To Newbie Day Hikers, From The Whitney Veterans

Posted by: Whitney Zone

To Newbie Day Hikers, From The Whitney Veterans - 04/06/07 03:41 PM

Posted by wbtravis5152, 04-06-07
To all you veteran Mt. Whitney Day Hikers this is your chance for a "If I only knew then what I know now" moment.

I have a couple...I would have trained a lot harder, more gain and elevation in the mountains and harder work on the aerobic capacity on the streets during flatland training.

Secondly, I would have come to the
Eastern Sierra a month before and spent a weekend at Horseshoe Meadow, doing Cirque Peak (16 mi., +3,000') one day and Mt. Langley (22 mi., +4,600')the next. This way I would have figured out how to pace myself at these higher elevations and known I had a problem with Acute Mountain Sickness. One the way out, I would have gone over to Whitney Portal to get the lay of the land.
_________________________
Mt. Whitney and Eastern Sierra Blog
The Mt. Whitney Day Hike and Backpacking Page



Posted by Doug Sr, 04-06-07
Hi. WB Wise topic to start.

1. Follow the large person. (Go slow)

2. Never sweat.

3. About 1 quart of electrolyte (mild) an hour for the first 5-7 hours.

4.Watch the people coming down,ask why they turned around.Are you making the same choices?

5.People have done the mountain r/t in just over three hours, and they are only waiting for the real fast folks to come, take your time enjoy the trip the slower you travel the better chance to summit.

6. Travel with the intent to turn around pack very lite. Take only what you need, TURN AROUND at the first gut feeling.

7.If you are hiking with a person that is slow going up. They will be slow going down, plan on it!

8. Start as a group stay as a group.

9. No one took you up the mountain no one should need to bring you down. (with exceptions)

10. Mountains are mind games , Grand, powering, rewarding and some times very hard to get along with,they test you as a person of resolve. Calling you back for more trials. Thanks Doug


Posted by Whitney Mike, 04-06-07
To those Whitney day-hike newbies:

1) Do a couple of high-altitude training hikes in a single day: Cactus to Clouds, Vivian Creek Trail of Gorgonio, Mt. Baldy from Baldy Village, and White Mountain are my personal favorites.

2) Acclimation is key. If possible, stay two nights at either Cottonwood or Whitney Portal to get used to the altitude.

3) The day of the big hike, leave early and pace yourself. It's not a race to see who can get to the summit the fastest.

4) Drink plenty of water. Stay hydrated.

5) Know your limitations, and when your body is telling you that it has had enough. There is no shame in turning around without summiting. Remember, the mountain will be there next year.

Michael T.


Posted by Len_aka no1climber, 04-06-07
cut back on cigarettes from two packs a day, down to one. if so many people do it as a day hike, its not that tough. if so many people do it as a day hike, you do not need an expensive guide. grandmothers and children under twelve have accomplished it. get out there and hike.


Posted 04-06-07
Quote:
cut back on cigarettes from two packs a day, down to one. if so many people do it as a day hike, its not that tough. if so many people do it as a day hike, you do not need an expensive guide. grandmothers and children under twelve have accomplished it. get out there and hike.

I would like to add...quit! I just recently quit smoking after 12 years! Yes, it was hard, but I knew I wouldn't be able to accomplish any future mountaineering goals if I kept that nasty habit! So, if any one is reading this, QUIT!


Posted by VersatileFred, 04-06-07
For my first day hike I was fortunate enough to hike with two people who had hiked the trail before. We had a plan of progressive training hikes where we hiked a long hike (over 10 miles) once a month and a shorter hike (under 10 miles) in between for about three months before the trip.

Nonetheless, our final group count was 14 people (including friends of friends and relatives) and not all of them had trained with us. We ended up having somebody getting altitude sickness and dehydration. We had another person with cramped legs on the way down. The group separated on the way back, and we were pretty much on our own. We all had flashlights, but by the time we were going down the batteries in some were pretty drained. I ended up escorting the woman with leg cramps, and we ran out of light just above Outpost Camp.

Here are some recommendations:

1. Try to go with at least one person who has hiked the trail before.

2. Keep your first group small, so that everybody can train together and stick together on the hike.

3. Take along extra batteries just in case your trip down is longer than expected. Also take along emergency supplies.

4. Take a day hike up to Lone Pine Lake before your long day. Not only will you get to see a lot of nice scenery that you may not see in the dark, but you can also familiarize yourself with the 24 switchbacks between Lone Pine Lake and the John Muir Trail sign. I did that on my first hike and it was a reassuring mental exercise to count them when we came down in the dark.

