The best week - 8/28 - 9/3

Posted by: wazzu

The best week - 8/28 - 9/3 - 09/07/11 07:40 PM

I'm a little late in posting, but there is a saying 'life is what happens while making other plans'.

Anyway, here's a few recap points:

The last call for a burger at the portal store is now 7:15pm

It's getting down into the low 30's overnight, so be prepared with warm sleeping gear. If you are hiking in the dark, be aware of ice around any water crossing.

The cable section is starting to ice up. Still very passable, but be careful on the way down. I saw 1 person with a full pack (possible JMT hiker) slip on the ice and hit the ground at 3:30pm. Luckly, when she fell, she slid in towards the mountain and not through the cables and over the side.

The remaining snow field near the summit has a good foot trench and is passable without too much struggle in the warm daylight hours. I'm sure it freezes to ice in the early morning hours.

Consider packing a disposable camera in case of battery failure. My camera only has a rechargeable battery that requires the use of a USB cable to my laptop to recharge. The battery died at the cable section of the switchbacks. (I know, it's time to upgrade the camera)

The skeeters are minimal, but still around. There are a lot of bees at the Portal Store that dive bomb your plate of food as soon as you bring it out of the store. You will have to develop a technique to swat the bees away with one hand and shove the food in your mouth with the other.

A little background for this TR:

This was my 3rd attempt at summiting Whitney. The first time was 2006 with a couple of friends on a overnight. I got a splitting headache at Trail Crest and returned to Outpost Camp. I attempted a day hike last year (2010) and a intestinal bug had me turning around at Lone Pine Lake.

To minimize AMS, I had been hiking to 10k in the local So Cal mountains for 3 Saturdays in a row before leaving for Lone Pine. I was able to scheduled a few days of acclimatization into my hiking plans. I made it to the summit without any symptoms of AMS on Fri 9/2.

Sun 8/28 - Arrive at Horseshoe Meadows,Cottonwood Pass Campground, 3pm and set up camp for 2 nights. (10k elevation)
There were a few clouds and raindrops when I arrived, but all cleared out by 5pm and did not see another cloud until Friday at 4:30pm. I did get a little cold overnight. I had a 30 degree bag, long underwear, wool socks, and a beanie. I use a Big Agnes air mattress and a closed cell foam pad. I wasn't shivering, but I did add a second layer of clothes about 3am.

Mon 8/29 - Got up after the sun was up. Took my time with breakfast and by 10am was on my way up Cottonwood Pass (11,160')over to Trail Pass and return to camp. About 11 mile loop. As I started to adjust my hiking poles, one of them would not lock after adjusting the length. I have 20 year old Leki poles. I have a sentimental attachment to the poles and I was really bummed that I might have to get a new set of poles. Beautiful day. Took it slow and easy, getting used to the elevation. Went to bed with 2 layers of clothing. Really helped. Had to think about the next few nights on Whitney. I was car camping and had a bag full of extra clothes. I did not have extra room in my pack for more clothes.

Tues 8/30 - Packed up and went to pick up Whitney Zone permit in Lone Pine. While in Lone Pine, I went by the store, Elevation and picked up a sleeping bag liner. Had a big lunch in Lone Pine then up to Camp at Whitney Portal (8k elevation)

Wed 8/31 - Got up about sunrise and packed the backpack and got the car camping gear stored away. Had breakfast at Portal store. (Bacon & Eggs. No pancake for me) While I was ordering breakfast, asked Earlene if anybody at the store knew how to fix poles. She said Doug Sr was cooking and after he was done he might be able to take a look at them. The store has poles and replacement parts for hiking poles. After I was done eating, Doug was able to get out of the kitchen and take a look at my non-working pole. Basically, it took Doug all of 2 minutes to get my 20 year old pole back into working condition. YEAH! No need for new poles. Now to start the hike up to Outpost Camp. Made Outpost Camp in 3 hours with 30lb pack and set up camp for the night. (10k elevation) Since it was only 2:30pm and I just didn't have enough switchbacks for the day, I decided to do a little more hiking. I went up to the beginning of Trailside Meadow (11,359') with just a water bottle and snacks in the afternoon and returned to Outpost Camp for dinner. On the return, a few switchbacks before Outpost Camp, I ran into a couple of grouse. Or what I thought were a couple of grouse, until I saw a slightly larger 3rd grouse. It sure looked like a mama grouse protecting her 2 teenagers. She chased the kids uphill and perched herself on a rock overlooking the trail, ready to poke my eye out as I passed if I made a move towards the kids. I didn't have my camera at the moment, but saw them the next day and got a couple of pictures.

