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#17367 - 08/09/11 06:38 PM Solo, first-timer : a few questions...
csbattle Offline


Registered: 08/09/11
Posts: 4
Loc: San Diego, CA
Hi all,

I've been planning on, and training to hike Whitney for the last year. My permit dates are for next week, 8/16 - 8/17. Unfortunately, the two other hikers in my group dropped out this week. I've done lots of camping, but never backpacked (other than around New Zealand, in hostels). My navigation skills are nil, but I know the rest of my equipment (including my GPS), and am confident in my physical ability. I'd like to go ahead with my trip, and hike it without my original crew, but I'm wondering what others think of this. Is it folly?

My plan is to come up Sunday morning, 8/14, and spend that day and the next hiking around and sleeping at elevation to acclimate. Then I plan, on 8/16, to hike to High Camp and spend the night. I'll leave early in the morning on 8/17, summit, come back to High Camp and spend the night. I'll hike out the last day, 8/18.

Is there much danger of me getting off the trail and getting lost? I know it is well maintained, that there are park officials on the trail, and that it will be crawling with other hikers this time of year. Otherwise I wouldn't even think about it.

Any thoughts? - also, I'd be more than willing to tag along with anyone who is familiar with the trail, and is willing to let me join up with them.

Thanks for reading this!

Curtis

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#17371 - 08/09/11 07:37 PM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: csbattle]
2600fromatari Offline


Registered: 10/18/10
Posts: 452
Loc: San Diego
Curtis, go for it!!! You'll be fine on the main trail. Like you said, there is an army of other hikers on the trail. You might make new friends. I'm also assuming you must be talking about Trail Camp. There is also Outpost Camp at a lower elevation, but no High Camp.

I went up the North Fork and took the main trail down. Zoom in on this picture and you can see how busy Trail Camp was this past weekend.



I did my first trip not nearly prepared as well as you and made it back alive. :-) While having friends along definitely has its merits, you'll still have fun, and have the satisfaction of achieving this yourself. The trail is very easy to follow, especially if you're backpacking in the light.

There's also a GPX file floating around here and all over the web for your GPS...just in case. Relax, and plan on taking great pictures and report it back here!

EDIT: You might want to bring Deet. It wasn't bad when I came back down, but the next day at the Cottonwood Lakes a few miles away from the Whitney Zone, I was attacked mercilessly by the mosquitoes. Also bring a water filter and/or Iodine tabs. I used to think the water at Whitney was clean. When I went up this June, a guy got sick drinking unfiltered water at Trail Camp. This trip when coming down, I don't think I've ever seen so many wag bags ON THE TRAIL. mad What's up with these people?!


Edited by 2600fromatari (08/09/11 07:43 PM)

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#17373 - 08/09/11 08:13 PM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: 2600fromatari]
quillansculpture Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 552
Loc: Murrieta, CA
Curtis....just do it. You'll have a blast. I did come down from the summit alone on my last trip, but just for a couple of miles, maybe less until I hooked up with a hiker who ran out of water. It's a very freeing experience.

Bring plenty of water, a filter so you don't have to carry as much. There is basically no water above the 23rd switchback, with the exception of snow runoff, which is good to filter.

Also, the trail above Mirror Lake can get a bit confusing, but just watch for other hikers and head up! Look for ducks/cairns to help guide your way.

That's one thing I do want to do, is hike it by myself.

Have fun.
_________________________
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twitter: @josephquillan

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

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#17375 - 08/09/11 09:17 PM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: csbattle]
tdtz Offline


Registered: 08/26/10
Posts: 511
Loc: CA
Hey Curtis,
I did Whitney last year solo. Well, kinda solo. I met two guys on the trail who obviously hiked at the same pace as me, so we ended up hiking together for much of the two days we were on the trail.

I like the three day plan that you have. Last year the first day was great...a pleasant hike to Trail Camp with plenty of time to catch the beautiful scenery. The second day I went to the summit and then all the way back down to the portal. This is totally doable, but it really is a grind and you don't get to enjoy the hike down as much. Spending that extra night at trail camp is a great idea.
td

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#17381 - 08/10/11 06:10 AM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: csbattle]
+ @ti2d Offline


Registered: 10/22/09
Posts: 804
Loc: Oh Cursed, USA
You won't get lost...

You will make new friends...

Take your time...take it all in...

You will have fun...
_________________________
Have fun and enjoy the Gr8 Yd Opn.

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#17387 - 08/10/11 07:50 AM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: csbattle]
csbattle Offline


Registered: 08/09/11
Posts: 4
Loc: San Diego, CA
Thank you all so much for the swift replies! My confidence waned a little when my buddies dropped out. Now I'm pumped! I'll let you all know how it went when I get back.

