Gear for first attempt in late July?

Posted by: C Gray

Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/11/14 08:54 AM

Hello All,

This will be my first attempt of the MWT in late July. I was wondering if any of the old dogs roaming this site, could drop some knowledge on me. I've read "One Great Hike: Mt. Whitney" & another, to which I've forget the title. Anyways, they were really informative, but I'm looking for some solid info on tent & pack selection, as well as a "necessary cold rating" for sleeping bags. Also, will I need a winter tent even in July? The info I've came across varies wildly. Any info is appreciated.

-Happy Trails!
Chris
Posted by: RoguePhotonic

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/11/14 05:03 PM

Well of course everything you need depends on what the weather forecast is before you leave. In terms of temperatures in late July it's normally nice. I often just lay out in the open with no tent at all unless the mosquitoes are bad so you shouldn't need a winter tent. Night time lows will probably be in the 40's.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/11/14 10:35 PM

Welcome to the forum, Chris. Coming all the way from R.I. makes Whitney a bit more intense. A few years ago, we had a thread, "Lightest weight hiking gear", that I think would be especially helpful.

You don't need to go ultralight, but it is a good point from which to start. So many people load up with 40+ pounds of gear, and it makes their climb so much more difficult.

Also, since it is your first attempt, the "Orientation Notes" for first timers is a very good thing to go through (see link to the left). It was compiled from lots of experiences posted by others over the years on the message boards. Versatile Fred took on the task of compiling the information in one place, with the express purpose of helping people like you. So I sure hope you find it helpful.

Please keep us posted on your progress, and please do ask any questions that come up.
Posted by: juroknow

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/11/14 11:27 PM

Good luck, enjoy, and take your time. Just don't weigh yourself down with too much water, there are plenty of spots to pick some up. That was my biggest mistake the first time.
Posted by: Bee

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/11/14 11:35 PM

Take note that there is a very high incidence of thunderstorms from the end of July to the first week or so of August. I would not dare to leave my Precip jacket behind!
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/12/14 09:17 AM

Budget determines everything!

If I had an unlimited budget I have have clothing and bags for 10 degree temperature swings...I don't.

I buy for what I have experienced. This is why I carry a 15* F bag in the summer even though I'd like to have a 30* F...I just can't justified $350 for another 900 fill power bag that gets used a few days a year.

Tent...both non free standing and free standing work, I have used both.

Bag...15* F but warmer can work with extra clothing, and I utilize an air mattress for comfort.

Insulation...I have 800 fill power 3 season down jacket.

Bear Canister...Ursack, unless things have changed this year they are legal but you have to take some additional steps to make the safe for use at Trail Camp...experience counts.

10 essentials and personal comfort items. This all fits in 60 L pack comfortably.
Posted by: Marty

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/13/14 08:21 PM

wbtravis, could you elaborate on the use of the Ursack product? Can you confirm that it is 'legal' in the Whitney zone? And what you do to assure it's efficacy at Trail (and/or Outpost) camp?
It would be nice to leave my 'bear vault' type of canister behind.
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/14/14 09:53 AM

The last year's forest order disappeared from the Inyo website stated, and I paraphrase, any container manufactured to keep food from bears is legal. Again, I don't know if it has been renewed for this year.

I would buy the latest and greatest from Ursack. The two bags I own are 14 and 7 years old respectively and were two versions of the TKO product.

I use them how the manufacturer, not the forest service, states they should be used. Below the tree line, tied to a tree, and above the tree line hang from a rock, so non-climbling marmots and chippies can't get to them. I've used them at Trail Camp and above Guitar Lake successfully, both locations within the Whitney Zone.

In those 14 years, I have never had an Ursack attacked.
Posted by: Marty

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/14/14 05:57 PM

Thanks for the info...a 'soft' canister would certainly be a lot easier to pack.
Posted by: 63ChevyII.com

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/17/14 10:10 AM

Originally Posted By: wbtravis


Insulation...I have 800 fill power 3 season down jacket.


I am looking at an 800 fill jacket treated with DWR. I don't see a waterproof rating for it though. I'm guessing that you should still carry a poncho or rain jacket?

Are down jackets (I've never had one), good at blocking out wind?
Posted by: John Sims

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/17/14 12:11 PM

Not sure how much the DWR coating does, but down does not do well when wet (loses its insulating ability). I have a Marmot down jacket that I love. It does block the wind and packs very small. If I anticipate rain then I also carry a shell which provides a water proof barrier, as well as additional warmth if needed. It Also packs very small and only weights 7 oz.
Posted by: 63ChevyII.com

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/17/14 01:33 PM

Originally Posted By: John Sims
down does not do well when wet (loses its insulating ability).


