Water and Giardia around Mt. Whitney

Posted by: Whitney Zone

Water and Giardia around Mt. Whitney - 05/06/07 04:37 PM

Posted by Steve C, 05-06-07
The recent discussion between Kurt W and Bob R regarding water treatment brought to my attention a relatively new paper published in the Wilderness Medical Society journal WMS: Evidence-Based Medicine in the Wilderness: The Safety of Backcountry Water written by Thomas R. Welch, MD.

I would like to quote several highlights here. The first part in the article identifies a highly publicized event in 1976 where a group of hikers apparently all became ill from a backpacking outing in Utah:
Quote:
Concern about wilderness water in North America may have started with a 1976 report of an outbreak of giardiasis among a group camping in Utah. Although the report implicated waterborne transmission, in retrospect this was clearly not the case. The attack rate, temporal clustering, lack of disease in other groups using the same area, and inability to isolate cysts from the implicated water all speak against waterborne disease. In fact, the details of this case, combined with what we know 3 decades later about giardiasis, point compellingly to hand-to-mouth transmission within the group.

What the above is telling us is simply this: sick Somebody didn't clean up after a nature call! sick

The article continues that the 1976 publication was followed within a few short years by an "explosion of concern about wilderness-water quality in general and giardiasis in particular." and "was soon accompanied by a growing emphasis on and availability of water-treatment technology suitable for backcountry use."

I would urge everyone to read the article. But if you don't have the time, then this is the main point:

If you are concerned about protecting yourself from intestinal infections, rather than worry about treating the water,
it is far more important for everyone in your party to diligently wash up before handling
food and utensils.  No amount of water treatment can replace proper personal hygiene.


A tiny bar of soap (or an ounce of camp suds) is a lot lighter to carry than a water filter.



Posted by davis2001r6, 05-06-07
Thanks for posting, that was a good article. Plus it gave me an answer I wanted to hear, that a water filter really isn't needed in a lot of areas.



Posted by Steve C, 05-06-07
Not only that, but come to think of it, I don't believe there has been a water study yet to find a large enough Giardia or Cryptosporidium concentration in the mountains (outside of a livestock area) to make anyone sick. As the Giardia study says, "to have at least a one-third chance of contracting giardiasis... one would have to drink over 89 liters".

What all this means is that the official Forest Service line that you should filter your water is incorrect. What they should really be telling people is "Filter water if you like, but far more importantly, make sure nobody contaminates your food."



Posted by Gary R, 05-06-07
Based on the earlier discussion of this, and the info that was posted from Bob R's paper:
Giardia lamblia and Giardiasis With Particular Attention to the Sierra Nevada By Robert L. Rockwell
I bought a nice metal cup with a biner clip that will be clipped to my pack for easy dipping into some of those great-looking, cold mountain streams.

As a kid we drank regularly from Colorado Rocky Mountain streams, using common sense of course, but with no ill effects, and when I moved to CA, we drank from the Sierra streams, unaware that it had become "dangerous" (again, with never any ill effects). Eventually we heard about the "danger" and quit doing that.

Thanks to the messages here, I can now look forward to that nice fresh icy, good-tasting water again; much appreciated.

(I'll still carry a filter and use it if there's any reason to think the water may not be OK, but dipping a cup in the creek will sure feel good 8^)



Posted by Lance Smith, 05-06-07
On the main trail i've bumped into a couple of rangers drinking straight from the creek. They say they've been doing it for a while and never been sick.

-lance



Posted by Sierra Sam, 05-06-07
While I think it is generally safe to drink unfiltered water in the 'wild', you need to use some common sense. For example, if there are animals grazing in an area or people camping, you need to be sure that you are not drinking water downstream of where they have pooped. We had an outbreak of giardia in a remote part of Yellowstone last year when some backcountry hikers drank stream water near where some stock animals had been kept overnight. While the water there is usually safe, it needed filtering that particular day.



Posted by Bob R, 05-07-07
Sierra Sam brings up a point that I have been making all along: You always have to Drink Smart. In the Yellowstone case, the people may not have known about the specific animal presence, but they should have learned enough about the area beforehand to know that it was possible. Still, it should be clear by now that it is a conjectural leap to blame the Giardia outbreak on those stock animals, without testing the water those hikers drank. Especially when fecal contamination from their friends was much more likely.

Not Yellowstone, but Derlet and colleagues sampled fresh pack animal manure from over 186 miles of trail in Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks. They found only one sample that contained Giardia, and no E coli O157:H7 or Salmonella. In another study, Johnson and colleagues sampled manure from 91 horses used in the backcountry of California. They found no Giardia or Cryptosporidium.

