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#38473 - 07/09/14 11:19 AM Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike
eje67 Offline


Registered: 07/09/14
Posts: 73
Loc: Los Angeles County
Just got back from a fun trip to Mt. Whitney! Some background: I'm a 47 year old male, and this was my first time hiking Mt. Whitney. Some friends did a Mt. Whitney overnight last week; I was out of town and could not join them, so I got a day hike permit for Tuesday, July 8th and went solo. Here's a brief sketch of the trip, which was actually a 3-day trip including camping at Onion Valley:

Sunday, July 6, 2014 Drove from L.A. to the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center to pick up my permit and wag bag. Had lunch in Lone Pine, then drove to Onion Valley campground (~9200 feet elevation). Arrived at Onion Valley about 2:00 p.m., got settled, and did an easy hike up the Kearsage Pass trail to Heart Lake (~11,000 feet elevation), about 6 miles round trip. Started at 3:00, spent some time snacking at (actually above) Heart Lake. then back to the campground by 6:00. Light rain on the descent. Had some dinner then went to sleep around 7:30, with the help of a sleep mask, ear plugs and a little Benadryl. Slept great.

Monday, July 7, 2014 Lounged around at Onion Valley, read a book all day, ate, and drank about 6 liters of water. Weather was cloudy, cool, with intermittent light rain. Tried to go to sleep at about 7:00 (no Benadryl) with minimal success; finally got a couple hours of decent sleep before my 2:00 a.m. wake up time.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 Woke up at 2:00 a.m., made some breakfast and coffee, packed up my gear, and left for Whitney Portal about 2:45 a.m. The sky was clear with lots of stars...looked like a good window of opportunity (with thunderstorms forecasted I was ok with not summiting Mt. Whitney if conditions were not favorable).

Arrived at Whitney Portal little more than an hour later, after slowly negotiating the hairpin turns out of Onion Valley. Found the trailhead and hikers' parking lot, put my food and scented items in a bear box, used the restroom and started the hike at 4:00 a.m.

Temps were mild; I wore shorts and a tee to Trail Camp (I arrived there at 6:30), where it was cold and a little windy. I refilled the two 1 liter water bottles I had been drinking out of (an overnight camper offered up some of his supply he did not need), and I partially filled a 2 liter Platypus bladder to about 1.5 liters at the stream feeding the Trail Camp lake/pond.

I spent longer than I expected filtering water (using a Sawyer mini filter for the first time) and lost body heat; my hands in the cold water did not help. By the time I was ready to continue, my teeth were chattering and my body was shaking; I needed to get some warmer clothes on and start moving. I spent additional time pulling my wind pants and insulated wind shirt out of my pack and changing, then it was on to the switchbacks. In total I spent about a half hour at Trail Camp. I should have had some insulation ready to wear when I arrived, and I should have done a trial run with my water filter ahead of time.

Somewhere on the switchbacks I changed back into my shorts and tee...I can't remember exactly where, I just know that in one pic on the switchbacks (that a hiker offered to take) I'm wearing my wind pants and shirt, then in the next pic at the Trail Crest (which another hiker offered to take) I'm in my shorts and tee! If seeing me in my underwear on the switchbacks offended anyone, I'm sorry haha. The picture takers were super nice, as were the other hikers I met on the trail.

The weather was great the rest of the way to the summit. I wore shorts, tee, and an uninsulated windshirt from Trail Crest on. The views on the west side of the mountain were other-wordly. I reached the summit at 9:45 a.m. and hung out for about a half hour, snacking, drinking water, and replenishing electrolytes (I used Nuun Active Hydration lemon-line tabs which I really liked).

The weather got interesting on the descent. Some benign looking clouds developed, then they turned dark and the sun disappeared, and after I had finished refilling my water bottles on the switchback water source (I had used all 3.5 liters before I hit the switchbacks)), the top of the mountain was enveloped in dark clouds and it started raining. There was intermittent thunder and lightning, and I was glad I left the summit when I did.