Thurs 9/1 - Took my time getting up after sunrise. Listened to the downhill hikers (walking zombies) until 9pm or so. Had a few hours of quiet until the first of the uphill hikers came through around 3:45am. The downhill hikers are very quiet and no energy. The uphill hikers are talkative and full of energy. As I was packing up, I noticed a deer grazing on the willows near the creek. I took a few photos and watched as she moved over towards the waterfall. I lost sight of her in the willows. I went back to packing, and then noticed 2 deers on the uphill side of my campsite. As I was reaching for my camera, I noticed there were 2 fawns with the does. Was able to get a few photos. Very hard to make out, but there are 4 deers in the picture.

They all made their way over to the stream and into the brush of Big Horn park.

As I started to hike up to Mirror Lake, ran into the grouse again. Was able to snap a few pictures.

I had originally planned to camp at Consultation Lake on Thurs & Fri nights, but when I arrived, there where tents all over the place. I had met a fellow solo hiker on the trail above Mirror Lake and we played leap frog for awhile and then hiked together as we got closer to Consultation Lake. He was going on to Trail Camp and I decided to go on up to Trail Camp. It took 3 hours from Outpost Camp.

All this time, there were no clouds and very little wind. The sky was amazingly clear and blue.

I set up camp for 2 nights. Both nights were chilly, but the sleeping bag liner really helped with keeping me comfortable. On occasion there was a slight breeze, but for the most part, there was no wind for 2 nights.

Fri 9/2 - Got up a little after sunrise. Started up the switchbacks at 7:50am. (Arrived at Trail Crest in 1 hr 50 min.) There were not a lot of people on the switchbacks when I started. I was really taking a chance with the late start, but I was really hoping the weather forecast of clear skies would hold up. On my way up, I took a couple of pictures of the cable section to show the start of the ice build up. It was the last photos as the battery died in my camera. I continued on, but was kinda bummed that I had no way to take summit photos. I was going to have to count on someone else to take pictures and send them to me. It was a long shot.

As I arrived at Trail Crest, there were some people sitting on the rocks by the TC sign. They were taking a break before continuing to the summit. I found a spot near them and started a conversation. (So far, no symptoms of AMS.) I mentioned this was my first time going past Trail Crest and I was a solo hiker. I also mentioned I'm a little bummed that my camera battery died. One of the guys mentioned that he would be willing to take a summit photo and send to me if we were on the summit at the same time.

They leave about 5 mins before I do, but it wasn't long before we started playing leap frog. At some point, I ended up joining them. Somehow we ended up in a line with Chris as point, his 20 something daughter Jenny, me, and Chris's friend Mike as sweep. Chris set a good, slow, steady pace. We stopped to let the downhill hikers pass (returning from summit)and on a few occasions to let faster uphill hikers pass. If any of us needed to stop, we all stopped. It was never discussed, it just sort of happened. We had some great conversations, marveled at how great the weather and views were. As we got closer to the snow field, Jenny was starting to really feel the altitude. We made it across the snow field and started towards the summit. We made a several stops, as Jenny was getting a little light headed. I never thought of continuing on and leaving the group. We arrived at the summit hut at noon. (4hrs 10min for me from Trail Camp) I had no symptoms of AMS. In fact, I felt really good. Chris took a few summit photos for me. Fortunately, I had a little notebook and pencil to write down email addresses. And I'm glad I got his email & gave him my email soon after arriving on the summit, as I dropped my pencil somewhere on the summit.