The Welch paper is from a particularly credible source. Thomas Welch, as you probably noticed, wrote it in the Journal of Wilderness and Environmental Medicine. Furthermore, this is not a "mere" paper submitted and accepted for publication, but an editorial.

Dr. Welch has been battling the wilderness water Giardia myth almost as long as I have, although he now addresses also the other suspect organisms. I found interesting his veiled suggestion that the water treatment companies have not exactly joined the battle.

His editorial concludes with: "The time has come...to apply evidence-based principles to discussions of backcountry hygiene. Such principles mandate a vigorous education campaign targeted on hand-washing, coupled with a corresponding de-emphasis on routine universal water treatment." I've been preaching this for years.

One minor point: Steve C refers to an article of mine that the Yosemite Association published. However, it is an older version. An updated version can be found in a number of places, such as the Boy Scouts of America and the Sierra Club. The bottom line is the same, but the supporting evidence is much stronger: the latest paper is 50% longer and has 66 references.

(needs_link) -- Bob's links no longer work.


In my years of climbing, I estimate using my logbook that I have consumed as much Sierra water as is contained in the average-sized backyard swimming pool.* Untreated, and nary a hint of a symptom of Giardia.

People surely know where I stand, so I probably won't say any more on the matter. There are at least two things that are extremely hard to change: (1) people's opinions, fact-based or not; and (2) medical scientific findings.

*Edit: Make that a pretty small pool! 12' diameter and 3' deep is more like a big wading pool.



Posted by DocRodneydog, 05-07-07
Originally Posted By: Bob R
People surely know where I stand, so I probably won't say any more on the matter. There are at least two things that are extremely hard to change: (1) people's opinions, fact-based or not; and (2) medical scientific findings.

Bob you are correct. You have stated your case very well. You really can't argue against the science behind your points. It is peoples perception that you can't argue with. Even with an overwhelming fact based argument. Most people don't base their opinions or argument based on fact or science.

Doug and I were having this discusion yesterday at the WPS. The point I made is that when I was backpacking in the Sierras in the late 60's no one ever thought about or discussed purifying the mountain water. In the early 70's we were constantly being told by hikers and Rangers that we should never drink any stream water without boiling or using iodine. I had it ingrained into my head from those non-scientific based opinions that water in the Sierras was not safe to drink. Today it is almost impossible for me to overcome the perception that Sierra water is safe to drink without purifying. The water is pobably safe to drink but I will err on the side of caution and purify because I have it ingrained in my brain that the water has become contamenated regardless of what the scientific evidence says. I have seen way too many ignorant hikers taking dumps near water sources to be able to overcome my perception. That along with the Rangers warning us to boil all our water. I am doomed to purify all mountain water. Everyone will have to do what they are comfortable with.



Posted by Ken, 05-08-07
Bob, something else you might not know:

Your literature has been a real boon to those of us who lead or teach others....having something that is so well written, available on so many credible sources, really allows people to consider that their view may be skewed. I've seen numerous instances of people coming out for their first backpack, paranoid about water...but over time, observing me and others not treating and surviving, finally make the leap to not treating.

I always tell people they should do what makes them comfortable, and bring up the topic from the standpoint of their being a controversy.

I really appreciate the service you've done the community.
_________________________
Good judgment comes from experience,
and experience, of course, comes from poor judgment.




Posted by Bob K, 05-08-07
Bob R., I'm sensing some uncertainty in your statements about the safety of Mt. Whitney water when you wrote, "Sierra Sam brings up a point that I have been making all along: You always have to Drink Smart." This seems to imply that Mt. Whitney water might be unsafe under certain conditions which the typical hiker may or may not know about.



Posted by Sierra Sam, 05-08-07
Originally Posted By: Bob K.
Bob R., I'm sensing some uncertainty in your statements about the safety of Mt. Whitney water when you wrote, "Sierra Sam brings up a point that I have been making all along: You always have to Drink Smart." This seems to imply that Mt. Whitney water might be unsafe under certain conditions which the typical hiker may or may not know about.

My answer to your question is that the water up on Mt. Whitney is safe to drink unless it has been contaminated, so you need to be smart about getting your water from areas away/upstream from camping sites, etc.



Posted by Richard P, 05-08-07
Don't recall whether it's included in the paper (probably not), but Bob did a grading of the water source on the Main Trail (and MR, I think).