5. Don't push yourself to the top with the attitude that this is your only opportunity. The mountain will still be there next year, and the experience gained on your first trip (from all the things that you realized you could have done better) will make your next trip that much easier. Have a contingency plan in place before your start your hike.
_________________________
Orientation Notes for Whitney First Timers



Posted by m.c. reinhardt, 04-06-07
Always carry the ten essentials in addition to your gear and I would add to this a small roll of duct tape!

And as VersatileFred stated, a trip to Lone Pine Lake is nice. I camped there overnight years ago and it is a very serene and beautiful place.


Posted by tomcat_rc, 04-06-07
my thoughts:
eat snacks early and often at the lower altitudes - you will probably not be hungry at higher altitude - you will be glad you have already put the calories in you

get a good nights sleep - that is why I am in favor of sleeping down low - you sleep better

remember to enjoy yourself while up - it's not about the summit - it's about enjoying the time in the mountains - it's your ride so make it the best for you

it is best to do it the first time with someone who has done the trail before - saves time with getting off-track

remember the once you top out at the trailcrest - you still have two miles to go - pace yourself

a good layering system is important - know what works for you

training hikes

check your headlight before you leave and bring spare batteries

DRINK LOTS OF WATER


Posted by Steve C, 04-06-07
Number 1: Read Versatile Fred's thread on this board, Orientation Notes for Whitney First Timers

Especially for dayhikers: Do NOT take a flashlight with a conventional incandescent bulb -- they only last an hour or two. Buy an LED headlamp. There are a number of stories on this board of people running out of light and batteries. LEDs last 5 to 10 times longer. Cell phones are really bad backup lights.

Consider taking a sleep aid first night camping out. Most people have a hard time sleeping due to excitement and the new environment. I use over-the-counter benadryl (diphenhydramine). It is in common pills like Tylenol PM.
_________________________
Mt. Whitney Hikers Association



Posted by Richard P, 04-07-07
Lots of excellent tips. I especially liked reading Doug's.

I'd add one more: Get yourself a heart rate monitor and figure out what HR allows you to travel for up to 15-16 hours. From years of experience, I know that if I have a 15 hour day in front of me, I better not spend too much time above 130bpm. I throttle back to stay below this rate.


Posted by Sierra Sam, 04-07-07
I recommend the following priorities:

1. Be safe
2. Have fun
3. Make the summit

If you only accomplish the first two, it is still a great success.


Posted by wbtravis5152, 04-07-07
Hey, hey Tomcat,

The eating thing gets me, too.

Eat early, eat often because once to get to 12,000' you just might not have an appetite. Our last trip in 2004 we came up from the west side and I did not have a thing to eat from breakfast to Lone Pine Lake.

Along those lines, if you don't like the food you are planning to take with you at sea level, I can guarantee you it will be inedible at 12,000'.


Posted by wbtravis5152, 04-07-07
Richard had a great idea about the heart rate monitor. Buy one utilize it during your training...especially in the mountains. It is a great way to figure your pace.
_________________________
Mt. Whitney and Eastern Sierra Blog
The Mt. Whitney Day Hike and Backpacking Page



Posted by Richard P, 04-07-07
Doug's "Never Sweat" comment reminds me of my "No Sweat Days" in Nepal. The Sherpas would ask me why the heck I was moving so slowly and I would tell them that I had declared it a "No Sweat Day." In other words, my body was in need of an easy day to recuperate. Keep that in mind as you're doing your acclimatization hikes prior to the Big One.

In regard to liquids and not being able to eat at altitude: make sure you find out what type of "some" calories drink you can easily tolerate. You'll want to be consuming at least some calories during the whole climb. (Powerade/Gatorade work fine for me.)


Posted by Ken, 04-08-07
Stop every hour for ten minutes, with your feet off the ground. You will be carrying a pack which is punishing to your feet, particularly if you have not trained for it. This will save you a lot of pain later. If you are standing, you are not resting your feet or legs!
This also allows for acclimatization, as well as preventing exhaustion, which is common when pushing at altitude.

Sleep is critical! Try to plan your trip so you get sufficient. As we get older, this becomes an increasingly important factor.

If you get a headache, STOP. Sit down, drink a quart of water. If you get a severe headache, DO NOT ASCEND.....you will make the situation much worse, in all probability.
_________________________
Good judgment comes from experience,
and experience, of course, comes from poor judgment.



Posted by Quandary98, 04-08-07
For those first timers who think they want to camp after a Mt Whitney day hike, I would suggest forgetting that and reserving a motel room. My first day hike was last year and I'd planned on camping at the Portal campground. But by the time I came down, nearly dead (Indiana flat-lander here), all I could think about was a shower and a bed.

