5 First timers, me, my brother and 3 friends. Long post, but wanted to give information to other first timers. We trained for about 4 months. I am from SoCal, my brother is from Dallas, a friend from Houston and 2 friends from the Bay Area. I did a lot of training hikes in SoCal (Baldy about 5 times, Gorgonio twice, hiking around near Mammoth, etc), and a lot of Stair Master in the gym. The TX guys really could not any do training hikes. However they flew down to SoCal for 2 big training hikes - San Gorgonio on June 23rd, and White Mountain on July 21st. Both those hikes gave us a good idea of the distance and elevation. While a couple of us were a bit slow on the White Mountain hike, none really had any altitude sickness issues or so I thought. The week of our hike, unfortunately one of the guys from NorCal dropped out due to work schedule.
Me and my brother arrived in Mammoth on Monday, Aug 20th. We Hiked Mono Pass on Tuesday (8/21) morning to get used to some altitude. The others arrived in Mammoth on Tuesday evening. The condo we were staying was at 8900ft. So I felt that will give us 2 nights of altitude sleeping. We all went up to the top of Mammoth mountain on Wed (8/22) morning, and hiked around there for a couple of hours. Left Mammoth after lunch, and arrived at the Whitney Portal Camp ground, where we reserved a camp site. After pitching our tent, and putting away food, etc, we drove down to Lone Pine for dinner and went to bed by 8:00PM. Hard to sleep that early in a tent with lots of activity around in the camp grounds.
Woke up early and hit the trail head at 2AM, Thursday Aug 23rd. Our plan was to reach the summit in 9 to 10hrs, and head back taking about 7 hrs to descend. We did great all the way until Trail Camp. Filtered water there, eat some food, and headed up the switchbacks. Our Houston friend fell a little behind, but I was able to see him as he was making his way up. 3 of us reached Trail Crest, and took a short break waiting for the 4th guy to catch up. We were all doing well, and none had any headaches or altitude issues.
We headed to the summit, and once again our Houston friend fell behind. We reached the summit a little before noon. I was still feeling good. Wasn't tired or had any altitude issues. I think I was so focused on getting to the top, I didn't realize that our Houston friend may be having issues. So after about 10mins at the summit, I went back down for him. About 1/2 mile from the summit, I met him coming up. He said he was doing fine, but just slow. So we both went back to the summit where my bother and another friend were waiting. After some pictures, my brother and our friend from Bay Area wanted to head down as they had a headache and didn't want stay at the summit for longer.
Me and our Houston friend hung out there for about 15mins. One of the hikers there was collecting trash and asking everyone around to carry it back down. So I picked up a bunch of it, stuffed into a big ziplock and headed down. I now spent close to 90mins up there. Fortunately I didn't feel any altitude issues, and was feeling quite good.
As we started down towards Trail Crest, our Houston friend fell behind again, but said he was feeling fine and asked me to go ahead. I went down to catch up with the other 2 half way to TrailCrest. My brother ran out of water, but I knew we can filter some on the switch backs. Once we reached Trail Crest, their headache still did not subside, so I asked to keep going and also filter some water when they get down.
I waited for our Houston friend for about 30mins, after which I started going back up towards the Summit to find him. I met him about 1/2 mile from Trail Crest, slowly making his way up. When I saw, I realized I should have never left him alone. Now I could clearly see he was having altitude issues. He was very slow, barely eating anything, has headache, dragging his feet and a bit wobbly. He was also running low on water. So I gave him some electrolytes and some food/water, popped a couple of Advils. He wasn't eating, as he felt sick in his stomach. I walked behind him, held on to his backpack as I was afraid he will slip and fall. It took us almost 2.5hrs to come down the switch backs. At Trail Camp we met with my brother and Bay Area friend. They filtered water for us all, and I gave some more electrolytes to our Houston friend. He hasn't eaten anything for 3 hours now, so we gave him some food. But he wasn't eating it since he wasn't feeling good. But I forced him to eat some granola in small bites. It was already 6PM, and at the pace we were going, I suspected it will be mid-night before we reach the portal. There wasn’t anything else we could do, but keep going down slowly, trying to make him eat some food and drink water/electrolytes. As we reached Lone Pine lake, the others started to feel tired and exhausted. Fortunately we had enough water and food.
We eventually made it to the portal at 1AM. So 23hrs later we dropped our wag bags and trash at the portal, got into the car and drove down to the camp site. We didnt want to sleep in the tent, so we drive down to Lone Pine and checked into the Dow Villa hotel. When we woke up around 8AM the next morning, everyone was feeling fine including our Houston friend. He felt bad for what happened, but there wasn't anything he could have done. Altitude sickness could hit anyone!!! We congratulated each other at breakfast, went back up to the camp site, took our tent down, packed up and drove to LA.
Looking back, I should have seen his symptoms on the way up between Trail Crest and the Summit, and turned back around. I am glad that we were able to come down and that he we alright the next morning. Fortunately, I never felt any altitude issues or felt tired. I was a bit sore the next morning. This is our first time on the Mountain, but I am surely going to hike it again next year.
Once again, sorry for the long post!!!