I wore my windshirt until it almost wetted out (waiting to see if the rain would let up which it didn't haha) and then put on my Gore-Tex jacket at Trail Camp. It rained steadily from Trail Camp to Outspost Camp. When I planned for rain, I was thinking more about keeping myself dry than about how the rain would affect the trail and how I should pace myself. I was also unsure about how the trail runners I was wearing would handle wet, slippery granite. Everything turned out ok and that was another learning experience for me. For a while I followed a group that was going at a reasonable pace. Later, after that group stopped for a rest, another solo hiker was following me; I offered to let him pass but he declined...having someone following made me hyper-aware of keeping on the trail and not making any missteps.

In the last mile or so of the trail, there were quite a few areas of significant runoff/debris/erosion that had not been there in the morning. I made it back to the trailhead about 3:20 p.m., had a burger and fries at the portal store, hit the road a little after 4:00, and made it home by 7:45.

Likes Onion Valley campground, the 97 switchbacks (I loved these, both going up and down), the views from Trail Crest and beyond.

Dislikes The trail/switchbacks right after Mirror Lake on the ascent, the last mile or so before the summit, the last mile or so before the trailhead!

Next time Although I felt well-prepared physically on this hike, next time I will do some training hikes that have some uphill on the descent. I was done with going uphill by the time I hit Trail Camp on the way down/up haha. Also, I will test all gear ahead of time; I intended to do that with the water filter, and not doing so had a ripple effect. Finally, I would consider camping somewhere at the portal the night before the hike; the 2 a.m. wake-up and hour plus drive to the trailhead were brutal!

Anyways, that the not so brief report! Big thanks to my wife and kids for supporting my little solo adventure.


Edited by eje67 (07/09/14 11:54 AM)

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#38496 - 07/09/14 11:29 PM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: eje67]
NoUglyOneYet Offline


Registered: 02/09/13
Posts: 69
Loc: San Diego, California
Fabulous trip report! Congratulations on a great hike.

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#38504 - 07/10/14 08:01 AM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: NoUglyOneYet]
Marty Offline


Registered: 01/25/10
Posts: 85
Loc: CT
Thanks for this fine report and congratulations on your hike. The cold water when refilling bothers me also and I now use a 'soft' Nalgene wide mouth bottle with an attached cap to collect water without submerging my hands.

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#38883 - 07/23/14 11:38 AM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: Marty]
1st timer Offline


Registered: 07/09/14
Posts: 4
Loc: California
Thanks for this. I'm doing my first August 4 s a day hike as well. Lost my partner so hoping to find a second to use the extra pass. My wife is worried about going alone but this has eased her qualms a bit. Thought I may have done a bit of overkill when I bought a Camelbak three liter reservoir backpack. Maybe it will save time. Who knew a gallon of water weighs eight pounds?

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#38887 - 07/23/14 01:18 PM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: 1st timer]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7590
Loc: Fresno, CA
1st timer: Do NOT carry a gallon of water up the trail. It could just be the straw that breaks the camelback (No pun intended of course. grin )

Old timers never even treat the water. I just came down from the summit, and dipped and drank from:
- The spring at Switchback 22
- The inlet to the Trail Camp pond
- The stream where the trail is close just below Lone Pine Lake.
- Trailside Meadow.

If you MUST, you can carry water treatment tablets, or a filter (which adds weight and cost), both options are lighter than all that water.

For your reference: Water discussions (Drink untreated, or filter/treat/boil/etc.)
  Water and Giardia around Mt. Whitney
  60,000 Liters of Water Consumed -- Untreated
  Filter question (links to studies, etc.)

By the way, I just discovered for myself how good the Nuun electrolyte tabs are. They turn water into something that tastes like a carbonated drink, which several times during my 7-day trip really helped my appetite! They make a Kool Aid mixture taste like a soft drink. I found them at a local hiking store as well as at the REI.


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#38940 - 07/24/14 07:23 AM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: Steve C]
1st timer Offline


Registered: 07/09/14
Posts: 4
Loc: California
I sometimes appreciate a good pun. But seriously..........You recommend I take no water? Or chuck the pack altogether? The pack is not a good idea for a day hike? Thanks for the electrolyte tip.

