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Seeking Tips, Gear Experience, Advice
#59693 07/13/22 12:11 PM
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Greetings! Long time reader first-time poster. I'll try to summarize as much as possible to keep this short.

My wife and I attempted Whitney earlier this year, we made oodles of mistakes which we've learned from and are addressing/improving/training more for. We greatly underestimated the initial hike from Portal to Trail Camp which sapped me of my energy, and the next day we decided to just come back down (which also felt like a 100-mile trip in itself). We're on the older side and despite having hiked hundreds of miles in the past several months in preparation, we weren't carrying much weight nor were we doing the uphill (now being addressed with rucking backpack walks and thousands of step-ups).

This past weekend we strolled out to Bishop Pass and into Dusy Basin. Despite my wife previously experiencing zero issues at trail camp earlier in the summer, she got hit with extremely bad nausea just after the pass and couldn't hold down water. We descended enough to get it under control but it has made us extremely hesitant about trying to reach 14,500 after what just happened. We hydrated like crazy for days before/during, had diamox in our possession, had taken ibuprofen, but the vomiting was pretty concerning. I realize sometimes it just happens and there's nothing we can do and won't know until we go.

Two questions:

1) Some hikers we met had suggested carrying oxygen. I've done the Google searches, I've read the reviews, but it seems the "Boost" oxygen gets all the attention yet a lot of the reviews have me skeptical. I'd much more trust testimonials from experienced hikers in these forums. If you have a brand you've used and trust, I'd love to hear about it.

2) Like most of us at altitude, my appetite is gone at 12,000 feet. If we make it to trail camp without sickness and make that next-morning push to 14,500, I'm curious how many calories many of you try to consume. For example, I usually can go a great deal with a simple PB&J and Granola Bar, but I had a complete energy sap again just after 5 miles (and this was descending on the return trip from Dusy Basin to South Lake). I know it's common to continue snacking on the way up, I'm just curious if you load up on a breakfast calorie bomb at 2am before heading up.

I ask about the food because I struggle with coming out of my comfort zone. I initiate many hikes from my home in the early morning where I have the luxury of a normal breakfast, having slept in a normal bed - so starting from trail camp trying to reach Whitney is less of a physical challenge and more of a "become a hiker and stop needing to start from home" challenge. If I thought I could do the 22 miles all in one day coming from the comfort of my home, I'd attempt it, but there's no way I'll ever be able to do that. Those of you who have, my hat is eternally off to you, you are true warriors.

Any advice would be appreciated and definitely will be utilized!

Thank you.

Re: Seeking Tips, Gear Experience, Advice
395North #59694 07/13/22 12:54 PM
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In a lot of ways, hiking Mt. Whitney quickly is harder than running a marathon. Yet many people try to do it without any real training. The best way to attain the fitness to hike Mt. Whitney in a day is to hike a LOT. It is no fun to be at the summit and sick. As you scale up your hiking training, you will gain more confidence in attempting Whitney. Personally I wouldn't attempt Whitney based on what you posted until you've gotten your fitness to a point where you start to feel confident about your body's performance on the day.

I've never seen anyone using oxygen on Whitney and I don't think it's necessary. One thing you could do to ease the transition would be staying in Mammoth Lakes or somewhere high up for several days prior to your attempt.

On fuel, I try to eat a lot the day before, but not stuffing myself. I eat a lot of calorie dense foods both before and during the hike. I try to avoid gimmicky things like gels and focus on real food. My favorite thing is ordering a full sized pizza the night before a big day, and then eating the leftovers during the hike.

Re: Seeking Tips, Gear Experience, Advice
BFR #59695 07/13/22 06:18 PM
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All the conditioning and food and hydration may not be as important as your acclimatization status.

You did not mention your sleeping altitudes or days/nights spent at altitude beforehand. Some people need no time up high before Whitney, some one day/night or some need even more than that (with height varying per individual).
People have an absolute altitude ceiling. This could only be determined with multiple forays and usually would be to higher than Whitney. In other words, with acclimatization Whitney altitude is within most healthy people's altitude capability.

