Oct 6, 2011 at 10:56 pm #1280257
I'm doing a day hike, though I realize most of you are backpackers
I was supposed to hike Mt. Whitney this Sunday with a group of friends. portal to summit and back in one day. They all backed out on me today, two days before we're supposed to leave. If it weren't my first time hiking Whitney I would go alone, but really don't feel that its a good idea.
Would anyone be interested in hiking with me? We can meet at the trailhead and I'll give you the permit for free since I already paid for them. I'd like to be at the Portal before 5:00 am, I'm estimating the hike to be 10-13 hours. I'm in shape, I hike a lot, but I haven't ever hiked at that altitude. I'm comfortable doing it solo except that I haven't been on the trail before and my biggest worry would be losing the trail and spending the night on the mountain in the cold.
I've looked forward to this for a long time so this is my last ditch attempt to find a way to goOct 6, 2011 at 11:18 pm #1787619
I hope you know that this is a semi-bad way to do Whitney. Believe me, because I've done Whitney 36 times. I've seen lots of hikers fail.
You do not want to arrive at Whitney Portal before 5 a.m. and then expect to hike the mountain that very day. I mean, it is surely possible to do, but you really don't want to try it, especially when you've never hiked at that altitude before.
You really want to be sleeping at 8000-10,000 feet elevation for a night or two or three before you start up. There are several nearby places to do this.
Also, since you will be starting before dawn, and you will potentially be finishing after sunset, you really want to get your headlamp and batteries checked out.
There were lots of trail problems in early August, but I've heard that they got fixed. So, the stream crossings should not be abnormally wet.
–B.G.–Oct 6, 2011 at 11:22 pm #1787620
Mike In SocalBPL Member
I was supposed to backpack Mt. Whitney in June but there was still snow at the time and not everyone in my group would have been prepared for those conditions. I will offer up the following:
While I have never hiked Whitney, everything I have read indicates that a moderately paced hike will take about 7-8 hours to ascend and that you should be on the trail by 3am – and that's in good weather with a dry trail, hoping to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. We are now in October and there will probably be snow above Mirror Lake so you should factor in additional time. If there is snow, you should be properly equipped – this is not your typical day hike.
Fall 2011 Conditions
MikeOct 6, 2011 at 11:27 pm #1787623
Jeez, 36 times.
I came down aug. 6th and there was little snow and creek flow but that could have changed. We met a few people that knew they weren't going to make it up so they just turned around in the middle of the day. If you can't stay somewhere as Bob suggested maybe you could go but plan on just going up to 5000-7000 ft elevation and turning around. Ideally I think you want to get a permit for one of the camps and hike in early from one of those.Oct 6, 2011 at 11:30 pm #1787624
"plan on just going up to 5000-7000 ft elevation and turning around."
That is unclear.
The Whitney Portal trailhead is at 8365 feet, give or take a few inches.
–B.G.–Oct 7, 2011 at 1:03 pm #1787799
Thanks for the advice! I got similar responses from another Whitney post. I read posts about hike times and thought that 12 hours would be a moderate pace. Whenever I go hike a trail and read the "casual", "moderate", and "strenuous" pace times I've always been able to finish before the "strenuous" time, so figured finding the "moderate" trail times would be sufficient. Granted, I'm hiking the San Garbriels and San Bernadino trails, so they're steep but not high altitude. Anyway, I'm going to start way earlier and set my expectation time down to 16 hours.
I'll be heading up to lone pine early tomorrow to pick up my permit and I'm camping near the portal ~8,000 feet. I might go for a low key jog to get a feel for the altitude.
Have flashlight checked and extra batteries, plenty of water, food, crampons for the icy bits, and extra set of warm clothes. I'm not pushing myself to make it in a certain time, rather I'm just looking to accomplish the hike. I'll take it slow, and I'll be back next year (and earlier in the season) if I can't make it this time.
Any other advice (or company!) is still appreciated
Thanks againOct 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm #1787818
Here are some more ideas based on 36 trips up Whitney.
1. If you are solo, and if it is your first trip to high altitude, and if you are just a tiny bit uncertain about navigation, then it is not a stupid idea to team up with others at the trailhead. The problem is that there will be very few hikers going at this season. However, there will be a few. The trick is in finding them. So, consider picking the early hour that you intend to begin, like 3 a.m. or whatever, and then arriving at the trailhead 30-60 minutes early to get your car parked and your boots laced up. Then just kind of hang around until you see another group starting. If you start walking just five minutes behind them, that is good. You will see their headlamps in front of you, and it just gives you a target to keep moving toward. If they seem like trustworthy hikers, then you might accidentally join their group. However, a few groups will be tragically slow, and you have to know when to cut your losses and move out on your own.
2. You will probably be carrying a tiny first aid kit. Typically a first-timer needs to take one or two aspirin tablets when they get up around 13,000 feet, and it helps to have those wrapped up in a bit of plastic and stuck in a very handy pocket. It really slows a hiker down to have to stop and go through everything in a pack to find one small item. Additionally you will probably have a small ball of first-aid tape or maybe an Ace wrap for an ankle. But you know what your potential medical weaknesses are.
