A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do

Posted by: gr8life0223

A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/25/16 05:58 PM

I just finished doing Mt Whitney as a day hike on 8.10.16. I did this hike with someone who I thought was prepared physically and mentally. Not only was this not the case, I placed myself in an incredibly dangerous position by hydrating her with the only water we had as we completed the last 1.20 miles to the summit. She dropped her pack at the 1.9 mile marker saying she could not summit with its weight. It did not occur to me that it meant she was leaving behind her water and supplies. Up until this point I was experiencing only mild symptoms of altitude sickness. Symptoms that were only mild because of constant hydration, eating consistently on the ascent, aspirin, prior acclimation hikes and months and months of training. I had Diamox with me but had not found it necessary to use since I was doing so well.

The reason why I am sharing this story with you is that I broke the number one golden rule. We take care of ourselves first, then we help another. During the final 1.20 miles I was barely hydrating myself. She was complaining of altitude sickness so I was hydrating her as we pushed on. I was completely out of water when I reached the summit. At this point I began experiencing the worst of altitude sickness and dehydration. I immediately became nauseous, couldn't see clearly and hardly had energy. We stayed on the summit for approximately 20 minutes and started heading down. The person I was hiking with did not wait for me and headed down the trail. I stumbled down the most technical part of the trail, vomiting at this point, had difficultly breathing and the already intense headache was getting worse. A stranger came to my aid, saying that she saw my friend who informed her that I needed water. 5 trail Angels carried my pack, gave me their water, brought me to this so called friend and helped us descend over the next 12 hours (full blown hallucinations now). They all agreed that I would have qualified for a life flight had we been able to reach help, and help reach us. Instead, I fell twice on the descent and I have suffered a hiking season ending injury - a shoulder injury with a possibly fracture to the elbow, neck injury and overall damage to my physical, mental and spiritual well being.

What I want to express more than anything is that hydrating was an absolute critical part to combating altitude sickness for me. Combined with many other elements that prepare you for a hike such as this, I failed to take care of myself when I started taking care of another first. My hopes in sharing this story is that maybe one of you will be helped. In addition, determining who you hike with is extremely critical as well. We place our lives in one another's hands. We don't leave our partners behind.

Altitude sickness is terrifying and is never to be taken lightly. I learned so much about it from many different sources and social media groups to help in my preparation
and things still took a different turn.

I owe my life to the nameless 5 Angels that were kind enough and patient enough to help me on that day. I don't think I would be alive today without their help. If you are out there, please know how grateful I am for what you did.
Posted by: Yury

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/25/16 06:14 PM

Originally Posted By: gr8life0223
The reason why I am sharing this story with you is that I broke the number one golden rule. We take care of ourselves first, then we help another. During the final 1.20 miles I was barely hydrating myself.
No, your main error was that you were pushing forward when, because of your conditions, you should have already turned back.

How do you know that you were dehydrated?
What was the color of your hydration indicator?
Going 1.2 miles without hydration is OK.
Anyway, dehydration is overrated (e.g. see Waterlogged by Timothy Noakes).
Posted by: kmcboogie

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/25/16 07:26 PM

Thanks for sharing your story, to enable others to learn from your experience. Best of luck recuperating from your injuries.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/26/16 12:13 AM

gr8life, thanks for sharing your story. It's a sorry situation that someone would abandon their partner to descend.

When she dropped her pack, was that 1.9 miles from the summit or from the trail head?

Also, how long did it take you to get to the summit?

Yury is referring to hyponatremia, a condition induced by drinking far too much water without any electrolytes. I guess we should ask how much water did you consume during the hike.

