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#55712 - 07/12/19 04:42 PM Last minute gear/acclimatization/navagation/pre hike advice
Justin Offline


Registered: 05/01/19
Posts: 5
Loc: CA
First, I really want to thank everyone that contributes to this awesome forum. I have been following it daily in preperation for my upcomming first summit attempt on July 19, and the information that has come from the posts and responses I have found extremely valuable. I certianly plan to return the favor and post as soon after my trip with trail conditions and observations.

That said, as my trip is quicky approching, I did have some final preperation clean up questions, which I would be very happy if others could shed some light on:

1) To bring or not bring an ice axe: Based on the latest updates and trip reports, it looks like the switchbacks still have snow on them, as well as a couple portions of the trail past trail crest to the summit. I plan to take the switchbacks up and down, as I don't have experiance or feel comfortable enough climbing the chute, and if the switchbacks are not doable, I'll turn back. I have an ice axe, as well as hiking poles and micro spikes. Fairly experianced with the microspikes and poles, not so much with the axe (and no expericance with crampons so will not be using them). My question is if I should bring the ice axe for stability and possible self-arrest, or if the general consensus is that it will just be dead weight, and poles will be better/sufficent. Also, anywhere in the area I could get some practice on with the ice axe if i choose to bring/use it?

2) Diamox or no diamox: I live at sea level in San Diego. For elevation trianing purposes, the last 2 months I have done the higher peaks around me (Baldy, San Jacinto, San Bernardino, Gorgonio:11,500 ft) and have had absolutely no signs of AMS/headaches/nausea whatsoever. I plan to stay 7/17 at Lone Pine Campground, 7/18 at Whitney Portal, and hike 7/19 starting between 12-2 AM. That said, I had my doctor perscribe me some Diamox just in case. I understand and have read the great debates on taking Diamox on this forum and other places, but Im still going back and forth on how I should dose and if I should even take it in the first place and risk the side effects (although the side effects are listed to be pretty minimal). If I take it, my plan as of now is to take a low dose, taking a 250 ml pill and split into 4, taking 62.5 ml starting 7/17 (PM), 7/18 (AM), 7/18(PM), and 7/19 (AM): last dose after I start my hike/maybe when I am about to trail camp or crest. Would love some insight from others as to that dosage plan, or if I should even take it in the first place given I have not experianced symptoms in my prior hikes.

3) Prefered GPX route: For navagation, I have a Garmin Fenix 5x plus and Gaia on phone as well as a Garmin Inreach explorer. I understand the trail is fairly well defined, however me going solo and for my first time (some of which will be in the dark), I want to make sure I follow the right trail. Considering my plan to go up the main trail, taking the switchbacks, is there a "prefered" gpx of the route I can download onto my phone. I have found a couple from internet searches, just want to make sure Im using an up to date and accurate one.

4) Acclimatization hikes while in the area/before summit: My plan at this point is to drive up 7/17 AM, pick up my permit, drive up to lone pine campground, set up camp, and then drive to Horseshow Medows and do trail peak. Then drive down to lone pine for food, and back up to sleep at lone Pine camp. Next day I will do a little walking around lone pine camp, head up to whitney portal, and maybe do a little of the hike from the main trial just to get familliar with it as I will be hiking in the dark later that night/early morning. Does this sound like a good plan? Any suggestions for something else? Also, as for trial peak, exactly how strenuous is it, and about how long does it usually take. Also, is the trail easy to follow? Cant find a whole bunch of info on it or gpx maps/etc.

5) Campground etiquette/Whitney Portal Store: I see for Lone Pine and Portal campground official check in is at 2:00. If I am there earlier than that time and see the spot is already vacant, can I set up camp earlier than the 2 PM check in time? Last, any word on what time the portal store is closing up/stop serving food at this time of year?

Again, thank you so much to all that contribute to this post, and any others on this forum. Im very excited for my trip up Whitney and hoping it will be first of many!


