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Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
#43856 08/06/15 12:41 PM
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there is a greater than 50% chance I will be doing an overnight at Mt Whitney Next Week.

I have a permit for 2, but my friend might not be able to make it.

Some background.
- I recently Did a Rim to Rim hike of the grand Canyon. About 28 miles in 4 days during extreme heat.
- Last year I did Alta Peak from the Sequioa side. 11,200 (14 mile roudtrip and 4000ft gain) in one day.
- This is the first time I will be doing an overnighter.

I've read a few posts and a Book about Mt Whitney.
My two concerns are
- Altitude sickness. I hope this doesn't happen to me but if it does I understand i need to go back down.
- Bears. This kinda freaks me out since I have never encountered a bear in any of my hikes (mostly in the White Mountains of New Hamshire)

Any tips, suggestions

Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
Mosito #43858 08/06/15 12:51 PM
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Altitude Sickness:
This is largely out of your control except for the process of acclimation which you can only accomplish if you have some time to spend at high elevation. By time, even just sitting around at Horse Shoe Meadow works. I experienced very bad sickness on my first attempt because I didn't have time to acclimate. I didn't have acclimation time the second attempt either, but did try Diamox and breathing techniques and was successful

Bears:
Bears are more scared of you then you are of them. The bears at Whitney are opportunistic thieves. They would love to steal your pack if left unattended--especially at Whitney Portal. Otherwise, once on the trail I'm not even sure I have ever heard anyone say they have even seen a bear say above Lone Pine Lake. I certainly have never heard of a bear attack in the area. If you see a bear, consider yourself lucky! I love seeing bears!

Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
Chicagocwright #43859 08/06/15 01:15 PM
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Thanks for your thoughts....


I bought (Oxygen Max 60 - Endurance Supplement, Cordyceps Sinensis, Altitude Sickness) for the altitude. I assume they are similar.


I will be hiking a day before my attempt to about 12,000, but going down to lone pine for the night... i know it negates the benefits, but i figured it wouldn't hurt...


Then I will stay at trail camp to attempt my ascent on the third day... Hopefully that is enough.

I just wasn't sure if I should get bear spray or have to worry while at trail camp sleeping...

Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
Mosito #43861 08/06/15 01:36 PM
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Originally Posted By: Mosito
Thanks for your thoughts....


I bought (Oxygen Max 60 - Endurance Supplement, Cordyceps Sinensis, Altitude Sickness) for the altitude. I assume they are similar.


I will be hiking a day before my attempt to about 12,000, but going down to lone pine for the night... i know it negates the benefits, but i figured it wouldn't hurt...


Then I will stay at trail camp to attempt my ascent on the third day... Hopefully that is enough.

I just wasn't sure if I should get bear spray or have to worry while at trail camp sleeping...


Actually I'm pretty certain your acclimation plan isn't negated at all by what you describe and seems like a very good plan. I am not familiar with your Oxygen supplement but am guessing it is completely different than Diamox. Diamox is actually a cataract medication that somehow they figured out helps with altitude medication at very low doses. (125mg) It needs to be taken prior to the hike.

There are marmots I know you have to worry about at Trail Camp but am almost certain there are no bears there. Others will confirm.

Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
Mosito #43863 08/06/15 02:07 PM
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Going by what everybody has said on these forums about bears, you're unlikely to encounter one once you've gone a mile or two into the Whitney zone and very unlikely to encounter one at trail camp. You can, however, expect marmots to abound at trail camp.

While I do not advise that you bring a special can of marmot mace to deal with them, I can recommend the following to avoid unfavorable encounters with them.

Do not eat or keep scented items in your tent. If they smell anything interesting, they will chew through the walls to get it. On this point, keep food and scented items in a hard sided container-a bear cannister works, but might be overkill. Keep this outside of your pack while in camp.

I attempted Whitney last march. It was much harder than the hike up Alta peak, with camping gear, that I had done three months prior.

I think the main reason for this discrepancy is acclimation. I arrived in KC the night before the Alta Peak hike and camped at Grant Grove at >6000'.
The night before I slept at trail camp, I tried to squeeze in a few hours' sleep in the bay area ahead of the 7 hour U turn around the Sierra's south side the next day. After a night's sleep on the mountain I felt much better going into my summit push.

I recommend sleeping at altitude before you start the trip.

Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
Mosito #43866 08/06/15 03:05 PM
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Put bears completely out of your mind, other than keeping a close eye on your pack in the dark hours at the Whitney Portal. As has been described, they are generally opportunistic thieves but not aggressive. Bears are normally a major PITA around the Portal in summer, absconding with food/packs and damaging vehicles, but so far this season they've been carousing much lower in the Alabama Hills. Deer seem to have taken over the bears' stomping grounds around the Portal this year, so expect to see a few. Any bear seen much higher than the Portal or Lone Pine Lake is a rare sight indeed.