Posted by: mmauer

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/26/16 04:10 AM

Here's another hard and fast rule I have: when hiking with others, agree on the rules before you hit the trailhead. By that I mean, discuss the various scenarios that might arise, and agree on what you'll do if each comes up. So, for example, I'm always concerned that my or a companion's judgment will be impaired during the hike (because of altitude sickness or just plain hardheadedness) and that this might lead to dumb decisions about whether to keep going or turn back. So one rule I have w/ my hiking partners is, if one person says "we need to turn back", then -- no argument -- we turn back. That rule might seem too hard, but the point is that you can avoid lots of problems if you carefully think through all the difficulties that might arise, and are clear on how you'll handle them.
Posted by: Bob West

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/26/16 06:30 AM

Diamox is not an instant cure for altitude sickness! You need to ask you doctor about dosage and timing, and do some online research about that drug.

Read this before your next trip to high altitude:

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2016/the-pre-travel-consultation/altitude-illness
Posted by: gr8life0223

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/26/16 06:38 AM

It took us 16 hours to ascend. And yes, the pack got dropped at the 1.9 mile marker, where many backpackers leave their packs. We had DAY packs with water that I had filtered just before the switchbacks. I had what was left in mine, a 2.5 liter bladder that was inside the pack. I had filled her water as well. We spent 28 hours total, 35 hours awake straight.

I go with the belief that we don't leave people behind no matter what. I can't help you, and you can't help me if we are separated.
Posted by: gr8life0223

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/26/16 06:50 AM

Thank you for that rule. Big mistake clearly made was having no rules/boundaries such as what you mentioned. We never really discussed the possible difficulties in detail, together. She was gathering information from people, I was gathering my own. We didn't sit down and really go over our expectations, our details and rules together. I see now how that could have changed things dramatically. Looking back today, we should have abandoned the hike prior to the switchbacks. We had already been hiking for almost 8-9 hours. I should have never gone on as clearly, she and I were in different places physically at that time.

Thank you for an extremely helpful rule that moving forward I will always have in place.
Posted by: Briang191

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/26/16 07:23 AM

Sorry to hear about your experience. Speedy recovery. Did you have any electrolyte supplements during the Whitney hike? Salt sticks or Gatorade? When I hike add 1 or scoop of Gatorade into my bladder filled with water and take salt sticks throughout the hike. Have you and your hiking partner talked about the issues since 8/10?
Posted by: gr8life0223

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/26/16 09:36 AM

I had been prescribed Diamox a few weeks before the Whitney hike. I tested it at home and felt comfortable with they way it would work best for me, minus the side effects people complain of. We had been training on Mt Shasta and I had not had issues with altitude, nor at the Mono Pass area where we did an acclimation hike before Whitney. I did not use Diamox then nor did I use it for the Whitney hike. I only had it with me as it is my understanding that it may possibly help symptoms but definitely not cure them on the mountain. Some of the hikers who assisted us down actually had Diamox with them as well but there was no point in taking it at that time.
Posted by: gr8life0223

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/26/16 09:45 AM

I was carrying an electrolyte drink, some electrolyte capsules, Cliff blocks, GU (various kinds) and salty/sweet snacks.

She and I spoke briefly after we got home and when I found out the severity of my injuries. We have not spoken since but had corresponded momentarily with differing perceptions of what went on. To be expected. My goal is to learn from the MANY mistakes I made, get feedback and share my experience so people truly do know what NOT to do.
Posted by: gr8life0223

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/26/16 09:52 AM

Actually, looking back right now, we should have turned back at the switchbacks. It had taken us already 8-9 hours to get to that point and she and I were in different physical/mental stages but pressed on. One of many, many mistakes Yury.
Posted by: TB40

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/28/16 08:11 AM

The other takeaway from this story is that the dayhike, while physically possible, is a very serious undertaking that is prob appropriate for only the most fit and well prepared hikers.

My wife and I are in EXCELLENT shape (I have run over 500 miles this calendar year, she runs half marathons etc, both spend 1 hr plus/day in the gym), we did all the suggested training hikes, etc AND WE BARELY MADE IT. Frankly I think we got lucky, and my obsessive planning and research helped us avoid some of the typical pitfalls.

