Apr 11, 2011 at 10:46 pm #1272096
I'm new to bakpacking and in may 20 I'm going to go for my first two nighter to mt Whitney.
I pretty much have my gear for three season and last time that same gear worked in the low 20's last time.
I don't know what to expect in this place. Help?
I guess it would help if I tell you what I have.
30f wm megalite
Very basic thermals
Golite ether wind jacket
Really light fleece jacket 1/4 zip – thin
A litle heavier full zip fleece jacket
Synthetic ls base layers
The above is pretty much it.Apr 11, 2011 at 10:57 pm #1723464
@bigjerrLocale: high country
Im no expert ,but this year I just dont see it. are you shure its May? if so that seems a bit early in the season ,lots a snow and ice and thats in June .I think your going to need more insulation …JerryApr 11, 2011 at 11:03 pm #1723467
Maybe that's why the person in charge of getting the permits got them with no problem for that date.
What else should I take?Apr 11, 2011 at 11:04 pm #1723469
@jasongLocale: iceberg lake
little more info plz. Are you trying to camp on the summit? do you have snow gear? ice axe, crampons?
i was up there mid august last summer and people who started the summit hike at midnight in shorts and tshirt and maybe a light wind shirt and were fine hiking up but once at the summit with convulsing with shivers at around 6-9am and had to retreat to the hut to stay warm.
if you are hiking it mid may then everything will more likely be covered in snow(especially this year). so 30* bag might be ok as long as you have some layers to wear while sleeping and have a good pad. and if you plan on sleeping on the summit then your def need more than a 30* bag..
just remember so bring plenty of layers to wear atop the summit..Apr 11, 2011 at 11:15 pm #1723470
If you're new to backpacking, and snow traveling, I'm afraid May might be a bit too early for Whitney. I would want to bring crampons of some sort, and microspikes at the very least. The guy that got the permits…has he gone this early before? Whitney can be long and boring…you definitely want to have as much working in your favor to have a good time. You can always try to show up really early in the summer and get a first come first serve permit. My buddy and I always did that in July.
If your insistent on going, talk to Bob Gross on these forums, he's been up there a lot.
Weather is hard to predict up that high…you def have enough to keep you warm to the low-mid 20's, so at worst, I'd imagine you might be chilly and not sleep well, or you could be absolutely toasty–again hard to predict. How's your sleeping pad/ ground insulation?
Do you have a rain jacket? I would feel better about your trip if you dropped the golite windshirt and used a rain jacket instead. How are your lower legs? Generally, some thermals under synthetic hiking pants keeps me warm in the low 30's and should be fine. But because of the snow around that time, I'd feel better if you wore softshells, and gaiters. Do you have waterproof shoes/boots or plan on bringing goretex socks?Apr 11, 2011 at 11:19 pm #1723472
Are you sure it is May? That is a downright awful season to go, especially for somebody who is new to backpacking.
Which route are you going up? Keep in mind that a lot of the standard trail will be buried and hard to follow.
I've been up there 35 times, and you couldn't get me to go up there in May on a bet.
The earliest that I've gone up there was July 8, and then the snow was only moderately tricky for 2000 feet to the top. In May (GEEZ), ice axe and crampons!
–B.G.–Apr 11, 2011 at 11:26 pm #1723474
For a pad I have a neoair but was thinking on taking a ccf. Not sure if I a thin light or a blue mat.
The person who got the permit is also new to backpacking but the group is about 10 people right now with a few of them with plenty of experienwve.
I do not have crampons or an ice axe but can get them if I'll need them.
What else do you want to know?
I would really like to go. Last year I was offered to go for a week with the boy scouts bit it did not happen. And they were going around that same time too.
I still don't know where we are gig to camp exactly. I'll fond out and update the thread.Apr 11, 2011 at 11:32 pm #1723476
If you don't mind the weight, the blue $6 walmart foam pad will be plenty fine.
Ugh, I wish I had better advice for you…call the ranger station and ask them about the conditions. Maybe do this a couple weeks beforehand to figure out if you need crampons and an iceaxe. If they say you do…I would learn how to work with those tools. An ice axe won't do you any good if you don't know how to properly self arrest. Also learn when to wear crampons, and when to not. Watch youtube videos, and get to a non dangerous snow slope with someone who knows how to do it and practice practice practice! Since you live in SFV, head to nearby 8,000 ft + slopes like Mt. Baldy, Gorgonio, etc, where there's still snow and find out how different it is to travel in snow vs maintained trails. Elevation is a big deal…you're probably not going to feel good at some point on your trip…couple that with unfamiliarity with snow and ice, and its potentially dangerous. Coming from sea level, without any prior acclimatization, I always feel like crap if I spend more than a few hours above 9,000ft. Stay hydrated, it helps with the altitude. But see if you can get a better permit slot, or like I said, go during summer, on a weekday–show up early on the day of, with a smaller group–more often than not, they will have permits available.Apr 11, 2011 at 11:46 pm #1723478
If some of the people in the group are experienced, then why aren't they the ones getting the permit arranged? Does that experience include Whitney, itself, or is it general experience in the Sierra Nevada?