Stayed 50 min on summit and had lunch. I met the rest of Chris's group. There were 3 other guys that were faster hikers and went ahead of Chris, Jenny & Mike. We started the return at 12:50pm. I started back down with the group of 6. We got a little spread out after the snowfield, but at the first uphill section of the return, the 3 faster hikers are way ahead, and the group of 4 got together again and stayed together to Trail Crest. We get to Trail Crest by 2:30pm.

On the way up the switchbacks, I passed a used wag bag that was wedge in some rocks. (A lot of people passed by this same wag bag.) I decided if it was there on the return I would pick it up. We had caught up with the 3 faster hikers at Trail Crest, and all 7 of us started down from Trail Crest at the same time. We were staying pretty close together and having some interesting conversations. I'm about 3rd in line when we pass the wag bag. I grab it and pull to the side so I can put it in my pack. So this puts me at the end of the line of 7 hikers. Probably due to the altitude and the long day, but we were in a section of the shorter switchbacks, so we were pretty close together, and the song from the 7 dwarfs pops into my head. You know the tune "High Ho, High Ho, it's off to work we go...." (now get that tune out of your head) I mention the song and the 7 dwarfs, which starts a conversation of who is which dwarf in the group of 7. That is, if anyone in the group can come up with the name of the 7 dwarfs. As I recall, we were mixing up the 7 dwarf and Santas raindeer names. A entertaining way to pass a few switchbacks.

We get to the cables section and wait a little as we watch a downhill hiker with a full pack slip on the ice. We take our time and get spread out at this section. I get ahead of Chris, Jenny, and Mike. Mike & Jenny seem to be really fatigued. Chris is staying with them and tells me to go on. I go down a few more switchbacks and wait until I see them. Chris waves to me to go on. They are ok, just moving slow. I go down to Trail Camp, drop my pack at my campsite, and go back towards the trail to make sure Chris, Jenny, and Mike make it down. They make it to Trail Camp around 4:45pm. They are camping at Outpost Camp, so have a few more miles to go. (They had started from Outpost Camp at 5am) Jenny is feeling better, just fatigued. Mike is dragging, but says he is looking forward to dinner. I say goodbye, and thank them for a great day on the summit.

Sat 9/3 - Pack up and start down the trail at 7am. I see Chris, Jenny and Mike at Outpost Camp. All are up and moving around. The 3 faster hikers have already left as they have a long drive back to the Sacramento area. Chris, Jenny and Mike are in the So Cal area, and not as pressed for time. I take my time getting down and stop several times to just take in the beauty of the area. I stop and chat briefly with a few uphill overnight hikers. As I get closer to the North Fork water crossing I'm thinking about using the old trail, but it's only 10:15 and burgers don't start until 11am. I go down the main trail. After passing the water crossing after the North Fork, I see a can of tuna on the trail. And not a small can of tuna, but the very large, family size can of tuna. I'm trying to figure if it was accidentally dropped or intentionally left. Either way, I pick it up and take it down with me.
I get down to the parking lot, and being Sat and a holiday weekend, the place is jammed packed. But the best part of all, when I drove up for breakfast on Wed, I found a parking spot right across from the TH. In between the pit toilets and the store. I was able to dump wag bags, trash, and put the pack in car in 5 mins. Then it's over to store for shower, burger, fries, and beer!

This was the best week ever!

Posted by: Steve C

Re: The best week - 8/28 - 9/3 - 09/07/11 09:26 PM

Way to go, wazzu! Congratulations on a successful week, and thanks for the great report.

I sure admire you for hauling down somebody else's bag-o-crap.
Posted by: Akichow

Re: The best week - 8/28 - 9/3 - 09/08/11 05:44 AM

Nice! When it works, it works! Did you receive the pictures from your new trail friends?
Posted by: Bulldog34

Re: The best week - 8/28 - 9/3 - 09/08/11 08:21 AM

Excellent job wazzu - I'm so glad you made it this time, and have that summit checked off your bucket list! Great TR - and glad to not read of any Camelbak-failure issues like you had when we were there. While on the sumit, did you get a chance to wander north and take a look at Joe Q's route for later this month?

Congrats again!
Posted by: Brent N

Re: The best week - 8/28 - 9/3 - 09/08/11 09:40 AM

Great TR. I'm amazed that there are still snow fields to cross this late in the summer.

