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katrina, MikeH, Snacking Bear
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Original Post (Thread Starter)
Seeking advice: Aug 24/25 trip #58994 07/08/2021 4:52 PM
by katrina
Hello! I have a group of 6 with overnight passes on Aug 24th. 2/6 have attempted to summit before, but the rest of us our new to the mountain. I’ve been reading a lot of trip reports but am finding minimal information on overnight trips, so I apologize if this has been put out there before and I just missed it. We plan on camping at Trail Camp on our way up, but what I’m curious about is timing. What time would you start the hike to get to trail camp, and what time would you wake up to (attempt) summit the next day? Additionally, thoughts on diamox? The potential side effects seem unappealing, obviously AMS is worse, but I'm curious to hear general thoughts on it! Thanks in advance!
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Re: Seeking advice: Aug 24/25 trip #58996 Jul 8th a 05:50 PM
by Snacking Bear
Snacking Bear
Timing: This will primarily depend on your level of fitness and to a lesser extent your pack weight, acclimatization, and the weather. But I have always been an advocate of early bird starts, say 5-6 AM to give myself plenty of time.

If you want to calculate your time and avoid an unnecessarily early start, your fitness is the biggest indicator of when to leave. Trail Camp is (only) 6 miles in, but 3,700 feet of elevation gain is nothing to scoff at. I'd first ask how long would it take you to climb 6 miles and 3,700K then add time for carrying an overnight pack and slowing due to altitude. I've personally found that I can add 25% more time to my day-hike time when I am carrying an overnight load. This time covers additional breaks and my slower pace. I would probably double that if I was not acclimatized. However, your experience will likely be different than mine, but the smart bet is to leave as early as possible.

If the weather looks like rain (but not dangerous), you may even want to leave even earlier in order to get to camp, get your camp prepped, and get inside before typical Sierra afternoon showers begin. If the weather is hot you will also want to get an earlier start.

I know some folks like to grab Portal store breakfast or drive in from LA and those mid-morning starts aren't too terrible for a lot of folks so long as you are giving yourself ample time based on fitness/weather/acclimatization. The kind of hiker you want to avoid being is the one leaving the Portal after 2 PM and stumble into TC after dark. In the best-case scenario, these folks are just ill-prepared, but in the worst-case scenario, they are putting themselves in risky situations.

Unless you are a fit hiker with relevant hiking experience and a dialed-in understanding of your pace/performance at altitude, you'll want to get started sometime between 5 AM-10 AM to set yourself up for success getting to TC.

Summit Day: It is very common for folks to get an Alpine Start (start hiking by headlamp around 3:00 AM) on summit day! If you choose to do an Alpine Start but are unfamiliar with the trail, I'd highly recommend scoping out the trail through TC to the base of the 97-102 Switchbacks in the daylight after you set up your camp. This will help you get on track in the dark.

Alpine Starts are great because you get to see the sunrise while you are high-up on the mountain. They also get you back to TC early enough to pack up and hike out the same day as your summit day. Note: when timing your descents, a general rule of thumb is that descents take 70% of the time it took you to ascend the same route.

If you are doing two nights in TC and have an entire day to summit, feel free to do a later start... though I'd still recommend a 4-6 AM start. Summer thunderstorms can pop up out of nowhere and the summit ridge is the last place you'd want to be in the early afternoon.

Diamox: I have never used it, but I believe Steve C. is a regular user. I've heard it can dehydrate you if you aren't diligent about staying hydrated, but so long as you drink well, and consult your regular physician first it has been known to be a useful resource.

I hope that this is helpful! Good luck!
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Re: Seeking advice: Aug 24/25 trip #59005 Jul 9th a 04:31 PM
by katrina
Originally Posted by Snacking Bear
Which route up to San J did you take?

We took the tram and hiked it from there. It sounds like there's no harm in getting to TC early in the day if we decide to start at 5AM, and that even starting at that time it might take us longer than expected due to weather and/or breaks. Thank you, Steve C for the Horseshoe Meadows and diamox tips!
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Re: Seeking advice: Aug 24/25 trip #59006 Jul 9th a 06:47 PM
by Anton
Here is what I would do on my overnight trip with first-timer friends:

1) Leave San Diego at 3-3:30 AM on a day of hike (alternatively, leave one day earlier to get more sleep)
2) Arrive to Lone Pine before 8:00 AM, collect permits at the ranger station
3) Have breakfast at the Alabama Hills Cafe (failure to do so significantly decreases the chances of reaching the top)
4) Start hiking from the Portal no later than 10:00 AM
5) Arrive to the Outpost Camp in early afternoon
6) CAMP at Outpost (more on that below)
7) Have early dinner, bed time by 7-8 PM
8) Start a summit bid from the Outpost Camp at 2-3 AM
9) Summit before lunch time at a relaxed pace
10) Return to camp and celebrate, spend another night there (you don't want to drive home after a long day in the mountains)
11) Descend in the morning, have a yummy brunch at Alabama Hills Cafe, and drive home.

The advantages of camping at Outpost instead of the Trail Camp are 4-fold:

1) Lower Elevation = better sleep = (arguably) better acclimation
2) Instant access to excellent water, as opposed to filthy pond at the Trail camp where people wash their dishes. There is running water at TC, but it will be much harder to find in August after a dry winter
3) Less traveling with a heavy pack
4) More privacy and protection from trees

These advantages outweigh the disadvantage of adding a few extra miles on a summit day. Over the past 12 years, I had a chance to compare how first-timer friends and climbing partners perform on Whitney in all fours seasons, on different routes, and on different itineraries. Overnight trips with camping at Outpost have always been successful and enjoyable.

Another piece of advice: consider splitting your group of 6 into 2-3 semi-independent teams on a summit day, unless you already have a firm agreement that everyone will stick together. Because smaller teams are inherently faster and more efficient, this strategy will increase the chances of success. Also, there will be less frustration due to differences in pace and frequent delays.

Have a great time!
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