Posted by gregf, 05-08-07
I'm not a poet and I can't quote much, but highest on my list is an athlete's favorite.

It's the first line to one of the earliest poems ever known, the First Pythian Ode (predecessor to the Olympian Odes) and the earliest comment known on athletic achievement:

"Best of all things is water."

And then it goes on for a couple hundred pages celebrating great athletes and warriors and such and I don't remember the rest.

If you've never gone au naturiel at the "Purest Water on the Planet" (a specific location ID'd by Bob R) on the MMWT, you've never had a drink in your life.

Which reminds me - hope Bob R has re-posted his water pictures...




Posted by Quandary98, 05-08-07
I remember a few years ago Backpacker magazine did an experiment... sent several people out to various areas to test and just drink the water. (I tried a brief search but couldn't find the article.Maybe someone more resourceful at internet searching could find it.) Bottom line was very few of the subjects got sick, and it was suggested that maybe we're all a bit paranoid about water in the backcountry.

I still am. : ) I always filter. Just don't want a trip ruined by being sick.



Posted by Steve C, 05-08-07
Unfortunately, Backpacker Magazine articles don't seem to be on the www anywhere. There is a reference (#11) in the Thomas Welch paper to a December 2003 Backpacker article titled "What's in the water?" by Peter Jaret, pp45-66.

Does anyone have a copy of that issue?



Posted by Kurt Schenk, 06-08-07
On my last trip to the High Sierra 3 weeks ago for the first time I didn't carry my water filter. 8 Days after the trip I started to develop some stomach problems (nausea, loss of appetite and diarrhea). The symptoms didn't disappear within a weak and so I decided to see a doctor. Today the lab results came back, which confirmed that the problems are caused by giardia. The entire 3 days in the back country (Palisade area) I took water only at two locations: At Third Lake and from a tiny tarn 150 feet west of Gayley Camp. Of course there is no proof that I got it from the water, but next time I will probably bring my MSR filter again.

I have been using seat belts consistently for the past almost 30 years, but never really needed them. Nevertheless, I will continue to use them. I guess water treatment can be looked at in a similar way.

Kurt




Posted by Karl Keating, 06-08-07
Maybe these stories suggest that the best way to avoid contracting giardia is not to share utensils or food with others. Be entirely self-sufficient. Don't use a common cookpot. Don't use common bags of food. That way, if someone in your party isn't very hygienic, you won't be the one getting the unpleasant surprise.



Posted 06-08-07
Kurt W and I were with Kurt S on the Palisades trip. I (knock on wood) have not had any type of Giardia symptoms since that weekend a few wks ago. IDK about Kurt W, he was fine right before he left for Denali (May 25th). We all drank from the same water sources, but did not share utensils, etc. Kurt W was extremely hygienic in all his cooking, etc. I don't really recall anyone sharing food bags too (we all had our own snack bags). Who knows? Maybe Kurt S just was the unlucky one in the group to swallow the protozoan parasite from the water.? Hey Kurt S, maybe this explains why you didn't feel like eating anything when we all had dinner that night in Bishop or the next morning when we went climbing (I don't think altitude would have caused your anorexia by the time we were back down). Either way, good health to you! My luck would have it that I have another round of diarrhea on Denali next week like on MT Baker ~ grrrrrrrrreat! Thanks for sharing your experience. I've been eating raw garlic since you emailed me (good ol' Czech trick I learned from my dad). wink



Posted by Wayne, 06-09-07
Kurt, sorry to hear about your affliction.

Many of us on this board drink freely out of the Sierra streams and lakes, but drinking smart as possible. There have been times when I have not drunk smart, and paid the price, but never ill effects from Sierra water.

The medical reports I've read about Giardia show that victims would need to drink incredible amounts of High-Sierra water for enough Giardia to cause ill effects. Apparently, a single protozoa is not enough--you need a lot to get sick. Others on this board, especially Bob R, could verify this.

Third Lake and the Gayley Camp tarn are so high and pristine, it is amazing you got the bug. Sorry you got it.



Posted by Bob R, 06-09-07
Kurt, the only thing I can add is that the current thinking from the CDC is that symptoms usually occur 7 to 14 days after infection. Other sources have said 4 to 28 days. From your post, you were drinking that Palisades water on days -8 to -10. You have to think about what went into your mouth (water and other things) the few days to a couple of weeks before your trip, during your trip, and a few days after.

Your trip 8 to 10 days before symptoms is right in the prime period. I assume that everyone in your party used proper hygiene procedures--including serious hand sanitation after defecating. If that was not the case, further discussion here is pointless.