Here is a rule from the CDC written by well-respected high altitude expert Peter Hackett MD. This is a very general guide some people need more time than that.

Ascend gradually, if possible. Avoid going directly from low elevation to more than 9,000 ft (2,750 m) sleeping elevation in 1 day. Once above 9,000 ft (2,750 m), move sleeping elevation no higher than 1,600 ft (500 m) per day, and plan an extra day for acclimatization every 3,300 ft (1,000?m). [ie, if going higher than Whitney]

Re: Seeking Tips, Gear Experience, Advice
395North #59696 07/14/22 04:51 AM
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Sleeping and spending a couple days at elevation before your summit bid is the best strategy for acclimatizing when hiking Whitney. Horseshoe Meadows is not too far from Whitney Portal and it sits right around 10,000 feet. Stay a couple days there. I have a video documenting all this - I'll post at the bottom. You can also do some hikes up to New Army Pass or Cottonwood Pass out of Horseshoe Meadows. These passes sit at an elevation similar to Trail Camp. Make sure to drink lots of water while you are acclimatizing.

As for calories, I wouldn't just eat calorie dense foods like pizza the day before - which fat, obviously being the higher in calorie out of the macronutrients (1g of fat equals 9 kcals). Fat also takes longer to digest, especially at higher altitudes. Eat the fat and protein after the hike - not before! Mt Whitney main trail is all up hill and you will need to fill up your muscle glycogen to have enough energy to hike. Hikers that do not do this often run into trouble with low energy. Then as they reach 12k in elevation, they run into hypoxia issues (just like you described) making it even harder to get food down. You'll want to do a specific carb-loading pattern designed for your body a couple days leading to your hike. I do not know your physical condition or daily energy expenditure needs, so I'll show you what I do the days leading before Whitney or any long day peakbagging. 2 days out I increase my daily carbohydrates to 100grams. One day out, I double my daily carbohydrate intake (usually this puts me around 400g of carbs), I lower my fat intake on these days as well. Protein remains the same. The day of the hike sometimes I'll eat breakfast or I'll wait until I have hiked around 5 miles - all depends how I feel. When hiking, I mainly eat 200 kcals of carbs every hour or two. Again, this can vary depending how my body feels. Ever since I have incorporated these strategies (years ago), I have had no issues with maintaining my energy when hiking long days. You will have to experiment with your body to see how it responds. For example, I am engaged in consistent resistance training as well as cardio training. I hold more muscle mass than the average hiker. So, I have to eat more carbs (and calories) for my energy needs.

I do hold degrees in both nutritional science and kinesiology. Also, I do this for a living too (clinical/research work). I love helping people - just so no one thinks I am giving made up advice - "bro science" LOL!

I hope you have great success on your next Whitney hike! smile

Here is the video documenting Whitney trail and acclimatizing to high elevations:

https://youtu.be/nqE-Od-cvyk

Re: Seeking Tips, Gear Experience, Advice
395North #59697 07/14/22 07:28 AM
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I'm a bit surprised that Harvey didn't say anything about this, but canned oxygen for the general public is one of the biggest scams going. A "large" canister of Boost oxygen contains 10 liters. For anyone who's ever had oxygen administered to them in a healthcare setting, there's a good chance it was via nasal cannula (or prongs) at a rate of 2 liters/minute. Doing the math, that "large" canister would be empty in 5 minutes. Oxygen flow rates in medical resuscitation situations are 10-15 liters/minute by mask or bag. Again, doing the math, that "large" oxygen canister would be empty in a minute. And the benefits of supplemental oxygen in a non-medical setting for any purpose are highly questionable, at best. That includes athletes huffing on an oxygen mask on the sidelines to hasten recovery from exertion.

I'm no expert high altitude mountaineer, but elite climbers tend to feel that climbing the mountain "by fair means" excludes the use of supplemental oxygen even above 8,000 meters. If you're doing Whitney or another 14er and think you need supplemental oxygen, you need to seriously reconsider your fitness and conditioning. (And BTW, 395North, you "had Diamox in (y)our possession" but didn't use it? What good was the Diamox doing in your pack?