That's what I had always heard. When I just recently started looking at jackets, I saw that many of them have the DWR coating and started to wonder how much it helped with water.
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/17/14 04:11 PM

My Feathered Friends Hyperion Jacket was made with W/B fabric but it had sewn through construction, on top of that I've ripped the shell twice and had it repaired. Therefore, it is anything but waterproof but it does a good job at holding off the wind.

I have never counted on it to hold out the rain or elements. I have hiked with this jacket about 3 miles in ten years. It's too stinking warm for most temperatures I hike in. However, two of those miles are on the MMWT in August and September when temperatures were in the single digits.

It's a small package, about 1 liter when stuffed, and about 1 lb. less than the TNF Denali jacket it replaced.
Posted by: SierraNevada

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/18/14 08:15 AM

Originally Posted By: 63ChevyII.com
Originally Posted By: wbtravis


Insulation...I have 800 fill power 3 season down jacket.


I am looking at an 800 fill jacket treated with DWR. I don't see a waterproof rating for it though. I'm guessing that you should still carry a poncho or rain jacket?

Are down jackets (I've never had one), good at blocking out wind?

The DWR treated 800-fill power down is a good choice. Keep it a thin one - not a winter parka. Any insulation layer should never be used in rain or snow without a waterproof shell layer anyway. They all lose effectiveness when wet. And this combo is too warm to climb in, so the insulation layer is for camp or sleeping or perhaps hiking down the mountain. Keep your shell layer light and as breathable as possible - this and a good base layer will keep you comfortable when active in almost any situation. You won't be wading any deep crossings on MMWT, but for general purposes, I'd buy a dedicated waterproof stuff sack (Summit-to-Sea sil-nylon or similar ultralight version) for insulating and base layer clothing, or use a trash compactor pack liner - worse case is probably having to hike through an afternoon thunderstorm. Most likely it will clear up for sunset, which is a common weather pattern, if you get any "weather" at all in July. This system will work fine in a freak snow storm - which is a remote possibility. Don't forget a thin (fleece or similar) hat and gloves - they add a ton of warmth for chilly mornings or evenings. Think light layers and accessories.

Lots of different opinions about the bear canister. I agree with WBT that the Ursack is a great alternative, but you may want to rent a canister for $5 instead - when you pick up your permit. They rent the Garcia model, which is a little heavy, but it may make the most sense. Depends on your longterm needs - do some research on this thread and elsewhere.
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/18/14 09:28 AM

Originally Posted By: SierraNevada
[quote=63ChevyII.com][quote=wbtravis]

The DWR treated 800-fill power down is a good choice. Keep it a thin one - not a winter parka. Any insulation layer should never be used in rain or snow without a waterproof shell layer anyway. They all lose effectiveness when wet. And this combo is too warm to climb in, so the insulation layer is for camp or sleeping or perhaps hiking down the mountain. Keep your shell layer light and as breathable as possible - this and a good base layer will keep you comfortable when active in almost any situation. You won't be wading any deep crossings on MMWT, but for general purposes, I'd buy a dedicated waterproof stuff sack (Summit-to-Sea sil-nylon or similar ultralight version) for insulating and base layer clothing, or use a trash compactor pack liner - worse case is probably having to hike through an afternoon thunderstorm. Most likely it will clear up for sunset, which is a common weather pattern, if you get any "weather" at all in July. This system will work fine in a freak snow storm - which is a remote possibility. Don't forget a thin (fleece or similar) hat and gloves - they add a ton of warmth for chilly mornings or evenings. Think light layers and accessories.

Lots of different opinions about the bear canister. I agree with WBT that the Ursack is a great alternative, but you may want to rent a canister for $5 instead - when you pick up your permit. They rent the Garcia model, which is a little heavy, but it may make the most sense. Depends on your longterm needs - do some research on this thread and elsewhere.


Clothing is personal. I regularly hike with less on than most...especially native Californians. However, I do come more prepared than most because I have seen some pretty wild weather in the Mt. Whitney area. Thunder, lightning, rain like what Noah saw, snow in summer and temperatures colder than any winter hike I been on.

I always suggest you bring extra this and that to the trailhead...and I know this is difficult for those who are traveling by air. This way you have choices.

As for down, I mentioned sewn through construction that is used on my jacket and all the "puffies" that are popular today. Those needle holes negate any W/B fabric used. Also, if you wear these jacket for hours and sweat them up, they will fail because the feather are wet with sweat.

As for the Ursack, if this is one and done, rent a canister. However, you intend to backpack extensively in areas where the Ursack is legal, buy one. If you feel uncomfortable with an Ursack and want something light weight spend the big bucks on a carbon fiber composite Bearikade. This canister is weekender is size but solo in weight. This is the canister I use when going into areas where the Ursack is verboten.