But if that was the case, you should certainly think of the water. If the water, the next question is how it got there. Small tarns are not particularly trustworthy because there is no flushing action as with a flowing stream. If something is deposited, it stays there for quite a while. On the other hand, there is very little mammalian life at 12,000' to worry about. (Marmots have not been implicated for Giardia, from what I have read. And birds can carry it, but not a variant that can infect humans.) Of course, it is possible that someone crapped nearby or in the water recently.

I don't know what else to say. If you got it on the trip, it could have been from the water or another way. Or you could have gotten it at home before or after the trip.

I have never said you can't get giardiasis from high Sierra water. I have only looked into the probabilities, and found them low. Extremely low or less low, depending on where you are and how attentive you are to "drinking smart."

In this case, as in all things, people have to consider the risks and consequences before deciding whether or not to take precautions.



Posted by romanandrey, 06-09-07
It is probably worth mentioning that individuals' susceptibility to water-born infection varies greatly.

If you have been drinking unfiltered water for years and years, you've probably been exposed to various bugs whether you realized it or not. And you've probably developed greater resistance to getting sick.

On the other hand, people who've never had anything but filtered water are going to be at a higher risk of getting sick if they suddenly start drinking stream water straight.



Posted by Bob K, 06-09-07
Re Bob R's comment, "Of course, it is possible that someone crapped nearby or in the water recently." I recall that last summer (or the summer before) someone did just that on a secluded part of the shore of the little lake by Trail Camp. I can see how that would happen. In the middle of the night, someone picked a spot near their campsite. They may have been just inconsiderate or they might have been a bit scared at going away too far in the dark or they just didn't know any better, etc.



Posted by Memory Lapse, 06-09-07
Kurt,

Can you give details of the treatment you have had to undergo and how effective it has beem including prescriptions and/or over the counter treatments?



Posted by Steve C, 06-09-07
And then there are some early symptoms, as TT reported:
Quote:
Hey Kurt S, maybe this explains why you didn't feel like eating anything when we all had dinner that night in Bishop or the next morning when we went climbing (I don't think altitude would have caused your anorexia by the time we were back down).

Maybe that was an indication that the giardia has already set in.



Posted by Kurt Schenk, 06-10-07
Tina,

I have been struggleing with nausea and loss of appetite at high altitudes ever since I venture into these elevations. But usually I feel completely fine once I am back at the trailead. It was very anusual that I was not even able to eat breakfast the following mornig. However, I doubt very much that this is related to my giardiasis. As Bob R. pointed out it takes 7 to 14 days before symtoms show. (According to a CDC fact sheet it takes 1 to 2 weeks, average 7 days. It was probably not an engineer who figured that one out.) Since Friday I have the proper medication and I am starting to feel considerably better. The most severe symptom was loss of appetite. Looking at food or even thinking of food was turning my stomac around. It is a very efficient way to loose weight, though. BTW, I arrived in Switzerland OK this morning, but it obviously wasn't the most pleasant flight I ever had.

Bob R.

I entirely agree, there is no positive prove that I even got it in the Palisades. Only, if (what I sincerely don't hope) Kurt W. got the same problem I had a pretty strong argument. Up at Gayley camp all 3 of us got the water from the tiny tarn, as it was the only water source anywhere near. If I remember correctly down at Third Lake Tina only took water from the exit of the lake a few feet down the creek. Kurt W. and I also filled our canteens directly from the lake straight below our camp, which was about 100 to 150 feet away. Maybe that is not considered "drinking smart". I read your postings and paper on the subject and to me the evidence is compelling: The risk of getting giardiasis from High Sierra water is very minimal.



Posted by Kurt Schenk, 06-10-07
Memory Lapse,

All I got is an antibiotic called "Metronidazole" that I have to take for 7 days, 3 tablets of 250mg daily. I started the 3rd day now. The nausea disapeared and as of today the appetite seems to return, but it is a bit early to say.

Steve C,

I kind of doubt that the previous incident is related to Giardia. I fully recoverd within a day and was completely free of symptoms for an entire week. During this time I completed a 100 mile bike ride makeing pretty good time without having any issues. I don't know if anybody could confirm if the symptoms can disapear for a whole week and then turn up again.

Kurt



Posted by Bob R, 06-11-07
Originally Posted By: Bob R
I assume that everyone in your party used proper hygiene procedures--including serious hand sanitation after defecating. If that was not the case, further discussion here is pointless.

