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Whitney first timer question
#15981 07/02/11 12:55 PM
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I am a beginner hiker 35yrs old, who signed up for the Mt. Whitney lottery 3 months back hoping I would train and be ready for my over-night hike July 23rd/24th.
Unfortunately I barely trained so far and just started doing some hikes and hitting the gymn since last week. I intend to be religious with my training atleast these last 3 weeks. I am hoping some of the experience folks on this forum can answer some of my questions (in some cases dumb ones):

* Should I even be thinking of attempting it given my training level?. Or should I attempt it keeping in mind I should turn back should my gut indicate I can't make it.
* Will the snow have melted on the switchbacks by July 23rd/24th or should I be prepared for snow and the chute?.
* Given that I have 3 weeks what is the best way to utilize these 3 weeks to train?.

Thanks a lot in advance.

- Vamsi.

Re: Whitney first timer question
vamsi #15982 07/02/11 01:05 PM
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My opinions:

Yes, I think you should absolutely give it a go. But like you said in the second part, be just as prepared to not summit as to summit. The mountain will always be there next week, next month, next year. The idea is for you to be around too. Besides, by going, even if you don't summit, you gain valuable experience that will help you on your second bid.

I get the feeling that by your dates, the snow will probably be melted to the point that the switchbacks will be ready for use, and you'll be able to avoid the chute. I have no scientific evidence to back up my feeling, but with the recent heat and TRs, it just seems like three more weeks will be enough to make them usable.

Best way to train is to go out and enjoy the freedom of the hills. Hike, hike and hike. I have a small child at home that requires a lot of attention and can not hike, so I spent a lot of time in the gym. I'd max out the incline on the treadmill and walk at a rapid pace. Get on the stair climber. Ride the bikes. Those were my big three when I couldn't hike this year to prepare. In my opinion, nothing in a gym can prepare you for hiking better than hiking itself. But the gym will still definitely help.


One day I'd like to hike the entire John Muir Trail and not leave a single footprint. -Randy Morgenson
Re: Whitney first timer question
GandC #15983 07/02/11 02:54 PM
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Thanks for your response and good insights. Hopefully the snow will be gone on the switchbacks as I have never used crampons/ice axe's before. I intend to do a mix of gymn/hiking everyday.

Thanks again.
- Vamsi.

Re: Whitney first timer question
vamsi #15985 07/02/11 06:23 PM
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Vamsi,
I had a number of setbacks in my training last year and was going more or less strong eight miles into the hike, but got AMS almost at the end of the switchbacks and turned around at 13,550ft. I had been hiking consistently during winter/spring (6-8 mile outings every weekend), but it dropped to almost nothing after having my wisdom teeth pulled out in April so I could get braces.

I would recommend you do at least a 12-15 mile hike that takes you above 10,000 feet. If you live in So Cal I'd recommend San Jacinto Mountain. If you start on the Idyllwild side at Humber Park it's a 15-miler that takes you up through Devil's Slide and then through pretty beautiful So Cal forest land. Views from the peak are amazing. I went up three weeks ago and there was water at a few spots (check w/ the rangers for current conditions).

My Whitney attempt last year was on July 8th. I'm doing my 2nd attempt in less than three weeks... July 21st... and I'm hoping for snow/ice free switchbacks. I'm actually more concerned with the cables than w/ the switchbacks. Last year there was a tiny bit of ice on some parts of the switchbacks, but the cables were packed with snow. Made it across on a rock ledge less than 12" wide. I have no crampons/ice axe experience either so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for blistering weather over the next three weeks!

Regards,
Luis

Re: Whitney first timer question
DonCoqui #15986 07/02/11 07:01 PM
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Altitude acclimation is just as important as getting into physical condition. And the conditioning will NOT help you acclimate!

If you can get to a summit a few days before, that will help. But the best way to acclimate is to spend two nights at 8-10,000 ft elevation before you start your hike. Whitney Portal is 8,000, and Horseshoe Meadows is 10,000.

Horseshoe meadows has walk-in camp sites that always seem to be available.

Re: Whitney first timer question
vamsi #15987 07/02/11 08:15 PM
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Definitely go for it! Conditioning is 99% mental. Presuming you are reasonably fit, you should do just fine, if you *want* to. I am pushing 60, and Whitney was the "grand finale" of my two JMT treks. Plenty of hikers who were far more fit than I will ever be, quit because it was "way too hard!"
That said, CLIMB, CLIMB, CLIMB! Hike up steep trails, at the highest altitudes possible in your area. I live in So California, so I hike Old Baldy or Mt San Jacinto a couple times each week. If you live someplace flat, use the stair climber at the gym, for an hour or two, if other patrons are not waiting for it, to build muscles and endurance.
Lack of acclimation is way more likely to turn you back than ho-hum training. Spend a minimum of one full day and night at altitude before your hike, preferably 3-5 days, if time allows. Whitney Portal campground may be booked by now, but there are a couple of first-come-first-serve campgrounds at Horseshoe Meadows (Cottonwood Lakes TH), which is at 10,000 feet. Kick back and explore the area for a day or two. Hike up to Lone Pine Lake, explore the Meysan Lakes trail, or try fishing in the Cottonwood Lakes.
Keep your pack light. When in doubt, leave it at home!
You mentioned you are new to hiking. Do make sure you are comfortable with every piece of gear you bring, long before you hit the trail. It is *not fun* trying to figure out unfamiliar gear, when it is 15 degrees and you are hungry...
Even with perfect training, and a perfect plan, sometimes nature has other plans. Be safe. Follow your gut. Embrace and enjoy. Go, and have a blast!

