Mt Whitney Webcam
Mt Williamson Webcam
Feature Topics
Who's Online
2 registered (+ @ti2d, sumptimwong), 13 Guests and 8 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Stats
3990 Members
10 Forums
5804 Topics
52312 Posts

Max Online: 1443 @ 07/29/19 08:40 AM
Page 6 of 6 < 1 2 3 4 5 6
Topic Options
#38093 - 06/28/14 07:49 PM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: Bulldog34]
Chicagocwright Offline


Registered: 09/05/12
Posts: 172
Loc: Alaska
Originally Posted By: Bulldog34
Excellent post, Karin. As I've mentioned, I do a lot of solo hiking so I have to be careful in offering advice to others. This is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, and so many factors come into play with individual experience, fitness levels, personalities, phobias, etc. As I've come to know Whitney and developed a comfort level with the trail, I'm sure I've been guilty of underestimating dangers or challenges that don't register very high on my radar screen but may be significant to others.

Before my first attempt at Whitney in 2009, I did a lot of research on the mountain. This site didn't exist and the WPS was going through a transition with its first-timer materials. Ultimately, I found the best scoop on the pages of wbtravis' Mt. Whitney website. I used a lot of Bill's suggestions and information - which were laced pretty heavily with good, common-sense cautions and warnings - as my guide for that first trip. Solo trip, I should point out.

I had been above 14K' several times in the years prior, with no ill effects. The year before I had even traveled from essentially sea level to above 14K' in less than 24 hours, with absolutely no acclimation and no issues. I had this (admittedly ridiculous) idea that altitude didn't affect me. I was overconfident - and that first trip up the MWMT brought me back to earth with a hard crash.

I cruised up the mountain to Trail Camp feeling great, but by the time I stopped at the switchbacks spring to refill water a headache had started. By the time I hit the cables it had morphed into by far the worst headache I had ever experienced. Then came the nausea and sleepiness. Not fatigue necessarily, but sleepiness - I just wanted to lay down and go to sleep, and to hell with the consequences. I began to tremble and became unsteady on my feet (Harvey's oft-mentioned "mountaineer's foot"). I was not that far from Trail Crest when I yakked for the first time. I sat down somewhere around the 75th switchback and took stock of my situation. In the space of a single hour I had gone from feeling fine to becoming a huge liability to myself.

I admitted to myself that, yes, I really was suffering AMS and needed to turn back. I had invested a couple of grand and a lot of training in this attempt and really didn't want to go home defeated, but I made the decision to call it a day and descend. I had promised my wife I would take no chances. Now, here's the thing: I got up from that rest stop and ostensibly acted on my decision. Fifteen minutes later I realized I was still ascending the switchbacks. My mind had made the logical decision to turn around but my body had subconsciously acted on its own and kept going up. It was at that point that I began to think that maybe I shouldn't be alone.

I really did do an about-face at that point and - very, very slowly - walked my way out. It had taken me about 4.5 hours to climb from the Portal to Trail Camp. Trail Camp to the Portal lasted about 5 hours at the snail's pace I was moving. I typically jet downhill but, aside from the physical challenges I was experiencing, I was extremely concerned about my decision-making and went super-slow. That sudden awareness on the switchbacks that my mind was semi-scrambled had rattled me badly.

By the time I reached Outpost Camp I was feeling better (and, yes, I had to backtrack on the slabs after missing that hairpin left we've been discussing). By Lone Pine Lake most of the symptoms had disappeared. I was feeling well enough by the Portal to have a burger and a beer. I told my story to Doug and the first thing he asked me was where I had spent the previous nights. When I said Lone Pine, I got the friendly acclimation lecture. And I took it to heart. Based on that personal experience, whenever I advise anyone on their first Whitney attempt, or any other first try at altitude, I probably overemphasize acclimation.

Although that was my one and only experience with the perils of AMS, it has stayed with me ever since. Yes, it was the worst I've ever felt in my life, but the mental circus I went through is what still scares me to this day. Most people who know me would describe me as level-headed, logical, practical, and not given to taking unnecessary risks in the mountains. The fact that I would do something so stupid (for you, Bee) as succumb unconsciously to summit fever chills me when I recall it. What if I had not had that moment of clarity and turned around? The potential scenarios go from bad to worse.