Any cold day or midnight run to the summit, requires 2 pairs of gloves because one will wet out on the way to the summit leaving it useless when you stop. I had a pair get frost layer on it while it was a rock and I was eating a Clif Bar at 14,000' one morning on the Mt. Whitney Trail.
Posted by: RoguePhotonic

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/18/14 05:27 PM

It's just my opinion and many may disagree but if the forecast looks good then there is no problem leaving all rain gear behind. Even if it did rain on you I have hiked soaked to the bone in pouring rain and was happy as can be. We all can pick and choose what level of safety we want but when your talking about a forecast of only a couple of days it's highly unlikely to get hit with some freak storm.
Posted by: Bee

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/18/14 09:56 PM

Okay, it's that time of year to make my usual statement:

If you can carry 25lbs, than you can carry all you need to eat, sleep, survive down to 19f, rainstorms, snow...Yes, this is what my pack weighs for a 3 day trip expecting 20f nights. There is no need to "leave behind" any essential gear (btw, the list includes all the meals, down jacket/pants, rain jacket/pants, silk underwear,bivy sak, Z-rest, 20f sleeping bag..) Anyone going less than 3 days can expect an even lighter pack. Summer? You could leave behind the extra thermal wear.

Sorry, I can never understand the need to make a pack so light that you cannot even carry essential gear to keep you alive if -yes- the unpredicted should -and does- occur.

'K, I said it for the season...have at it (you can always drill holes in your spoon to make it lighter, too!)
Posted by: RoguePhotonic

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/18/14 10:26 PM

I don't have any problem with people carrying everything they might need to survive I just feel that it's not necessary. Just because you can carry the weight doesn't mean it's not allot easier to carry 10 less pounds. I've spent hundreds of days wandering the Sierra and the only time I have ever felt I actually needed rain gear in general safety terms is in October of last year. My rain gear had shredded to the point that it no longer worked at all and I got snowed on which soaked through my gear and got my down jacket wet. I had two more weeks in remote country before I would be out so I was indeed worried about having a lack of gear.
Posted by: wagga

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/19/14 12:59 AM

I guess it depends on whether you are well-seasoned or succulent...

Read Mount Whitney—The Early Climbs.

"Many years later Muir wrote, "For climbers there is a canyon which comes down from the north shoulder of the Whitney peak. Well-seasoned limbs will enjoy the climb of 9000 feet required for this direct route, but soft, succulent people should go the mule way." Should someone of the present generation of mountain climbers feel inclined to make light of John Muir’s exploit, let him endeavor to duplicate it, starting from Independence (not Lone Pine) on foot, with or without sleeping bag and modern concentrated foods — Muir had neither."
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/19/14 08:37 AM

Originally Posted By: RoguePhotonic
It's just my opinion and many may disagree but if the forecast looks good then there is no problem leaving all rain gear behind. Even if it did rain on you I have hiked soaked to the bone in pouring rain and was happy as can be. We all can pick and choose what level of safety we want but when your talking about a forecast of only a couple of days it's highly unlikely to get hit with some freak storm.


I was at Cirque Peak on June day with a forecast of no weather for days. Out on the horizon was a storm that was not supposed to be there. It eventually dumped a bunch of rain on us.

I do that locally all the time but in the Sierra...I find it risky.
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/19/14 08:42 AM

Originally Posted By: Bee
Okay, it's that time of year to make my usual statement:

If you can carry 25lbs, than you can carry all you need to eat, sleep, survive down to 19f, rainstorms, snow...Yes, this is what my pack weighs for a 3 day trip expecting 20f nights. There is no need to "leave behind" any essential gear (btw, the list includes all the meals, down jacket/pants, rain jacket/pants, silk underwear,bivy sak, Z-rest, 20f sleeping bag..) Anyone going less than 3 days can expect an even lighter pack. Summer? You could leave behind the extra thermal wear.

Sorry, I can never understand the need to make a pack so light that you cannot even carry essential gear to keep you alive if -yes- the unpredicted should -and does- occur.

'K, I said it for the season...have at it (you can always drill holes in your spoon to make it lighter, too!)


I understand light packs. I like comfort more than light. Also, experience gives you the ability to go light. Is there a 3 lb. canister a part of the 25 lbs.?
Posted by: Bee

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/19/14 08:56 AM

Bear Can: Bear Boxer mini (much smaller than Garcia)

Note: no cooking devices, pots, pans, stove, etc -- all food is cold served (I have an unusually slow metabolism, so I require much less food than most -- only eat about 1,200 calories a day and STILL have to watch weight gain)

Note: 1/2 ltr water carried -- all other taken from planned/confirmed sources.

Note: Use Osprey Talon 44 -- very light.

I am not an ultra-light practitioner, rather, I just like to be efficient.
Posted by: SierraNevada

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/19/14 09:09 AM

Originally Posted By: RoguePhotonic
It's just my opinion and many may disagree but if the forecast looks good then there is no problem leaving all rain gear behind. Even if it did rain on you I have hiked soaked to the bone in pouring rain and was happy as can be. We all can pick and choose what level of safety we want but when your talking about a forecast of only a couple of days it's highly unlikely to get hit with some freak storm.
Hey Rogue, nobody does what you do for entire summers in the High Sierra, so keep in mind your mileage varies greatly from the rest of us.