Virtually all of the day hikers that we met at the portal and on the trail didn't make it. I'm not saying that day hikers dont make it, but my sense is that many of the accounts you read about are from seasoned hikers who have extensive back country experience under their belt. I could be wrong.

My advice, take a hard look yourself, and unless you consider yourself an expert, do the overnight hike. One barrier to the overnight for us was the gear. I didn't want to buy a ton of cold weather equipment when we live in Socal where we would never use it. A couple of overnighters told us how most rent the gear online or from businesses in lone pine (duh).
Posted by: bobpickering

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/28/16 10:13 AM

This thread seems to be about hydration, AMS, a ditsy partner, and keeping your group together. I think the more important issue is realistic expectations and judgement. You were 8-9 hours into the hike at Trail Crest, and you already had mild AMS. How did you think the hike to the summit would go? What time did you think you would get back if you continued to the summit? What shape did you think you would be in when you got back? How often did you ask yourselves these questions? If you had turned around at Trail Crest, none of the other problems you described would have happened.

Far too many people attempt Whitney without sufficient conditioning and experience. Then they try to compensate by starting up early with little or no sleep. This guarantees a brutally long, exhausting, error-prone day. Were you accustomed to hiking 16, 20, or, in this case, 28 hours straight? If not, what made you think you would handle it well on August 10? Even if everything went well, you would be staggering out with your legs and your judgement barely functioning. Throw in a thunderstorm, a twisted ankle, or AMS, and you ensure a bad outcome.

Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope I haven’t been too hard on you. Admitting your mistakes publicly takes courage. Hopefully, a few people will learn from this discussion.
Posted by: bobpickering

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/28/16 10:42 AM

Originally Posted By: TB40
Virtually all of the day hikers that we met at the portal and on the trail didn't make it.

Lots of day-hikers make the summit. My wife and I did it in 1988 with less than a year of hiking experience. I tagged Mt. Muir on the way up, we took a nice break on the summit, and we were back at the Portal in around 13 hours. My most recent day-hike on 1-13-14 was under 13 hours.
Posted by: gr8life0223

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/28/16 11:02 AM

I've taken no comments or suggestions as being hard on me in anyway. I have actually learned more in just the few responses back than I thought I had the months and months of training and research I did prior to the hike. As time moves further away from that awful hike, there were so many mistakes I now clearly see. First mistake was going with the person I did, regardless of what had even happened on the trail yet. There was very little discussion and planning 'together' for this hike and all the questions you all have asked if I asked myself, or if my parter and I discussed is pretty much a 'no'. Learning from all my mistakes is so important because I do not want to ever be afraid to do the one thing I love the most.
Posted by: over1812

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/28/16 10:14 PM

Thanks for sharing your story, most people only share when they have success. Did you and your partner train together on the other hikes you did? When we train for Whitney, we don't just have someone do the 3 Saints as training, we do the 3 Saints as a team so we know what to expect from that other person and get experience with how they do on hikes like that. I would almost never go with someone I have not already done something like San Gorgonio or some other long/tall hike.
Posted by: over1812

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/28/16 10:24 PM

Myself and a partner did Whitney for the first time last year and completed the day hike in about 14:45 with a 0400 start time. He runs several times a week and I play soccer twice a week and we both did the 3 Saints in So Cal as training. I had some problems with AMS after making the summit, mostly dizziness and headache and nausea. Fortunately I was already coming down and so wasn't battling with the thought of if I should continue up.

When I tried this year with a bigger group, two in our group started around 0115 and the rest of us at 0345. But I had either residual illness from the week before or post concussion syndrome from a knock to the head, and I was struggling from the second mile. We all had radios, so after 4 miles of me holding back the pace, I let the other two go on without me. My trick of taking ibuprofen to feel better wasn't working because this wasn't actually AMS. I almost made it to mile 8 but with two large breaks to recover, and just as I was telling myself I probably wasn't going to make the summit (about an hour behind the two that started with me), black clouds rolled over the ridge along with thunder, so I saw that as my sign that I would *definitely* not make it, and turned around.