Brent N
Posted by: quillansculpture

Re: The best week - 8/28 - 9/3 - 09/08/11 12:05 PM

You KNOW how I feel Barbara!!!! Congrats.... Gary and I were thinking about you the entire time. I know Moose and SoCal Girl were too.

See ya soon......
Posted by: wazzu

Re: The best week - 8/28 - 9/3 - 09/08/11 02:23 PM

Not to get into too much detail, but the bag was very light. I'm not sure it was used. But there was no way I was going to open it and find out.

I just threw it in the garbage bag with my used wag bags. Not a big deal.
Posted by: wazzu

Re: The best week - 8/28 - 9/3 - 09/08/11 02:26 PM


I posted the photos in the picture forum, but here's a couple of them:

Posted by: wazzu

Re: The best week - 8/28 - 9/3 - 09/08/11 02:34 PM


No equipment failure, other than the camera battery.

Although, my next door neighbor at TC had a water bladder failure and her clothes were all wet when she unpacked. She was wondering why she ran out of water on the way up. Fortunately her sleeping bag was dry, but her down jacket, fleece vest, and long underwear were soaked. She was with her 2 sisters and they managed to combine resources and came up with something for her to wear.

On my way down from the summit, I realized I forgot to look for the MR. Although, I think Chris may have sent me a photo. I'll try to get it posted tonight.

Now to get Lady Bulldawg and Bullpup up to the summit next year!
Posted by: Akichow

Re: The best week - 8/28 - 9/3 - 09/08/11 08:26 PM

Excellent pictures! They capture the exuberance of getting up there!
Posted by: Rod

Re: The best week - 8/28 - 9/3 - 09/08/11 08:47 PM

Great TR and congrats again Barb.
Posted by: wazzu

Re: A case of HAPE/HPO - 09/09/11 05:37 PM

Some of the reason for my delayed TR was due to one of the guys in my summit hiking group was suffering with HAPE/HPO. He was in the hospital for a few days. He's home now and doing well. (I must admit to having very mixed emotions after finding out he was in the ICU.)

Here's some of the info that he has allowed me to share:

Mike, Chris, & Jim (all in the group this year) had done the exact same hike on Whitney 2 years ago with no problems. Mike happened to have a physical the day before the group left for Mt Whitney. (He was given a clean bill of health) Knowing they needed some time to acclimate, they stayed at the portal campground Wed (8/31). They took 4 hours to hike to Outpost Camp on Thurs (9/1). Stopping several times for snacks/fluids/pictures. They left Outpost Camp at 5am on Fri (9/2) with daypacks for the summit. They arrived at Trail Crest about 9:30am. I join them at Trail Crest. Mike is behind me, and every time we stop, he is taking in some fluids and or snacking. I do not hear any heavy breathing from him. He was not complaining of a headache or difficulty breathing. We arrive at the summit at noon. That's a 7 hr hike from Outpost Camp for Mike. (about 7.5 miles and 4k elevation gain)

On the return from the summit, Mike & Jenny were showing signs of fatigue, but neither were stumbling or having trouble speaking. On the few uphill sections, we had to stop a couple of times, especially that last section up to Trail Crest. However, I think a lot of people have a little struggle up that incline.

On the downhill switchbacks, Mike & Jenny were slowing down, but nothing to indicate Mike was in serious trouble. They made it down to Outpost Camp about 7pm. (about a 6 hr descent) I saw them the next morning (Sat) around 8:30am. Chris mentions Mike had spent most of the night coughing. Chris also mentions Mike probably had some fluid in his lungs. Mike is standing up and we talk. He looks a little tired, but his breathing was fine and he stated he was feeling better after having some breakfast.

I continue on down to the portal store. As I'm eating my burger out in front of the store, I see Chris, Jenny, and Mike come down sometime around noon. They find a place in the shade to sit with the gear and Chris goes to get their car. As we are chatting, Mike appears to be breathing without any problems and is not coughing or gives any appearance of distress.