For a very long time up to and including about 1970, the standard way to do Whitney was as a three-day backpack trip in the months of July or August. Starting about then, some eager beavers started doing it in two days, and some of the very experienced ones started doing it as a winter trip (April-May-June). When I came along in 1976, I started doing it all in a day, but always in July or August.
Just assuming that everything else works out, permit, equipment, etc., then you really need to acclimitize for altitude before you actually start up the trail. I'm not saying that you are legally bound to. I'm just saying that if you don't, there is a very good likelihood of problems. It may be as simple as a splitting headache, or it could be much worse. The hikers who are inadequately trained and who have no previous exposure to altitude and cold have a poor success rate. I'm not saying that you are going to die, but the first experience up there is typically a lot harsher than what you expect. At a minimum, that would be two nights camped somewhere high enough that you can get some exposure to cold and wet snow where you can feel the thin air. The big risks are: hypothermia from cold wet snow, frostbitten toes from wet footware, severe sunburn, and acute mountain sickness. If you are not roped, then add some fall injury to that.
–B.G.–Apr 11, 2011 at 11:52 pm #1723480
I have a wenzel blue pad. Really light and was thinking of taking that and the neoair for comfort.
Most likely I'll end up getting a light down jacket.
But if the conditons are that bad why would they give out permits that early?
And you are saying if I go during the week I'll het the permits easier? But weekends work best for me right now.
I'll start watching videos on how to use crampons and the ice axe.
Bob, you would not go there at all in may?
I can def get a rain jacket and gaiters by may.Apr 12, 2011 at 12:00 am #1723482
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
Whitney in May can be VERY serious business. If you need to watch videos to learn how to use crampons and and ice axe, this may not be a trip you want to take until you get more experience.Apr 12, 2011 at 12:12 am #1723484
"But if the conditons are that bad why would they give out permits that early?"
Hmmm. The Forest Service administers that wilderness area. They sell the permits for a fee during the prime season. There are relatively few people going up there much earlier than the prime season, like May 20 for example. The few people who do go up there that early are probably very experienced and very tough. They better be, because the conditions might be anywhere from reasonable to nasty.
"And you are saying if I go during the week I'll het the permits easier? But weekends work best for me right now."
I certainly did not say anything of the kind. However, yes, the big demand for permits is from Friday to Monday. That's why I have hardly ever gone up on a Friday through Monday. For over 90% of the time, I generally get a Tuesday or Wednesday, just to avoid quota problems during July or August.
"I'll start watching videos on how to use crampons and the ice axe."
Well, I guess that will be a good idea for the 21st century. NOT! You really need to get some experience with ice axe and self arrests before you get up to 13,000 feet and it gets dicey. That's the reason why you spend a couple of days at some good place to acclimatize immediately before you start up the trail in earnest. Also, make sure that your self arrest instructor knows what he is doing, and he is not just somebody who will watch you slide to your death.
"Bob, you would not go there at all in may?"
Hmmm. How can I answer this? Out of the 35 times that I've done Whitney, July 8 was the earliest, and about August 25 was the latest. If a bunch of my experienced friends came to me and asked me if I wanted to go do Whitney on May 20, I would decline. Don't get me wrong. I know some guys who do Whitney in April and May. They are very, very tough.
–B.G.–Apr 12, 2011 at 12:19 am #1723487
They give out permits that early because plenty of people do whitney in full blown alpine conditions…but its a very very specific group of well trained experienced climbers that go in those types of conditions. Think of it this way…if so many people die in the himalayas, why would they still allow people to climb K2, Everest, etc. Just because something is available doesn't always mean its a good thing, or that it's right for you in particular. I climbed Whitney 2 weeks after I climbed Mt. Shasta. Before thatn I was training for Mt. Shasta for 4 months straight. I was still wiped by Whitney's elevation.