Leave the bear spray at home - not needed in California. Save it for a hike in Yellowstone or Glacier.

And by the way, Diamox (acetazolamide) is prescription only. Definitely worth a trip to the doc if you've never been to the elevation you're going and won't have time to properly acclimate. "Proper" acclimation for most people is sleeping at least one night at elevation, preferably two, before attempting to go above 12,000 feet. AMS turns more people around on Whitney than any other cause (except, obviously, weather), and that 400-pound gorilla is usually lurking between 12K' and 13K'.

Last edited by Bulldog34; 08/06/15 03:31 PM. Reason: Added Diamox info
Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
Bulldog34 #43874 08/07/15 06:55 AM
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Thanks everyone... That bear thing had me worried... But if the likelihood is low, then I am ok with it. I know shit happens sometimes so I can't be oblivious to it.


I'll keep the AMS in mind and know I have to turn back if it starts hitting. I want to make it to the top but not while putting myself in danger.


That said. Where do people put their food. I keep reading or misreading about leaving the food outside your tent? So having it in a bear cannister inside the backpack which might be inside the tent is not a good idea because of the Marmots? (Staying at Trail Camp)

Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
Mosito #43881 08/07/15 09:44 AM
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The AMS will most likely appear the morning of your summit bid, after spending the night at Trail Camp. If you take two small doses of Diamox the day before, and one in the morning (62.5 or 125 mg is small), that might help. Don't take big doses.

Keep your food in a bear container, OUTSIDE of your pack and tent. Bears won't be at Trail Camp, but marmots and little rodents will. They chew through fabric.

Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
Steve C #43885 08/07/15 12:35 PM
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I took Diamox starting with the night I camped at Whitney portal and then the next day as well when I started my hike. 250mg every 12 hrs. I did not take it on my Summit day. Luckily I did not need a prescription as I had some extra supply from my trek to Everest Base Camp last year.

I did not experience any altitude sickness whatsoever which I solely attribute to the Diamox. The reason I say it is because I experienced terrible AMS when I climbed White Mountain Peak last year, at around 13,000 feet I almost became debilitated and could not walk without panting heavily.

For Mt. Whitney I was perfectly fine all the way to the peak! Diamox worked for me like magic. The only problem is that it makes you pee like crazy and you risk dehydration if you are not monitoring your fluid intake very carefully.

Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
trident777 #43886 08/07/15 01:26 PM
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Trident, you were taking double the dosage recommended for AMS.

Some people experience tingling/buzzing sensations in the fingertips and toes from Diamox. So taking the smallest effective dose is best.

Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
Mosito #43889 08/07/15 03:53 PM
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Mosito, be aware of the possibility of AMS but don't be hypersensitive to it. It's quite normal for many folks to experience a mild headache at altitude. It's the worsening of the headache or, in particular, other symptoms showing up that puts you in the position of having to assume you have AMS. Those commonly are nausea, vertigo, confusion, trembling, vision difficulty and sleepiness (not fatigue - you'll definitely feel fatigued - but an overwhelming desire to lay down anywhere and go to sleep, and damn the consequences).

So, an average, everyday headache is not cause for reversing course by itself. A killer headache and/or a second symptom are.

Best of luck.

Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
trident777 #43890 08/07/15 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted By: trident777
I took Diamox starting with the night I camped at Whitney portal and then the next day as well when I started my hike. 250mg every 12 hrs. I did not take it on my Summit day.


Whoa! At 500 mg/day, I'll bet you were whizzing like a racehorse!

Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
Mosito #43916 08/10/15 12:44 PM
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Suggestions for acclimatzing:

Take a couple days and spend them as high as you can practically go. Around the Whitney area, this means getting up to 10,000+ft in the days before you go. Also properly resting the day before your hike up helps the success ratio for the big day.

Alta Peak is a nice warm up and great way get some elevation. Whitney will be +2500ft more net gain on top of that and 8 more miles. If you felt 100% on/after Alta peak, that's a good sign, if Alta peak wore you out then consider carefully what doing Whitney in a day will mean for your body.

While there might be a tendency to get AMS based on genetics, I firmly believe you can influence your probability of getting it with the things you do before heading up high and monitoring how you feel (ie maybe push your climb a day later if you're not feeling it). Assuming you have a good aerobic base, hydration is one of the most important things you can do(some people wll say aerobic fitness and AMS are unrelated, but I don't agree). Mix in an electrolyte drink with water, don't just drink all water.

