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Re: Mt. Whitney Survival

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Mt. Whitney Survival
August 31, 2012 09:42PM
Yesterday my father and I set out for a "day" hike of Whitney. We stopped at Lone Pine Lake to nap and hopefully further acclimate before our Midnight permit became active.

Both of us felt great as we began our trek. At some point I began to complain of a very mild head ache. I was being careful to hydrate, had hiked a ton this summer and am in very good shape and I hoped the nights stay at about 8,000 feet after my flight from Alaska would be enough to acclimate. My dad and I also hiked Dana last year and had no effects.

Well at some point my headache worsened and I felt a little nauseous. We made it to Trail Camp under a gorgeous Full Moon that was literally blinding in its brightness. At this point, 12,000 ft. I knew my summit effort was in jeopardy. I took some aspirin, we rested a bit, and then headed up the 97 swithbacks. Not long after (maybe 200 ft. Elevation) I made the call. The nausea was scaring me and I had never experienced altitude sickness. About 10-15 minutes and heading down the nausea overcame me and I violently vomited including dry heaves (sorry to be so graphic but I am hoping others can learn or give advice). At this point the headache was massive and to be frank I was VERY scared. Thoughts of rescue were dancing through my head and it was still dark. All I could think of at this point was advice I've read to get down! So I rushed down as much as I could. Several times the headache, fatigue and nausea would overcome me and I would find a place to almost lay down on the trail. I was also cold and stopping too long I would tremble with shivers. I never did vomit again but I believe I fell asleep a few minutes several times on the way down. I was also doing my best to stay hydrated but the taste of water digusted me, it tasted bitter but I forced myaelf to drink.

By the way, my 67 year old father was doing great. Disappointing him and ending his summit attempt was the toughest part of my decision.

Since I am writing this you know I am okay. I am at 8,000 ft again and feeling great after resting all day today. I hate we didn't make it but am happy to be safe and healthy. My thoughts are about all the maximum 7-8,000 ft mountains there are in Alaska where I never had to experience this again. It was a very scary experience and I've never felt that type of sickness before.

I am off to Yosemite tomorrow morning but have to be in Fresno by 6 for a high school reunion. I believe my dad is going to take me to the Tenaya Canyon "No hiking" sign I missed last year.
avatar Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 01, 2012 03:54PM
That just sucks when you have to turn around and do a hike back that you're no longer motivated for (other than self-preservation) while your body feels really awful. I was so pissed when it happened to me I couldn't bear to even look out the windows on the YARTS ride down to the valley from TM after. I guess we'll both have to be extremely careful with how we acclimate when doing trips to those kind of altitudes in the future, as I suspect not hiking in the mountains is as unacceptable an answer to you as it is me. Sorry to hear things turned out badly but glad to hear they didn't turn out really badly.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/01/2012 03:55PM by mbear.
avatar Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 01, 2012 07:27PM
Bummer, but it can happen to anybody anytime. Good call on going down. Whitney will still be there for your next trip!

I had it happen once, at Saddlebag Lake, as we woke up the first morning of a planned 8 day trip with 7 other guys, and I was the leader. Fortunately for me I felt better after I threw up and our first day hike was "down" in Tuolumne Meadows and I was able to carry on.
avatar Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 05, 2012 08:48AM
I'm sorry to hear the trip didn't work out the way you wanted. But very glad to hear you're ok and heading back to the high country.

That same thing happened to me on Whitney at about the same spot. I made it to the summit a few years later without a problem. It will be there when you come back!



"It is all very beautiful and magical here - a quality which cannot be described. You have to live it and breath it., let the sun bake it into you" - Ansel Adams
Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 05, 2012 03:57PM
I am contemplating a return trip to Whitney at the end of September. The trip will have to be on a tight schedule but based on everything I read I think it is doable:

Wednesday: Fly from Alaska to Ontario arriving 10 am
Wednesday: Acclimate somewhere
Thursday: Acclimate somewhere
Friday Night: Begin Hike
Saturday: Complete Hike
Sunday: Fly from Ontario to Alaska at 6 am

Questions:
1. Any advice based on the schedule above on where the best place to acclimate is? Drive all the way to Mammoth and stay there?

2. I believe based on everything I have read that our chances for last minute permits are fairly good. We would need to get permits at 2:00 pm on Friday correct?