I found out on Sun, they had lunch in Lone Pine before a 3hr drive home. (Mike had a 1/2 lb ortega burger) By 6:30pm on Sat, Mike was in Loma Linda University Hospital ICU. (I don't have the details as to what symptoms arose that had Mike go to the hospital) Mike's potassium, magnesium, and phosphorous levels were out of whack. Along with an enzyme that was rising that indicates a possible heart attack. He was diagnosed with High Altitude Pulmonary Odema (HPO). From an email from Chris "It appears that he exerted a tremendous amount of energy with insufficient oxygen. Physical fitness is not a factor with AMS/HPO, but rather how well your body acclimates to low pressure and low oxygen levels that are found above 8,000 ft."

After many tests and appropriate treatment, Mike was discharged on Wed (9/7) afternoon and is home recovering. Mike was not rushing up or down the trail, was eating & drinking appropriately, had previous experience at high altitude with no problems. But he still got hit with a bad case of AMS.
Posted by: Steve C

Re: A case of HAPE - 09/09/11 07:56 PM

Thanks for the information, Barbara.

You might check, I think the spelling is Edema. I couldn't find anything referencing Odema or HPO. Apparently the British spelling is Oedema.

It is pretty amazing that sometimes people get the edema (swelling, caused by excess fluid around cells) after they descend.

Mike's experience was similar to the story posted by Diane: 8/15/11 Trip Report & HAPE   She hiked down on her own, but that evening at the motel in Lone Pine, she continued to worsen, so she checked into the Lone Pine Hospital.

Diane wrote: "I spent three days in the Lone Pine hospital. My x-rays didn't show improvement, but my labs did. I was also diagnosed with Pleural Effusions, which were a complication of the HAPE, and significantly slowing my recovery. It took almost 10 days to get my breathing and constant coughing under control."

Later she wrote:  "We really didn't hear any crackles in my breathing until the last couple hours of our descent and it got progressively worse for the next 48 hours. The ER doctor (in Lone Pine) said many HAPE cases get worse before they get better."

I am so glad you posted this information. People need to realize that, while uncommon, Mt Whitney hikers can contract HAPE. Here's the Wikipedia link: High altitude pulmonary edema - HAPE

And I am very glad Mike recovered.
Posted by: Harvey Lankford

Re: A case of HAPE - 09/10/11 07:22 AM

This story, and the one of Diane that Steve linked, is scary.

It illustrates that for HAPE (and also especially for HACE) that (1) the warning signs and symptoms may be subtle or missing, and (2) once someone has the ball rolling with HAPE, it can continue to roll even though they make it back to the safety of lower altitude.

The medical reasons are mysterious, but basically it is a cascade of multiple factors like fluid shifts and metabolic changes in the lungs, brain and other parts that are set off by the initial time exposed to lower oxygen. This can be reversible, or fatal. I am glad for the fortunate outcome in this case.
Posted by: mrshherrera

Re: The best week - 8/28 - 9/3 - 09/10/11 01:23 PM

Great TR & Congratulations!!!!
Posted by: chromehackle

Re: A case of HAPE - 09/10/11 04:15 PM

Mike here.

This HAPE was a new experience for me. Ascent was better than 2 years ago, but not what I'd call fast. We stayed about an hour on the summit, about 1/2 hour longer than last time. I was thoroughly hydrated (peeing) and fueled along the way.

But on the descent, I began experiencing a harder time breathing. The brief inclines before Trail Crest had me pausing every 30-40 feet sucking air.

From Trail Crest to Trail Camp, members of our party noticed what they suspected was fatigue as I'd catch a toe now and then and slide out on gravel I think three times.

Trail Camp to Outpost Camp was the worst. I was so exhausted and short of breath that in the last mile I began hallucinating. I saw a stone that appeared to have indian drawings on it. Only a couple hundred yards from my tent, I saw what appeared to be a rock with writing all over it (writing on the rock, or writing on the wall?).

I wasn't coughing much, but suspected that my shortness of breath was due to fluid in my lungs. I tried to take a deep breath, but estimate I had about 50% of my lung capacity. I was so exhausted, I didn't want to eat dinner, but did when others suggested that I'd feel worse in the morning if I didn't eat that night.

I was in my sleeping bag at 8:30.