That same trip I did a few pre-Whitney warm-up hikes in the Cottonwood area and ran across a group with a teenage boy who was suffering from altitude symptoms. They decided to press on while keeping an eye on him. I remember reading in the Inyo Register the day after I had come down from Whitney that this boy had eventually died from either HAPE or HACE. For me, that put the exclamation mark on the dangers of altitude, which I had been somewhat ambivalent about before.

I still do a lot of solo hiking, but since that episode I've never gone above 12K' alone, and I make damn sure I and my family get really good acclimation before doing so. My daughter was 11 when she first went up Whitney, and my wife and I watched her like hawks. She's always handled elevation well but when she began to slow down noticeably as we passed the windows, we stopped, took stock of the situation, and decided to turn back. That was a tough call with the summit hut in sight, but I've never regretted the decision. She said she only had a mild headache and could go on, but she was stopping to rest every 15 minutes or so after cruising up the switchbacks like a trooper. Her safety was absolutely Job One and it was getting later in the day than I liked. Also, Rob from the Crabtree ranger station had warned us about dangerous icing on the 97th switchback above the chute if we weren't back over it by the time the sun went off of it (this was the heavy snow year and the chute and trail above it was still heavily packed in July).

I had also exercised questionable judgment in even heading up Whitney that particular trip. A few days earlier I had suffered a shoulder injury during a technical climb of Cathedral Peak in Yosemite, and was still in an arm sling the day before we loaded up packs for Whitney. In retrospect maybe not the greatest decision, even though it presented no real difficulties for me during the trip. One little thing going wrong where I really needed the full use of that arm, and the story could have been quite different.

I try to keep these things in mind when discussing someone else's first attempt at Whitney or offering an opinion on someone's bad luck on the mountain - but I also know that if I had the opportunity to do Whitney solo next week I'd likely talk myself into it pretty quickly. Thanks, Karin, for shining a light on this inconsistency in some of our posts. I could certainly be more consistent in my opinions, and I'll try to bear your points in mind in the future.



Just chiming in with a slightly different but similar story that I have previously talked about here. My dad and I were headed up Mt. Whitney a couple of years ago. I had moved to Alaska six months earlier and was in the best hiking shape of my life. I took a red-eye from Alaska to CA and the next day (one night in CA) set out on Whitney. My dad had trained for this hike for months and it never dawned on me that I would be the one to bomb out. At Trail Camp we were filling water up, "we" meaning my dad because I was lethargic, sleepy, and starting to feel headachy. He did all the work and we started up the switchbacks. I think we made it twenty or so, and looking back, in one of my proudest hiking moments, I had to tell my dad we had to turn back. About 20 minutes later, descending as quickly as we could, I got sick and started vomiting. I guess I'm taking "pride" in making the decision to turn back before unmistakable visible signs of sickness.

The story continued a week later when I was back in Alaska talking to my dad on the phone. He was looking at the full moon schedule and contemplating trying the hike again solo. The story ends on a good note when I was able to find a reasonable flight, and complete the hike with my dad. I still didn't have a good acclimation schedule but used Diamox on the second trip.

Top
#38094 - 06/28/14 08:28 PM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: Bee]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1566
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Bee:

Wow. Thank you. Not only for the objective insight but for the candor in sharing a moment that many of us (the eating schedule element aside) might be very familiar with. I am right now reconsidering my breakfast routine. Or lack of it.

Thanks, again.
_________________________
Wherever you go, there you are.
SPOTMe!

Top
#38095 - 06/28/14 08:46 PM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: Akichow]
63ChevyII.com Offline


Registered: 08/07/12
Posts: 670
Loc: Colton, California
Excellent post Akichow!
Originally Posted By: Akichow
Who knows you and your personality well enough to recognize a change in behavior that is cause for concern.

It seems that this is overlooked, at least with many of the people I hike with. If I am organizing a Whitney hike it is rare for me to allow anyone to come that I have not personally hiked with. Primarily due to not having first-hand knowledge of their abilities and secondly for the reason you listed above.

Originally Posted By: Bulldog34
...my first attempt at Whitney in 2009...

