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#33065 - 09/05/13 03:08 PM Dip & Sip
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1566
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Steve has asked me to post on my experience with drinking water on my recent JMT hike, especially the Whitney section, and I am happy to do so.

Especially now that the usual incubation period for giardiasis has passed. grin

Long and short of it is, I used no water treatment of any kind, except filtering through my teeth, for over 99 percent of the trip. The less than one percent was for stagnant pools in low or no-flow situations, which happened exactly twice: on Sunrise Creek and around Long Meadow, both between Yos valley and Cathedral pass, an otherwise extremely dry stretch. Also, to paraphrase W.C. Fields, fish were dying in it.

Much of the time, when I had a pretty good idea of where water was, I didn't carry any either, but just stopped at available opportunities - crossings, springs, seeps, lakes - dipped my cup and sipped. For one stretch early on, when for other reasons I knew my electrolytes were out of balance and I had trouble hydrating, I carried ERG or water with electrolyte tabs added, but this was for the convenience of not having to add powder or tabs to each cup. After the halfway point at MTR, I carried very little.

I learned that my Sierra cup is now reverently considered Old School, having passed in my lifetime through stages of Conventional, Traditional, Cliche, Outdated and Unheard-of. As a matter of fact, I don't recall seeing another one on my trip.


Oh, sure, there have been cases of giardiasis contracted in the mountains. In exactly none that I have ever heard of has poor camp hygiene been eliminated as the likely cause.

In a normally wet year, I would have carried even less, but there were stretches this year, notably in the northern half of the trail, of up to five waterless miles.

In the Whitney zone I D&S with confidence, and especially looked forward to doing so at SB 23, everywhere there was access to Lone Pine Creek and most of all at the Bighorn Park spring.

At some locations, my water consumption got me some looks, and even comments. At Duck Creek, south of Red's, a group from Santa Barbara watched and just smiled as I dipped from the creek they were busy bagging and squeezing and pumping and steripenning, as if they expected me to keel over, clawing at m throat and screaming to be put out of my misery any second. Later, at a lakeside outlet stream, they asked me how my untreated water was sitting.

Too bad. The mythology of giardia has made Katydyn, PUR, MSR and others a ton of money, and I am sure all that tech is necessary in some of the country, but experience proves it completely unnecessary where I have gone in the Sierra, and it has ruined for thousands the simple joy of sipping from a mountain stream.

So I wash my hands. Dip my cup. In that order.

As always, your mileage may vary.

But in this case, I doubt it.
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#33088 - 09/06/13 08:48 AM Re: Dip & Sip [Re: saltydog]
Bob West Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 828
Loc: Bishop, CA, USA
Repost of Bob R's article:

http://pweb.jps.net/~prichins/giardia.htm

Good personal hygiene is super important. Yes, wash your hands thoroughly after making your personal wag bag contribution...and before food preparation. Many more people have become sick through poor hygiene and contaminated cooking gear than from giardiasis.

Case in point: during our hiking trip in southern Ireland this past May, I came down with a case of campylobacter, which is cased by improper chicken preparation and cross-contamination in kitchens. It took me three weeks to completely recovery. So...be careful, be clean, drink the water.


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#33089 - 09/06/13 09:11 AM Re: Dip & Sip [Re: Bob West]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1253
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
I have not filtered in years...except when it has been more convenient to filter, mostly very low water sources.

I do use a Steripen on the MMWT during the quota season.

That's it!

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#33091 - 09/06/13 09:22 AM Re: Dip & Sip [Re: wbtravis]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7882
Loc: Fresno, CA
I don't treat even in the Whitney Zone. At Trail Camp, I always make my to the Trail Camp pond water inlet, where clean fresh water is always flowing clear.

Here's another Bob R contribution: 60,000 Liters of Water Consumed -- Untreated

In addition to hygiene, am pretty sure food poisoning can be blamed for quite a few trail illnesses. On a JMT trip, I met two people affected by serious intestinal illness. One was immobilized for several days, and he said the problem was due to letting his pack food get too warm (sausage I believe). Met another fellow whose partner had to bail and was in the hospital due to food poisoning and its after effects. Wagga once went on a Sierra Club National trip, and most hikers got sick -- they blamed a package of fresh bean sprouts. So often, people will blame the water, without even thinking about the more obvious sources.

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#33092 - 09/06/13 09:30 AM Re: Dip & Sip [Re: wbtravis]
Bob West Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 828
Loc: Bishop, CA, USA
I use the Steripen while hiking the South Fork of Bishop Creek. There are areas of bad, human fecal contamination at several camp sites along that "drainage." In certain areas I'd rather be safe than sorry.


Edited by Bob West (09/06/13 09:31 AM)

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#33117 - 09/07/13 06:34 AM Re: Dip & Sip [Re: Bob West]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1033
Loc: Madison, WI
Read that article years ago, and we use filters in late season and where the water sources aren't necessarily safe. Having a filter along after years of not using one at all was a good thing this summer, since many times water sources we used to tap into were low or completely dry.

Still, when the conditions are right, you can't beat just dipping the cup into the source

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#33151 - 09/09/13 09:05 AM Re: Dip & Sip [Re: Fishmonger]
PeteHibb Offline


Registered: 09/09/13
Posts: 2
Loc: California
I'm admittedly a newbie on this stuff, so apologies is this is a dumb question...