Re: Seeking Tips, Gear Experience, Advice
fit2climb #59698 07/14/22 09:12 AM
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Thanks everyone for the feedback! I have a lot to learn and the collective wisdom from this place is an absolute treasure.

Socal Jim: We just received the medication from our doctor (and honestly it was intended for our August Whitney attempt) but we were hesitant to use it pre-emptively after learning of the side effects. We didn't anticipate issues since we've been training at altitude almost every weekend for these past few months. I also had learned that if the altitude symptoms already started, it was too late to rely on the medicine and to get lower. A park ranger that we encountered during the ordeal told us pretty much the same, to simply keep descending. Our fitness isn't the issue, we realize altitude sickness can hit anyone of any level at any age. The purpose of the oxygen was just to have an option available in case symptoms start appearing along the way.

And thank you for the info on the oxygen, we'd rather not be carrying the extra weight (and wasting money in the process) up Whitney if it's going to be useless.

fit2climb: Thank you, that's the nutritional data I'm seeking. I'm not much of a breakfast person and I have to make some adjustments, I just hope I find the magic formula to give me the boost I need that morning leaving trail camp. This is probably going to make you absolutely cringe, but Spaghetti-Os are my "fuel food", I grew up on that stuff and whatever goes in there has been my go-to before sports since I was a small kid. I have to do better.

And holy cow, we watch your videos! We had recently been studying Langley and found your channel when we were trying to learn the difference between New and Old Army Pass. We just watched the one where you went up Langley with the two younger fellas last night LOL. Stay awesome man!

Harvey: Great stuff, we'll definitely spend a night or two up high before heading over, we like Parchers Resort which is nearly at 9,300 feet and a few nights there plus a warmup hike wouldn't hurt.

BFR: That's definitely what we are doing. We've logged 500+ miles this year so far plus a lot of ruck training to strengthen ourselves.


I hope to be back here posting a positive trip report in a month and a half, if we simply make it back to trail camp it would feel like a win, anything beyond that will be a bonus even if it's just up to switchback #20. I'll skip the portable oxygen, we'll do a better job on acclimating (and hydrating), and I'll be reassessing my calorie intake and diet days prior to our launch window. Take care everyone!

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Re: Seeking Tips, Gear Experience, Advice
395North #59699 07/15/22 08:56 AM
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Great post.

Everything has already been answered here, so just my two cents. While many people do just show up and get it done, there are so many subjective factors to consider it really just all depends. Don't take this the wrong way, because I' ve been there, but it sounds like you are still trying to see what works and maybe have not trained "properly" for yourself, however you would subjectively define that.

I know the feeling, trust me. As Fit2Climb said, you are going to have to find your system and see how it works for you, which you are doing by asking on here. You can check my first trip report here when I did Whitney in the winter. I didn't put in a ton of information about fueling or energy, but it was not good. On the way down my stomach was not happy with all the non real food I was giving it; so I learned that "real" or light food works better for me. Bob Pickering and myself also did the mountaineers route a few months later....same thing. I came down off the final 400 and my stomach started telling me to stop eating this packaged crap right now.

I spent years running all around the mountains at some long long distances in a day, hiked all around, and what not, but it was not the same. Did the cardio base help me? Oh hell yeah, but its different. I have certifications in training and nutrition, but these do not translate until a new system is made for a new environment. My biggest issue on the Whitney at first was fueling, as i said, hands down.

For most people i think what Fit2Climb said is best: its a proactive strategy in fueling and preparation but also having a good "first gear" or cardio base where you can go low and slow for a long time on all terrain.

Also, as others have said, sleeping high. You will notice a big difference if you do that. I would argue if you change your diet strategy, sleep high for two nights, and work on your cardio base, you will have a great chance.