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#38943 - 07/24/14 07:47 AM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: 1st timer]
eje67 Offline


Registered: 07/09/14
Posts: 73
Loc: Los Angeles County
Originally Posted By: 1st timer
Thanks for this. I'm doing my first August 4 s a day hike as well. Lost my partner so hoping to find a second to use the extra pass. My wife is worried about going alone but this has eased her qualms a bit.


Before the hike I emphasized to my wife that I would be meeting and talking to other hikers on the trail; I think she found that reassuring.

I had read some of the linked materials in Steve C's post above about water and filtering, but having had giardia before (I got it on a surf trip to Baja California in the 90's), I decided to filter water. The Sawyer Mini is inexpensive and lightweight, the trick was getting the unfiltered water into the squeeze bag (I used a 1L Platypus bladder as the squeeze bag). Marty's water collection method sounds good and I plan to use it the next time around.

I think your 3 liter Camelbak reservoir will come in handy for the stretch from Trail Camp to the summit (I would also bring an additional 4th liter for that leg of the hike). You can keep the reservoir partially filled the rest of the time, or dip and drink...plenty of opportunities to do that on the trail!

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#38945 - 07/24/14 08:09 AM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: eje67]
eje67 Offline


Registered: 07/09/14
Posts: 73
Loc: Los Angeles County
Forgot to add, I found the Nuun electrolyte tablets at a CVS pharmacy.

Also, I regularly carried 3-5 liters of water on my training hikes, so I was accustomed to carrying that much water. My preference is to keep moving with few stops!

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#38946 - 07/24/14 08:28 AM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: 1st timer]
63ChevyII.com Offline


Registered: 08/07/12
Posts: 670
Loc: Colton, California
Originally Posted By: 1st timer
Thought I may have done a bit of overkill when I bought a Camelbak three liter reservoir backpack. Maybe it will save time. Who knew a gallon of water weighs eight pounds?



The only place I'd consider carrying a gallon of water is when leaving Trail Camp.

The biggest mistake I made on my first Whitney Day Hike was carrying 8+ lbs of water/gatorade when I left the Portal. With all of the spots to refill/filter, there's no need for it! I don't like filtering on the trail, but I also tend to not take breaks as often as I should. If I need to filter every couple of hours, it ensures I'm taking the breaks I should, especially for others in my group that may not be as fit.
_________________________
HikingGeek.com

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#38948 - 07/24/14 08:42 AM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: 1st timer]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7590
Loc: Fresno, CA
Originally Posted By: 1st timer
I sometimes appreciate a good pun. But seriously..........You recommend I take no water? Or chuck the pack altogether? The pack is not a good idea for a day hike? Thanks for the electrolyte tip.

No, take water. I carry about 8 oz for the dry mouth between stream encounters. Take at least 3 liters at the last water at switchback 22.

You also need the pack to carry food -- eat a snack every hour down low. Up high your appetite may leave. (That's where the Nuun tablets help.) And you need warm clothing and possibly rain gear. So you definitely need the pack. Just don't overload with water unnecessarily.

Those water stops are more restful if you just dip and drink.

By the way: eje67's trip to Baja: Unless you get a positive ID that it was giardia, it was more likely plain old food poisoning, not the water. I once spent 6 weeks in Peru, and lost 15 lbs. I've had a giardia case once, too (identified by the doctor). It was easy to treat.

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#38955 - 07/24/14 12:28 PM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: Steve C]
eje67 Offline


Registered: 07/09/14
Posts: 73
Loc: Los Angeles County
Originally Posted By: Steve C
By the way: eje67's trip to Baja: Unless you get a positive ID that it was giardia, it was more likely plain old food poisoning, not the water.


After losing 20 pounds, I figured I should see a doctor haha. Giardia was confirmed via stool stample, and I was prescribed Flagyl. I was living in San Francisco at the time; when I told the doctor (at UCSF) that I thought I picked it up in Mexico, he was like, yeah right, and then asked me about my sexual history, etc. Later I got a letter from the health department advising me that I may have become infected by "rimming." (NSFW alert if you don't know what it is and want to google it!)