I would also agree with advice to eat and drink a lot on the way up. I lost my appetite above Trail Crest. Tried to eat something at the summit but couldn't choke down even one bite. As a result I went several hours without eating anything and paid for it on the way down.

Other than that, just keep walking... just keep walking... just keep walking... : )


Posted by wbtravis5152, 04-08-07
Let me add to Ken's idea about your taking care of your feet...

Your feet are what get you to the top and they need top shelf care. There are two things we do on our trip down the mountain. One...we change socks and liners at the top and Two...we stop at Trailside Meadow for a long foot soaking in the icy waters. The latter will reduce your foot size by a couple of widths and make the last five miles down the mountain more pleasant.

Oh, we also do a head dunk.
_________________________
Mt. Whitney and Eastern Sierra Blog
The Mt. Whitney Day Hike and Backpacking Page



Posted by m.c. reinhardt, 04-08-07
Originally Posted By: Ken
Stop every hour for ten minutes, with your feet off the ground. You will be carrying a pack which is punishing to your feet, particularly if you have not trained for it. This will save you a lot of pain later. If you are standing, you are not resting your feet or legs!
This also allows for acclimatization, as well as preventing exhaustion, which is common when pushing at altitude.

For me personally, I find that at higher altitudes I am better off taking my time but not stopping too often. When I do stop, I make it short rest periods. This is because I get what I call galatix acid (don't remember the real name). If I stop for too long, it is really hard for me to start again. I believe one of the keys to high altitude hiking/climbing is too train well. Keep yourself strong and hike at lower altitudes before attempting higher ones if possible. San Jacinto and San Gorgonio are great peaks to climb before Whitney.

Originally Posted By: wbtravis5152
Let me add to Ken's idea about your taking care of your feet...Your feet are what get you to the top and they need top shelf care. There are two things we do on our trip down the mountain. One...we change socks and liners at the top and Two...we stop at Trailside Meadow for a long foot soaking in the icy waters. The latter will reduce your foot size by a couple of widths and make the last five miles down the mountain more pleasant.

I would add to this...bring Moleskin! As soon as I feel even the slightest onset of a blister, I pull out my Moleskin and place a piece (cut a donut hole in the middle) over the area in question. It has been a "foot saver" for me! And of course, make sure you have comfortable hiking boots that fit your feet well.

All the info posted on this thread has been excellent. Good stuff!


Posted by Tim, 04-08-07
Here's what works for me for dayhikes from the Portal, it may not work for others:

1. If you live in SoCal, start hiking Mt Baldy, then progress to overnight trips in the San Gorgonio Wilderness on weekends in the 6-8 weeks leading up to the Mt. Whitney dayhike.

2. After picking up your permit, try to camp at least two nights at the Whitney Portal campsite before doing the dayhike. This will help you adjust to the altitude.

3. Hike up to Meysan Lake the day before. This will help you adjust to the altitude. (If you need a rest day before starting the dayhike to the summit, do this two days before.)

4. Start early, between 4-5 am. (If you don't feel comfortable hiking in the dark, don't do this.) The first part of the hike up to Lone Pine Lake heats up after sunrise, and the early start helps you avoid this. The early start also means getting to the top earlier -- thereby reducing (but not eliminating) the risk of running into late afternoon thunderstorms at or near the top.

5. Drink up before starting at the Portal, and don't carry any water until you get to Trail Camp. (If you think you need to rehydrate more, don't do this. I don't believe in carrying water except above Trail Camp and Guitar Lake -- many others will disagree.) This results in substantial weight savings. At Trail Camp, take a nice long break, treat your water, drink up, then treat your water again and carry it with you up to the top. You probably will not be able to rehydrate again until after coming back down to Trail Camp.

If you start feeling lousy, take a 15 minute rest break. If you still feel lousy after that, turn around. There always will be other opportunities.


Posted by wbtravis5152, 04-08-07
MC,

Getting boots that fit right and marrying them to a great pair of Smartwool socks and quality liners, the use of quality socks cannot be understated, thus making the use of moleskin unnecessary. I can't remember the last time I used the moleskin in my first aid kit for me.

What I have used from time to time is Johnson and Johnson's Blister Block formerly known as Compeed. This stuff hangs one for days. Funny, haven't used this stuff on myself in a few years...just the less fortunate I run into on the trail.
_________________________
Mt. Whitney and Eastern Sierra Blog
The Mt. Whitney Day Hike and Backpacking Page



Posted by Memory Lapse, 04-08-07
WB,

I will second that a thousand times over. Many years ago I day hiked from Tenaya Lake to Yosemite Valley in brand new boots. I learned a huge lesson, I think I had a blister for every stinking mile I walked, about 17 of the the little boogers. I couldn't walk straight for several days.

