'm glad you and your son made it back in one piece. Your son has the same problems as I do: easily susceptible to AMS, and too much adrenaline. I do fine as long as I keep a "conversation pace". I've gotten excited before and blew up a mountain and immediately paid the price with nauseating headaches.

Sleep at the Horseshoe Meadows campground as Steve said. That's 10,000 ft to help you acclimate (not to mention the drive up has great views). You guys sound tough, a dayhike shouldn't be a problem. LOL, if I can do it, anyone can.

#14782 - 06/03/11 03:44 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Terry]
quillansculpture Offline

Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 564
Loc: Murrieta, CA
I start the day before the hike and take a bit less Diamox. I also take two Extra Strength Excedrin before the hike. I up my daily dosage of CoQ10 and Ginkgo a couple of weeks before the hike. Have no idea if any of that works and scientific research says it shouldn't help, but no headache so far.

Water, water and water will help. Along with water, take some Cytomax, Gatorade or Vitalyte during your hike. Find some food you know you will eat. The sandwich that is so tasty at sea level often times is repulsive at 12,500 feet. So, a variety of foods, sncks. Gary (Bulldog34) turned me on to peanut M and M's. I like Snickers. My favorite bar is Clif bars. When Gary and I summited last time, there was a smorgasbord of food at the top of Whitney, including deserts, meats, etc. I checked it out and while I could have chosen anything, I chose an apple. It was delicious.

Not sure if you've done this, but read Doug Thompson's book. Check out videos of the main trail and there is even a map of available water stops somewhere on this site (Steve?)

Most important.... take your time and enjoy yourself. Bring a camera.

Okay....two more: Pee on the downhill side of the trail away from any water sources. And....use your wag bags.
"Turtles, Frogs & other Environmental Sculpture"
twitter: @josephquillan

If less is more, imagine how much more, more is -Frasier

#14787 - 06/03/11 09:36 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: quillansculpture]
Steve C Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7742
Loc: Fresno, CA
> and there is even a map of available water stops somewhere on this site
Here you go... (buried in this thread.)

Water sources: Main Trail and Mountaineer's Route, includes maps:

Originally Posted By: Bob R
Here are the places where you can reliably get water along the main Mt. Whitney trail. Accompanying pictures, to help locate the sights as you pass them on the ascent, are here.

Analogous information for the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek has pictures here.

#15247 - 06/17/11 04:15 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: Terry]
rpgiii Offline

Registered: 06/17/11
Posts: 2
Loc: San Francisco
Please do NOT take sleeping pills when you are at altitude.
Part of the problem with AMS is lack of oxygen, especially at night when your respiration slows down. Taking a sleeping pill will depress it even further.
The benefit of Diamox is that it helps your to expel the CO2 when you are sleeping.
I hadn't considered the issue until I was on Mt. Kilimajaro, and misspoke and told the guide that I was going to take an Ambien on the night before summitting when I meant to say Diamox. He got pretty upset until I realized I misspoke.
I've taken lots of first timers up. The main trick is to keep eating and drinking, even if you don't feel like it.
Have fun on the climb, and hope all goes well.

#15283 - 06/18/11 12:56 PM Re: Current Conditions: Mt Whitney Trail [Re: rpgiii]
Terry Offline

Registered: 06/03/11
Posts: 22
Loc: California
Thanks for the info on sleeping pills. I also just changed my trip from June 28th to July 17th. Was lucky enough to call the ranger station and was able to snag a later date so we gave up June 28th for July 17th. Hopefully, the conditions won't be as treacherous. Any new trail updates would be extremely helpful. Thanks.