Edited by Justin (07/12/19 05:11 PM)

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#55713 - 07/12/19 05:52 PM Re: Last minute gear/acclimatization/navagation/pre hike advice [Re: Justin]
bobpickering Offline


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 431
Loc: Reno, Nevada
Two quick comments on my favorite subject: altitude: Sleep at Whitney Portal or Horseshoe Meadow. Lone Pine campground is too low (and too hot). If you have a history of AMS, it probably pays to take Diamox before you go up. Otherwise, carry it and take 125 mg if and when you need it.

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#55715 - 07/12/19 11:01 PM Re: Last minute gear/acclimatization/navagation/pre hike advice [Re: bobpickering]
Justin Offline


Registered: 05/01/19
Posts: 5
Loc: CA
Thanks Bob, always value your input. No history of AMS, but then again, I've never climbed over 11,500. Whitney Portal is all booked up, but I might try for the walk in camp by the trailhead if I can snag a spot. I'm considering Horseshoe too, but a bit worried I'll have trouble sleeping the first night at 10K. Thanks again!

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#55716 - 07/12/19 11:30 PM Re: Last minute gear/acclimatization/navagation/pre hike advice [Re: Justin]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7873
Loc: Fresno, CA
1. I would not take the ice axe. People are doing just fine with microspikes and poles.

2. Diamox: (Too bad you didn't get the 125 mg tablets.) AMS doesn't show up for most people until 12k or higher. First, try it at home: take 1/4 tablet twice, 12 hours apart. If no side effects, good -- follow your plan starting 7/17. ...just to be safe. I follow your plan myself.

3. gps: You will be just fine. It's not so easy when some of the trail is buried. But not mid-July.

4. Acclimatization: what Bob P said. Horseshoe meadow always has available walk-in sites (one-night only), so go there 7/17. Use the Whitney Portal walk-in hiker sites on 7/18. (Link)

If you get to HM by noon, go ahead and do Trail Peak. Then spend the night by your car. Next morning head down to Lone Pine, pick up your permit, head up to Whitney Portal. Get a walk-in site. Then, hike up the first mile of trail, cross North Fork Lone Pine Creek, take the Old Trail down (or the reverse).

If you do the above, you will likely sail up the trail on 7/19 with no AMS issues.

5. what Bob said about Lone Pine campground. Check with the Portal Store about closing times.

#6: Have a great trip!!

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#55718 - 07/13/19 11:15 PM Re: Last minute gear/acclimatization/navagation/pre hike advice [Re: bobpickering]
Jonathan C Offline


Registered: 03/03/19
Posts: 31
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Originally Posted By: bobpickering
If you have a history of AMS, it probably pays to take Diamox before you go up. Otherwise, carry it and take 125 mg if and when you need it.

I am not a doctor but here's my dosage advice based on having taken diamox multiple times and having read a ton of literature...

125mg per 24 hours is the optimal preventative (prophylactic) dose. As mentioned, splitting tablets is fine. You MUST start 2-3 days before being at elevation for it to make a difference. At this dosage side effects shouldn't be more than increased urination and possibly some light tingling in extremities. (Assuming, of course, that your doctor has cross-checked vs any other conditions or medications you may have which might interact w/ diamox.) 250mg/day will give you much more pronounced side-effects with minimal to no additional preventative effect.

Since you already have the prescription you may as well take it preventatively rather than wait for any symptoms.

Taking 125mg after you are already experiencing symptoms won't do enough. At that point you need 250 or 500 / day and this means you are already in an emergency situation and side effects are the least of your worries. You need to get down from altitude ASAP and possibly get to a doctor.

I have found that doctors not familiar with mountaineering routinely get confused between the recommended dose for prevention vs. acute treatment. I had one doctor give me 500mg/day prescription for prevention which would have been WAY too much.

