Mt. Whitney Trip Report, August 23 2011

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The info in this trip report was originally post on a forum thread entitled Tips for First timers, by First Timers. You can read related posts, by myself and others here: WPSMB

 

If you’re interested in checking out what I recommend to others in terms of training, you can read my recommendations here: Training and Preparing for Mt. Whitney

If you regularly hike or backpack in California, please join our Facebook group, California Hiking and Backpacking!
It’s a great place to ask questions and share your photos, trip reports and gear recommendations.

THE HIKE

On Monday Aug 23rd, our group of 8 attempted a day hike of Whitney. 7 of us were first-timers and one member of our group attempted to summit last fall, but turned around because of weather. 7/8 of us were able to summit.


Our goal was to start the hike at 3 am, summit in 9 hours, spend 1 hour on the summit and take 6 hours hiking down. I got the time table for landmarks along the hike from a book called “One Best Hike: Mt Whitney “. I thought a modified version of the time table(with inclines of each leg of the hike), along with the trail profile and trail map from the book would be useful on the hike. I printed this info onto some 4″ x 4” card stock, which I covered with packing tape,. This piece of paper kept me motivated and helped me take on the hike in smaller sections.

We started at 3:15, reaching Mirror lake around 5:30. A few people filtered some water here and we took a longer break than expected waiting for some members to catch up. At this point we split up into smaller groups and reached Trail Camp at about 7:30. My heart rate was higher than what I had planned on, but I felt good and kept up the pace with everyone else. When we reached Trail Camp, we took a long break and filled up with water. Up until this point, I had been wearing trail runners. I decided I should put on my hiking boots before starting the switchbacks. One of the members of our group started feeling sick (headache, nauseous), so he decided to stay at Trail Camp to see if he improved. Leaving Trail Camp, I decided to stick with two other members and let one them lead, so that I would not go faster than I should. The trek up the switchbacks wasn’t as steep or as tough as I was expecting. Around 10:30, we made it to Trail Crest. On the switchbacks the other guys had started to feel the elevation and had mild headaches. Up until this point, I had been staying well hydrated and felt great. I had the thought that there was no way I wasn’t going to summit, unless the weather got bad. 

Other than the last push to the summit, the hike between Trail Crest and the snow field was the hardest for me. The trail was much rougher and I stopped drinking as much as I had been. I was sucking for air already, so drinking from a Camelbak was tough unless I stopped every time I wanted to drink. With all of the loose rocks and ‘steep cliffs’, I was really worried about my keeping my balance and my weak ankle and had to focus nearly all of my attn to where I was placing my poles and feet. In some ways, all of this made me forget about staying hydrated. When we got near the Crooks Peak, I started moving much slower and the other guys were really starting to struggle. Getting through the snow field took a lot of energy for some reason (maybe trying to keep my balance?) and I seriously thought about giving up there. At that point I had a really bad headache and didn’t feel like moving anymore. After getting past the snow, it took me about 30 minutes to reach the summit (around 12:15).

We only spent about 15 minutes on the summit – a couple of the guys weren’t doing well even after we stopped hiking, so they needed to get to a lower elevation. I was doing fine on the way down until we got to the section by the JMT. That small section that goes uphill to Trail Crest really killed me. The headache came back and I didn’t want to walk anymore. At Trail Crest, we meet up with the member that stopped at Trail Camp. He slept for an hour, hiked up to Trail Crest and part way towards the summit. From Trail Crest all the way back to Whitney Portal, I was miserable – the balls of my feet we screaming and my left knee (new injury) was really sore. One the way up, I had spend time waiting up for the others, now they were waiting for me. At Trail Camp we took our lunch break (30-45 mins), filtered some water and put on some new socks. The socks helped for a bit, but by the time we reached Mirror Lake, I was really hurting. I had planned on putting my trail runners back on at Mirror Lake, but at that point I did not want to stop again. We pretty much hiked from Trail Camp to Whitney Portal without stopping. We reached the Portal Store around 7:15.

FOOD & WATER

I carried way too much food. I ate less than half of what I was carrying. By the time I got up to Trail Camp, I didn’t have an appetite and had to force myself to eat. Based on what I read in a few places, I believed that I needed to consume around 3000 calories during the hike. This is what I managed to eat:

7 oz. of beef jerky
2 packages of Clif Shot Blocks
2 packages of Sport Beans
4 Stinger Waffles
1 Rice Crispy Treat

It was a cool day, so I drank less water than I was expecting. I drank around 8 liters of water. If I do the hike again, I will carry less water near the beginning of the trail and take advantage of all the lakes and streams.

TRAINING

A friend asked me to go on the hike in May or so, but it took him until mid June to actually convince me. At the beginning of June, I had started weight training after taking off a few months and had just started riding an exercise bike a few times per week. At the beginning of August, I started have some problems with the balls of my feet really hurting and my left ankle being very weak. I scaled back the training in the hopes that I’d be at full strength for Whitney.