At one point, I woke feeling like I was suffocating. I coughed and out came a mouthful of phlegm; not an amount I'd coughed up with past respiratory infections, but a FULL mouth. I rolled to my shoulder and began to doze off when the same thing happened again. I spent the night rotating quarter turns and coughed out what I estimate to have been at least 6 ounces.

Come morning, I felt much better. If the previous night I estimate I had 50% lung capacity, in the morning I estimate I had 85-90%. I ate a "normal" breakfast and we headed down the hill, rather uneventful.

We ate lunch in Lone Pine and discussed on the way home that I needed to get checked out to be sure I hadn't done other damage.

My wife and I went directly to Loma Linda University Medical Center where my blood work showed a very elevated creatine kinase and an elevated troponin: markers for heart damage.

Admit to cardiac ICU.

EKGs were all clean, but troponin continued to rise. Angiogram showed unrestricted flow in my cardiac arteries, but the echocardiogram showed "sluggish" pumping (45%). Released a day later with follow up clinic in a week.

I was scolded by team members who didn't know how compromised my lungs were. This was selfish and dangerous on my part. It's one thing to have a sense of what's going on and take control; but team members need to be informed and involved. I should have told them very clearly how bad I felt, what I suspected, and what I thought to be needed (rest/recovery). They, of course, would have their own ideas which could well have proven smarter considering my mental state upon arriving at camp.

A hiker is not 100% independent of the group. A hiker is a member of a team, and the team has a right to play a role in decisions about any member. When you experience anything abnormal, and many people experience some degree of AMS, you owe it to your team members to let them know exactly what you're feeling and how much.

Posted by: 2600fromatari

Re: A case of HAPE - 09/11/11 09:38 AM

Scary indeed, and it sort of hits home with me. I had a massive case of AMS the first time I went up Whitney. I was stumbling around like a drunk; could hardly think. When I got back down to Trail Camp though, I was a new man.

Recently, I've been fine going up, but got the bad headaches as I was going down. Case in point was on San Jacinto. I was grinning and enjoying myself all the way up, and had a great time on the summit. No sooner than than when I was 200-300 ft down, I could barely walk in a straight line, and did not feel good even after I was back in San Diego. Seems to be happening more and more that I get massive headaches as I come down, but feel nothing going up. The only exception lately was when I went up the North Fork last week, but I attribute that to getting past 14k with only one night of sleep at the Portal. Nothing helped at that time. Neither Ibuprofen or Diamox made it go away. I usually do at least another night at the Horseshoe Meadows.

Anytime I go to higher elevations, this is the one thing that scares me more than the exposure of any route. No matter who I tell, they always seem to scoff at AMS like its an old wives tale.

EDIT: I cannot forget, Mike, glad you're okay. I'm a person who is very prone to AMS so I feel your pain, and congratulations on the summit wazzu.

Originally Posted By: Harvey Lankford
This story, and the one of Diane that Steve linked, is scary.

It illustrates that for HAPE (and also especially for HACE) that (1) the warning signs and symptoms may be subtle or missing, and (2) once someone has the ball rolling with HAPE, it can continue to roll even though they make it back to the safety of lower altitude.

The medical reasons are mysterious, but basically it is a cascade of multiple factors like fluid shifts and metabolic changes in the lungs, brain and other parts that are set off by the initial time exposed to lower oxygen. This can be reversible, or fatal. I am glad for the fortunate outcome in this case.

Posted by: Harvey Lankford

Re: A case of HAPE - 09/11/11 12:50 PM

Mike, thanks for the followup information. Glad you are with us.

I was not there to know your whole evaluation, but would like to offer this informal medical observation: your case does not seem typical, but then many cases of HAPE are not.

If one goes by the adage "symptoms at altitude are altitude sickness until proven otherwise" then you had HAPE. But, the cardiac studies include elevated enzymes and going as far as heart catherization suggests your medical team was perplexed about the root cause(s) of your illness.

You mentioned followup in the clinic. I hope they plan to repeat your echocardiogram and find that it has normalized. The only way I know of HAPE causing a lowered ejection fraction (45% you mentioned) would be really severe HAPE with severe "global hypoxia". So I think it is very important to repeat that echocardiogram. My two cents worth.