Thanks for sharing this story - Very interesting, sobering and thought provoking. A couple of the hikers on an upcoming Whitney trip aren't too worried about AMS because they've never had it before. I am going to share your story with them!
_________________________
HikingGeek.com

Top
#38105 - 06/29/14 10:04 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: saltydog]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1253
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
SD,

Out of the ordinary makes no difference? A climb of 6,000' is not out of the ordinary in SoCal but not to 14,500'. Do you have to take any special precautions...sure, more clothing and a watch on the weather. But this is still a hiking trail with all the problems you have with hiking trails...not any of them extraordinary.

AMS happens in SoCal all the time, seen it and have had it. As a SoCal, I know and have written about the unprepared in SoCal. This is nothing new and no matter how much is written about them not much is going change. I have seen people walk into the electrical storms, when I have already have turned around, seen a person walk towards a mountain lion, when I already turned around and have seen people in canyons and ridges that did not know where they were. Mt. Whitney is not special in this regard, it just reflects how people hike in their local areas.

I've said and was chastised for saying 2 to 3 deaths here was an acceptable number all things considered, tragic but acceptable considering who hikes here. People die in our local SoCal mountains every year because they do nothing wrong or something very foolish...these are wild places. Nothing is going change it.

These threads about John Lively have been trying to find a solution to a problem that might not exist, since no one was there when Mr. Lively slid down that chute. The only thing that is certain is if his friends waited for him and they hiked down together, Mr. Lively most likely would be alive today.

Top
#38106 - 06/29/14 12:41 PM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: wbtravis]
2Old4This Offline


Registered: 05/27/14
Posts: 51
Loc: Northern California
I hike almost entirely solo, and I realize that I am at higher risk because of it. Nonetheless, the point that this is the wild and there is increased risk to begin with is valid. Death is tragic but not always avoidable. I realize that I am increasing those risks by hiking solo. My problem with what happened here is Mr Lively may not have known he was taking that increased risk and that is my big problem with his hiking partners leaving him.


Edited by 2Old4This (06/29/14 12:43 PM)

Top
#38115 - 06/29/14 07:04 PM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: wbtravis]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1566
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Originally Posted By: wbtravis
SD,

Out of the ordinary makes no difference? A climb of 6,000' is not out of the ordinary in SoCal but not to 14,500'.


That's right: whether risks on this trail are out of the ordinary compared with other trails makes no difference. The very important issues that Aki raised were not whether there is something special about the risks on MWMT, but (1) whether our advice and comments on solo hiking are consistent with the actual risks and (2) whether our cautions to those considering a solo are consistent with our judgment of those who run into trouble while soloing. I don't happen to see quite as big a disconnect in what has actually been posted, but the point has to do with what the risks actually are and how we treat them, not how they compare to other hikes.

_________________________
Wherever you go, there you are.
SPOTMe!

Top
#38131 - 06/30/14 10:07 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: saltydog]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1253
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Why not comparison to other hikes? The MMWT is a hiking trail which draws comparisons...how does it compare to Half Dome, San G's Vivian Creek Trail, Village to Mt. Baldy, etc? These questions are asked every year here and on other boards.

In a lot of ways all these highest something or other peak compare to in the same way to one another, that being, they get a lot of traffic. They get a lot of people who are not prepared to do them physically, the don't have proper gear, they don't take enough water because it is too heavy and the don't bring the right types of food or enough of it. If you are not prepared, problems occur at a higher rate than those that are prepared. The problems experience people have are different than those who are not, they take more risk. Then there are problems with groups...or should I say faux groups like Mr. Lively's, where you the numbers but there is no mutual support.

Lightning is not unique to this mountain, most summer monsoonal days clouds build to 30,000' to 40,000' at Mt. San Gorgonio...I see it from my house. As I pointed out, people walk in to storms here just like Mt. Whitney and they fight AMS here just like Mt. Whitney, there are exposed area just like Mt. Whitney and there are short cut routes along the trail system that can get people into trouble, just like Mt. Whitney.

If you hike solo, it is incumbent on you to recognize the problems with hiking as a solo...anywhere you hike solo. Yes, it is riskier but the risk is manageable. This is why list a bunch of caveats when suggesting to someone you can go up the MMWT solo. Many people find what I say is too restrictive, which may be true but they make for safer hiking and...it worked for me for many years.

Top
#38182 - 07/01/14 03:06 PM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: wbtravis]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1566
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
There are lots of good reasons to compare our trail to others. The disconnect that Aki identified is not one of them.
_________________________
Wherever you go, there you are.
SPOTMe!