My big tip for overnight trips is to hydrate heavily every morning before starting out for the day and drink a liter of liquid before bedtime. My night time drink is usually powdered milk, weighs a little more than electrolyte powder and has less calories from sugar with about 36 grams of protein.


Posted by m.c. reinhardt, 04-09-07
Originally Posted By: wbtravis5152
MC,

Getting boots that fit right and marrying them to a great pair of Smartwool socks and quality liners, the use of quality socks cannot be understated, thus making the use of moleskin unnecessary. I can't remember the last time I used the moleskin in my first aid kit for me.

What I have used from time to time is Johnson and Johnson's Blister Block formerly known as Compeed. This stuff hangs one for days. Funny, haven't used this stuff on myself in a few years...just the less fortunate I run into on the trail.

wbtravis5152

You are right. Not only is the fit of your boot important; so are the socks. Smartwool socks are excellent. I still use moleskin on occasion (I may be one of the few who still use it). I just like to be 100% sure I will not get a blister. I'm not familiar with J & J Blister Block. It's nice that you help out others on the trail when the need arises.


Posted by Ken, 04-09-07
To repost that which many already know, I participated in a research study at the Portal, in which we interviewed over a thousand hikers who had attempted the mountain.

Another way of asking the question is: What caused people to fail?

Answer:

1.Altitude illness
2.Altitude illness
3.Dehydration
4.Carry too much weight
5.inadequate preparation (gear or training)
6. Wacko stuff (climbed wrong mountain, took wrong trail, got lost, didn't have permit and got stopped, kidney stone, etc)

Perhaps 20% each for the first four, 10% each for the last two. These are not hard numbers, but my "off the top of my head" impressions.

So, if you are actually interested in succeeding, if you eliminate these factors, you eliminate what stopped almost all of those who failed.

Oh, by the way, there was a considerably higher percentage of people in cat#5...ridiculously improper gear(no light, new boots, no warm layer, no map, tiny water bottle, etc).....but they didn't let that stop them, and they were lucky.
_________________________
Good judgment comes from experience,
and experience, of course, comes from poor judgment.



Posted by wbtravis5152, 04-09-07
Ken,

1. Altitude Illness twice?

I know this one is over looked by SoCals who spend fifteen minutes on Mt. Baldy, Mt. San Gorgonio and Mt. San Jacinto. At their highest these peak are still 3,000' short of Whitney. And it does make a difference.

I know a lot of people I have spoken to about this trip are affected with AMS for their first time when they attempt to summit this mountain...I know I was. There is, also, a tendency to wall out at about 12,000', for some reason the air gets a lot thinner at this elevation.

I really don't know why more folks, especially newbies from SoCal who are spending a ton of money gearing up, do not head up the the Sierra three or four weeks prior and spend a challenging weekend summiting Cirque, Langley or peaks around White Mountain. I've taken groups to these peaks prior to doing Whitney and they all talk about how it helped them on their maiden Whitney trip.
_________________________
Mt. Whitney and Eastern Sierra Blog
The Mt. Whitney Day Hike and Backpacking Page



Posted by Andrew, 04-09-07
In general I would have only a few suggestions.

1) Do as much preparation hiking as you can, especially at elevations above 10,000 feet. The biggest surprise for me was how tough the 97 switchbacks were above trail camp. I had never hiked at elevation that high before.

2) Spend extra time up at the portal or Horseshoe meadows, at least two nights. That will go a long way toward minimizing altitude sickness.

3) Pay attention to gear, clothes, water and food. This board would be good in that regard.


Posted by Ken, 04-09-07
location, location, location..........


Posted by 2dtrail, 07-01-07
I summited on June 20th on a day hike. There were 4 of us and we were all rookies to Whitney, we all made it. We did San G a couple of weeks before. Slept at Whitney portal the night before. The thing that we did that i liked best, was leaving at 2:30 in the morning. A LOT of people said it wasn't necessary, and a agree, but it turned out to be a luxury. An early start allowed us to cruise, acclimatize, eat, rest, enjoy the scenery, spend 2 hrs on the top, and get back down by 4:30. We wanted to get a hotel room also, but with the portal campground being so close, nothing sounded better than the three B's, burger, beers, and bed. Oh ya, BYOB, $15 for a 6 pack at the portal store can make a grown man cry.


Posted by josh, 07-03-07
coming down from trail camp on 6-28, i met 2 dayhikers just below consultation LAKE who said they were carrying 20 liters of water. couldn't believe my ears. Dude, a filter is lighter than that!

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