Posted by wbtravis5152, 04-11-07
During an alcoholic haze you agreed to join your friends on bit of insanity, that is, going on a backpacking trip to Mt. Whitney without any prior experience backpacking or you know what you are getting into just you've never been to California or maybe just the Eastern Sierra. Don't worry the Whitney Sages here have already made the mistakes...oh, so many mistakes. On this thread, hopefully, they will give you some If I knew then, what I know now knowledge.

First off, I've never backpacked up the Main Trail...only down it. However, If I were going to do this trip with nights at Outpost Camp and Trail Camp on the way up. I would utilize Lone Pine Lake rather than Outpost Camp, especially now that outhouse is gonzo at Outpost Camp. The advantage is that it off the trail whereas the trail runs right through Outpost Camp and the pesky day hikers have a tendency to make some noise disturbing a lot of campers beauty sleep at 3 AM.
Mt. Whitney and Eastern Sierra Blog
The Mt. Whitney Day Hike and Backpacking Page

Posted by AlanK, 04-11-07
I agreed to my first Whitney trip after a 15 mile run (an alcoholic haze may leave one with better judgement than that). I had been backpacking once before. On the other hand, I had been above 10000' exactly once in the previous several years. I agreed to hike to the summit of Whitney, spend the night, and hike down.

Hey, I was 19. I did it and had a great time. My advice is, if you agree to something like this on a whim, do it when you're 19.

No, I did not see any nuclear bomb tests.

Posted by MooseTracks, 04-11-07
My dad actually roped me into my first trip to Mt. Whitney 14 years ago, to be done as a day hike. I had been to around 10K feet before, but only while skiing around Tahoe, so I never really "got" what it meant to be at altitude, much less have to get up the hill under my own power (at least not like that: I was a life-long camper and hiker in the Bay Area). So when I was home on summer break from the Naval Academy (I thought I was in shape from all the PT we did plebe year!), we headed down. I made it to Trail Camp before really conking out due to the altitude (dizziness, nausea). Somehow, I thought my dad (ok, ME!) was disappointed in not summitting, and I "vowed" to come back and stand on the summit.

Well, it took 14 years, and learning the beginnings of backpacking, and how to train/eat/rest properly, but I stood up there last August. I took the photo of me and my pop up with me.

So, to the "newbies" (of which I still count myself!!), I would recommend reading up on the route. Check weather reports. Set up progressively tougher training hikes. Lift weights. Take yoga to focus and visualize your success. Find a mentor (this board has been a fantastic source of that for me!!). Don't be afraid to ask questions. Learn the leave no trace principles and exercise them. Develop your respect for the mountains.

And have fun while you're doing it. Because, bottom line, that's all that matters.

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Posted by m.c. reinhardt, 04-11-07
Another great thread...what not to do on Whitney. I believe Ken had eluded to this on the thread that gave tips on what to do from the veterans to the newbies. Ken asked "What caused people to fail?"

My story takes place on my second hike up Whitney. I had summited in the late 80's and thought it would be a piece of cake to bring my best friend, Val to accompany me for a second summit. I knew my friend did not have much hiking experience but she was in good physical condition and we were young and strong! I got my first "red flag" as we were leaving the Portal early morning after a great pancake breakfast made by four awesome guys camping next to us...thanks guys! Val and I had to stop at the store to do a quick repair of my pack and as we were walking toward the WPS I heard Val mutter, "how much further is it to the store?". I knew this was not a good sign! Well, needless to say, she complained of being tired all the way up to Lone Pine Lake where I made a "change of plans". We turned our adventure into a camping trip at LP Lake and had a great time. Took a day hike up to Mirror Lake the following day. Moral of story...Do not bring people to Mt. Whitney unless you feel they are somewhat prepared and have hiking experience!

Btw, I am still a Whitney newbie but I'm a little wiser and more experienced in hiking than I was back then!
"I go to the mountains for there I find higher ground." m.c.

Posted by gregf, 04-11-07
My first attempt was inspired by a 2 sentence description in a Fodor's travel guide. Hilariously ill-outfitted, it ended as my 2 young kids ran out of gas at Trail Camp, drunk from the altitude.

The second attempt, almost 20 years later with my third child, ended when she ran out of gas at Trail Camp. I had 2 half-dollar sized blisters and ultimately lost 4 toe nails due to a shoe-sock air ball, but had she given me the thumbs-up I would have pushed on.

The following year, kid-less, I got there.

The lessons. (1) It is possible to get there with no training, no equipment or the wrong equipment, if you have enough athletic ability, desire and luck (weather). (2) Go with people who have a reasonable shot to succeed, but if you go with kids or those who won't succeed, just enjoy the sheer beauty of the place. (3) Hope that you don't bum-out the kids and maybe they'll try again years later like HikerLaura.

