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Help for Mt. Whitney climb
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Locale: East Bay
Help for Mt. Whitney climb on 06/07/2012 17:45:59 MDT Print View

This probably should have been in Gear Lists, move if possible.

I’m climbing Mt. Whitney with some friends in mid-September. We will be leaving at 3:30am from Whitney Portal and doing the full 6,000 foot climb and 22 mile roundtrip in a day.

I’m looking for advice on gear and some input on food as I’ve never climbed this far, high or at night so I’m not sure how much warmth I’ll need. If you have already done this climb before, I'd much appreciate your educated input.

Pack REI Stuff Travel Pack (super light pack, 9.6oz, I’ve added hip belt). Very light, but I'm not carrying much either (perhaps 7 pounds with full food and water loads)
Boots Innov8 315’s
REI Sahara Convertible pants
Patagonia Capilene 3 bottoms?? Am I going to need these?
Nike Dry fit t-shirt
Eddy Bauer Marino long sleeve shirt (similar to Capilene 4, kinda heavy at 11.4oz but warm and comfortable)
Montbell ultralight down vest (5.6oz)
North Face event rain shell (7.2oz)
OR lightweight gloves (1.4oz)
Fleece hat/face warmer (2.6oz)
2x650ml squeeze top disposable water bottles
1 x 1.5 liter water bladder (reserve for peak)
iPhone 4S for video and photos (8mp) 5 oz
Petzl e+LITE Headlamp
Gossamer Gear LT4's

Roughly 2 pounds of food in bars, trail mix, jerkey, crackers & peanut butter (bagged)
Emergen-C to mix with the water we treat along the way

Edited by johnz on 06/07/2012 18:06:20 MDT.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Help for Mt. Whitney climb on 06/07/2012 18:02:40 MDT Print View

That's going to be a long and grueling day but should be rewarding. Most of my experience is at lower elevation but similar mileage and elevation profiles...

First thing I noticed was no headlamp. Since you don't have any bivouac gear I would definitely bring a primary lamp with extra batteries and then a secondary keychain LED as an emergency backup.

Your clothing should be warm enough for that time of year and even if a freak storm were to come in, you would be ok as long as you keep moving to generate heat.

I'm not sure on your fitness level but with that kind of elevation gain and loss you may want to consider trekking poles to take a lot of impact off your knees.

Finally be wary of altitude sickness. Going about 10K if you're not use to it can get dangerous. It's also somewhat random as to who will be struck by it and how badly, so just be cognizant of warning signs and stay well hydrated.


Locale: East Bay
Planned on 06/07/2012 18:04:53 MDT Print View

Forgot that, but had planned Petzl e+LITE Headlamp

Brad Walker

Locale: SoCal
Re: Help for Mt. Whitney climb on 06/07/2012 18:17:40 MDT Print View

Looks like you have more like 7 lbs of food/water, plus at least a few pounds of other stuff. Maybe you want a bag that will carry better for the long day.

I'd bring a warmer down jacket instead of just a vest--weather can change fast, potential for a long day/night, and a break at trail crest or the summit can be chilly even in September. But you're just as likely to be scorching hot and cursing that advice...

Long downhills (AKA the 2nd half of the hike) make me appreciate trekking poles immensely.

If you can, get a reservation at Onion Valley CG beforehand. You can do a hike up to Kearsarge pass and come down to sleep at the campground, which would help you acclimate a lot. Take the next day off, eat, sleep early, get your alpine start, and send!

The trail is really easy to follow (if snow is gone) so a light headlamp is fine for the early start IMO.

Edit: NM, see the LT4s at the bottom of the list now.

Edited by brawa on 06/07/2012 18:20:12 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Whitney on 06/07/2012 21:10:21 MDT Print View

My wife and I did basically this trip last fall (Mid-October, up the main trail, starting before dawn). As I recall, we started at 4am and got back right at dusk (7pm). We did however had to deal with a foot of fresh snow above 12,000 that drifted in and covered the trail from the upper camping area to the ridge (13,600). Were it not for the snow, we would have saved a couple hours as my wife found the post holing on boulders very frustrating.