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#17392 - 08/10/11 09:28 AM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: csbattle]
Rod Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 660
Loc: Santa Clarita, Ca. USA
You certainly won't be alone and the trail is ridiculously easy to follow. Joe is right there is one section on granite past Mirror lake that is tougher to see the trail. Follow someone or look closely it is only a short section and the trail becomes clear again.Enjoy and we look forward to your trip report.Make sure you read the orientation notes for first timers and what can go wrong links to the left of the page here.Read recent trip reports and have a great time.

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#17395 - 08/10/11 10:16 AM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: csbattle]
CaT Offline


Registered: 09/24/09
Posts: 694
Loc: Blacklick, OH (formerly SoCal)
My buddies bailed on me this year also, and I ended up doing all my Whitney drainage dayhikes (as well as two new (to me) non-Whitney trails) alone, although I always ran into someone along the way -- some trails more so than others.

You'll be fine.

CaT
_________________________
If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracle of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.
- Lyndon Johnson, on signing the Wilderness Act into law (1964)

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#17407 - 08/10/11 04:06 PM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: csbattle]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1239
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
A GPS is a toy on this trail in the summer. It's good if you want some statistics but that's it. There are upward to 200 people on the trail; therefore, it's difficult to get lost. I don't think I've ever pull my map out on this trail except to identify landmarks.

Generally, it's a very friendly bunch of hikers on the trail that are more than willing to chat you up as you make your way to the summit.

Just go and have fun.

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#17419 - 08/10/11 07:43 PM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: wbtravis]
Akichow Offline


Registered: 04/07/10
Posts: 659
Loc: SF Bay Area
I have started carrying a small altimeter with me instead of a heavy GPS. Nice way to track progress on a trail that generally only goes up. And, if you know your altitude, you can easily pinpoint your exact location on a topo of the Whitney trail.

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#17442 - 08/11/11 12:11 PM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: wbtravis]
CaT Offline


Registered: 09/24/09
Posts: 694
Loc: Blacklick, OH (formerly SoCal)
Originally Posted By: wbtravis
A GPS is a toy on this trail in the summer. It's good if you want some statistics but that's it. There are upward to 200 people on the trail; therefore, it's difficult to get lost. I don't think I've ever pull my map out on this trail except to identify landmarks.

Generally, it's a very friendly bunch of hikers on the trail that are more than willing to chat you up as you make your way to the summit.

Just go and have fun.

Agreed. I don't even own a GPS (and probably never will). From the first time I hiked the Main Trail until now, every time I went further up the trail, until the time I finally summitted (it took me around 3-4 tries over a period of time), I never had any issues with finding the trail. You won't need your GPS.

CaT
_________________________
If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracle of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.
- Lyndon Johnson, on signing the Wilderness Act into law (1964)

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#17444 - 08/11/11 12:27 PM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: CaT]
csbattle Offline


Registered: 08/09/11
Posts: 4
Loc: San Diego, CA
I'm bringing the GPS, really, so that I can map the route. Just for fun. I make maps for a living, so it's just kind of a dorky thing I like to do. I thought it might come in handy, too, if I got myself into a tight spot. It sounds like the chances of that happening are pretty low, though.

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#17449 - 08/11/11 02:11 PM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: csbattle]
ejsurfs Offline


Registered: 03/31/11
Posts: 43
Loc: OC, CA
My friends bailed on me in June and I went ahead with my trip anyway. It was a great adventure that I will never forget and I made some new friends. You will only regret your trip if you don't go! Do it and enjoy it! You'll do great and won't have anyone holding you back. I'm hoping to come back later this month. it is a special place.
_________________________
"If you're gonna be stupid, you've got to be tough."

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#17450 - 08/11/11 04:15 PM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: csbattle]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1254
Loc: Atlanta
Curtis, I soloed Whitney my first time too - in August, actually. Trust me, you're not going to be alone. If more than 15-20 minutes goes by without your running across other folks, I'd be surprised.

As others have noted, the trail is normally very easy to follow, with the possible exception of the slabby area above Mirror Lake. Once you get on pure rock, just pay a little closer attention. From what I've read about the trail conditions after the storm two weekends ago, it sounds as if the washed-out or damaged areas are in the lower-to-mid elevations. You'll likely be hiking in daylight the entire time, so these shouldn't present any great challenge.

For the higher elevations, the 5 miles of trail between Trail Camp and the summit is impossible to lose your way on - assuming you don't make a wrong turn at the John Muir Trail junction. Make a note of this when you pass it on the ascent. A number of people over the years have mistakenly continued down the JMT as they were returning from the summit, usually due to fatigue, AMS, or inattention. There's a very visble directional sign at the junction, but it still happens. Just remember: don't head down to those pretty lakes. You still have to hike up a couple hundred vertical feet to regain Trail Crest.

Enjoy the mountain, and let us know how it goes.

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#17451 - 08/11/11 05:13 PM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: Bulldog34]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Trust me, by the time you have nudged past enough people on the switchbacks(think of it like a Saturday at Disneyland when you keep meeting the same people as the line doubles back on itself, snaking towards the turnstyle) yer gonna wish that you were alone!