Summit fever is a very real thing and it takes a strong will or a good friend to keep you from doing something stupid. I had already made it once so you figure, what's the rush to do it again? But last year we had snow and clouds on the summit and I didn't get any of those great pictures from the peak. This year the weather started out beautiful and the rest of my group all got great photos at the top, but we ended up with thunder before 1045. I was disappointed, but came home alive, for which my wife was happy :-)
Posted by: gr8life0223

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/28/16 10:29 PM

We did a few hikes together but since we lived 3 hours away from each other, they were very limited. We were responsible for our own individual training and trip preparation and did not discuss things in detail. There were signs that we might not have been in the same physical and mental space for this hike but I discounted those feelings and believed we would be 'fine'.
Posted by: Briang191

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/29/16 12:33 PM

Originally Posted By: TB40
The other takeaway from this story is that the dayhike, while physically possible, is a very serious undertaking that is prob appropriate for only the most fit and well prepared hikers.

My wife and I are in EXCELLENT shape (I have run over 500 miles this calendar year, she runs half marathons etc, both spend 1 hr plus/day in the gym), we did all the suggested training hikes, etc AND WE BARELY MADE IT. Frankly I think we got lucky, and my obsessive planning and research helped us avoid some of the typical pitfalls.

Virtually all of the day hikers that we met at the portal and on the trail didn't make it. I'm not saying that day hikers dont make it, but my sense is that many of the accounts you read about are from seasoned hikers who have extensive back country experience under their belt. I could be wrong.

My advice, take a hard look yourself, and unless you consider yourself an expert, do the overnight hike. One barrier to the overnight for us was the gear. I didn't want to buy a ton of cold weather equipment when we live in Socal where we would never use it. A couple of overnighters told us how most rent the gear online or from businesses in lone pine (duh).



I would disagree with your statement stating season hikers with extensive back country experience.

I was able to summit Whitney on my first attempt (day hike)I only came across two individuals that did not make the summit one a day hiker and one an over night hiker.

I've been hiking for about a year.
Posted by: over1812

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/29/16 12:43 PM

The good news is that you made it off and lived to tell about it. I hope you still try again, with a better partner. Good luck!
Posted by: Steve C

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/29/16 01:09 PM

Originally Posted By: Briang191
I would disagree with your statement stating season hikers with extensive back country experience.

I was able to summit Whitney on my first attempt (day hike)I only came across two individuals that did not make the summit one a day hiker and one an over night hiker.

I've been hiking for about a year.

Briang191, how old are you, what do you do to stay in shape?
Posted by: KevinR

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/29/16 04:14 PM

Thanks for sharing your story.

I also disagree with Yury that hydration is over-rated. He may be the only person I've ever heard make that comment. It's essential to hydrate, and most beginners will never drink too much. I've been hiking for many years, and don't know anyone, nor do any of my hiking friends, of someone who overhydrated. Mostly it's a myth - drink more fluid than your body needs and you'll simply pee more often.

Taking 8-9 hours to reach the switchbacks is a tad slow, but not alarmingly so, all things being equal. On any given summer day, my hunch is lots of dayhikers are in the same boat.

One last observation - another alternative in your situation was for your companion to stop on the trail and wait for your return, assuming she still had adequate food and water. That would have given her 2-3 hours to rest/recover, although one wonders whether she would have actually waited, given her performance to date.

Hope you have a speedy recovery.
Posted by: gr8life0223

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/29/16 04:51 PM

Originally Posted By: KevinR


One last observation - another alternative in your situation was for your companion to stop on the trail and wait for your return, assuming she still had adequate food and water. That would have given her 2-3 hours to rest/recover, although one wonders whether she would have actually waited, given her performance to date.



