Just finished reading Craig W's Grand Canyon Trip report. Having hiked with Craig, I know he is in phenomenal shape.
One thing that really hit me was the amount of sleep he had prior to his trip and something I experienced this weekend.
Over the past 10 years or so, I have found that I can easily get by with 6 hours of sleep or less, and perform well at work or on the trail. But at what point does the lack of sleep negatively impact our physical performance, or even endanger us?
Over the past few weeks I have been testing a McHale pack, carrying much more weight than normal, and completing day hikes of 10 - 16 miles over varying terrain and conditions. So I am in fairly good condition.
Last week I had to make a quick business trip across the country to the east coast, and probably slept an average of 4 hours per night on Tues, Wed, and Thurs. I flew home Friday and only got a couple hours of sleep. Saturday morning I felt great, and planned on doing an 11 mile hike with an 8,000' elevation gain; a hike I have done many times.
The expected high temperature was around 92F, and considering the small amount of sleep I had gotten during the week; I took a hydration bladder to ensure I was always completely hydrated.
The 1st mile included a 1,000' elevation gain. At that point I felt great. However as I hiked the next two miles and gained another 1,500' elevation, I became totally exhausted. I have never been so tired starting out on a hike. At this point, I really gave serious thought about going forward, and decided to bail. On the return hike, which was all down hill, I had to hike very carefully and slowly, as my legs were jelly. I actually slipped and fell 3 times, because my legs were so weak. Luckily I did not get injured. It was a good decision, because had I continued I could have been in serious trouble (although I had ample water and gear to sleep overnight if necessary, as I was carrying extra gear just to test the McHale pack).
Once I got home, I took a 4 hour nap. Saturday night I slept 12 hours. Sunday morning, my legs were a little sore, but after walking a couple minutes they felt fine. Just to see if the prior day was just a matter of not enough sleep, I went out and did the same 3 miles out and back, and it was a piece of cake.