I have never been on a more social, chatty trail in my life (pulling my hat lower over the eyes helped cut down on the "SO! Where are YOU from?"), so if you were looking for any solitude, fogeddaboudit!
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#17458 - 08/12/11 03:00 AM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: Bee]
CaT Offline


Registered: 09/24/09
Posts: 694
Loc: Blacklick, OH (formerly SoCal)
Originally Posted By: Bee
Trust me, by the time you have nudged past enough people on the switchbacks(think of it like a Saturday at Disneyland when you keep meeting the same people as the line doubles back on itself, snaking towards the turnstyle) yer gonna wish that you were alone!

I have never been on a more social, chatty trail in my life (pulling my hat lower over the eyes helped cut down on the "SO! Where are YOU from?"), so if you were looking for any solitude, fogeddaboudit!

Sounds more like the Half Dome cables than anywhere on the Main Whitney Trail (including the switchbacks). I always find it interesting to meet new people who have common interests (in this case hiking up Whitney). How often does that opportunity present itself? For most, maybe once or twice in their life, unless they live locally and are in the mountains all the time. Personally, I'm more social and "chatty" (some have said like a 10-year-old) on othe Whitney trail because I'm in a place I love and in my element.

CaT
_________________________
If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracle of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.
- Lyndon Johnson, on signing the Wilderness Act into law (1964)

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#17463 - 08/12/11 07:06 AM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: CaT]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Yes, in some ways an exaggeration, in other ways, not, as my previous experiences backpacking had been mostly backcountry. The Whitney main trail seemed to have a like Disneyland-like atmosphere compared to the backcountry.

I did the switchbacks (coming down) in Sept., and I was shocked at how many people were still using the trail (that time of year). Because they are a "one way" pass, every time someone met up, someone else had to stand aside. Not really that big of deal, but whether I love where I am or otherwise, being outdoors is usually a time of solitude and reflection, so interaction was more of a chore than a welcome activity. I admit that I love being outdoors, but I don't necessarily love being around the general populace (hikers or otherwise).

Anyhow, this is not about what I like or not, rather, it is an affirmation that the original poster will have no worries whatsoever of hiking alone, or the anxieties that may go along with a first time solo trip up Whitney.
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#17632 - 08/18/11 12:33 PM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: csbattle]
csbattle Offline


Registered: 08/09/11
Posts: 4
Loc: San Diego, CA
Hey all,

Thank you so much for your encouragement. I would have missed out on a really great experience had I decided to stay home! Instead, I had a wonderful time this week up on the mountain.

I stayed 2 nights at the Horseshoe Meadows/Cottonwood Lakes campground, which were beautiful, and relaxing. A great place to acclimate. The road up is pretty gnarly if you're not used to driving mountain roads, too.

I started my hike on 8/16, and 8am and was up to Trail Camp by noon. I felt like I was barely moving. I just tried to maintain a steady pace, and I ended up finishing pretty quickly. The people I started the trail with got up 7 hours later.

I left camp on 8/17, at ten minutes to 6 in the morn, and summited 9:20. Again, I felt like I was moving really slowly, but I passed about 30-40 people on the way up. The weather was perfect, and I met a lot of really nice people on the trail. I decided to leave straight after I summited, since I couldn't imagine trying to sleep another night at 12,000ft. I developed a really bad case of sleep apnea, waking up 10-15 times in the middle of the night, gasping for air. I've read that this is common above 15,000ft, but I was experiencing it even at 10,000ft, although, much milder. I've never had a problem with this back home, in San Diego. Has anyone else ever dealt with this at altitudes so low? Anyway, 5 hours later I was back at the Portal, getting into my truck.

All told the hike took me a total of 13 hours. I was glad to have done it alone, too. I met more people that way, I could set my own pace, and didn't have to consult with anyone else when making decisions.

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#17636 - 08/18/11 01:10 PM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: csbattle]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7225
Loc: Fresno, CA
Congratulations, Curtis! With those times, you're obviously in pretty good shape aerobically.

Regarding your breathing issues, Diamox can be helpful for Cheyne-Stokes respiration at altitude. I have a physician buddy who takes it specifically for that reason when we hike. I believe he takes half a 250 mg tablet at bed time.

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#17642 - 08/18/11 06:46 PM Re: Solo, first-timer : a few questions... [Re: csbattle]
Akichow Offline


Registered: 04/07/10
Posts: 659
Loc: SF Bay Area
I developed this problem at the White Mountain trailhead last year (11,000 feet). After struggling with it for hours, I took a single 125 mg tablet of Diamox, and within an hour I was sleeping like a baby, and stayed asleep for the rest of the night.

Now, whenever I sleep above 10,000 feet, I take a half pill (62.5 mg Diamox) an hour going to bed. Have never had a reoccurrence of the problem. I take Diamox at this low dosage specifically for Cheyne Stokes (I have not experienced AMS on any 14ers so far).

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