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#51701 - 08/17/17 02:44 PM Is my Nobo JMT itinerary too risky?
ponation Offline


Registered: 08/17/17
Posts: 3
Loc: PA
I have never been hiking at altitude before. I posted my initial NOBO itinerary in the JMT yahoo group and was referred to this forum by one of the members. Some people seem to think this is too high risk. What do the experts here think? Any suggestions?

I am aware that pushing myself too much at high elevations can exacerbate the problem. I constructed this itinerary more out of practicality (I have to carry 10 days of food) to get to MTR. Do you suggest I resupply at Mt Williamson motel and add an acclimation day to my trip? Perhaps one zero day at Horseshoe Meadow? Or maybe walk 4 miles and camp at Chicken Spring Lake (though that is 11k feet). As a poster on the JMT group mentioned, I really don't have any 'escape routes' if I were to get sick. Everything is 10k feet or higher in the general vicinity.

The first few days of the trip:

Day 0 - Fly to Reno from sea level, Bus to Lone pine (sleep at 4k feet in a hotel)
Day 1 - Arrive at Horseshoe Meadow (10k) and hike 13 miles to Rock Creek (10k)
Day 2 - Hike 10 miles to Guitar Lake (11k)
Day 3 - Summit Whitney (14k). Camp back around Guitar lake (11k)

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#51702 - 08/17/17 04:06 PM Re: Is my Nobo JMT itinerary too risky? [Re: ponation]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1553
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
You need much more time to acclimate at 8-10k. The night at 4 k in lone pine will do nothing for you. Going to Chicken Spring first will help, as you will have a descent/retreat if you do get sick. Look at this page for complete info
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#51703 - 08/17/17 04:36 PM Re: Is my Nobo JMT itinerary too risky? [Re: ponation]
bobpickering Offline


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 331
Loc: Reno, Nevada
Originally Posted By: ponation
I have never been hiking at altitude before.

Itís your lack of high-altitude experience, not your itinerary, that concerns me. Some people would do just fine with your plan. Others would get deathly sick and find themselves unable to descend. Most people fall between those extremes. I would spend a night at Horseshoe Meadow. If you feel fine the next morning, youíre probably OK. If not, I wouldnít risk being 13 miles from my car when I got worse.

I would also get a prescription for Diamox. Most people start taking it at least a day before going to altitude, but it will help if you wait to see how you do and take if/when symptoms develop. These are several threads that discuss altitude issues. Read all that you can.

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#51709 - 08/17/17 10:59 PM Re: Is my Nobo JMT itinerary too risky? [Re: bobpickering]
ponation Offline


Registered: 08/17/17
Posts: 3
Loc: PA
Thanks for the info. I may be able to leave a few days earlier for acclimatization.

Would staying 2 nights at the Mammoth Mountain Inn (9k) feet and one night at Horse Shoe Meadow (10k) feet be enough to mostly eliminate the risks? I'd plan to take it easy those three days.

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#51712 - 08/18/17 12:11 AM Re: Is my Nobo JMT itinerary too risky? [Re: ponation]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7392
Loc: Fresno, CA
Welcome ponation! I assume you have read the blog linked to in the AMS at 10,000 feet thread, "JMT Thru Hike Derailed". That is about the worst case scenario you can get into. His experience is unusual, but it can happen.

I live not much more than 50 miles (but a 4+ hour drive) from Mt Whitney, at 300' elevation. I did a back pack last summer covering part of the JMT, and I'll share my experience. I was taking half a 125 mg Diamox twice a day.

Day 1: Drove to Horseshoe Meadows, slept the night in the car.

Day 2: Got a late start on my hike because I had to drive down to Lone Pine to pick up my permit (Sequoia won't let Inyo do an overnight drop box permit, so I had to stand in line and say Yes that I understood all the regs. mad mad )  I hiked to Cottonwood Lakes and camped at 11,600. I was tired but ok that night.

Day 3: Climbed Langley at 14k, then carried my pack cross country with a 2k gain and loss. Had to hike farther than planned due to not doing enough pre-hike research. I was exhausted at the end of the day. Barfed all my cookies before I went to bed. So much for the beauty of Sky Blue Lake. :-/

Day 4, 5, and 6 were ok, but I sure didn't have much appetite. I was hiking mostly off trail or on no-longer-maintained routes.

So... if you have the time to come in early and stay at Mammoth for several days, then another night at 10k, I think you will be adequately acclimatized. If you are more susceptible than most, this pre-hike preparation will help ensure that you will succeed on the JMT.

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#51720 - 08/18/17 10:27 AM Re: Is my Nobo JMT itinerary too risky? [Re: Steve C]
Mac Offline


Registered: 08/14/17
Posts: 6
Loc: LosGatos CA
Ponation - take this with a grain of salt but had similar situation coming from essentially sea level - 340ft.

Day 0: drove to Mammoth, stayed night motel, it was Bluesapaloosa weekend, still not sure why people feel compelled to scream and yell from midnight to 2am.

Day 1: hiked around Devils Postpile couple miles, elevation 7500ft'ish; drove down to Bishop Creek/South Lake/Willows campground for 2 nights. Campground nearly empty (1 other party there) seems heavy rains prior days washed others down the mountain, unfortunately the mosquitos stayed put and made there presence known. Short hikes to and around parts of Long Lake est. 5 miles, elevation 9700-10750ish.

Day 2: drove down to Lone Pine stayed at DowVilla

Day 3: hiked to Trail Camp (no discernible effects of altitude)

Day 4: Summit and return to portal. Overall, no bad effects from altitude, other than very mild headache from summit down to trail crest at which time took 3 motrin (a beer would have preferable).

Even with the advice and info from this forum about eating/snacks I did not eat very much summit day. Appetite diminished which may have effected energy level for decent. Pleasantly surprised by amount of water/springs on switchbacks, I had maybe a 1/2 liter from trail camp until I decided to fill up (multiple switchbacks to choose from and just tried to go as high as possible without needing to backtrack for last one). For me 3 liters from trail camp to summit and back was right on target.

Note, before Whitney hike my wife and 9 yr-old daughter were with me so dialed back some distance and elevation pre-trip conditioning that I may have otherwise done. But nevertheless was adequate for me on this day.

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#51722 - 08/18/17 11:20 AM Re: Is my Nobo JMT itinerary too risky? [Re: ponation]
bobpickering Offline


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 331
Loc: Reno, Nevada
Again, different people react to altitude differently. Steve and I are both old guys that stay fit and hike regularly. Steve takes time to acclimatize, takes Diamox, and still has trouble at altitude. Iíve been above 13,000 feet 550 times. With the exception of mild Cheyne-Stokes breathing on Denali (cured with a little Diamox), Iíve never had any issues with altitude. Somebody may chime in and say ďyeah, but you live at 5,000 feet and Steve lives at sea level.Ē Thatís true, but I think the advantage is small. And I can tell stories about partners who live at 5,000 feet and kick my butt cycling or running, and then disappear in my rearview mirror above 12,000 feet.

We canít even guess how well YOU will tolerate high altitude. More acclimatization is better than less. You donít need to drink like a fish, but be sure to stay hydrated. Be sure to eat enough, and take it easy on fatty foods. Donít ďtake it easy those three days.Ē Moderate exercise, especially if you hike higher than your sleeping altitude, is good. Just donít get exhausted.

Good luck, and have fun!

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