When we were at 1.20 miles from the summit, 2 women hikers stopped and spoke with us. When my partner said she didn't think she could go on they told her she should wait behind and allow me to summit. Like you said, it would have given her roughly 2 hours to sit and rest, get back to her pack she dropped at the 1.9 marker. When I said it would be a 2 hour wait she chose to push on. And.... based on my post, we know how that decision ended. In addition, I absolutely do not believe she would have waited for me and that would have brought about a whole new set of problems. Again, in looking back there were so many foolish decisions I made but first one was doing this hike with the wrong person.
Posted by: Briang191

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/29/16 09:44 PM

Originally Posted By: Steve C
Originally Posted By: Briang191
I would disagree with your statement stating season hikers with extensive back country experience.

I was able to summit Whitney on my first attempt (day hike)I only came across two individuals that did not make the summit one a day hiker and one an over night hiker.

I've been hiking for about a year.

Briang191, how old are you, what do you do to stay in shape?


Steve I'm 35 and I use to run 5 days a week and hike on Sunday's. I suffered a foot and leg injury about 6 months prior to my Whitney day hike. I had to scale back and stop running. I only hiked once a week for my training for whitney. I gained about 15 lbs and wasn't in best shape. I've just recently got back into running during the week.

How do you determine if someone has extensive back country experience?
Posted by: Steve C

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/30/16 08:19 AM

Originally Posted By: Briang191
Originally Posted By: Steve C
Originally Posted By: Briang191
I would disagree with your statement stating season hikers with extensive back country experience.

I was able to summit Whitney on my first attempt (day hike)I only came across two individuals that did not make the summit one a day hiker and one an over night hiker.

I've been hiking for about a year.

Briang191, how old are you, what do you do to stay in shape?


Steve I'm 35 and I use to run 5 days a week and hike on Sunday's. I suffered a foot and leg injury about 6 months prior to my Whitney day hike. I had to scale back and stop running. I only hiked once a week for my training for whitney. I gained about 15 lbs and wasn't in best shape. I've just recently got back into running during the week.

How do you determine if someone has extensive back country experience?
I don't know about the "extensive backcountry experience". But all I know is that at 65, Whitney is waaay more difficult than it was 30 years ago -- when I ran 3x per week. I recall back then I did the day hike with 2 others, and we were up and back in under 11 hours! This time, it took over 15, and we used the shorter MR on the way up! ...and I still workout--hard, 3x/week.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/30/16 08:24 AM

Originally Posted By: KevinR
I also disagree with Yury that hydration is over-rated. He may be the only person I've ever heard make that comment. It's essential to hydrate, and most beginners will never drink too much. I've been hiking for many years, and don't know anyone, nor do any of my hiking friends, of someone who overhydrated. Mostly it's a myth - drink more fluid than your body needs and you'll simply pee more often.

Kevin, hyponatremia is not a myth, though I've never heard of a hiker having the problem. I have seen write-ups describing novice marathon participants suffering from it. The most famous one, though, is the Sacramento, Ca, radio station that held a "Hold your wee for a Wii" contest. One woman (who lost) went home and died due to the problem. (Her survivors won much more than a Wii.)
Posted by: Harvey Lankford

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/30/16 01:32 PM

Originally Posted By: Steve C
Originally Posted By: KevinR
I also disagree with Yury that hydration is over-rated. He may be the only person I've ever heard make that comment. It's essential to hydrate, and most beginners will never drink too much. I've been hiking for many years, and don't know anyone, nor do any of my hiking friends, of someone who overhydrated. Mostly it's a myth - drink more fluid than your body needs and you'll simply pee more often.

Kevin, hyponatremia is not a myth, though I've never heard of a hiker having the problem. I have seen write-ups describing novice marathon participants suffering from it. The most famous one, though, is the Sacramento, Ca, radio station that held a "Hold your wee for a Wii" contest. One woman (who lost) went home and died due to the problem. (Her survivors won much more than a Wii.)


Hyponatremia (low blood sodium concentration) has been reported in wilderness journals in hikers, not just marathoners, etc. Over hydration can and does happen. Yury is correct.

