Thursday, July 18, 2013

Acclimate: The Final Four Days (Single-Day Climb)

Underestimating altitude and its effects remains the most costly mistake made by inexperienced Mt Whitney hopefuls.  Diminished performance in an atmosphere 62 percent of sea level density represents only part of the problem.  Coping with neurological changes, blistering headaches, appetite loss, and nausea while your "engine" gets smaller and smaller complicates matters greatly.

San Gorgonio whitneyquest high altitude training Mt Whitney
Train high.  Get strong.  Climb Whitney.
There is no substitute for altitude training.  Yes, I know not everyone has the opportunity to do so but, if you really want to enjoy a successful climb, you have to make it so.  This will be discussed in the future.  In the meantime, here's an acclimation approach to help one "seal the deal" towards a successful, enjoyable Mt Whitney summit.  This covers only the last few days before the climb and is not a substitute for solid training at high altitude.

Let me preface by saying I've only climbed Mt Whitney on Thursdays.  First, Thursdays are easier to get than any other day.  Second, I show up at Whitney Portal on Monday to avoid weekend crowds and spend time at altitude before I head up. I attribute any success we've had climbing Mt Whitney (and we haven't failed yet) at least in part to this.

Monday:  Arrive at Whitney Portal around 1:00 pm.  That's the earliest time allowed to assume control of a campsite.  Set up camp.  Head up to the Portal Store and check the weather report.  Look at the souvenir T-Shirts to see how tall Mt Whitney is this year. Make supper and hang out.

Reserve your Whitney Portal site early or you'll have to switch sites in mid-stay like we did
 Alternate:  If Whitney Portal has no availabilities, consider staying at Horseshoe Meadow in the Golden Trout Wilderness.  You'll camp at almost 10,000 feet.  The camping is more primitive but the whole place operates on a first-come-first-serve basis and is rarely full.  Adjust your schedule accordingly for the 31-ish mile trip to the trailhead.

Horsehoe Meadow Golden Trout Wilderness Inyo National Forest Sierra Nevada Cottonwood Lakes Mount Whitney
Horseshoe Meadow is a pack station too
Tuesday:  Head down to the Eastern Sierra InterAgency Center and exchange paperwork for the actual Mt Whitney Zone Permit.  Hit Joseph's Bi-Rite Market or Elevation in Lone Pine for any forgotten food or gear items. On the way back to Whitney Portal, turn left on Horseshoe Meadow Road all the way to the end at Horseshoe Meadow Camp at almost 10,000 feet (3048 m).  Start hiking up towards Cottonwood Lakes.  Hike as far as you want.  A round trip all the way to the Lakes is 11 miles at 11,500 feet (3,505 m).  We go in about 3 miles (5 km), find a nice spot to eat lunch, and spend quality time.  It's 2 days before The Big One.  You're either in shape by now or you're not.  Return to the Portal for a shower, dinner, and a good night's rest.
"A westful wetweat" - Elmer Fudd
Wednesday:  Head up to Lone Pine Lake for a slow and easy leg stretcher.  Go to the opposite shore and look back at the granite panorama.  Eat a sandwich. This is a great opportunity to get a daytime preview of the trail section traversed by headlamp at 3:00 am.  Back at camp, sort the gear and pack for the hike.  Eat dinner and set up for easy breakfast deployment tomorrow.  Bedtime is 8:00 pm.

Thursday:  Up at 2:00 am. Have a good breakfast.  Use hand signals instead of talking as much as possible.  After all, others are sleeping because Thursday may not be their day.  Don't be one of those people.  Pack your shower equipment in the car to ensure enough shower time before the facility closes after your return.  Drive up to the trailhead and park in the "Day Use" area.  Be making tracks by 3:15 am.  Have a wonderful trip!

Friday:  Eat more breakfast than you ever thought possible at the Portal Store before breaking camp, you successful Whitney climber you.

Next post:  The multi-day formula

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1 comment:

OK guys, let's keep 'er civil and mannerly. This is not a political site so diatribes of that ilk are not welcome and won't be published.