A wind shirt (3-4 oz) might be a good compromise for an overnighter with a clear forecast. It's not waterproof, but it will keep the wind chill at bay even if wet. These are perfect for climbing in cool weather in the mornings or evenings and for a windy pass or summit. When you stop, the sweat doesn't evaporate so quickly so you stay more comfortable.

The 2-3 day forecasts for the High Sierra are pretty darn good in July. They typically come in 3 flavors a) clear blue skies b) clear blue skies with afternoon thunderstorms (often due to a well-known pattern of monsoonal moisture from the south) or c) a well-known low pressure freak storm moving in over days from the Pacific, which could bring extended rain and possibly a few inches of snow. It's either settled into a pattern, or it's unsettled between patterns.

A basic light 3-layer clothing system can handle any of these situations. My waterproof breathable shell weighs 9 ounces and my Primaloft insulation layer is less than that. Zip off pants with an extra ultralight merino wool shirt (one long, one short sleeve). Ultralight hat and gloves, done, comfortable, fully prepared. No burden, no sacrifice. There's my $0.02, keep the change.
Posted by: Harvey Lankford

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/19/14 03:48 PM

First, a quote about the weather:

“This isn’t the monsoon”
“How do you know it isn’t?”
“How do you know it is?”
With this brilliant display of empirical proof our scientific probing into the secrets of the local meteorology came to a halt
.
Nicholas Clinch, A Walk in the Sky page 164


Physiologist Griffith Pugh studied cyclists, mountaineers, skiers, soldiers, himself (in a tub of ice), swimmers (with a rectal thermometer probe), and hill-walkers in Britain. The latter after there were ongoing deaths in young people on organized lengthy hikes. Back in the 1940s-1960s when he did these studies, yes, clothing was suboptimal. Notably, a cold wet windy 40 F can kill you just as well as what we perceive as worse weather. Actually, more people die in such moderate temps because there are more sheer numbers of potential victims and also less prepared subjects, including rookies and those those who willfully ignore the risks.

Several generalities of his observations:
(A) Young bucks get tired, slow down, and cannot generate enough heat at some point. There ARE conditions where you die, Rogue just hasn't found it yet. (Personally, I learned the hard way that rain and slush in a Sierra August about knocked two of three of us out because we put on rain tops but not bottoms. All that splash wicked up a lot higher than you can imagine. Poor choice - we thought the storm would pass. After 3 hrs it had not, we could not keep up the pace so slowed down, cooled down, and had to stop, strip, and start an "illegal" fire. I was colder there than in subzero, dry, and properly attired.)
(B) Thrashing about in the cold, or in cold water, is actually less beneficial than you would think. Lying still in fetal position with wet clothes on land or in the water is often life-saving, especially for the latter.
(C)Sometimes naked wet skin is safer than wet clothes. Depend on circumstances like wind, shelter.

For more on Pugh and outdoor physiology, see his 2013 biography. It won the prestigious Boardman-Tasker Book Prize. - this is the US version, there is a slightly longer UK version.

Amazon listing
Disclaimer: I wrote a book review of it to be published in Wilderness and Environmental Medicine next issue.
Posted by: Fishmonger

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/19/14 05:23 PM

July 12, 2008 on Donohue Pass - with tent and gear these two still got in serious trouble, and we were not the only ones who were surprised by the monster storm that washed out houses in Independence and trucks on 395.



Lots of rain, massive lighting, and 6 inches of hail piled up around our tent. All on a day that had a blue sky until 2:00 pm

We met some ultra runners without any gear on the pass, just before it started. I later read on their blog that they had tough time getting back to Tuolumne Meadows..
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/19/14 05:25 PM

Words of experience, Harvey!

Brings to mind Richard P and his last night near the Whitney summit. He had always said if he got too cold, he could just do jumping jacks and stay warm. After that night, he wrote that he concluded doing that was a fantasy.
Posted by: RoguePhotonic

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/19/14 05:26 PM

My over all point comes down to simple time frame. When your heading out for a week you can never tell what will happen but if your going out for an over night trip and the forecast shows clear what are the odds that some freak storm is going to come out of no where and give you trouble?
Posted by: Harvey Lankford

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/19/14 05:54 PM

Originally Posted By: RoguePhotonic
My over all point comes down to simple time frame. When your heading out for a week you can never tell what will happen but if your going out for an over night trip and the forecast shows clear what are the odds that some freak storm is going to come out of no where and give you trouble?


All it takes is a cold rain or snow-induced hypothermia, a rain-induced mud or rockslide, a wind-induced treefall on your head. All these are weather-events. Add a solo hiker with a broken leg, no magic helicopter, and you are stuck for a while at best, or dead.