Stay well, Harvey

PS some quotes from the mountaineering literature:

Acclimatization theory and practice differs widely between climbers.
Alex MacIntyre, The Shishapangma Expedition page 105

One man acclimatises quickly, another slowly...The whole process appears to be analogous to sea-sickness about which predictions are impossible.
Eric Shipton, Upon That Mountain page 376

It was certainly the most severe attack of altitude that I have ever witnessed. But I have long ceased to wonder at manifestations of this capricious complaint.
Eric Shipton, Mountains of Tartary page 484

Apart from the difficulty of performing any action with such a low oxygen intake, there is also an unquantifiable risk of contracting pulmonary edema or cerebral oedema, the sickness of high altitude which fills the lungs or brain with fluids. This, at best, is incapacitating and at worst is fatal.
Joe Tasker, Savage Arena page 179
Posted by: tdtz

Re: A case of HAPE - 09/11/11 01:14 PM

"No matter who I tell, they always seem to scoff at AMS like its an old wives tale."

my one bout of AMS was enough to convince me to take every precaution to avoid it in the future.

I guess I am fortunate in that my symptoms had me puking my guts up on the switchbacks to the point that there was no question about dropping elevation as quickly as possible.
Posted by: Bee

Re: A case of HAPE - 09/11/11 02:18 PM

Harvey, is there any particular altitude in which seemingly everyone experiences some sort of altitude sickness? I have done dayhikes in which I drove from sea level, hiked to 13k and experienced about 30 seconds of nausea, and no other symptoms. After a couple days of acclimatization, sleeping on Whitney summit was no problem either. I am just curious if there is a "ceiling" in which it seems that everyone starts getting some sort of illness.

As lazy and uncommitted as I am to most anything physical -- outside of running/skiing -- I am sure that I would never hike again if I experienced some of the described illnesses on this thread!
Posted by: Harvey Lankford

Re: A case of HAPE - 09/11/11 03:35 PM

That's hard to say, Bee.

The official definition of minimum altitude enough to cause altitude illnesses is 8,000 ft.

Some other factors for AMS are; state of acclimatization to begin with, time ascending, workload getting there, activity while there, how long a stay, etc.

This is not your normal hiking scenario, but if an unacclimatized person takes a helicopter from sea level and stays at:
*8,000, then I doubt 100% of people get AMS.

*to Whitney 14,500? Still not 100%, although I bet very close.

*18,000 ft (the height of Kalapattar above Everest Basecamp)- I am told that you would pass out after 30 minutes, maybe even before you felt AMS!

There are studies from various peaks like Whitney, Rainier, reporting the incidence of AMS. Not sure about a height where 100% are affected, but it is above that. Here is the link to Ken's study on Whitney
Posted by: Akichow

Re: A case of HAPE - 09/11/11 07:58 PM

I am beginning to wonder if this (i.e., susceptibility to AMS, etc.) is static in people. It does not seem entirely static to me, but I only have my own anecdotal experience to go on.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, I regularly got headaches and weakness at 8-9,000 feet. I recall that, for the first 2-3 days on trips to Snowbird or Alta (in Utah), I always felt like crap (headaches, malaise, weakness), and then it would all suddenly clear and I would feel great. I assumed I was someone with a poor ability to adapt to altitude.

Now, I regularly go from sea level to 10,000 feet in a day, on my trips to Tioga Pass, the East Side, etc. So far, I have not experienced the headaches, weakness, malaise, etc., on any of my trips. While I sometimes use Diamox for Cheyne Stokes, I only do that for trips with sleeping altitude above 11,000. I don't use anything for day trips, or for overnight trips with sleeping altitudes below 11,000.

I wonder if a combination of some things intrinsic (age) and some things not (behavior, unconscious adaptation) has made the difference for me. My suspicion is that, with more experience at altitude, I now drink more, and breathe more deeply, without thinking about it. I will be closing in on 50 in a few years, so maybe that is also a factor.