Posted by JoeHiker53, 04-11-07
I summited via the Main Trail last year on my first try at age 52, so while that doesn't make me a real veteran, I may be qualified to let the "newbies" in on what worked for me.
#1- If you are going up this summer, you should already be working on your physical training- stairmasters, elliptical machines, running, and weights are all part of making sure your body is fit enough to handle 11 miles of uphill trudge at altitude, plus the 11 miles back.
#2- Try to go with someone who has done it before. Our group leader (anglerdan)knew exactly the right pace and let us know what to expect ahead of time, so we were mentally prepared as well as not being pushed too hard physically.
#3- Practice using your gear well before you go. Take a couple long weekend trips with full packs, at altitudes over 8000ft at least, and know how everything works (or what doesn't).
#4- Read up on as much as you can about the trail; "Mountain Lore from the Whitney Store" is a must, also Paul Richins book is good. If you are reading this board you already have a great resource of info.
#5- Acclimate! And take your time! When I went last August, I got to the Portal at 10am the day before we were to head up the trail. The next day we took our time getting to Outpost Camp, spending time at Lone Pine Lake, and made it a fishing trip as well. The second day on the trail we got to Trail Camp early enough to fish Consultation Lake and my mind really wasn't on the altitude (nice fishing). Third day was summit day, but in reality it was day 4 in altitude over 8500 ft.
#6- This may even be #5B- stay hydrated. You should be drinking lots of water for a couple weeks before you go, some say 3-4 quarts a day. And keep drinking water on the way up. There was plenty along the trail at convenient spots all the way to the switchbacks last year.

side note to wbtravis5152: The toilets at Outpost and Trail Camp were closed when I went last summer, so that didn't matter. The benefit of camping at Outpost is the water tastes better than at LP Lake, and it's less of a hike the next day. Plus the waterfall is a nice sleep aid!

Posted by wbtravis5152, 04-12-07
Joe offers a lot of good advise because he's a geezer and us geezers have a tendency to look at things a bit more acyclically, especially when are getting into new things at "such an advanced age".

I might add...

1. I've always felt training for a Main Trail backpack is a bit overblown. What you need to do is get into shape to carry x amount of weight 6 miles, +3,600'. The following day you will be carrying 10 to 15# up 2,500' over 5 miles. It is an easier day. I always figured the downhill will take care of itself.

2. Knowledge is the key to all this. Read, visit this board frequently and plan a trip to Horseshoe Meadow to either Cirque Peak or Mt. Langley a month before going to Mt. Whitney. The is no good reason Mt. Whitney should be your first High Sierra backpacking trip, if you are a NoCal or SoCal. Yeah, having a Whitney veteran around is a big plus because of their knowledge of the trail and the Inyo regs, the latter should not be overlooked.

3. A couple of trips above 10,000 are better. This will tell you who should be addressing problems with AMS before going to Mt. Whitney in addition to what Dan said. Also, if you are doing it in the Southern Sierra make sure you visit Whitney Portal during this trip to get the lay of the land.

4. I was anal about getting knowledge before my first trip. The only thing that really surprised me was condition of the trail which was poor prior to the work in 1999 and 2000.

5. Acclimatization is not a panacea if you have the tendency to towards AMS. My worst case of AMS occurred after two days of hanging out and hiking over 10,000' before going to 14,246'. I might add a familiarity with hiking at higher elevations is also a big plus. That's why I added to Joe's #3.

6. Water is everywhere between the Portal and Trail Camp so don't sweat sources. Your intake is based on your activity and the ambient temperature. Just remember if your pee ain't clear and copious you ain't drinking enough.

Side note to Joe: Heck, the forest service closed those things all the time. Now it is gone, like it never existed in the first place. I like LPL better because it is quieter than Outpost Camp and I value you my sleep more than listening to a loud water fall and loud day hikers at 3 AM. It's basically a pick your poison thingy.
Mt. Whitney and Eastern Sierra Blog
The Mt. Whitney Day Hike and Backpacking Page

Posted by tomcat_rc, 04-13-07
that report is for Mammoth - Whitney does not look so bad for tomorrow until evening. might make for a windy camp. also Sunday may be cold but ok for a dayhike.
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Posted by 67brickie, 04-13-07
Hey, Gregf, 4 'toenail' casualties! After we passed on the trail on your second effort, my return from the summit saw only one such casualty -left great toenail (from bashing into the toe of the boot on the way down)
Now, what about Kings Peak? late August? Strangely silent - nothing (BruinDave, DanuSherpa). "Anglerdan" you listening? What about a summit hike with alpine fishing - Kings Peak UT (13,528').....late August. So many peaks, so little time

Posted by dhikewhitney, 04-27-07
Nice story Laura, thanks for sharing it.

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