Remember that saying, "mountains make their own weather.' At the risk of sounding paternalistic, come back and report when you are my age, 63. I agree about going "bare" for maybe 4 hours. After that, hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Experience had taught us to expect nothing of the weather.
Eric Shipton, Land of Tempest page 753
Posted by: Bee

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/19/14 06:56 PM

See quote below*



Author: Myself.... after one too many statistically "improbable" situations.
Posted by: RoguePhotonic

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/19/14 09:08 PM

That's an interesting way to look at it as not how long your planning to be out but how long you might end up being out.

I ran into a woman once that told me her husband makes her take pretty much an entire pack load of gear when she day hikes just in case. That's one way to say how much I love you. grin
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/20/14 08:48 AM

Originally Posted By: Bee
Bear Can: Bear Boxer mini (much smaller than Garcia)

Note: no cooking devices, pots, pans, stove, etc -- all food is cold served (I have an unusually slow metabolism, so I require much less food than most -- only eat about 1,200 calories a day and STILL have to watch weight gain)

Note: 1/2 ltr water carried -- all other taken from planned/confirmed sources.

Note: Use Osprey Talon 44 -- very light.

I am not an ultra-light practitioner, rather, I just like to be efficient.


At 25 lbs. I know you are not ultralight.

I do take a pot, something 2 (titanium) because I like a hot meal, coffee and cocoa.

I could not be bothered stopping for water at known sources, I'd rather keep moving, so I haul up a couple of liters. However, I take 4 L up from Trail Camp...the body requires hydration and I have tendency to have problems with AMS, if not hydrated properly...even when taking Diamox, another annual set of questions asked.

Our base pack weight is not that much different. I carry more food and water and less BRC.
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/20/14 08:57 AM

Originally Posted By: RoguePhotonic
That's an interesting way to look at it as not how long your planning to be out but how long you might end up being out.

I ran into a woman once that told me her husband makes her take pretty much an entire pack load of gear when she day hikes just in case. That's one way to say how much I love you. grin


It's called prudence. I was heading up to San Bernardino Peak last summer, when the lightning and thunder got to be too much for me...emphasis on me. I people past me on the way back while was descending with no rain gear or 39 gallon trash bags.

I go out in the winter and regularly see people climbing high angle slopes with Microspikes and trekking poles.

You calculate risk and throw in a bit of what happens if I screw up when setting up a pack. I've seen a climbing accident, been involved in an accident where only one first aid kit in 12 was good enough to care for the injured person and screwed the pooch a few times myself. This all adds up to a pack that is sufficient to spend an extra night out and care for most medical emergencies.
Posted by: Bee

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/20/14 11:40 AM

The exception on carrying water (Whitney) was that I, too, carried water up from the water source at the base of the switchbacks (I allowed for 2l, but drank less than 1 because it was not hot)

When I do Yosemite and other bp trips, I usually carry 2 liters because I don't know the water sources other than the main, reliable ones.

My friends really like their hot meals and chocolate, too, so there is a stove available if I want a quick cocoa.

I could not agree more that a good way to lower the chance of getting AMS is to remain properly hydrated. Almost every case of AMS that I have seen also had a fair amount of dehydration in the mix.

I used the water stops on Whitney as a way to force myself to hydrate frequently and it really worked (as taught by Bob R -- he also introduced me to the concept of frequent "snacking" VS waiting for large meal stops)
Posted by: SierraNevada

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/21/14 06:19 AM

Originally Posted By: Fishmonger
July 12, 2008 on Donohue Pass - with tent and gear these two still got in serious trouble, and we were not the only ones who were surprised by the monster storm that washed out houses in Independence and trucks on 395.

Lots of rain, massive lighting, and 6 inches of hail piled up around our tent. All on a day that had a blue sky until 2:00 pm

We met some ultra runners without any gear on the pass, just before it started. I later read on their blog that they had tough time getting back to Tuolumne Meadows..


That was a very well known and well tracked storm since it broke the record dry spring (during the last official drought) and unleashed thousands of lightning strikes from the coast to the mountains known as "The Northern California Lightning Series." It triggered massive forest fires all over the northern state. If someone headed out on an overnight trip (like Whitney) without being aware of and prepared for that huge event coming their way, then they just weren't paying attention.

I've been in the same situation with my kids, snuggled into their sleeping bags in the tent with hail piling up and lightning. It's an awesome afternoon adventure if you're prepared. I just wouldn't want to face it on a wide open pass. Note that the trail running blog (I think it's SoCalGirl's site) mentioned seeing the family headed UP the pass as she was turned back. They should have been over the pass before noon in "typical" afternoon thunderstorm weather. With a storm of that magnitude bearing down, an even earlier crossing might be needed. It's very wide open and exposed on the south side. They could've also headed down to Lyell Canyon to ride it out.