Diamox is way over-rated. Does not help much for most people. It is on the WADA list of performance enhancing drugs, but generally only if the person has AMS, or periodic breathing at night.

Way back in the story has the mention of HALLUCINATION. If that is true, then there was more than AMS going on.


Possibilities include:
1. electrolyte disturbance (such as sodium imbalance, HACE high altitude cerebral edema -even on a moderate mountain like Whitney it can happen,
2. rarely on Whitney, severe hypoxia (unlikely unless there was HAPE or HACE),
3. drugs
4. other medical conditions,
5. etc
I do not know if the report was an exaggeration, but if there were true hallucinations, then someone was more than just slow.
Posted by: gr8life0223

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/30/16 02:06 PM

Originally Posted By: Harvey Lankford
Way back in the story has the mention of HALLUCINATION. If that is true, then there was more than AMS going on.

Possibilities include:
1. electrolyte disturbance (such as sodium imbalance, HACE high altitude cerebral edema -even on a moderate mountain like Whitney it can happen,
2. rarely on Whitney, severe hypoxia (unlikely unless there was HAPE or HACE),
3. drugs
4. other medical conditions,
5. etc
I do not know if the report was an exaggeration, but if there were true hallucinations, then someone was more than just slow.


There was no exaggeration in the story. What would be the point as then I would not learn anything from my experience or from any of you. It took 16 hours to ascend. We were awake for 7 hours prior to that. So by the time we reached the summit we had been up for 23 hours. I had drank 3 1/2 liters of water and was empty by the time I got to Trail Camp. Refilled but used all of my water up, another 2.5 liters on the switchbacks and hydrating the partner I was with) after we hit the 1.9 marker. My water was all we had at that point. I had used cliff shots, blocks, crackers and almonds, etc all the way up. I was eating up until we summited which is when I got severely ill. I used ibuprofen and aspirin only, no diamox during the hike. I did not have a pounding headache heading to the summit. I was not out of breath, I felt strong but I was thirsty. I was exceptionally thirsty and I was more concerned hydrating the partner because she had no water! It wasn't until I started vomiting, had shortness of breath, and could barely stand (I could not drink when I was offered water) did the hallucinations begin. They started roughly around 8-9 pm which would have been a little less than 30 hours straight being awake. I saw snakes, cats, a baby laying in the trail, jellyfish, patchwork quilts, white granite rocks, to name a few of the hallucinations. Exaggerating what happened? No need.
It was terrifying enough as it was. The 12 hours down felt like days. I've never been more scared In my life. I didn't feel any better until we reached the lone pine lake area. The hallucinations did not go away completely until I slept for a few hours when we finally got back to our hotel. 29 hours in the trail. 35 hours awake.
Posted by: Harvey Lankford

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/30/16 03:24 PM

the word exaggeration was not used to be critical, but to get a better clarification not about the whole story but about just the hallucinations themselves, now provided.

Presumably, your hallucinations were from sleep deprivation. Some people are more likely to have that than others. I would be interesting to hear from a neurologist or related expert. May have been multiple factors.

A while back, we had one person post her story from Whitney- hers turned out to be a strange manifestation of migraines.
Posted by: gr8life0223

Re: A Dayhike Nightmare - What NOT to do - 08/30/16 03:50 PM

the word exaggeration was not used to be critical, but to get a better clarification not about the whole story but about just the hallucinations themselves, now provided.

My response wasn't intended to sound as though I was offended by your use of that word but to reinforce/clarify the details. I myself am trying to figure out what exactlyy had gone on as I went up to a little over 14,000 feet that hike with only mild symptoms.
My original post was about how taking care off someone first, instead of myself, got me into a dangerous situation. From the feedback to it, from everyone's suggestions and own experiences, I've learned that so many things went wrong. That's what is most important to me. Learning and continuing to learn from this hike. I appreciate everyones comments and discussion because it'll help someone else too, not just me.