3. I am planning to go to doctor and get Diamox. Planned dosage on Thursday, Friday before hike and during hike as needed. Any suggestions here?

Any other suggestions? Prolonging the schedule won't work so I have to make it fit in the above schedule or just not do the trip. I need to buy plane tickets very soon so I am hoping for quick comments. Thanks so much. (I've posted this on the Whitney forum but know plenty here have experience also.)
avatar Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 05, 2012 06:36PM
Quote
chicagocwright
I am contemplating a return trip to Whitney at the end of September. The trip will have to be on a tight schedule but based on everything I read I think it is doable:

Wednesday: Fly from Alaska to Ontario arriving 10 am
Wednesday: Acclimate somewhere
Thursday: Acclimate somewhere
Friday Night: Begin Hike
Saturday: Complete Hike
Sunday: Fly from Ontario to Alaska at 6 am

Questions:
1. Any advice based on the schedule above on where the best place to acclimate is? Drive all the way to Mammoth and stay there?

2. I believe based on everything I have read that our chances for last minute permits are fairly good. We would need to get permits at 2:00 pm on Friday correct?

3. I am planning to go to doctor and get Diamox. Planned dosage on Thursday, Friday before hike and during hike as needed. Any suggestions here?

Any other suggestions? Prolonging the schedule won't work so I have to make it fit in the above schedule or just not do the trip. I need to buy plane tickets very soon so I am hoping for quick comments. Thanks so much. (I've posted this on the Whitney forum but know plenty here have experience also.)

This site will answer all your questions: http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/



Old Dude
Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 05, 2012 06:50PM
Thanks Dude. I've got the same question there and am getting some good answers. I would love to hear general thoughts here about Diamox, acclimizing with a tight schedule, etc.

Thanks much.
avatar Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 07, 2012 07:26AM
I haven't had altitude issues yet so take this w/ a grain of salt, but if I want a hotel to acclimate in along 395 I stay in Mammoth (that's where I stayed before hiking over Piute Pass in August, though its a lot more convenient for me from the Bay). Bishop and further south aren't very high elevation. Its a long drive from Mammoth to Whitney Portal though, if you can get a campsite there then you could spend Thursday car-camping, that would give you the same elevation and avoid the long Friday morning drive.

Edit: just noticed you're heading out Friday night...maybe you're not so worried about the Mammoth to Whitney drive.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/07/2012 07:27AM by ttilley.
Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 07, 2012 09:44AM
Mammoth is what we did last time. Unfortunately camping is not really a good option since neither of us have everything we would need. Right now my inclination is to spend the entire day at Horseshoe Meadows (10,000 ft.) and come down. A variation of the hike high, sleep low theme.
avatar Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 10, 2012 12:38PM
Why not rent a fully equipped small RV for the trip and camp at the Onion Valley Campground, elevation 9,600 feet? You can then do day hikes out of Onion Valley to get acclimated.

Maybe as test run on Thursday, or early Friday, to see if you have successfully acclimated to 14,000', you can do a relatively easy hike (14 mile round trip, with only a 2,600 feet elevation gain from the trailhead, about 3,500 total elevation gain due to dips in the jeep road) to the While Mountain Peak (el. 14,252') on the other side of Owens Valley. A less strenuous daytime activity than hiking all the way to White Mountain Peak, would be to just spend some time exploring the Patriarch Grove of Bristlecone Pines (el. 11,000') in the White Mountains which is easily accessible via a dirt road that most vehicles can easily traverse.

.
Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 10, 2012 02:08PM
A 14 mile hike the day before a 22 miles Mt. Whitney trip is probably more than my dad wants to bite off. Based on much feedback, I'm more convinced than ever that my problem was I was tired before ever starting the hike---tired in the sense of lack of sleep.

My biggest challenge now is figuring out where to sleep and whether or not the easiest/simplest solution, Lone Pine, negates the benefits of spending the day at Horseshoe Meadows. My problem, is based on my first comment, is that I really want to make sure I sleep well.
avatar Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 10, 2012 02:19PM
Quote
chicagocwright

A 14 mile hike the day before a 22 miles Mt. Whitney trip is probably more than my dad wants to bite off. Based on much feedback, I'm more convinced than ever that my problem was I was tired before ever starting the hike---tired in the sense of lack of sleep.

My biggest challenge now is figuring out where to sleep and whether or not the easiest/simplest solution, Lone Pine, negates the benefits of spending the day at Horseshoe Meadows. My problem, is based on my first comment, is that I really want to make sure I sleep well.