Is it just me or does it seem like a bad idea to wrap kids in an aluminumized space blanket in a thunderstorm on a mountain pass. I'm not positive about the physics, but it just doesn't "strike" me as a good idea.
Posted by: Snacking Bear

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/21/14 08:13 AM

Originally Posted By: SierraNevada
Is it just me or does it seem like a bad idea to wrap kids in an aluminumized space blanket in a thunderstorm on a mountain pass. I'm not positive about the physics, but it just doesn't "strike" me as a good idea.


Certainly a shocking proposition.
Posted by: Fishmonger

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/21/14 11:39 AM

Originally Posted By: SierraNevada

That was a very well known and well tracked storm since it broke the record dry spring (during the last official drought) and unleashed thousands of lightning strikes from the coast to the mountains known as "The Northern California Lightning Series." It triggered massive forest fires all over the northern state. If someone headed out on an overnight trip (like Whitney) without being aware of and prepared for that huge event coming their way, then they just weren't paying attention.


I got my wilderness permit late in the afternoon on the day before the storm. If it was that well tracked, the rangers certainly didn't feel like warning us about upcoming storm activity or anything unusually big on the horizon.

We depended on the rangers and the forecasts available there. Nothing special was pointed out to us, definitely not a word about "a huge event." Nobody else on the trail that day seemed to be informed or concerned about a storm. It was the usual train of hikers heading up the pass. I can't speak for the runners, since they entered on the day of the storm, they could have had more current information. We entered the day before and hiked into the middle of Lyell Canyon without anything more than the obvious clouds building above us.

We had all the gear it took to survive, that's the point I was trying to make, and that things happen even when you don't expect them. I have had too many of these surprises in my life to want to gamble with weather.

Aluminized blanket when everyone is hypothermic not a good idea? We were in a tent with aluminum poles, which is about 50,000 times more aluminum than you will find on that blanket. Why would any of this matter when you're wet and freezing? We'd been playing the lightning roulette for an hour before we decided the hell with wet ponchos and set up the tent with shivering hands right on the trail (like several other groups of hikers near us). Water kept running through the tent, my sleeping bag soaked, that's when the blankets came out and they saved the day.

In hindsight, we probably should have kept going across the pass at the start of the storm, however, nobody told us anything about the size of this storm, so we expected it to blow through quickly like most of those 3pm storms in July do. Stuff doesn't always work out the way it should if you have limited information and have to make decisions on the spot. Running out and staying warm by moving fast isn't an option for children. Their core temp drops a lot earlier than those of adults.

Thing is, the kids didn't care one bit about the whole experience the next morning, and after drying out, we kept going for another 160 miles.
Posted by: RoguePhotonic

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/21/14 05:10 PM

I wasn't as lucky. I was out in that storm but I didn't get hit very hard. Nothing more than any other storm.
Posted by: SierraNevada

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/21/14 08:21 PM

Fishmonger,

I need to apologize for not reading your post more carefully before replying. I've got a couple corrections to make.

From your post, I thought this was a different group with kids that you happened to meet on the pass. Now realizing this was your group, I'm sorry if my reply was too critical. I was not in your boots.

I now realize you were referring to a storm on July 12th and I was referring to a series of thunderstorms that peaked on July 20th. So your storm was probably not publicized nearly as much as the later storms. However, I assume afternoon thunderstorms were in the forecast whether the Rangers told you about them or not. Everyone needs to do their own weather check before heading out, and keep an eye on those "building clouds."

It's not clear what you mean in your post by these kids being in trouble. They look fine in this picture, and the boy's smile portrays a kid really enjoying the adventure. When dicey situations happen to me with the family, I'm usually way more nervous than my kids.

Regarding the space blanket, I've never read anything about them being a bad idea in a thunderstorm, but the general approach is to insulate yourself from the ground as much as possible. There's as much danger from current passing through the ground due to a strike nearby, as there is from a direct hit to your tent poles. If the space blanket is just on top of sleeping bags, then maybe it doesn't matter. The physics is not clear to me on this, but I'd avoid using one if I was worried about lightning.

Looking back at all this, you may or may not have done things differently. It's not easy to get an early start with kids and it's hard for anyone to turn back once you're near the top of a pass. Your main point is well taken - be prepared with adequate gear.
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/23/14 10:13 AM

The blankets mentioned are metalize mylar, the metal being aluminum, which is a conductor of electricity. I certainly would not use one if there was electricity in the air.
Posted by: Hobbes

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/28/14 08:39 AM

Originally Posted By: wbtravis
@Bee says "1/2 ltr water carried -- all other taken from planned/confirmed sources."

@WBT says "I could not be bothered stopping for water at known sources, I'd rather keep moving, so I haul up a couple of liters. However, I take 4 L up from Trail Camp."


I use a mixed approach. I usually dip & drink along the way, but have the regular chemicals if the source looks in any way suspicious.