I still have not read a response to this. We are talking specifically about Kurt S's infestation, and we are conjecturing that he got it on this trip. So the question applies to Tina and Kurt W: Did they wash hands thoroughly with soap or use antiseptic gel, etc.? Kurt S, do you know?

[If Kurt S caught it from Tina or Kurt W, that means that one or both are asymptomatic carriers. That immunity to giardiasis can be gained is well-established.]

A lot of outdoors people have learned that proper hand sanitation is the important thing in preventing the spread of Giardia and other germs. Yet I see it being done only rarely.

To expand upon my quotation above: Did both Tina and Kurt W use the proper procedures? If not, further discussion about the water in that tarn or elsewhere is pointless.



Posted by romanandrey, 06-11-07
Originally Posted By: Bob R
A lot of outdoors people have learned that proper hand sanitation is the important thing in preventing the spread of Giardia and other germs. Yet I see it being done only rarely.

To expand upon my quotation above: Did both Tina and Kurt W use the proper procedures? If not, further discussion about the water in that tarn or elsewhere is pointless.

This is fascinating theory, but it may be something of a red herring. Consider it from an alternative angle:

If poor hand sanitation is the primary means of contracting Giardia in the wild, we would expect to hear at least occasional reports of people who used water purification methods (pumps, iodine, etc) AND got Giardia.

That, at least to my knowledge, is not the case.

Andy



Posted by Bob K, 06-11-07
I think there's some good points being made. Romanandrey's comments about some people who may have more immunity than others and his question about whether there are any Giardia cases when filters are used are good points.

However, I think I'm coming around to Bob R's point of view, somewhat, regarding the overall safety of the water. Even the situation I mentioned about someone pooping next to the Trail Camp lake and not scooping may not be as bad as it seems at first thought. I would still want to filter the Trail Camp lake, at least for peace of mind, but it seems that the flowing creeks below would be OK because anything from the poop would be extremely diluted. Places I would be more concerned with are car campgrounds where people take their pet dogs and down stream from them.

Regarding the personal hygiene issue and getting "something" on their hands while pooping, what the heck are they doing with their hands? (I have to pause here to stop laughing.)

Anyhow, the beat goes on.



Posted by Steve C, 06-11-07
Originally Posted By: romanandrey
If poor hand sanitation is the primary means of contracting Giardia in the wild, we would expect to hear at least occasional reports of people who used water purification methods (pumps, iodine, etc) AND got Giardia.

We only hear occasional reports of anyone getting a Giardia infection. Whether they used water purification, or for that matter, whether they went on a backpacking trip.

I know of one Sierra Club sponsored trip where the entire group had serious intestinal problems -- some were affected early in the week-long trip, others near the end. And they treated their water. They blamed it on food prepared the first night, but you cannot be absolutely sure unless tests are made. And Bob's questions about hygiene should have been asked in that situation, too.



Posted by ep, 06-11-07
Originally Posted By: romanandrey
If poor hand sanitation is the primary means of contracting Giardia in the wild, we would expect to hear at least occasional reports of people who used water purification methods (pumps, iodine, etc) AND got Giardia.

I have heard a few reports of this. It also happened once to me several years ago. I had a case of diagnosed giardiasis despite thorough treatment of all of our drinking water.

On a four day trip last week I developed a persistent case of diarrhea (not from giardiasis) even though we packed in all of our water from a municipal source. I can't say where the problem came from, but it wasn't likely the water. And our hygiene was poor.



Posted by Kurt Schenk, 06-11-07
Bob R.

I am obviously not in a position to conclusively answer your question about proper hand sanitation. I have however no reason to believe that the members of the group didn't apply the required hygene procedures. Obviously there are a number of possibilities how I may have aquired the parasite and I can very well live with the fact that the source can not necessarily be traced to a single source. Since the Giardia question has been dicussed here to some extent, I thought I'd mention my first hand experience. Kurt



Posted by Manish C Pathak, 06-18-07
Sorry, i dont intend to divert, but i am trying to spread the word. This is a small suggestion to get rid of Giardia. Giardia will not be able to survive if the condition in the gut is not favorable for it. From the continuous research on Giardia, I will suggest to eat High-fibre food, No Glucose, No milk and No fat. There are simple reasons why this food habit will get rid of Giardia in three days. Eating high-fibre food will wipe Giardia from your gut, and induce unfavorable gut layer making it difficult for Giardia to attach and hence multiply. Giardia essentially needs simple sugar to grow, so no Glucose & milk in your food will be compromising for Giardia. Dietary fat is also the main stimulator for the release of bile acids into the intestinal lumen, which giardia trophozoites depend on for survival in the small bowel. Moreover, if you have friendly bacteria among your internal floura in your gut, it will compete with the Giardia for surface to attach. So please try High-fibre food, No Glucose, No milk and No fat.