Edited by eje67 (07/24/14 12:29 PM)

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#38956 - 07/24/14 12:44 PM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: eje67]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7590
Loc: Fresno, CA
eje67 wrote:
> After losing 20 pounds...

Dude! You had to have been harboring it for a long time to lose that much weight! You could have picked it up any number of places.

It just does NOT make any logical sense to me to decide to filter the water because you have had an experience with Giardia. If you re-check the links I have included above, there is NO evidence that anyone has ever reported that links water in the Sierra Nevada with enough Giardia to infect anyone.

You can go ahead and filter or treat -- that's fine with me. But to condemn Sierra water based on your experiences leaves me completely baffled.

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#38957 - 07/24/14 01:23 PM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: Steve C]
eje67 Offline


Registered: 07/09/14
Posts: 73
Loc: Los Angeles County
It was a month long trip, and the acute giardia symptoms (all of those listed on the CDC website, all at the same time, most notably the "greasy stools" which exited my body through uncontrollable diarrhea and which were unlike anything I've ever experienced before or after, I had to wear a makeshift diaper for several days) happened the last week of the trip. The timing of the acute symptoms ruled out the infection happening anywhere other than in Mexico, on that trip. The acute symptoms subsided before the trip was over, and the weight loss happened over a several month period afterward.

Now we've established that I did actually have giardia, and that I got it in Mexico and nowhwere else. If there are any other holes to poke in my giardia story please feel free to fire away! lol.

As far as "condemning" Sierra water, when did I do that? What I said was I had read some of the linked materials (with which I have no disagreement by the way), and I decided to filter my water. If that is "illogical" then I guess I'm guilty as charged!


Edited by eje67 (07/24/14 01:26 PM)

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#38958 - 07/24/14 01:37 PM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: eje67]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7590
Loc: Fresno, CA
> "As far as "condemning" Sierra water, when did I do that?"

The following is what hit me. You had giardia once, so therefore you filter Sierra water.

> "but having had giardia before (I got it on a surf trip to Baja California in the 90's), I decided to filter water."

This is no big deal, and I apologize if people feel I am belaboring the issue. But I just felt the need to underscore that there is no factual evidence that anyone needs to treat the water.

BTW, I've had giardia once, too, and I don't filter Sierra water. My only giardia attack was at the end of a 4-day trip (too soon to have contracted it from the water).

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#38971 - 07/24/14 10:28 PM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: Steve C]
eje67 Offline


Registered: 07/09/14
Posts: 73
Loc: Los Angeles County
Did I or did I not mention "dip and drink" as an option in the next paragraph in the same post?

In my mind filtering is a risk minimizer, just like "drinking smart" is a risk minimizer. Do you really need to drink smart when hiking Whitney? Having had giardia, and not ever wanting to have it again because it sucked really bad, I decided to filter my water, to reduce the already miniscule risk even further. The fewer giardia cysts that I ingest, the better, that's how I look at it. Even if that's illogical, irrational, stupid, whatever.

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#38972 - 07/24/14 10:50 PM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: Steve C]
Bee Offline


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


It just does NOT make any logical sense to me to decide to filter the water because you have had an experience with Giardia. If you re-check the links I have included above, there is NO evidence that anyone has ever reported that links water in the Sierra Nevada with enough Giardia to infect anyone.

You can go ahead and filter or treat -- that's fine with me. But to condemn Sierra water based on your experiences leaves me completely baffled.


Oh get off it, already. If people want to filter, than let them filter minus the "peer" pressure, ridicule, etc.

Look, there have been bags of crap sited in or near every water source on the trail, so whilst folks are not likely to catch Giardia, perhaps they are not into munching down someone else's fecal matter.