Re: Seeking Tips, Gear Experience, Advice
NVG #59700 07/15/22 10:26 PM
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All great answers here. The one thing not mentioned is to consider carrying your overnight gear only to Outpost Camp at 10,400 elevation. You would sleep better, so would be more rested. Also carrying the gear only to that elevation takes way less energy. Then start early on summit day.

Or even consider the above, and then moving up to Trail Camp the second day, and doing the summit on day 3. This plan would likely be the surest way for you to make the summit. Note that if you have an overnight permit, there is no limit on the number of nites you stay out.

Regarding Diamox, since you have a history of AMS, you should definitely use it, and take it first the night before you climb to 10k elevation. Also, only take 125 mg or just half of that, twice a day. Make sure the doctor didn't prescribe the 250 mg pills.

Re: Seeking Tips, Gear Experience, Advice
fit2climb #59702 07/17/22 03:10 PM
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Originally Posted by fit2climb
As for calories, I wouldn't just eat calorie dense foods like pizza the day before - which fat, obviously being the higher in calorie out of the macronutrients (1g of fat equals 9 kcals). Fat also takes longer to digest, especially at higher altitudes. Eat the fat and protein after the hike - not before! Mt Whitney main trail is all up hill and you will need to fill up your muscle glycogen to have enough energy to hike. Hikers that do not do this often run into trouble with low energy. Then as they reach 12k in elevation, they run into hypoxia issues (just like you described) making it even harder to get food down. You'll want to do a specific carb-loading pattern designed for your body a couple days leading to your hike. I do not know your physical condition or daily energy expenditure needs, so I'll show you what I do the days leading before Whitney or any long day peakbagging. 2 days out I increase my daily carbohydrates to 100grams. One day out, I double my daily carbohydrate intake (usually this puts me around 400g of carbs), I lower my fat intake on these days as well. Protein remains the same. The day of the hike sometimes I'll eat breakfast or I'll wait until I have hiked around 5 miles - all depends how I feel. When hiking, I mainly eat 200 kcals of carbs every hour or two. Again, this can vary depending how my body feels. Ever since I have incorporated these strategies (years ago), I have had no issues with maintaining my energy when hiking long days. You will have to experiment with your body to see how it responds. For example, I am engaged in consistent resistance training as well as cardio training. I hold more muscle mass than the average hiker. So, I have to eat more carbs (and calories) for my energy needs.

Carbs have another not so often mentioned advantage over fat. Although carbs provide less energy PER GRAM OF NUTRIENT than fat, they actually provide more energy PER GRAM OF OXYGEN needed for metabolism. In other words, when oxygen is limited, carbs give you more energy for the amount of oxygen that is available. This naturally gives carbs an advantage over fat at high altitude.

Last edited by StorminMatt; 07/17/22 03:11 PM.
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Re: Seeking Tips, Gear Experience, Advice
StorminMatt #59710 07/23/22 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by StorminMatt
Carbs have another not so often mentioned advantage over fat. Although carbs provide less energy PER GRAM OF NUTRIENT than fat, they actually provide more energy PER GRAM OF OXYGEN needed for metabolism. In other words, when oxygen is limited, carbs give you more energy for the amount of oxygen that is available. This naturally gives carbs an advantage over fat at high altitude.

I learned decades ago to take it easy on the fat at altitude. Now I understand much better why that works. Thanks!

Re: Seeking Tips, Gear Experience, Advice
395North #59787 09/09/22 01:25 PM
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I mentioned earlier this summer I'd be back with a hopefully positive result, and positive it was. Going from a somewhat overweight and out of shape 50something at the start of June, I followed a very strict training program and diet adjustment that made Whitney a very easy hike the second time around.

Things that transformed my fitness and helped transition from a failed June attempt to a very smooth August summit:

1) Rucking. What an easy way to really build up legs, back, ankles, your entire core. Sometimes it was simply walking the neighborhood for a few miles, sometimes it was local mountains with a steep incline. Started at 20 pounds on the back and have worked my way up to 65 (Which I'll likely stay at). I was slightly losing a few pounds here & there from just mid-range cardio and weights, but when I introduced rucking into the mix, the pounds just started falling off. Another added benefit is the carrying 30-ish pounds on your back up to Trail Camp feels no heavier than a bag of feathers.