Re: Whitney first timer question
vamsi #15988 07/03/11 04:53 AM
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Training for a backpacking trip is over sold. It actually takes very little training. The hardest part of your trip will be going 6-miles, +3,700' under a pack load. This isn't easy but it ain't 22-miles, + and - 6,000'.

I'm big going and learning. If you fail, you fail. The mountain ain't going anywhere and you would hopefully learn from your mistakes.

My guess the switchback will have been forced by late July. Which means you will still be hiking on snow to some degree...there is always snow/ice at the cables.

Personally, I would push my daily train out to at least 5 days a week, 6 is better. I run to keep my legs in backpacking shape. Figure a good hard 4-miles a day would do you good. On your last weekend, I'd fill my backpack up with what I was going to have and day hike from Angelus Oaks to Limber Bench in the San Gorgonio Wilderness, if you are a SoCal. This is about the same profile as WP to Trail Camp. If you can't make there, you have to have a good long conversation with yourself about heading to Lone Pine.

Re: Whitney first timer question
wbtravis #16001 07/03/11 08:00 PM
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This forum rocks!. Thanks again to everyone who shared their thoughts.

@DonCoqui: Thanks for sharing your experiences. I am also hoping for a relative ice/snow free path.

@SteveC: Thanks for the advice unfortunately I dont have enough vacation to spend 2-3 days before the hike. I'll be doing this as a weekend trip. But, I'm in the bayarea so I'm targeting to do Mt.Dana/Half Dome the week before. Mt. Dana is 13500ft so hopefully that will help me a little bit. We are also doing Mt. Whitney as an overnighter and will be camping at trail camp which will hopefully help as well.

@longwalk: I'm trying to do the most strenuous hikes in my area. Worst case I intend to tough it out and am hoping it is mostly mental as well smile. And try to make it slow and steadily to the top smile. I'm reasonably fit but not in great shape either. I did a 10 mile loop today with about 2700ft elevation gain to give you an idea. Good advice on the gear I'll sure I try/learn abt everything before the trip.

@wbtravis: Good advice on the training regimen. Since the last couple of days I've been doing a 5 mile loop ever morning which has a 2200ft elevation gain. I intend to continue this everday till my hike date. I will also will hit the gymn in between to work on my quads and calfs.

Thanks again all you guys and HAPPY 4th of JULY to all!!..

Cheers
- Vamsi.

Re: Whitney first timer question
vamsi #16004 07/03/11 08:09 PM
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Mt Dana is a very good one to climb the weekend before Whitney. It will help some!

Half Dome is a good conditioning hike, but it only reaches 8,000', so not much use for acclimation.

Last edited by Steve C; 07/03/11 08:10 PM.
Re: Whitney first timer question
vamsi #16005 07/03/11 08:14 PM
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vamsi -
based on what i saw yesterday afternoon (please see my Trip Report in that forum).... the switchbacks will be "doable" when you want to climb. you may want an ice axe and crampons/microspikes (and know how to use them) with you just in case.

in terms of training, IMHO long multi-hour hikes are key.... ideally a couple of training hikes of 5+ hours. it sounds like you have a few of those planned and at some altitude. take good notes on what you eat/drink and how your body reacts to Mt. Dana. that will be key to figuring out your plan for Whitney.

Re: Whitney first timer question
vamsi #16012 07/04/11 11:24 AM
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Vamsi,
Not sure how close you are to the East Bay, but Mount Diablo offers some good trails both as a hiker and/or cyclist. Views are hit and miss depending on the weather. As far as gear is concerned I bought a set of Kahtoola microspikes earlier this year and I'm thinking about getting the Black Diamond ice axe on stock at my local REI (I think it retails for $79 -- it was on sale for $59 during the May/Memorial Day weekend sale). The microspikes will help keep you upright on a little bit of ice, but I wouldn't count on them on a steep incline covered with snow as on MtW's Chute. I used them the last quarter of a mile of San Jacinto peak (in Riverside Cty) three weeks ago and they helped some. I'm planning on taking them up the switchbacks on the 21st... there was some very thin ice on the switchbacks on my attempt last July (8th). I was so freaking tired after Trail Camp last year that my head was set on taking one more step and not whether I could slip on my butt... oh, that was ice?!? f**k...

I grew up in Puerto Rico where the total snowfall on the island since the last Ice Age is 0". Glissading?!? What is that?

BTW, I'm also taking some Okkie Goretex for the two fork crossings at thebeginning of MWMT.

smile
Luis

PS. Eating above 12,000' was a challenge for me. I took lots of cycling food I use at sea level... YUK... I wanted to puke. I'm not planning on taking ANY Cliff Bars on a tour of Whitney this year... no trail mix either (braces)... I'm taking good European cheese, vanilla GU, Ginseng HoneyStingers, and home made salmon jerky. It will all be packed where I can get to it w/o taking off my backpack.

Re: Whitney first timer question
DonCoqui #16014 07/04/11 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted By: DonCoqui

PS. Eating above 12,000' was a challenge for me. I took lots of cycling food I use at sea level... YUK... I wanted to puke.

nothing wrong with the food
sounds like one of the classic symptoms of AMS

Re: Whitney first timer question
Harvey Lankford #16020 07/04/11 03:49 PM
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I have the same problem eating over 12,000' most times...and I use Diamox. I usually stop and eat big before going over 12,000' because there is a good chance I will not want anything to eat until I get somewhere around 10,000'.

I find if you slow down a bit and stay hydrated the chances of it happening go way down, YMMV. My problem is I like to go fast...well, fast for me.

Last edited by wbtravis; 07/04/11 03:51 PM.

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