Posted by Ken, 06-18-07
Manish, we're a tough crowd, here.

Interesting concept. You are basically advocating a protein-only diet (no sugars, and no fat, and there is nothing else).

Problem is, while it is an interesting idea, you have provided no references to substantiate your claim. Surely, somewhere in the world, this has been scientifically tried and demonstrated. I've not been able to find any, other than just opinion pieces unsupported by any data.

A protein only diet is not particularly fun, and neither that, nor fiber, neccessarily provides the kind of fuel that people engaging in athletic endeavors need.

I'd be happy to hear more, though.
_________________________
Good judgment comes from experience,
and experience, of course, comes from poor judgment.




Posted by Richard M, 06-19-07
Originally Posted By: Bob R
A lot of outdoors people have learned that proper hand sanitation is the important thing in preventing the spread of Giardia and other germs. Yet I see it being done only rarely.

Maybe I'm nitpicking here, but what is the proper technique? In particular, if you use hand sanitizer, how do you avoid contaminating the outside of the bottle? Do you smear the stuff on the bottle as well as your hands? Also, I assume that this is done after completely packing up the wag bag?

A person could get really carried away with "sterile technique"... but it may be worth it.
_________________________
It's never too late to have a happy childhood!




Posted by Lance Smith, 07-11-07
I'm just beating a dead horse here, but it's been 2 weeks or so and i haven't gotten the explosive gas or any other outbursts. I took water straight from iceberg lake and the stream that crosses the switchbacks. No filtering, no chemicals, and no bugs. The switchback water has a slight hint of fine grit.

-lance



Posted by Steve C, 07-11-07
Since Lance brought it up... wink I hiked a section of the JMT from Tuolumne Meadows and Devils Postpile three weeks ago, and three of our group of five dipped and drank heartily from practically every stream and lake we came to.

I am happy to report that none of us has had any intestinal problems since the trip.

I must say, it is quite a liberating experience to be able to drink so freely. I think that drinking so much water helped ward off that oh so familiar lack of appetite I get so often.

... Thank you Bob R and Robert Derlet!



Posted by AlanK, 07-12-07
Since we're taking testimonials and singing Bob's praises...

When I moved back to CA 12 years ago after 20+ years in NY, I started taking Sierra trips again and started filtering my water. I heard horror stories about Giardia and decided that things had just changed a lot since I used to drink only unfiltered water back in the early 1970s.

I was very happy to come across Bob R's paper several years back. It made a lot of sense, and I eventually met many people knew Bob and thought that he was extremely knowledgeable. For the last couple of years, I have been drinking unfiltered water for the most part.

When my son Eric and I did the JMT last summer, I took the filter along just in case. We used it exactly once, mainly so we could feel like we had not carried it for nothing. It was basically a small dead weight in my pack. (I know... I should have put it in Eric's.) Oh, yeah, neither of has had any intestinal trouble.

Naturally, when I saw that Bob commented favorably on the Indian Wells Brewing Company, I started making stops there on my way south from the Owens Valley. I have at least two things for which to thank Bob! smile



Posted by AxeMan, 07-12-07
Originally Posted By: AlanK
Naturally, when I saw that Bob commented favorably on the Indian Wells Brewing Company, I started making stops there on my way south from the Owens Valley. I have at least two things for which to thank Bob! smile

Yet, so strange his choice of brew given the company.

Two funny water-related anecdotes:

Coming off the East Buttress a couple weeks ago I dipped my bottle into the creek below UBSL next to two guys who were pumping water. As I passed, one says to the other: "Hey, he's drinking right out of the creek." The other replied, "Well, he's going to die." (I agree. We're all going to die.)

On Tuesday at Trail Camp a ranger (who will remain nameless to protect the innocent) came over to the TC pond inlet and filled up his (or her) bladder. I yelled "Hey! You didn't filter that!" He (or she) looked a little embarrassed and said,
"Oh, I'm going to in a few minutes."
"No you're not," I yelled back.
We both had a good laugh.



Posted by Bob R, 07-12-07
Originally Posted By: sbslowpoke
Yet, so strange his choice of brew given the company.