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#55722 - 07/14/19 02:29 PM Re: Last minute gear/acclimatization/navagation/pre hike advice [Re: Justin]
StorminMatt Offline


Registered: 06/20/19
Posts: 22
Loc: Norcal
As far as acclimation, there is one thing I have noticed myself that almost nobody talks about. Specifically, I find that, despite living at sea level, intermittent exposure to higher altitudes seems to help GREATLY when it comes to acclimation. In other words, a hike or two to a high altitude in the days (or even a week or two) before a higher altitude hike can make that hike go more smoothly. Considering that you live in Southern California, hikes to places like Baldy, San Jacinto, or San Gorgonio can EASILY be done in a day. I would hike to the top of one of these peaks and spend some time at the summit maybe a few days before heading to Whitney. Even if you tolerate these altitudes just FINE, you might be surprised just how much going to these places helps when it comes to acclimation.


Edited by StorminMatt (07/14/19 02:30 PM)

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#55735 - 07/15/19 07:02 PM Re: Last minute gear/acclimatization/navagation/pre hike advice [Re: Jonathan C]
bobpickering Offline


Registered: 02/07/10
Posts: 431
Loc: Reno, Nevada
Originally Posted By: Jonathan C
Originally Posted By: bobpickering
If you have a history of AMS, it probably pays to take Diamox before you go up. Otherwise, carry it and take 125 mg if and when you need it.

I am not a doctor but here's my dosage advice based on having taken diamox multiple times and having read a ton of literature...

125mg per 24 hours is the optimal preventative (prophylactic) dose. As mentioned, splitting tablets is fine. You MUST start 2-3 days before being at elevation for it to make a difference. At this dosage side effects shouldn't be more than increased urination and possibly some light tingling in extremities. (Assuming, of course, that your doctor has cross-checked vs any other conditions or medications you may have which might interact w/ diamox.) 250mg/day will give you much more pronounced side-effects with minimal to no additional preventative effect.

Since you already have the prescription you may as well take it preventatively rather than wait for any symptoms.

Taking 125mg after you are already experiencing symptoms won't do enough. At that point you need 250 or 500 / day and this means you are already in an emergency situation and side effects are the least of your worries. You need to get down from altitude ASAP and possibly get to a doctor.

I have found that doctors not familiar with mountaineering routinely get confused between the recommended dose for prevention vs. acute treatment. I had one doctor give me 500mg/day prescription for prevention which would have been WAY too much.

I don’t know where you got your Diamox knowledge, but I got mine from two professionally guided trips on Denali. Mountain Trip had us bring Diamox in 1994. The norm was to wait for symptoms to appear and then start taking ¼ to ½ of a 250mg tablet twice a day. We all eventually took Diamox, and symptoms pretty well disappeared once we took it. We turned around at 18,360’ due to marginal weather and three climbers performing poorly, not due to AMS.

The Diamox story was similar in 1995 with American Alpine Institute. Lead guide Steve House took a lot of time to explain acclimatization, taking care of ourselves at altitude, and, yes, Diamox and other drugs. As in 1994, everybody eventually took Diamox, and symptoms subsided. I was proud that I was again the last team member to need it. I had Cheyne-Stokes breathing one night. I took ½ tablet and went right back to sleep. Problem solved. I took ¼ tablet every 12 hours after that. I slept fine at 14,700’ and at 16,100’ the next few nights. We had good weather for summit day, and every member of our team reached the summit.

Fast forward a decade or so, and somebody figured out that taking Diamox prophylactically was beneficial. A quick internet search today revealed recommendations for taking Diamox one or maybe two (not three) days before ascending. This is probably a good idea for people with a history of AMS. But I frown on the idea of popping a bunch of pills because someone won’t take the time to acclimatize.

I have always recommended trying to climb drug-free. And I don’t do this because I lack knowledge that you possess. Quite the opposite.

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#55744 - 07/17/19 10:30 AM Re: Last minute gear/acclimatization/navagation/pre hike advice [Re: Justin]
Naneek Offline


Registered: 07/04/19
Posts: 2
Loc: Scottsdale
We did Portal to Trail Camp on the 11th. Summit and down to Portal on the 12th. There are two small snow field traverses just below camp. They are carved out nicely but if you don't get up there until late afternoon you may want to throw on the spikes for confidence. Not needed though. It is important that when you get to the end of trail meadows that you do not follow the many footsteps into the snow on the left unless you want to trudge through snow for a few hundred yards to trail camp. When you get to this point look over your right shoulder to find the trail.