From Guitar, I carry 3L, knowing I'll be thirsty the last couple of miles before pulling into Portal.

I'm planning on hiking my first r/t day hike this summer (prior trips have been from the back route). Based on my calculations, I'm going to carry 4L from the TH, again knowing I'll probably be out by LP Lake on the return.

If I really need to, I can treat some water there before heading down, or just gun it and rely on the store's abundance of good things to eat/drink when I arrive.

As for weather gear, I always take my poncho for overnight trips, no matter what. I've been surfing since I was a teenager, and even in tropical conditions, wind against wet skin can chill you to the bone.

With the poncho (+ tarp) I can put on my down and wait out a storm. As others have noted, sloshing around getting wet is a sure recipe for potential problems. The wicking effect practically guarantees you'll be wet in areas that weren't directly impacted.

And of course, granite/trail in wet conditions means you're going to be traveling slow(er), so you most likely won't burn enough calories to compensate for the chill.
Posted by: Bee

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/28/14 09:21 AM

Originally Posted By: Hobbes
Based on my calculations, I'm going to carry 4L from the TH, again knowing I'll probably be out by LP Lake on the return.


I want to make sure that I am understanding what I am reading: Are you going to carry 4litres of water for a day hike on the Whitney Main Trail?

Carrying a filter would be a lot lighter than carrying all that water, as you will be crossing available sources all the way to the foot of the switchbacks (which offers a huge source at Trail camp)

If one is concerned about the 1 minute it takes to filter the water, I would pose that the extra load of all that water would definitely slow one down much more.

On the very safe side, 2Litres would be more than enough with all the refill opportunities(overkill) up to the switchbacks
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/28/14 09:49 AM

Originally Posted By: Hobbes
I'm planning on hiking my first r/t day hike this summer (prior trips have been from the back route). Based on my calculations, I'm going to carry 4L from the TH, again knowing I'll probably be out by LP Lake on the return.

If I really need to, I can treat some water there before heading down, or just gun it and rely on the store's abundance of good things to eat/drink when I arrive.

Hobbes, carrying 8 lbs of water from the trail head is not the best approach. That weight is unnecessary and will slow you down. And you probably will run out so you will need to dip more along the trail anyway.

Why don't you check this, thanks to volunteer ranger Bob Rockwell:
  Reliable Water Sources Along the Mt. Whitney Trail (a PDF document)
  related pictures: Water availability along the Mt. Whitney Trail
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/30/14 05:46 PM

Originally Posted By: Bee
Originally Posted By: Hobbes
Based on my calculations, I'm going to carry 4L from the TH, again knowing I'll probably be out by LP Lake on the return.


I want to make sure that I am understanding what I am reading: Are you going to carry 4litres of water for a day hike on the Whitney Main Trail?

Carrying a filter would be a lot lighter than carrying all that water, as you will be crossing available sources all the way to the foot of the switchbacks (which offers a huge source at Trail camp)

If one is concerned about the 1 minute it takes to filter the water, I would pose that the extra load of all that water would definitely slow one down much more.

On the very safe side, 2Litres would be more than enough with all the refill opportunities(overkill) up to the switchbacks


Everything depends on the day and the individual's needs, Bee. I have never been able to get by with 2L and still be properly hydrated for that section. I have need 3 to 5L for the Trail Camp to Trail Camp RT or equivalent...the 5 being on a day that did not see 40* F. Sometimes, the seeps on the lower switchbacks do not flow because being dry or frozen. Oh, the last L the 5L day was snow being added to my last L of water from the summit.

Most 22 mile days, I will go through 6 L, especially one with as much sun exposure as the MMWT.
Posted by: Bee

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/31/14 12:09 AM

I quite agree, WB. I have desert blood and other unique metabolic properties that can skew my idea of requirements.

I think what I was trying to convey was that a 4 litre capacity was a bad idea on both ends of the spectrum:

* It is too much water to carry all of the time

* It is too little water to carry for the whole trip
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 03/31/14 08:35 AM

Bee,

I agree with your assessment that it is too heavy and too little.

In 1997 for my first trip up, I did not want to use chemicals or buy a filter, this being a one and done thingy for me. Therefore, I put six liters of water in my handy dandy $10 day pack and headed for the hills.

The following day I bought a filter, which I still have and have not used in over 5 years.
Posted by: Hobbes

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 04/01/14 12:22 PM

Hey gang, good feedback. I've filled up a pint bottle @ switchback #23 before on the way down. All the other locations seem questionable, to the point I would have doubts about filtering.

(Don't get me wrong - I love the Whitney area, but let's be honest, it does have a bit of a Woodstock feel to it in terms of masses of humanity not practicing very good, shall we say, outdoor etiquette.)

What's the consensus here on a day hike? Start with 2L (pre-filled the night before at the TH) to get to the top, then fill up @ the upper spring on the way down?