Well, you can read about my friend Rick here. It's good having a brewmaster as a climbing companion. If you look closely at that picture, you'll see that the empty bottle is IWVBC Oktoberfest--an advance bottling sample Rick brought along for me to taste. He also brought along ten cases of Mojave Red for Doug's store. Since the MR (no pun intended) is doing so well for Doug, I didn't want to deplete the supply. Hence the Alaskan Amber as a chaser, which is pretty good too.

By the way, I keep two kegs on hand always--for friends and strangers who stop by. One is always MR, and the other either DPA, ESL, OBA, or LB (you can look 'em up).

Fine mountains and good beer: Can life get better than that? Oh yes, add in a very tolerant and understanding wife.



Posted by jgr, 07-23-07
Now I am a little late in joining this discussion but this is the kind of freedom I've been craving for years!!!

What can I read to eductate myself on how to identify safe water sources? As I pursue this freedom, I can just see myself now...squeezing my eyes shut while tenuously letting that great tasting cold refreshment pass over my lips. <>

I'd love to live this new freedom when hiking the MWT in October. What water source do I absolutely stay away from there (ie Trail Camp, where refilling will be critical for us, unless at inlet on the west side)? If you suggest reading the info sheet, "Reliable Water Sources Along the Mt. Whitney Trail", I've downloaded that already. Very helpful, thanks. I suppose there's a possibility some of those sources will be dry by October this year? Will check with Ranger when that time comes and make the "carrying the filter" decision then.

Humor me here.... Doesn't the water along MWT drain from Trail Camp so than any water below it would be unsafe?

Thanks.



Posted by Ken, 07-23-07
jgr, the answer to your question is contained in Bob Rockwell's paper, referenced way above.

As for the issue of people who filter who get giardia also, I've met quite a few. Very convincing of the futility of filtering already pure water, but not taking care of handwashing. I personally will not share other's food.
_________________________
Good judgment comes from experience,
and experience, of course, comes from poor judgment.




Posted by wbtravis5152, 07-23-07
Yes it drains from Trail Camp but it mixes with other sources as it winds it way toward Whitney Portal.

The water on the switchbacks thus the westside of the trail in Trail Camp will be gone by October.



Posted by jgr, 07-23-07
Got it. Great. Thanks Ken and Travis!



Posted by dayhiker, 07-30-07
From the PCT journals, a bad year for GI tract ailments along certain sections of the trail:


Scout and Frodo 's 2007
Pacific Crest Trail Journal

Scout's Commentary: (I have been working on this commentary for well over a week and in light of today's events have decided to go public with it.):

What plagues the trail this year? What sickness stalks us? I am personally aware of three backcountry helicopter evacuations and in addition to those hospitalizations, at least 15 further hikers with emergency room or urgent care visits. All were extremely sick, not injured. All with severe diarrhea or vomiting, dehydration, fever or chills; all first presenting as altitude sickness which is later ruled out. This cannot be normal.

I started a list over a week ago. I became concerned when I picked up a phone message from Burning Man. The important substance was that he had not had altitude sickness, as previously thought, but a serious GI tract ailment. Serious enough to lay him up for ten days. Tests were inconclusive; no specific diagnosis. In the interest of privacy I will refrain from publishing the names, but they are trail friends all.

Frodo and I know probably a third of the people on the trail, maybe 70 to 80. So for us to know of 18 who've been seriously ill indicates something is seriously wrong. Are we all sloppy on hygiene? Sloppy with water purification? Unlucky? I don't think so. We need a "Dr. House," an epidemiologist, or other interested trail chronicler to gather more information from an off-trail vantage point to give a lead on what's striking this many people low. The sickness' trail location was not randomly scattered. Three were south of Kennedy Meadows, one was north of the Sierras, and the bulk, 14 were in the Sierras, with 13 of the 14 first experiencing symptoms within the first 100 miles after Kennedy Meadows. I have one working theory -- This was an extremely low snow year and water for the day-and-a-half after Kennedy Meadows was unexpectedly scarce. What water there was to be found was brackish and ran through active cattle country. If poor water was the source of the unusual sickness numbers, this would explain why such sickness has not been seen in usual or heavy snowpack years. But I am just a thru hiker and this a working theory only. I will next have internet access at the Heitman's in Old Station on Wednesday. Send me an email and I can provide names and contact information for most. But I do want to be sensitive about protecting hikers' privacy.

Here's the link from their Friday, July 20, 2007 entry:

http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=195797



Posted by Steve C, 07-30-07
Here's a text written by Bob Rockwell about the quality of Sierra water. It was posted elsewhere, but several people got into an argument over it, and the entire thread was deleted. I am posting it here so it can be viewed and referenced by those interested.