Experiment with what you eat also; ie works and what doesn't higher up. A cheesburger sounds great in town, might not work for you at 13,000ft. Same thing for energy bars. What tastes good at home will taste different as you push on towards the summit exerting yourself.

One suggestion to help combat AMS once clibing is to start out slower than you feel you can hike. This means starting a bit earlier; targeting to be off the summit by noon is a good rule.

Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
nyker #43917 08/10/15 12:58 PM
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Regarding your plan to turn around if you sense AMS symptoms, please remember that a part of AMS can compromise your judgment, which means that if you experience it like I do, it is a little like a drunk deciding if he is too drunk to drive. I get disoriented, even losing the trail (this is a trail that is very hard to lose). My symptoms of nausea and double vision are easier to recognize, but if you experience impaired judgment, the illness may well prevent you from recognizing your impaired judgment. One possible solution is to talk to people along the way. When I'm just in my head, I don't necessarily recognize my disorientation, but when I talk to people, I can feel and hear a sluggishness in my thoughts and speech, primarily because I'm not keeping up with someone else's mental pace. My brain adjusts to my mental pace (meaning if I'm just in my own head, slow becomes the new normal), but when speaking with others, I can feel the difference between theirs and mine.

Please note that I don't drink, so my comparison to someone who is inebriated may be way off base.

Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
Brent N #43918 08/10/15 01:37 PM
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I use HR monitoring to pace myself, making sure it not only doesn't get too high when I'm on the switchbacks, but also that it's in the appropriate range when I'm starting out so I don't set out too fast.

Everyone feels their best when starting out, leading to a tendency to go too fast, even though it doesn't feel like they're walking too fast for the conditions.

Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
bruce #43923 08/10/15 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted By: bruce
I use HR monitoring to pace myself, making sure it not only doesn't get too high when I'm on the switchbacks, but also that it's in the appropriate range when I'm starting out so I don't set out too fast.

Everyone feels their best when starting out, leading to a tendency to go too fast, even though it doesn't feel like they're walking too fast for the conditions.


Another good technique to disciplining your pace is using the rest step. This is usually most beneficial on steep terrain, but if you sense you're jackrabbitting at times on any ascent it can reel you back in to a cadence you can maintain for quite a while without stopping.

Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
Brent N #43944 08/11/15 11:41 AM
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Brent's advice is good. I have hiked to the Whitney Summit 4 times. Only on one trip did I have issues. I had hallucinations and slurred speech, but did not know it until later (like Brent said ... compromises your judgement). No headache, no nausea, clear vision. It apparently started on the switchbacks. I am positive it resulted from my lack of eating. I was drinking fine, but not eating. If you can join in on the hike with others, that is a good thing. That interaction, as Brent pointed out, gives you feedback on how you are doing. I did that once during one my failures to reach the summit. It certainly helped me to decide to turn around.

Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
Chicagocwright #43945 08/11/15 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted By: Chicagocwright
Diamox is actually a cataract medication that somehow they figured out helps with altitude medication at very low doses.

Diamox is a glaucoma medication. The treatment for cataracts is lens replacement surgery, not drugs. BTW, I’ve had both eyes done.

Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
Bulldog34 #43946 08/11/15 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted By: Bulldog34
Originally Posted By: bruce
I use HR monitoring to pace myself, making sure it not only doesn't get too high when I'm on the switchbacks, but also that it's in the appropriate range when I'm starting out so I don't set out too fast.

Everyone feels their best when starting out, leading to a tendency to go too fast, even though it doesn't feel like they're walking too fast for the conditions.


Another good technique to disciplining your pace is using the rest step. This is usually most beneficial on steep terrain, but if you sense you're jackrabbitting at times on any ascent it can reel you back in to a cadence you can maintain for quite a while without stopping.


Fortunately the main trail is so well graded that I can usually maintain a consistent pace, while stopping for rest about 10-15 minutes every hour. If my HR gets above a certain threshold then I'll just stop and wait for it to go down. Using an altimeter to measure pace also is useful, since I know I can handle about 100 feet of gain every 5 minutes or so at high altitude, as long as my HR stays within a certain comfort zone.

But yeah for steep and inconsistent terrain the rest step is definitely a good idea.

Re: Lone Hiker on Whitney Next Week
bobpickering #43951 08/12/15 07:05 AM
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Originally Posted By: bobpickering
Originally Posted By: Chicagocwright
Diamox is actually a cataract medication that somehow they figured out helps with altitude medication at very low doses.

Diamox is a glaucoma medication. The treatment for cataracts is lens replacement surgery, not drugs. BTW, I’ve had both eyes done.


Oops! Sorry for the bad info. I knew that and just spaced out.

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