These issues were vividly brought home to me on a backpacking trip last weekend in Yellowstone. Five clients, two guides, and all four of the other clients got sick at 7,000-9,000 feet -- indeed, two had to be walked out and finish the trip early after suffering through two days of sickness and misery. Watching them, I remembered what 8,000 feet used to feel like to me. But now, with all the Whitney experience, 8,000 feet no longer feels like high altitude to me. I'm not about to get cocky ... will continue to be careful and build in acclimatization ... but I am finding that there is real difference in how I adapt in the present.
Posted by: lynn-a-roo

Re: The best week - 8/28 - 9/3 - 09/14/11 06:12 PM


I loved reading your TR. I anxiously awaited you posting it. Congratulations on a successful summit. I'm envious over your 30 lb. pack, how in the heck did you get it so light. Tell me quickly because my friends and I head out Friday morning for Lone Pine. Did you have a tent with you? What in the heck did you eat....air...our food normally weighs about 10 lbs....did you take any cocktail hour, you're amazing. You look thinner than when we were at Cindy Abott's presentation. You shot some good photos of the wildlife. From your TR I now know the type of bird I saw last year on the main trail, the bird I thought was a wild turkey is actually a grouse, wow, you're well versed on your wildlife, nice job. Now tell us what the names of all the plants are.

Again, Congratulations, now I better get home to my 5 pets before they eat me alive when I walk in the door...I heard that happened to a man in Indonesia recently, he left for several weeks on vacation but didn't leave any food for his pets so they ate him alive when he walked in the door.

I'll post my TR as soon as I can when we return home..... looks awfully cold up there on the mountain from what I saw in the webcam photo, burrrr, I'll need to bring lots of hot tottie drinks to keep us warm in the evenings. TTFN, Lynn
Posted by: wazzu

Re: The best week - 8/28 - 9/3 - 09/15/11 11:54 AM


The 30lb pack was a little heavier than I wanted. I was trying to get closer to 25 lbs.

The way to keep the pack weight down is to use a smaller pack. I used my Gregory Z30, which is a marketed as a beefy day pack. There just isn't room to load it up with extra weight. I was pushing the limits for weight & bulk on this pack.

I was able to load the following in the main compartment of the bag:

sleeping bag & liner
air mattress sleeping pad
bear canister full of food (Bear Boxer 101)
.6L pot (held stove & fuel canister inside)
rain gear (pants & jacket)
patagonia nano puff pull over jacket
long underwear
beanie & balaclava
4 pairs socks
water bladder (only used on summit day)

Other pockets contained:
wag bags
empty trash bag
first aid kit
headlamp & extra batteries
map & compass
wind screen for the stove
note book & pencil
sierra cup
1 L water bottle
pack cover (for rain)
2 pair gloves (fleece & waterproof)
hiking buddy
lip balm
spare boot laces
1 pair toe warmers
1 pair hand warmers

I was able to strap my 2 person tent using to the outside center of the pack. I rolled up the tent, with poles, rainfly, stakes, and footprint in the middle, then rolled the closed cell foam pad around the tent and then stuffed everything into the tent bag.

I wore the same pants and shirt for 3 days of hiking.

There is no water filter. I realized about 1.5 miles up the trail that I forgot to put the filter in the side pocket. There was no way I was going back down after starting.

So far, no indication of any repercussions to drinking non-treated water.

Good luck on your trip. Stay warm!
Posted by: lynn-a-roo

Re: The best week - 8/28 - 9/3 - 09/15/11 03:47 PM


Thank you for your list of pack items. I printed it out and will use it as a check-off list to make sure I have everything. I amazed that all that gear plus your pack only weight 30 lbs. I'm going to sleep under the stars in my sleeping bag and emergency bivvy. Hope I stay warm. My friends are going to sleep in a three-man tent. I don't want to carry two tents, I'm tired of carrying lots of gear. The first time I summited Mt. Whitney I spent two nights on the mountain under the stars in June with some snow on the ground, I was very comfortable, but I was also 28 years old and not 58 years old like now.

My friends and I have been trading emails all day teasing each other about praying for snow, rain, wind and hail...we figure we'll just have to stay at the Dow Villa if the weather turns for the worse...but I don't think it's going to turn for the worse...the weather forecast appears to be sunny and clear this entire weekend...the Gods have blessed us once again.

Thank you for everything,