Honestly, you're probably not going to have a good time if you do it in May. Whitney is something you want to remember…honestly, it's an amazing hike over all…If it's your first time, save it for the summer…better views, better weather. In the mean time, enjoy local hikes in the LA mountains…plenty of snow and fun there. Just my 2cents
*Bob, his question about permits during the week was in response to my comment. Yes, permits are easier to get during the weekday because everyone else is in school or at work…plan your vacation days accordingly. His comments about videos was also in response to my suggestion…where I told him to watch youtube videos AND go out and practice with someone who has experience doing it. That's how I learned. I watched a ton of youtube videos that explained the technique to me…just to get the gears turning in my head and mentally prepare me for what I should expect…than I went out and took a mountaineering class. When I took the class, it was comfortable because I was vaguely familiar with the theory of it all, and the application came more naturally. As mentioned…practice practice practice.
*edit, Just saw your post below Bob. Along the same vein, youtube allows a beginner to watch and listen before they actually try it for real. Don't get me wrong…it's no substitute for actual experience, but it has its benefits…mainly as a primer for the real deal. Sadly, I suspect more people are inclined to head to the internet rather than pickup a copy of mountaineering:freedom of the hills–but so long as they are training right?Apr 12, 2011 at 12:23 am #1723488
Gee, Nick. You took the words right out of my mouth.
For almost thirty years, I would lead a Mount Shasta trip over Memorial Day weekend in May. Now, Shasta is kind of a different mountain from Whitney, but there are some similarities also. Each year I would have anywhere from zero to 18 people going along on Shasta, and I made everybody write down what their level of experience was in advance. I expected everybody to be an experienced summer backpacker (at some level) and also to be an experienced cross-country skier or else snowshoer. If I didn't see those qualifications and a certain level of confidence, then they didn't go on my trip. We set up an ice axe training area, and each beginner would watch and listen before they tried it for real. Plus, there was a perfect runout so that they couldn't get hurt during training. If they could not execute a proper self arrest within about one hour of training, then we would tactfully get them to withdraw.
Whitney is kind of different due to its shape, but it is still a dangerous peak if you don't know what you are doing. Every year, somebody or another dies up there, typically in the early season like you are suggesting.
–B.G.–Apr 12, 2011 at 12:28 am #1723490
I have gotten tons of info on this place and really appreciate what you are saying right now.
I guess I have to think twice about this.
I'll talk to the guys and see what they have to say. I'll update this thread with their comments.
I might end up not going since I still need to get experience with crampons and ice axes. I mean I've seen bear grills self arrest a few times but I don't think that counts as formal training :).
Thanks guys for your comments.Apr 12, 2011 at 12:30 am #1723491
Permits for the prime season are kind of funny. The permit lottery happens during February, and then we are notified around the end of March about which choice of date we got. So then in late July or early August I show up the day before at the permit station and show my notification to the permit clerk there. Just as the clerk starts to ask me some of the standard questions, I tell him that this is Year 35 or whatever for me.
Then he says, "Oh, you're the one. Good luck. Here is your permit. Sign here."
–B.G.–Apr 12, 2011 at 12:55 am #1723496
"Coming from sea level, without any prior acclimatization, I always feel like crap if I spend more than a few hours above 9,000ft. Stay hydrated, it helps with the altitude."
Yes, Konrad, your experience is just about typical. I don't understand this fully, but they say that the more experienced you get with going high in the mountains and successfully dealing with it, then the more likely that you will continue to get better and better with the adaptation process. Yes, the first time I went up Whitney I was a mess. For one thing, I was a flatlander, and I had almost no experience over 11,000 feet. I failed to acclimatize before Whitney. I simply spent one night sleeping at the trailhead and then I went up. You can bet that I felt like crap when I got to about 13,000 or 14,000 feet. So, I was very lucky that I did not blow a gasket or something else. I still got hugely sunburned and heel-blistered. But, one survives. After leading others on Whitney and Shasta for so many years, I came to the conclusion that about 80% of all of the altitude symptoms that I saw in others stemmed from dehydration.
I'll be back there this summer, and I will likely spend three or four days minimum camped somewhere around 10,000-12,000 feet and hiking around moderately to prepare.
–B.G.–Apr 12, 2011 at 1:52 am #1723502
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
nmApr 12, 2011 at 5:04 pm #1723758
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"Are you sure it is May? That is a downright awful season to go, especially for somebody who is new to backpacking."
You're getting pretty much the same advice from a number of very experienced people. I'd advise you to take it and live to hike another day. Whitney in May is a very unforgiving mountain, and your first mistake could well be your last. It'll still be there several years down the road.
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