8lbs of water doesn't seem that heavy. After all, I'm used to doing 15m+ days with a backback. Now, admittedly, it's a UL set-up, but it's still in the neighborhood of 15-20lbs.

What I don't want to do is hang around dealing with water issues. If I can assemble a day pack around 12+- lbs, including 8 lbs of water, then it seems pretty good to me. However, if I can drop 4-6lbs (2-3L) without adding too much distraction, then I'm open to ideas/suggestions.

Feel free to chime in, but the upper spring idea might be the key. In fact, do you think you can make it to the spring with 1L, fill up on the way up, have lunch/re-hydrate @ the peak, and then fill up 2L on the way down and make it all the way back to Portal?

Or take 3L of containers and fill up 3L for the entire trip back? I don't like the idea of dealing with LP Lake - I'd rather just jam back the last 2.5m.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 04/01/14 12:59 PM

Hobbes, I think you are seriously underestimating your water requirements on the hike. I myself dip and drink at every stream crossing. You can do that, or carry something to filter or treat the water.

Be sure to read the Water filtration thread.
Posted by: Bee

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 04/01/14 04:32 PM

I think one of the issues that I have is the idea of "knowing" how much water you will need, and tying into that amount. I am reknowned for how little I eat and drink (always been this way) but one time I was not feeling well, so I guzzled 2litres in a very short distance. I needed this water, and soon after, I felt fine.

Whether you dip & sip or filter, be sure to leave your options open to take in as much water as you may need at the moment.

BTW, I have filtered and not filtered during trips (some areas have huge livestock presence) and with a little practice, filtering took minutes (really, doncha want to stop and rest a few times during the trip??)
Posted by: Chris B

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 04/01/14 04:49 PM

Hobbes,

Everyone's different in their water requirements. I drank 6L on my way up the mountain, and one on the way down (which probably should have been 2-3L). I carried 3-4L for the trip from Portal to Trail Camp, filtered/filled there, and re-loaded for the rest of the summit. Had the option to refill again when I got back down before the final push back down.

Admittedly, we had two filters within a group of five people, so it was easier to carry a bit more than have to make a 30 minute stop to filter enough water for us all.

Plenty of people hike with less, but I hear lots of stories of people on the back side of Whitney pushing for the summit who ran out of water. I'd never want to be in the place. I always carry a little extra water with me everywhere I go, and never have to worry about rationing it out on my hikes.

All personal at the end of the day, but I never mind carrying a bit of extra water.
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 04/02/14 08:54 AM

I don't do the day hike thingy any more but when I did...

2 liters to Trailside Meadow.

Have a meal and go to 4 liters...just one stop.

Check water at the seeps on switchbacks on the way down...if I need water add it here.

Stop at Trailside Meadow for sustenance, head dunk and foot soak.

Then back to Whitney Portal for a shower and Chicken Sandwich and Fries.

It's a real simple plan.
Posted by: Hobbes

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 04/02/14 09:30 AM

Perfecto. Just the kind of advice I was looking for - thanx.

I'm not good with water management, because I'm a dip & drink (I never take a filter, and usually skip chemical treatment) person.

I've made most of my own gear, and one of the things I really like about my pack are the two bottle holders I crafted/sewed to the front of each shoulder strap between the buckle & sternum strap anchor point. Made from velco + a small bungy cord, they each snugly hold 20oz (.6L) gatorade bottles.

So not only is my water right there ready to either be used or re-filled without taking off my pack, but it also puts 2.5lbs (40oz) of pack weight center-forward around my sternum. (I will use these same bottles with my regular, commercial day pack.)

The couple of times I've done Whitney from the backside, I left Guitar with the two 20oz bottles and a 1.8L platypus, so I had essentially 3L. I recall re-filling the gatorade bottles at the spring, but left the plat in the pack.

That would make a total of around 4.2L over the 15-16 miles. But I also remember being out of water by LP Lake, but deciding to gun it to the store rather than deal with finding a decent source (not the creek) around the lake.

So I could have used 5L+ to get all the way back, which is .3L per mile. The r/t day hike is 20-21 miles, which would equate to 7L. No wonder you guys thought I was undergunned.

So what about this plan:
- 3L to the spring (bottles + plat)
- refill as needed @ spring on the way up
- refill as needed @ spring on the way down

Max would be 9L if I was totally empty at each point, but more likely total consumption would be somewhere in the range of 6-7L.
Posted by: Bee

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 04/02/14 04:31 PM

"Refill as needed" is the most important part of this plan (next to carrying enough to last up & back from the switchbacks)

All of the rest is subject to the moment, as "refill as needed" may occur at any time or place that offers water (you may be in the mood for a cold cold fresh refill)
Posted by: wbtravis

Re: Gear for first attempt in late July? - 04/02/14 06:05 PM

All estimates go out the window on those high humidity monsoon days. I have gone through 2 L in two miles on those days.