This was my first time sleeping at this elevation. I had some difficulty falling asleep. Some of it was summit anxiety but I think a lot had to do with the altitude (I live in Scottsdale, AZ - 1,200 ft) because after lugging a 50lb pack up 4,000 ft I should have had no difficulty crashing.

Trail Camp to Summit took us just over four hours. The section from trail camp to quarter way up the 99 is covered in snow. We scrambled straight up the boulder field until we found dry switch backs. The cable section is the sketchiest of the whole trip. We went inside between the snow and granite and it was no problem at all. Just before Trail Crest you have to traverse two snow fields. These sections are well-defined and easy to clear - Thanks Steve C! - I used spikes on the way up but realized that they weren't necessary so didn't use them on the way down.

Trail Crest to Summit there are two sections to note. The first is where the trail appears to end at a snow bank. If you look over the snow bank the trail is on the other side. There is a little notch to climb through on the left of the snow bank. The second is just before summit. There are two snow fields to ascent. Again, the trail is very defined and easily navigable without spikes but your call. You can always scramble up the boulder field to the right as well.

No ice axe needed. By now, probably no spikes even needed but bring them if you want to. I live at 1,200 ft and train at that elevation. I did not use Doamox for this hike. The three things that I focused on both days were 1) drink water constantly (I added electrolytes); 2) snack constantly; 3)breath into your backpack so that your stomach expands. Short choppy breaths do you no good up there. I made it up and down with no altitude complications, except falling asleep at camp. Not even a headache. Plenty of water everywhere up there. I filled from the natural springs and drank without filtration and had no complications. I took 3 liters from Trail Camp to Summit and back and was fine.

Most important...have fun and enjoy this epic journey! Be safe but no need to worry another second about conditions at this point. You got this!


Edited by Naneek (07/17/19 10:35 AM)

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#55754 - 07/18/19 09:33 AM Re: Last minute gear/acclimatization/navagation/pre hike advice [Re: Justin]
Halfdomer Homer Offline


Registered: 04/07/16
Posts: 43
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Congrats on getting your permit for tomorrow, hope you make it and have an enjoyable experience.

Ice Ax: Snow should be manageable by tomorrow from what I have been reading. Microspikes and poles at most if needed.

Acclimatization: I have summited Whitney 6 times, Baldy 49 times (50 this coming weekend), Gorgonio 6 times, Jacinto twice, Langley twice, and White mountain once (among other peaks) and I have never had AMS go past a very slight headache that was solved by guzzling some water and eating some food. I know everybody is different in their reaction to altitude but you not experiencing AMS on those mountains sounds similar to mine. I don't know anything about Diamox but I would say that if you are good so far on your hikes to high altitude in the weeks before Whitney you should be pretty much OK if you keep yourself hydrated and fed on the way up. I would say bring it just in case but don't use it if you don't feel the need. I live in L.A. so I usually show up in Lone Pine the morning before I hike and go straight up to Horseshoe Meadows parking lot. I spend the day up there and then sleep in Lone Pine at the Dow Villa until after midnight-1 AM or so, then head up to the Portal for about an hour and hit the trail around 2-2:30 AM. BUT..that's just me, you never know what will hit you and when, so always pay attention to your body on the way up. Climbing Gorgonio and Baldy in the weeks before Whitney always helps you acclimatize. Go slower than usual between Mirror Lake and Trail Camp as this is the steepest section of the trail and you will be good to go for the 99's and the back 1.9 miles.
GPS: I have been using the same Garmin Foretrex for the last 5 years and it is wonderful. The Whitney trail is very well defined except for the rocks above Mirror Lake and right before Trail Camp, just go slow and look for footprints is what I did.
I wish you the best and enjoy that feeling of accomplishment! If you don't make it on your first try (like me, unprepared for weather) you can try again since you live so close.

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