One tip is that you might lose your appetite as you get higher up the mountain, so make sure you are staying on top of the eating earlier in the trip so that you won't be in bad shape if you get nauseous on the upper mountain. Same goes for drinking....stay on top of it early. We both felt poorly near the top (headache, nausea).

For the ascent, I found I was able to hike in fairly minimal clothes (ie. light baselayer top, wind shirt, hiking pants, thin beanie) so I just brought those plus a puffy down parka (MB Alpine Light Parka) for rest stops. Decide based on the forecast though....if it's going to be wet then you may want synthetic or fleece and to have your insulation divided over a few pieces.

For the few few hours the trail will be well developed and easy to follow (unless there's snow) so you don't 'need' that much headlamp and the e+Lite would suffice, but you would appreciate a few more lumens in those dark hours.

Edited by dandydan on 06/07/2012 21:14:58 MDT.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Help for Mt. Whitney climb on 06/07/2012 21:38:17 MDT Print View

Bring snacks and snack regularly, I'd second the lose your appetite bit, but I still ate food, more like I wanted to get up there. Water can be gotten in places along the trail, so filtering will make you take a break. Pace yourself. I hiked up in shorts and a Polartec top, but at the top had to put pants on and more clothes. One heavy dude had pants and a sweater on a good part of the way I guess when I passed him. I timed myself and drank about every 15 minutes. This was for my 50th bd, so I went Portal to Portal, starting at 5 and back at the bottom at 5:30 that afternoon, in late Sept. I'd get to a CG or somewhere high and camp at least a couple days, hiking some and testing your feet for the long trek. Glad I did as I was getting sore spots on my heels after a dayhike to Chicken Foot Springs and got some stuff at the little drug store in town, the only place I've ever seen what I bought, worked great. I also jogged most of the way down, starting at the switchbacks. The shower felt great later.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Help for Mt. Whitney climb on 06/07/2012 23:42:54 MDT Print View

Since you intend to be moving all day and never camp, then it works best of your warm clothing goes on in layers over the top. That is, long johns are not. Nobody wants to stop while you pull off boots and trousers to pull on long johns. I generally go with standard nylon trousers and then rain pants that pull on over.

By that late in the hiking season, you will want a very good headlamp, especially if you have never been up there before.

For the single hiking day, I don't think that I could eat more than one pound of food. However, the second pound of food might come in handy in case of a bivouac.

On your list, I don't see any water treatment chemicals or filters. It is a bit unusual for anybody to go all the way up and down without picking up more raw water along the way down. By September, all of the small streams will be dried up, but the big ones will still be running a bit.

I guess 3:30 a.m. is a reasonable hour to start. I've started earlier and later, just depending on who is hiking with me. Back in the old days, I made it to the top in 4 hours 15 minutes, and I was the slow one. One guy made it up in 3 hours 42 minutes.

This July will be my 37th consecutive annual dayhike on Whitney, so I kind of have it wired.



Locale: East Bay
Thanks! on 06/08/2012 10:58:15 MDT Print View

Good advice guys, thanks and keep it coming.

Yes, planning on treating water along the way. What's the most water at any point along the way that I'll need to transport? I'm guessing that the last push to the top is both free of water sources and also the worst for dehydration, hence why I planned nearly 3 liter capacity (really just for that segment). Is that too much??

Again, I'm still struggling with the need for layers on legs at all. If no long John bottoms, then do rain pants over regular pants really serve much purpose for "insulation"??

Thinking if I can force the food down along the way without stopping, then the more food the better in terms of calorie burn (noted that I won't "feel" the need). Based upon dissertations seen on this site before, I'm sure somebody can give me a rough estimate on calorie burn per hour at 8-12,000 feet estimation?

What's the temperature like up on top? Is that really the only spot where I'm likely to want to use all my layers since I won't be cranking out the BTU's once I stop for that brief time on top?