If one of your goals is to sleep well – and be well rested – before you climb Mt. Whitney, I would suggest that you shy away from starting the hike on Friday night and instead start your hike hike maybe just an hour before sunrise.

Don't know what your sleeping plans are for Thursday night or Friday, but if you're someone who regularly sleeps at night (and not during the day), it will probably be very difficult for you to get any sort of restful sleep on Friday during the day or early evening before you start your hike later that evening.

.
Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 10, 2012 02:34PM
Understood. For about two or three weeks now I have watched the web cam at Whitney Web Cam and it confirms to me that clouds roll in EVERYDAY about noon. My dad had a 12 noon turnaround time and we won't make it without an EARLY start. What is also interesting to me is how the clouds seem to disappear by 4 or 5! Where can we hide during that time? I've already gone UP and DOWN the trail in the dark so darkness isn't a problem.
Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 07, 2012 11:23AM
Happy to hear you made it down. Acclimation can be a tricky thing. I've seen people affected at 6500-7000 or so (on Half Dome trail).
Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 11, 2012 08:52PM
Can you camp up in Horseshoe meadows?
Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 11, 2012 09:19PM
Yes you can camp in Horseshoe Meadow I'm just not sure we are willing and able. By the way, last night I was able to land two day hike permits so that is one hurdle down.
Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 11, 2012 10:03PM
Quote
chicagocwright
Yes you can camp in Horseshoe Meadow I'm just not sure we are willing and able. By the way, last night I was able to land two day hike permits so that is one hurdle down.
It's a lot closer to Ontario than Mammoth, and its 10,000 feet, right?
Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 11, 2012 10:35PM
Quote
hotrod4x5
Quote
chicagocwright
Yes you can camp in Horseshoe Meadow I'm just not sure we are willing and able. By the way, last night I was able to land two day hike permits so that is one hurdle down.
It's a lot closer to Ontario than Mammoth, and its 10,000 feet, right?

Yes, but there are no hotels/motels at Horseshoe Meadows that I know of...
avatar Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 12, 2012 12:11AM
There's high altitude loding on top of the White Mountains, courtesy of the University of California, at their Bancroft Research Station (el. 12,470'). You just need to know someone connected with the White Mountain Research Center and they could probably reserve two bunks at Bancroft for you and your father. wink

Here's a photo of one of the dorm rooms at Bancroft:



I know you don't want to tent camp, but why not rent an RV and camp high up at the Onion Valley Campground?

.
Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 12, 2012 06:32AM
Oh, I didn't realize you can't tent camp. Rent a mini van, sleep in the back?
avatar Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 12, 2012 07:21AM
Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 12, 2012 07:23AM
Quote
chick-on
4x5 ... click on this:
http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/inyo/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=20694&actid=29
Thanks! Surprised to see it has water. I wonder why the one night limit? Can't really use it as a base camp for day hikes I guess.
avatar Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 12, 2012 08:48PM
4x5: I've never been to Horseshoe Meadows... but I can guarantee you the
limitation is due to visitation. (i.e. it's a popular)



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Mt. Whitney Survival
September 12, 2012 11:07AM
Sorry to hear you got so sick man!

Here's what I did to acclimatize before my day hike this season. Camped at the trailhead to White Mountain on night 1 (11.4k feet and FREE). We had planned to hike the White Mountain trail in the morning. It was suggested as a good training hike on the Portal Store message board. It's only 5.5-6.5 (I forgoet which) with a 3k elevation gain but you spend more time at a higher altitude than you do on Whitney (again, per the WP board). My hiking partner and I both woke up with a bit of a headache and decided the hike would be a bad idea. We ended up having some breakfast and relaxing for a bit. After some food we felt a bit better and decided to walk up part of the trail just to get some walking at higher elevation. We ended up passing the lab at 12.4 and continuning to the observatory which had to be close to 13k. Was a nice little walk and gave us some time to breathe that thin air. The view didnt suck either, in case you were wondering. Night 2 we camped at Horseshow Meadows and finally a night at the Portal. Neither my partner or myself had any issues with the altitude on our hike.

For those that are wondering, we opted for the Mountaineers Route up and the main trail down for a nice loop. It was a blast! I'll be posting some here when I stop messing around and get them uploaded Confused



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/12/2012 11:09AM by nervousOne.
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