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Thanks everyone, we made it to the top!
#57811 07/29/20 03:40 PM
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To those folks who gave us suggestions, we thank you. We summited on July 22! It was definitely not easy, and a very long day. To those who haven't hiked up Mount Whitney yet, please know that it is doable. If you don't have issues with altitude sickness, I think you'll be just fine. I was quite nervous about those 99 switchbacks I kept reading about, but felt they weren't that bad once I was on them. My husband and I are by no means athletes, but we managed to summit. I just wanted to give some encouragement and wish you all luck! Cindy

Re: Thanks everyone, we made it to the top!
Team Dirty Boots #57812 07/29/20 05:10 PM
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Congratulations Cindy! Glad you made it to the top.

What sort of hiking or exercise program did you do before the hike?

Re: Thanks everyone, we made it to the top!
Steve C #57815 07/30/20 12:45 PM
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Hi Steve,

We did a lot of hiking, some low-impact cardio videos and some acclimatization hikes.

In case its helpful for anyone else in their planning, here's what we did in more detail:

- started hiking in March. We are hikers and had a good base last year but on New Years Eve day Cindy's knee gave out and Greg was sick for all of January and February. So we started pretty much from scratch in March, hiking at our favorite place in the Bay Area, Redwood Regional Park (https://www.ebparks.org/parks/redwood/). We love this place! You are hiking under redwood trees but are still in the city of Oakland.

We hiked two or three times per week and by early May we were hiking 12 miles but we knew we needed to have more elevation change than we could get at Redwood Regional. So as soon as it reopened we started hiking at Mt Diablo State park. Even the up and back Summit Trail wouldn't be enough so we started hiking the three peaks of Diablo which is 15.5+ miles and about 4,500+ feet of elevation change. Some people call this the hardest hike in the Bay Area. We did this about once per week starting in late June.

- in between the hiking we did low-impact cardio videos. We really like these folks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNrqrk2xcAo&t=9s and then added their HITS video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlsGj8v6hPs. As it got closer to our permit day, we added burpees on our own, sets of 10 as many as we could do (which was only about three sets at first! We did more later).

- we wanted to include at least some hiking at altitude but with Coronavirus that was difficult. We did hike Pyramid Peak just under a month before our Mt. Whitney date. That hike is nine miles and goes from just under 6,000' to just under 10,000'. Even though we've hiked at elevation before (Half Dome in 2013 and Kilimanjaro in 2016) one never knows about altitude sickness. So we planned to definitely take Diamox.

- in the days before our Mt. Whitney hike we did two acclimatization hikes. Three days before Whitney, we hiked from Horseshoe Meadows to Cottonwood Pass (11,200'). A beautiful hike, we strongly recommend for anyone just before Mt. Whitney. Following the adage of Hike High, Sleep Low we slept in the town of Independence that night. The next day, two days before Whitney, we moved to the Whitney Portal campground and had a leisurely hike along the Whitney Trail to the edge of the Whitney zone. This was for both acclimatization and to scout part of the trail that we would be doing in the dark.

Even though Cindy was quite nervous about the 99 switchbacks, as she wrote below, once we were on them they weren't that bad. On the other hand, the last 1.9 miles really hit Greg hard! Wasn't sure Greg would make it before our absolute turn around time, but we did! Regarding altitude, we both seemed fine throughout, even had appetites on the summit. In the past, lack of appetite at higher altitudes was an issue for Cindy. Talking to Cindy afterwards, she feels like there were only about 10 switchbacks! So maybe a little altitude fog? smile

Thanks again to everyone for answering all our questions. Happy Hiking!




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Re: Thanks everyone, we made it to the top!
Team Dirty Boots #57826 07/31/20 09:25 PM
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In my opinion, the difficulty of the 99 switchbacks is VASTLY overstated. I personally think the most difficult part of the hike is the portion between Mirror Lake and Trail Camp. That section is FAR steeper than the 99 switchbacks. And the many TALL steps (ie 12+ inches) make it all the more difficult. The 99 switchbacks are far less steep, and don’t have so many steps. It’s mostly just walking up a trail. The way I see things, once you get to Trail Camp, the hardest part of the hike is over.

Last edited by StorminMatt; 07/31/20 09:27 PM.
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Re: Thanks everyone, we made it to the top!
StorminMatt #57830 08/01/20 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by StorminMatt
In my opinion, the difficulty of the 99 switchbacks is VASTLY overstated. I personally think the most difficult part of the hike is the portion between Mirror Lake and Trail Camp. That section is FAR steeper than the 99 switchbacks. And the many TALL steps (ie 12+ inches) make it all the more difficult. The 99 switchbacks are far less steep, and don’t have so many steps. It’s mostly just walking up a trail. The way I see things, once you get to Trail Camp, the hardest part of the hike is over.
Agreed. In addition to what you mentioned, the section between Mirror Lake and Trail Camp is the only part on the hike where it can be difficult to find the trail at times. The trail is really obvious everywhere else*.

*edit: Now that I think about it, you can get lost on your way down from the summit if there's a large group gathering at the JMT junction that blocks your view of the direction signs, and you end up taking the wrong turn as a result. But I don't think that's a common occurrence.

Last edited by Big Pine; 08/01/20 09:43 AM.
Re: Thanks everyone, we made it to the top!
Big Pine #57831 08/01/20 11:29 AM
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I agree that the switchbacks aren't too bad in isolation but by the time you reach them you have already done a fairly tiring hike. Also for people like me that Whitney is a huge adventure by the time you get to the switchbacks your excitement and adrenaline have waned considerably. They are also fairly tedious with no change in scenery which adds to the difficulty.

Re: Thanks everyone, we made it to the top!
tarheel1 #57832 08/01/20 12:32 PM
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Regarding the switchbacks: That is that point where altitude issues can set in for many people. Being that they have already climbed 4000 vertical feet, that level of exhaustion can bring on AMS symptoms. Also for many, they are now at 12,500 elevation, higher than most people have ever hiked. AMS symptoms can really kick in.

Big Pine wrote: > Now that I think about it, you can get lost on your way down from the summit if there's a large group gathering at the JMT junction that blocks your view of the direction signs, and you end up taking the wrong turn as a result. But I don't think that's a common occurrence.

I have heard a few stories of people who ended up going down that way by mistake:
-- One was a novice with an experienced hiker -- he took forever getting up, but on the way down, started out ahead, and then saw the switchbacks below on the west side, so took a shortcut down. The experienced hiker had to go like crazy to catch up, stop him and turn him around.
-- There was a report written by one who actually did that, survived the night below near Guitar Lake without any gear, and was then led out by a Search and Rescue team the next day.
-- Several guys were camped near the trail near Guitar Lake, when two hikers came by, heading west. Fortunately they stopped the hikers and found out they thought they were on their way to Whitney Portal. Fortunately the overnighters were able to help them spend the night, and then hike out over Trail Crest the next morning.

Bob Rockwell convinced the Sequoia N.P. people a few years ago to correct the signs at the JMT junction. For years the sign to Whitney Portal pointed south off the mountain.


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