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Help for Mt. Whitney climb on 06/08/2012 11:14:02 MDT Print View

Wow Bob, you can haul ash. Due to the wind, I bundled up and I only added windpants and my Polartec top back on I believe at the top. Weather was good for my trip, rather nice at the CG, glad I had some sun at my campsite, forgot that I would be dealing with Sept. temps, but all was good with the great weather. Last water was below the cables. Bob would remember, its been over 8 years since I went.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Whitney Day Hike on 06/08/2012 11:32:54 MDT Print View

I did the same trip as a day hike in July a few years back. We pushed it a bit and started on the hike around 6:30 and were back at the portal store by around 3. Coming up from sea level, we opted to go up a day early and get in at least a mellow day hike at elevation prior to our Whitney summit.

We had nice, warm weather the entire way until we were on the summit when we got hit with wind, rain and snow flurries. I hiked the entire way in shorts and a t-shirt and had along a puffy, a windshirt and some thin glove liners/beanie for the summit. My legs were a little cold, but more from the wind rather than cold temps. Some rain or wind pants would have been nice. But otherwise, my clothing kit was sufficient.

In the morning on the way up, I found myself putting on the puffy during rest stops.

You have reliable water sources until you get to around the big set of switchbacks and then no more water from there to the summit and back. Water consumption depends on a lot of factors, but for me, I'd take at least 3 liters and probably try to drink a bit more before starting up that last stretch.

Snacking is key since the elevation may at some point affect your appetite. Sometimes, having along some "cheap" calories like a favorite candy can be an easy way to get some food in your stomach even when you don't really feel like eating. I find Snickers bars useful for this.

Pay attention to those in your party and how the altitude is affecting them. In our group, my time at the summit was cut short, as one of our guys was not doing well with the altitude and I opted to help him get back down quickly before things got worse.

Advil or similar is handy if you start to get joint/muscle pain, especially on the long descent.

I'll second the call for considering a pack that will be comfortable and offer some support (even if it's just a sitpad), since it will be a long day on the trail.

Have fun, it's a great hike with amazing views.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Thanks! on 06/08/2012 13:16:51 MDT Print View

I generally go in late July or early August, and the weather is slightly more predictable then. By September, it is colder and there are fewer hours of daylight.

In the mid-season, there is water along the trail in a half-dozen spots as you go up to Trail Camp. In late season, I expect only two of those to be running. Trail Camp is the last dependable water. In mid-season, there is good clean snowmelt flowing across the switchbacks around number 25. In fact, on a cold morning that creates a small ice hazard. In mid-season, I generally start from the bottom with a lumbar pack with two 24-ounce bottles (one water and one Gatorade), and then there is an extra 16-ounce or 32-ounce Platypus inside the pack as a reserve. I generally shoot all the way up to the summit on half of the bottle liquid and consume half of the rest of it on the summit. So, by the time I get down to switchback 25, I am ready to gather up more water and treat it. In essence, you don't want to carry very much more water weight up to the summit than what you really need. Besides, if you are drinking water to your limit, you will be looking for trees to irrigate, and there aren't any up there. One cool year a few years ago, I went all the way up to Trail Crest, drank my first 8 ounces of Gatorade, and then went to the summit. But few hikers want to do that way unless they have been doing camel training.

Dragging along lots of food will just slow you down. It will tempt you to stop more and more to eat. Your body ought to be able to store energy better than that. The night before the hike, you simply eat lots of noodles. Besides, you can absorb liquid calories a lot easier than solid calories. That's why I seldom eat more than 200 calories of solid food on the way up, and those are all snacks that can be eaten while still moving. Sports drinks work pretty good here. Then you want about 50-100 calories of sugary candy for the last push on the last two miles.

In mid-season, it is not uncommon to see hikers on the summit around 10-11 a.m. wearing shorts and a wool shirt. Some days are that mild. Then some days will be windy and you will have the trousers, rain pants, two wool shirts, and a windbreaker over that. It is correct that you generally only need all of your layers while on top and for the start of the descent. I've been rained or snowed on about three times in 36 previous years. However, by September, you are looking at worse weather, so everything I've described needs to be scaled up by 40%.