It is an import addition to the Sierra water quality "body of knowledge", since it counter-balances the National Park / National Forest statements that people should always treat the water. It is clear that they must say that because they cannot guarantee the water is safe. Since your safety in the backcountry is solely your responsibility, it is entirely up to you to decide what to do about the water.

Here is Bob's text (from July 2008)

Originally Posted By: Bob R
60,000 Liters of Water Consumed -- Untreated

Let me see. I mentioned 2500 days in another post recently. Multiply that by an average of 4 liters per day, and I have consumed roughly 10,000 liters of Sierra water in my lifetime. I can add all my climbing companions on those trips (yes, I keep that list, too) to the experience, and I have climbed with quite a few of them. To be exact, 447 different climbing companions as of last weekend, ranging from 271 mountains shared with my frequent friend Tom Sakai, down to a few with Eric Simonson, Dave Hahn, and Ed Viesturs. (None of the latter was in the Sierra, but I just had to do some name-dropping.)

90% of my and my friends' climbs have been in the Sierra. Making the estimation, probably another 20,000 liters my friends have consumed on our shared climbs. And what about climbs they have all done without me? Perhaps another 30,000 liters. I'm sure that if any of them had gotten sick, I would have known about it.

All told, roughly 60,000 liters of Sierra water consumed--all without treatment and all without a single instance of the problems mentioned or conjectured on this message board.

I draw no conclusions. I offer it only as data. 60,000 pieces of anecdotal data.

I believe in data, facts, research, tests, and information. I do not believe in conjecture and I do not put any credibility in postured scenarios. ("With so many people going there, the water must be polluted!") What I have posted, on this message board and elsewhere, is what I have learned by observation. What I have learned about studies and tests from critical distillations of the relevant literature. And I relate my own experiences.

Here I take a little exception to what my friend Wayne wrote. He said, "The waters on Mt. Whitney have never been proven to be polluted." I would change that to "have never tested positive...," which is a little different, but not by much. I think I'm as attentive as anyone to being on the lookout for formal testing and research, and I doubt I have missed any significant ones. I have made it a passion of sorts, actually, for over 25 years. And there is casual testing as well: I hiked a few miles with the head Whitney Region wilderness ranger a few years ago, and he mentioned that they test the waters on the Main Trail every week or two. They never find anything of consequence, and some of it--like the purest water on the planet in Bighorn Park--they don't even bother to test any more. If they did find something, I am sure you would see a sign in the Visitor Center: "Warning: E coli O157:H7 was detected in the stream from Mirror Lake last weekend." But I have never seen such a sign, and I have never heard of any serious positive test of any kind, for anywhere in the High Sierra, at any time. I do not know if Inyo still does this regular testing.

What do I mean by "High Sierra?" Say 10,000 feet and above. Robert Derlet of UC Davis has done extensive testing, and has found serious levels of E coli as high as 7600 feet, but none higher.

We can argue this 'til the cows come home, but I don't argue on message boards and I try not to draw general conclusions on them. People can do what they want, and it is marvelously clear here that they write what they want! People visit the Whitney area once or twice, and are self-declared experts for the rest of eternity.

I try to resist posting anything other than trip reports anymore, but when I do my goal is to provide data and information, not conjecture. That's the case now. I am happy to let others decide to act on it, or not. Fold it in with everything else they've read or heard, and make decisions. I don't care what people do. I do care that they have accurate information at their disposal.

But I will say that I have occasion to take quite a few new (to me) people into the Sierra, fairly regularly: people who have been used to uniformly treating the water. Over the span of a day or more, we have the leisure to talk about not only what is in that (scientific) paper I wrote, but also about a lot of practical information that doesn't belong in a (scientific) treatise. We look at a particular source and discuss any possible contaminants that might be there, how it might have gotten there, where it will go and when. These people invariably end up keeping their filters in their packs. And, if I am to believe what they tell me, none of them ever treats the water up there again.

I said I don't care what you do. But I really do, inside. This corner of our world is a wonderful corner, and I enjoy it immensely. If part of my nature is to want others to view and experience these wonderful mountains as I do, then it is my weakness. On these boards I hang back, trying to send out only information that is undiluted by my personal conclusions and opinions, letting everyone decide what they want to believe and what they want to do about it. But, try as I might to avoid interjecting personal opinion, I do not always succeed. I'm sorry.

#34476 - 1178494620





Update, 2011:  Wikipedia has an article --
Wilderness acquired diarrhea with dozens of references.