3. I mention aspirin because many first-timers are a little off-base on their water consumption. As a result, they get dehydrated, and then a headache sets it. That takes a few hours to develop, and that's why it happens around 13,000 feet. Sometimes it is because of modesty. There are no trees or bushes by the time you get to 11,000 feet, and sometimes you have to look hard to find a place to relieve yourself. That causes some hikers to fail to drink enough water in the first place.
4. Some first-timers get too wrapped up in the concept of spending a night out on the trail up high on the mountain. Well, yes, it happens, but it is rare. Instead of loading yourself down with all manner of gear to meet that possibility, I suggest going a tiny bit slower and then thinking about what you are doing more. The problem is that some hikers get up to 13,000 feet and they get punchy from the thin air… and then they start making bad decisions. For example, they stop for a minute, take a photo, drink some water, and then continue. About 15 minutes later they realize that they have lost their camera or their water bottle. It is better to strive for a consistent moderate pace.
5. Water management is generally an issue. First-timers never know how much water to carry from the start. Since this is October and this is well past the prime season, I can't say too much. You may be dealing with water freezing. However, many hikers will start with about two quarts of water, and they sip on that sparingly all the way up. By the summit, they are on the bottom half of the second bottle. So, you can pick up some more raw water on the way down and treat it. Where it the raw water? I don't know for this season. During prime season, it is generally in two places around switchback #25. However, in this season I don't know what is frozen and what is still flowing. If you know that you drink a lot of water, then increase this to three quarts to start with. I've done the entire uphill stretch of trail on as little as 8 ounces of fluid before (Gatorade), but I don't recommend that for others.
6. I'm not a big fan of hydration packs. You get one leak, and then you are in trouble. Traditional water bottles are a little more foolproof unless the water freezes. If so, stick the frozen bottle under your jacket while you are moving, and it will thaw out in no time.
7. Despite how cool it might be up there, one of your big concerns should be sunburn. For cool weather, it is easier to cover up for sun protection rather than gooping up with sunscreen. One or two bandanas ought to do it.
–B.G.–Oct 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm #1787865
Alice HengstBPL Member
@moondustLocale: Southern Sierras
I think your estimate of 10-13 hours is low considering you haven't hiked at these altitudes before. I'd be surprised if you finished in less than 14-15 hours. The high altitude will slow you down. Better to leave earlier, like at 3 or 3:30 IMO. I've dayhiked Whitney 4 times, most recently a month ago.Oct 7, 2011 at 6:52 pm #1787906
"I read posts about hike times and thought that 12 hours would be a moderate pace."
Hike Your Own Hike.
That 12 hours is not unreasonable. The slowest round trip that I ever saw with any of my friends was 19 hours, and that was due to one hiker from the East Coast that was slow in general and did not acclimitize well. The fastest round trip that I ever did myself was about nine hours, and that was back when I was in my prime. Also, that was during prime season in August, and October is not prime.
Basically, if you start at some early hour like 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., and if you go up the lower stretches of trail at a moderately healthy pace, you will reach the first trail junction at Lone Pine Lake in about 90-100 minutes. From your own time, you can compare and see how you are doing. At race pace we used to do that part in 56-58 minutes, but nobody does that anymore. What you are trying to do is to work your way up the easy miles of trail in darkness so that you are reaching the challenges about when dawn light starts to illuminate the trail. Those challenges might include snow or ice. One problem is that you do not want to have to don crampons anywhere below Trail Camp, because the trail tends to have lots of solid rocks, and crampons do not work well on solid rock. Above Trail Camp, the surface changes a bit, and there are more pebbles. So, if the pebbles are covered in an inch or two of snow or ice, then the crampons ought to work well. Crampons will slow you down, even if they may be necessary at some stage.
Then what you are trying to do is to reach the summit at a warm hour like 10 a.m. to noon. Obviously the snow and ice will be melting off quickly, or you hope it is. Then, if you are starting descent at 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the maximum slipperiness should be gone. Then what you are trying to do is to get down to the easy trail again well before dark. It is not hard to walk the bottom two miles of trail in darkness, especially if you let your night vision work and if you have a headlamp to back that up. It is during those last two miles that the black bears sometimes come out, but they don't eat much. Honestly, they would probably be more scared of you than you of them.
–B.G.–Oct 14, 2011 at 6:42 pm #1790703
I am very interested in hiking whitney next weekend sat oct 22nd. are you interesed? I can't find anyone either all my friends don't go that big. I have done most everything in so cal and I am in good shape. Whitney is calling me but everytime I tell someone I might go alone they tell me thats a bad Idea. In fact if anybody reads this and wants to go lets do it. my plan would be to arrive at whitney portal campgrounp on thursday and adjust to altitude. I would probably start hike around 2am. weather looks good and I hear most of the snow and ice melted on switch backs. I plan to wear my regular hiking shoes and trecking poles. permits are easy to get this time of year and weather looks good for Oct 22 2011. I would much rather do this hike in a little cold than a hot summer with a billion people on the trail. Anybody interested?
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