On my first trip up last week I relied on the dip-n-sip. I was on my way down and stepped off the trail near the stream flowing from Trailside meadow. I saw a(n impressively large) pile of human waste not more than about 5 feet from the stream behind a rock--no wag bag or anything. This wasn't the only un-bagged feces I saw but was definitely the biggest eww factor given its proximity to water I'd been drinking from earlier on.

What sort of risks are there from human waste contamination? It's a fast flowing stream with lots of clear water, so are the few piles of human waste enough to contaminate the whole source??

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#33152 - 09/09/13 09:57 AM Re: Dip & Sip [Re: PeteHibb]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7882
Loc: Fresno, CA
Not a dumb question at all.

There is definitely a risk factor related to Dip & Sip. I wish I could be more precise, but I believe there was a study where water downstream from a decomposing carcass was sampled, and only small amounts of bacteria were detected.

The good thing is that piles like that will indeed decompose over time, and likely a pretty short time. With the regular rains and UV action from sunlight, the normal decomposition process likely only takes a few months. By next spring, especially after the winter snowfall and runoff, there will be no trace of that mess.

Granted, that is really a disgusting thing to find. It breaks all the rules and recommendations of wilderness waste disposal -- both not buried, and too near water. On top of the fact that WAG bag use is the "only acceptable" waste disposal method in the Whitney Zone. It was probably left by some hiker in the darkness of night.

It is reports like these that cause some of the most avid dippers to treat their water in the Whitney Zone.

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#33155 - 09/09/13 03:55 PM Re: Dip & Sip [Re: Steve C]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1148
Loc: NorCal
Ah yes, more success stories for the wag bag solution, "This wasn't the only un-bagged feces I saw but was definitely the biggest eww factor given its proximity to water I'd been drinking from earlier on."

In my opinion, this waste pile is unlikely to break down before winter given it's location behind a rock and the short duration of warm weather left. At 5 ft from the trail, spring runoff could very well carry it into the creek, and where she goes, nobody knows. If it lodges someplace in the creek, it could very well cause localized contamination. The risk may be low, but the consequences seem pretty bad to me. It's hit and miss, or wait - it's too easy, "dip and miss."

Personally, on this heavily used trail, there's only one place where I've felt comfortable not treating the water - from the spring fed runoff on the lower switchbacks because I was out of water on the way down. No problemo.

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#33158 - 09/09/13 05:38 PM Re: Dip & Sip [Re: Steve C]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Originally Posted By: Steve C

It is reports like these that cause some of the most avid dippers to treat their water in the Whitney Zone.


Ya think? All the tests may prove that your chances of catching a protozoa from a human is quite low, but it begs the real question: Do you really wanna drink toilet water?
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#33166 - 09/09/13 10:27 PM Re: Dip & Sip [Re: saltydog]
2600fromatari Offline


Registered: 10/18/10
Posts: 453
Loc: San Diego
Personally, I would never dip and sip on the main trail or the North Fork during busy months. It takes me 60 seconds to treat a liter. That 60 seconds is worth the peace of mind regardless of how miniscule the risks are.

In more remote areas or during the Winter and Spring when there is less traffic, dip and sip is the way to go.

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#33178 - 09/10/13 10:14 AM Re: Dip & Sip [Re: SierraNevada]
Snacking Bear Offline


Registered: 08/09/11
Posts: 502
Loc: Nashville, TN
Originally Posted By: SierraNevada
It's hit and miss, or wait - it's too easy, "dip and miss."


From one punnist anon: The collective groan of the online community crescendoes wink


I'm in agreement w/ SierraNevada. I usually carry enough water to get me to the top (3-5L)and then I fill up near SB 23 or the gully below Discovery Pinnacle around SB 10 or so.

Even up there I'm slightly leery, many times i have found various articles of clothing (numerous boxers and other undergarments)drying in the sun, as well as the Final Solution WAG-Bags baking like a foul pressure-cookers in the high-altitude sun.

I believe that someone else said it, the usual culprit for water contaminants is when people don't wash their hands after going to the bathroom, and subsequently fill their water bottles with their filthy mitts.
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#33184 - 09/10/13 04:53 PM Re: Dip & Sip [Re: Steve C]
PeteHibb Offline


Registered: 09/09/13
Posts: 2
Loc: California
Many thanks for the reply. I figured this wasn't too much of an issue (and honestly thought twice about even posting about it lest it stir up fears). For the worriers out there, I had NO problems with my untreated water. It was absolutely delicious! My suggestion, for what it's worth, is to spend less time worrying about treating water and more time worrying about washing your hands and packing out your wag bags.

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#33185 - 09/10/13 06:53 PM Re: Dip & Sip [Re: PeteHibb]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1033
Loc: Madison, WI
this just adds calcium and other minerals to the water grin


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#33226 - 09/13/13 10:24 AM Re: Dip & Sip [Re: Fishmonger]
Brent N Offline


Registered: 01/20/11
Posts: 278
Loc: Orange County, CA
Cool pic, fishmonger.

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