Top
#39555 - 08/09/14 11:08 PM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: saltydog]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
It occurs to me that we have now had two deaths on the Main Trail in the last month or so.

I can't think of similar issues with other "comparable" trails in Ca. Certainly one could compare snow climbs, where fatalities are not uncommon, but not summer climbs of Baldy, San G, Bear Canyon....even C2C during benign conditions (I think C2C is more dangerous, for a variety of reasons)

It's easy to think of the Main Trail as a tourist route, but that is probably not a reasonable description.

Top
#39558 - 08/10/14 12:03 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: Ken]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7908
Loc: Fresno, CA
Ken, the common thread I see with this year's fatalities and earlier ones too is: These are people from out-of-state, not familiar with Mt Whitney, not familiar with the Sierra, little or no experience on other Sierra trails. Maybe these things add up to a higher possibility of making big enough mistakes to lead to disaster.

Of course the other part of the equation is that the Mt Whitney trail sees nearly 100 times more traffic than almost every other trail in the Sierra. It goes higher than all the others, too. So in that light, more accidents (...and deaths, too) is not so surprising.

By the way, I am pretty sure I could identify the spot where John Likely lost the trail: Just above Trailside Meadow, there is a point where the descending trail (and ascending, too) makes a U-turn switchback. I myself missed it. It is not in steep ground, but the route needs to "turn around" to connect with the main route. On the descent, the trail is heading east, and looking ahead, there is what looks like the trail. Well-trodden (from everyone missing the turn), and just a step up (about 10") on a boulder to continue on the WRONG path. People ascending missed the hard left turn, stepped up on the boulder and continued east, too.

If it were dark, someone trying to descend could follow this, and I am pretty sure it leads out onto a talus and rock-covered bench that descends nicely toward Mirror Lake. Someone tired and wanting to get down quickly might mistakenly think the bench would lead to the bottom.

I didn't take a picture of the spot, but I DID build a wall of rocks at least a foot high across the boulder, pretty-well closing off the inviting wrong path. So people will have a much harder time taking the wrong route.

Once below Trailside, I DID take pictures of the bench that Likely might have followed. Then I noticed at the bottom, the bench dead ends! Descending more would be treacherous, but turning around would mean half an hour of climbing back up. At that dead end, there is a crack that drops 30-40', into green bushes! 20 yards or so from the bushes was what appeared to be two items, like a pad or something. I think SAR may have left them after transporting the body.

I think those bushes were the only thing that could have concealed a body for the days Likely was missing.

Here are two pictures. The odd pad/items are in this one link. A composite picture shows the lines and the pad/items at the bottom: link

Top
#39560 - 08/10/14 12:23 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: Steve C]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Thanks for taking the time to fish out the pictures, & work up an explanation. I think you are spot on, and the pics are of great assistance in understanding the area.
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

Top
#39566 - 08/10/14 09:47 PM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: Steve C]
JoB Offline


Registered: 07/08/14
Posts: 14
Loc: San Diego, CA
Steve,

I was on the trail last week and paused for a moment at the u-turn above Trailside Meadow to send a prayer for the family of John Likely, and to thank you for building the rock wall. It was clearly a blockade. I am hopeful to return for my first solo hike in about two weeks, if I can secure a permit, and I am paying close attention to the safety issues. I am very familiar with the trail, I don't seem to suffer from altitude and I turn around on hikes more often than I care to admit so I'm hopeful for my odds for a safe and successful hike. Thanks to all for the valuable discussion.

Top
#39572 - 08/11/14 08:05 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: Steve C]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1253
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Originally Posted By: Steve C
the common thread I see with this year's fatalities and earlier ones too is: These are people from out-of-state, not familiar with Mt Whitney, not familiar with the Sierra, little or no experience on other Sierra trails. Maybe these things add up to a higher possibility of making big enough mistakes to lead to disaster.



The only common thread this year is they were hiking alone. Mr. Likely had experience on Mt. Whitney. I do not know enough to say anything about Mr. Johnson's experience in the Sierra or experience in general.

A SAR friend of mine has switched away from solo hiking is ok after rescuing too many solos.


Edited by wbtravis (08/11/14 08:26 AM)

Top
Page 6 of 6 < 1 2 3 4 5 6