Edited by Bee (07/24/14 10:52 PM)
Edit Reason: bad mood alert, things are looking dicey on the homefront
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#38975 - 07/25/14 02:13 AM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: eje67]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1254
Loc: Atlanta
The filtering debate aside, what jumped out at me was the sub-6 hours Portal-to-summit. Portal to Trail Camp in 2.5 hours - that's moving! Deduct the 30 minutes at Trail Camp, and it took you 5:15 hiking time to cover 11 miles and 6200 vertical feet. Very impressive.

Assuming you spent an hour on the summit, you went up almost as quickly as you got down. That's just not normal. How did you train for the hike?

And, FWIW, despite the constant advice from the Sierra pros to stop wasting time filtering, I do. I've had some intense GI issues in the past as well, and want every possible chip on my side of the table.

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#38977 - 07/25/14 04:58 AM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: Bulldog34]
eje67 Offline


Registered: 07/09/14
Posts: 73
Loc: Los Angeles County
Hi Bulldog34, since mid-December last year I've been running (about 3 times a week), and hiking. The initial motivation was to lose some weight, my belly had grown due to bad diet and no exercise for several years other than surfing once or twice a week.

The running has been pretty low mileage and for the most part low intensity. Weekly mileage starting in December was under 10 miles and now it's about 15 miles, including a little bit of trail running, and more recently intervals at the track once a week. I did a handful of races too (e.g. 5Ks).

Mt. Whitney wasn't really on the radar until March or April, so until then my hiking consisted of 3-6 mile hikes, once a week or once every other week. In April, I started doing longer hikes; these were the main training hikes, in order:

April
Mt. Woodson
Hastings Peak
Mt. Lowe

May
Icehouse Saddle
Mt. Baldy (via Devil's Backbone)

June
Mt. Baldy (via Ski Hut trail)
Tahquitz Peak
San Bernardino Peak
Anderson Peak
Mt. Baldy (via Register Ridge)
Green Mountain (Boulder, CO)

I went hard on the training hikes; pace was typically 20-21 minutes/mile on the shorter hikes and 23-24 minutes/mile on the longer, higher elevation hikes (except on the steeper Baldy trails!). The longest training hike was 16 miles (San Bernardino Peak). I spent a week in Boulder with the family a week before the Whitney hike; we spent a couple hours above 10,000 feet one day, walking around a lake. There was also the acclimation hike on the Kearsarge Pass trail mentioned in my first post.

The pace on Whitney felt really comfortable, I wasn't trying to meet any time goals. Your calculation of 5:15 hiking time to the summit is accurate; I spent a half hour on the summit so it was just a little over 5 hours on the way down (the rain affected the pace on the descent).




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#38978 - 07/25/14 05:35 AM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: eje67]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1254
Loc: Atlanta
Wow - you may be missing your calling. That's a nice solid training schedule, but not nearly as aggressive as some - with better results. You didn't metion anything in your TR about altitude issues - other than slowing a little once you were above 12K', which is natural, I assume you avoided them?

Just for comparison purposes, the conventional wisdom "average" dayhike ascent time is about 10 hours. The speedy Whitney pros who are on the mountain regularly, and time themselves seriously, try to ascend in around 4 hours, usually taking no breaks or very brief ones.

Or, to put it another way, you were up and down before many theoretical day hikers who started alongside you had finished their summit Snickers.

Again, very impressive effort. Hats off to you.

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#38994 - 07/25/14 09:45 AM Re: Main Mount Whitney Trail, 7/8/14 solo day hike [Re: Bulldog34]
Steve Chamberlin Offline


Registered: 06/17/11
Posts: 55
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: Bulldog34
Just for comparison purposes, the conventional wisdom "average" dayhike ascent time is about 10 hours.


I don't mean to take anything away from the original poster's accomplishment, but what is your 10 hour "average time" number based on? From what I've read, 10 hours would be a pretty slow time. Some sources:

http://www.dayhiker.com/directory/MtWhitney.htm
Says 5 hours is fast, 7-8 hours is average, 10 hours is slow

https://sites.google.com/site/mtwhitneytrailinfo/
Says 10-20 hours round-trip

http://calitrails.com/2012/06/29/mount-whitney-dayhike-10000-calories/
Took 7:45

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