Here is a summary of what I did: 

June
24 hiking or biking sessions
Bike – 8.75 hrs, 138 miles
Hiking – 8.65 hrs, 27.5 miles

July
24 hiking or biking sessions
Bike – 3.4 hrs, 52 miles
Hiking – 41 hrs, 97 miles

August
6 hikes
Hiking – 17.7 hrs, 40 miles

Notes regarding biking: 
In June, most of the bike work was done in my ‘aerobic zone (70-80% of max heart rate).’ In July, I was focusing on hiking, but when I did ride the bike, about half of it was done in my ‘anaerobic zone (80-90% of max heart rate).’

Notes regarding hiking:
During the week, most of my hiking was done on Blue Mtn, which is a hill near my house. It is about 4 miles round trip. The last mile to the top has an average grade of 13%, with some sections as high as 28%. 


Log of Hiking/Walking
6/11 Loch Leven 6.34 miles, 2078 ft climbing
6/13 Walk, 3 miles, 600 ft
6/18 Lock Leven, 8.03 miles, 2727 ft
6/19 Blue Mtn, 3.61 miles, 1255 ft
6/20 Walk, 2.3 miles
6/27 Run, 2.2 miles, 230 ft
6/29 Blue Mtn, 4.37 miles, 1425 ft
7/2 Keller Peak, 12.33 miles, 2742 ft, 7882 ft summit
7/3 Mt Rubidoux 4.0 miles, 992 ft
7/4 Blue Mtn, 3.67 miles, 1289 ft
7/4 Blue Mtn, 1.94 miles, 501 ft
7/6 Walk, 3.0 miles, 567 ft
7/9 Keller Peak, 12.33 miles, 2742 ft, 7882 ft summit
7/10 Blue Mtn, 4.5 miles, 1532 ft
7/12 Blue Mtn, 4.0 miles, 1332 ft
7/13 Blue Mtn, 4.0 miles, 1330 ft
7/16 Mt San Bernardino 16.38 miles, 5893 ft, 10,600 ft summit
7/21 Blue Mtn, 4.0 miles, 1330 ft
7/23 Keller Peak, 12.33 miles, 2742 ft, 7882 ft summit
7/24 Blue Mtn, 3.58 miles, 1280 ft
7/28 Blue Mtn, 4.88 miles, 1628 ft
7/30 San Jacinto, 10.36 miles 3041 ft, 10,800 ft summit
8/1 Blue Mtn, 3.01 miles, 1128 ft
8/6 Fish Creek Trail, 13.3 miles, 3563 ft, 9879 peak elevation
8/12 Walk, 3 miles, 600 ft
8/13 Lock Leven, 10.81 miles, 3535 ft
8/16 Blue Mtn, 6.70 miles
8/20 Schulman Grove, 4.08 miles, 10,200 peak elevation

TIPS FOR OTHERS & WHAT I’D DO DIFFERENTLY 

  • I wore trail runners from Whitney Portal to Trail Camp, then wore my hiking boots. It wasn’t fun packing hiking boots up to Trail Camp, but I think this kept my legs fresh and helped minimize the pounding the balls of my feet took (my runners have more cushioning).
  • Read about this hike as much as you can. I went through every page of threads on this forum and read the posts that I thought would be useful. I also read a book called “One Best Hike: Mt Whitney.” It had some very useful tips, charts and information.
  • Starting a couple of weeks before the hike, I really focused on keeping myself hydrated. Sitting at my desk at work, I was always sipping water.
  • I took diamox, but cut the prescription in half. A week before our trip, I took it for a couple of days to see what side effects I’d be dealing with.
  • I would start training earlier. I decided to Whitney about two months before our hike date and was not in shape.
  • Training wise, I think I would cut down on the mileage I did and focus more on hill work and anaerobic training. The couple of weeks before the hike, I really had to scale back by hiking because of the pounding my feet and ankles were taking. There is a log of hikes at the end of this post.
  • I would try to cut down on the weight of my pack. At the trail head, it weighed around 28 lbs, which was significantly heavier than what the rest of my group was carrying. I would definitely carry less food, and less water up until Trail Camp.
  • Because of the difficulty I had drinking from my Camelbak at elevation, I would like to get a water bottle that could easily be attached to the chest straps on the front of my pack. When you’re sucking for air already, drinking from a Camelbak is tough unless you want to stop every time you drink.
  • Two days before the hike, 2 of us went up to Schulman Grove (10,000 ft) and did the 4 mile loop. In addition to this, I would go up to Patriarch Grove (11,500 ft) and spend some time there. It seems to be an easy way to get about 11k ft.
  • I would use San Gorgonio as a training hike – when I went to get a permit for San Gorgonio (Vivian Creek Trail), there weren’t any left. Before heading out on this trip, I had only been above 9,000 ft three times (San Bernardino, San Jacinto, Fish Creek Saddle)

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