2) Treadmills on max grade. Kicked it up to a 15 incline and would go for 3 to 4 hours at a slow and steady pace without stopping. This part I believe really helped make the switchback go a lot smoother. The actually grade on the switchbacks rarely felt like it was any higher than around 10.

3) A 12/14/16 Plyometric box. Wearing the ruck bag, usually no more than 50 pounds, doing thousands of step ups/downs. This really helped the knees during that dreaded walk back to the portal that feels 2x as long as it did coming up.


Diamox: We took it. Felt no real problems except frequent urination. Half doses two days prior then upped it on the day we started. Never felt any effects of the altitude.

Pacing: We maintained a very deliberate 1mph pace and never needed to stop for breaks, except when nature called or we forced ourselves to stop and eat/drink something. Was it difficult to go so slow when you were loaded with energy and excited? Yes. Did my wife have to remind me repeatedly to slow down? No comment.

Stray Wag bags: Yes, they're laying around in places, but there's no real point in complaining about it. I've noticed (especially on Facebook groups) that many hikers spend a lot time whining, complaining and judging eithers but that's simply not the way to get inconsiderate hikers to change their behavior. One of the best arguments on why wag bags are so necessary on Whitney was recently posted on the MyLifeOutdoors channel last week, perhaps if more people watched this they'd learn to appreciate the importance of our responsibility to keep the place clean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAfnFpZc2io

NUUN Hydration Tablets: These things are a DREAM. The Ginger Lemonade flavor is the best. The added bonus of these containing caffeine helped avoid the headaches since we were being deprived of our regular morning routine beverages. Goodbye to Gatorade and all that sugar.

What a fantastic place filled with so many amazing and supportive people you meet out there. We made some new friends that I suspect we'll be hiking with in the years to come. Thanks for all the responses and dietary tips in this thread, it helped us change the way we fueled ourselves for this.

Take care all. Onto Langley hopefully after this nasty weather gets out of here!

Last edited by 395North; 09/09/22 01:32 PM.
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Re: Seeking Tips, Gear Experience, Advice
395North #59788 09/11/22 10:30 PM
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Thanks a lot for tips. Impressive. We'll try to climb Whitney early October, hopefully this time successfully (one of us developed severe altitude sickness at 11500ft last time). Hope Diamox not to strong for body laugh

Re: Seeking Tips, Gear Experience, Advice
Gintaras #59789 09/12/22 08:22 AM
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The one thing we experienced with Diamox when we did a practice run of it two weeks prior was quite a bit of fatigue the next day. The day we tried it, we weren't very active, so perhaps that contributed to it but that's just speculating.

During the hike, we spent several nights (Outpost for two nights, Trail camp one night) to ensure we were acclimated but didn't experience the fatigue side effect. It was only about a day or so after being back home that we had a few days of feeling like a battery at 5%, then one magical morning we woke up and felt completely back to normal.

We too have previously fallen victim to sickness above 11,500 and this time we just made sure we were drinking plenty of fluids, got better sleep, and of course the Diamox. We never pushed ourselves hard physically while heading up, kept our heart rates around a relaxing 105-115bpm. Best of luck on your trip!

Re: Seeking Tips, Gear Experience, Advice
Gintaras #59792 09/18/22 05:13 PM
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There are lots of great tips and pointers on this thread. I have summitted 22 times over the past 20 years, and to me the single most important thing to do is acclimate (which has been mentioned several times).

I like to drive up and camp and hike at Onion Valley for a day or two, then drive down to the Portal and spend another night before getting up early on the summit day. I would recommend two or three full days at altitudes over 9,000 feet if you want to improve your odds.

One other point - if you are planning to return in October - please be aware that October can be winter time in the Sierra. You are really taking your chances at having weather conducive to success.

Good luck! It will all be worth when the hut is finally in sight and you reach the top!


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