(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Whitney on 06/08/2012 14:38:40 MDT Print View

Frieh Training Journal
“When I have a hard climb to do I will not eat anything after waking in the morning and a GU pack every 45 min or so during the climb. No solid foods at all until I'm done for the day. The new GU chomps or Clif shot blocks are even better, not as messy. The GU products have the best energy to weight ratio. I strongly recommend energy gels as opposed to energy bars during and right after the race, and just as importantly hydration.
I've noticed a 10 to 15 percent performance increase since using this method.
During climbs, that means I keep food in my pockets and take a bite every 30-60 minutes no matter how I feel.

Eating immediately after the finish is crucial, since you have a 2 hour window for optimal glycogen replacement. Post-race food always needs to include protein and fat. I would suggest your post race food should avoid fat at least for the first hour as glycogen synthesis is reduced when fat is included in the initial stages of the process.
That said, intramuscular triglyceride (IMTG) restoration is slowed when fat intake is reduced. Because the window during which one may efficiently replenish muscle glycogen is short I concentrate on doing that first, then deal with the IMTG issue, which takes longer anyway. I add considerable fat to later meals because the energy yield per volume is much greater than the other macronutrients so I am more likely to reach calorie targets before I stop eating. Anything that roughly matches a 75 to 25 carb-to-protein ratio (Endurox has actually patented this ratio) is a viable recovery drink.”
“Again, I'm still struggling with the need for layers on legs at all. If no long John bottoms, then do rain pants over regular pants really serve much purpose for ‘insulation’??” FWIW:
 MontBell over-pants (ONLY $170 !!):
 EXCELOFT synthetic insulation, 80g/m2(above knee) 50g/m2 (below knee)
 12-denier Ballistic Airlight rip-stop nylon
 40-denier nylon taffeta for reinforcement
 100-wash rated POLKATEX DWR treatment
 [Weight] 14.9 oz. (Size M)

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Whitney on 06/08/2012 15:17:12 MDT Print View

"[Weight] 14.9 oz. (Size M)"

Good Grief! Are they made out of cast iron?

My rain pants go 2.5 ounces, sewn from a Thru-Hiker kit.


(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Sew from a kit? on 06/08/2012 15:37:29 MDT Print View

Are you kidding me? Come on, Bob, no wonder the world economy is going down the toilet. You aren't doing your duty to spend obsecene amounts of money on gear!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Sew from a kit? on 06/08/2012 15:44:43 MDT Print View

"Sew from a kit?"

Absolutely. In some cases, it is necessary to use a little elbow grease in order to get a piece of gear that is exactly right. And, if I can knock that down to 2.5 ounces, then it is a good thing.

When up around the summit of Mount Whitney, a hiker generally does not have huge safety margins left on clothing, water supplies, or about anything else. So, it is good to have gear items that are exactly right.



Locale: East Bay
Gu on 06/08/2012 15:58:26 MDT Print View

Can someone shed light on the attraction of Gu? The Gu packet (vanilla) I have in my hand says 100 calories for 32 grams. My Trader Joes peanut butter says 190 calories for the same 32 grams. What am I missing?? Higher sugar content thus faster burn in the Gu? Seems like I would want a combination of both fast and slow burn fuels for this extremely long day of hiking, no?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Gu on 06/08/2012 16:23:45 MDT Print View

For halfway along the trail, I will snack on some ordinary granola bar, PB&J sandwich piece, or similar small food item. Then when I hit Trail Crest, I need to light the afterburner. That means either Gu, or Gatorade, or glucose candies, or anything else that digests very rapidly.

Once on the summit, I eat cheese, crackers, and drink more Gatorade, and it fuels me for the entire descent.

I've had hikers on the summit whose blood sugar seemed to be bottoming out, and their appetite was gone, and they refused to eat anything. Those hikers tend to fall and worsen their situation. So, I generally have some jelly beans handy to force feed them.


(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
GU on 06/08/2012 17:10:16 MDT Print View

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
“GU is an energy gel designed to be quickly and easily digestible so it can be eaten during endurance events, especially long distance running.”
From the GU website: “We at GU agree that a product solely based on simple sugars is not ideal. But we also know that simple sugars, like fructose, have an important place in carbohydrate replacement during exercise. That is why Electrolyte Brew, GU, Roctane, and Chomps are made of a mix of maltodextrin and fructose. Generalization that all simple sugars are evil is misleading. Maltodextrin and galactose are transported from the gut to the blood by a protein transporter. This transporter is the Na+/glucose co-transporter 1 or SGLT1 (Shirazi-Beechey, 1990) and like all transport proteins, can become saturated at high concentrations of glucose, becoming a bottleneck for energy absorption. Net takeaway: There is a limit to how much and how fast glucose can be absorbed, and therefore utilized by working muscles using only one type of carbohydrate transporter.
Fructose, a simple sugar, is transported using a totally different transporter called GLUT5 (Davidson, 1992). The benefit here is that now you can add a simple sugar to a drink containing maltodextrin (glucose), and not be limited by only one carbohydrate transporter. Using more than one carbohydrate transporter allows a greater rate of carbohydrate uptake compared to only one type of carbohydrate at a time. Studies have been done adding fructose to a maltodextrin drink, and found the addition of fructose increased total carbohydrate transport and, ultimately oxidation (Jentjiens, 2004, Wallis, 2005). Peak rates of carbohydrate oxidation using maltodextrin alone were approximately 1.1 g/min, which increased to 1.5 g/min with the addition of fructose (Wallis, 2005). More carbohydrate oxidation using fructose + maltodextrin (36% in this case) means better sparing of glycogen stores. It also allows an athlete to exercise at a higher percent of VO2max once those precious glycogen stores have been depleted and they are reliant on exogenous carbohydrate (Smith, 2010).
Net takeaway: Varying the types of sugar (and thus carbohydrate transporters) improves the rate at which the carbohydrates are used by working muscles.
Bob, if you want lighter stuff, for rain pants, buy these! Buy, buy! Buy more! Pay a lot!
• Rock Climbing, Alpinism, Hiking
• Hitex waterproof nylon with siliconized thread
• Full-Length zippers allow pants to be put on over boots
Pant offers maximum protection from wind and rain. Full-length zippers allow them to be donned over boots and the wind and waterproof characteristics means they will do as good of a job trapping heat in as they will keeping the elements out.
Weight (medium): 4.7 oz
$149.95 USD
For wind pants, to wear under your rain pants, buy these!
• Proprietary Araneum fabric is uncoated, yet windproof and water resistant
With full side zippers, they are designed to be put on and removed while wearing ski boots. Weight (medium): 3.9 oz
$99.95 USD

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Help for Mt. Whitney climb on 06/09/2012 14:14:57 MDT Print View

John, I think your list looks pretty good with the possible exception of the cap 3 bottoms. Long johns are not going to get used unless you start with them on and add from there, and those cap 3's are almost certainly too warm for that - or I'll put it another way, if they aren't too warm then the weather is cold enough that you need more clothing overall.

September is extremely variable in the Sierra, so keep a close eye on the forecast and adjust your clothing selection accordingly just before you go. I do think a light pair of wind pants or rain pants that you can pull on over everything is a good idea. The summit can be very windy and cold or real nice, sometimes both. I have been there in mid-september twice, and on one occasion it was hot in the sun - almost too hot - but quite cold in the shade. You want to have enough clothing so that you can comfortably enjoy the view you have worked so hard for.

Acclimatization is very important - the more time you can spend at altitude before your Whitney hike, the more you will enjoy the hike.

And along with acclimatization goes hydration, since the one affects the other. You should be drinking extra water for a couple days before your hike, so that you start out with nice saturated tissues. You want to be ahead of the game so you just have to maintain rather than trying to play catch-up during your hike.


Locale: East Bay
Packs on 06/11/2012 15:22:12 MDT Print View

Great insights, thanks everyone. Ditching thermal bottoms, adding rain pants.

How about a pack that would shoulder the weight better but still be light? I have a Jam but that sames like a huge overkill.