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My daughter and I are planning on trying to hike Mt Whitney in the summer of 2021. We want to spend one night on the trail. We've done plenty of day hikes but are beginners at overnight hikes and a hike of this elevation gain. Any advice on gear or anything else we may need would be greatly appreciated.
@pwog12 Your query should generate a lively discussion. Gt experience with staying overnight on the trail and accumulate necessary gear. You haven't mentioned where you are situated and what climbing/hiking opportunities are near at hand, but whatever they are, take advantage and get used to setting up camp and living comfortably outdoors.
Obviously, pay attention to acclimatization, a process which takes time and which should begin before you start on the Whitney trail. "Climb high, sleep low" is one key phrase, but there is more to it than that. I would suggest that you obtain a copy of Mountaineering; Freedom of the Hills, 8th edition, read it, and apply the principles put forth. It is a superb reference, written by people who know their subject.
Mt. Whitney is the summer is hardly a wilderness experience. There will be lots of people on the trail, a condition that has its pluses and minuses, but in general is amiable and pleasant.
Physical conditioning is obviously important. the sooner you start, the better. you will want to enhance your aerobic capacity,although that will not diminish the need for adequate acclimatization.
For the record, I have summited Whitney twice, once by the Mountaineers Route, and once by the East Face. I descended the trail once.
Whitney is a worthy prize, well worth sustained effort to prepare. Stay safe and have a memorable experience.
The earlier you start on summit day, the better....
@pwog12 how exciting!
I don't have personal experience on Mt. Whitney specifically, but I have a lot of experience ascending/descending other peaks in various places of the world, in various climates.
I second all of the advice that @hikermor gave, and especially emphasize getting used to hiking in higher altitudes and setting up camp/camping prior to your trip if at all possible. It's also important to get your equipment in advance so that you can become very familiar and efficient with all of it. When looking into equipment options, try to go with items that are light (you would be amazed how much the weight adds up!). Unfortunately a lot of times these items may tend to be more expensive than their counter-parts, but it is 100% worth the investment!
I also suggest that you both take your backpacks/gear with you on your regular hikes prior to your trip - this will allow you to get used to carrying the weight. If you can't get outside regularly, which has happened to me on occasion, you can also do this on a treadmill (just make sure to increase the angle of the treadmill as much as you can, to simulate a mountain!).
Also, I do not know your shoe situation, but make sure to identify in advance if you need to invest in new shoes for your excursion. If so, make sure that you thoroughly break in the shoes prior to your trip.
My #1 Piece of Advice: Even though you will be hiking Mt. Whitney in a more temperate season, and very well may see a good number of people on the trail, make sure that you are prepared for any injuries/emergency scenarios that may occur. I HIGHLY suggest that you both seek basic wilderness first aid training (or if you're really into it, wilderness first responder training), prior to your trip. You will learn invaluable tools to help you both on your trip (and on future excursions), including identifying the signs and symptoms of someone suffering from altitude sickness, and how to treat them in the field. I have gone through Wilderness First Aid and Wilderness First Responder training from NOLS, and I highly recommend their programs. Hopefully you never have to use it, but its knowledge worth having regardless!
Lastly, remember that reaching the summit is optimal, but getting back down is required, so be safe out there, and have fun!
I hope this helps you, and that you both have an amazing time!
Anytime! If you have any other questions or want advice on something specific (I couldn’t fit everything into a response unless I wanted you to read a short novel haha), don’t hesitate to message me.
Have a great trip!
@hikermor Thank you for the advice. We live in San Jose, CA so we have a lot of outdoor options to train with as it gets closer. I am very aware about the altitude and the effects it will have on us. Any suggestions on some good training routes in the San Francisco Bay Area?
@pwog12 My advice is find a different hike. Mt Whitney is now on everyone's
bucket list and is way too over-subscribed just because it is is "the highest". It is spectacular and if you do really want to go up there I would plan a longer trip and go from the back (4 to 7 days depending) but that does involve a could of creek crossings which you need to be prepared for. This avoids the lottery and the wag bag issue (you must pack out your poo) unless you exit via Whitney Portal for which you need a special permit and use a wag bag if you must. It also makes a better trip if you can't summit Whitney due to the weather. I probably wouldn't do this as your first trip but summer 2021 is a long way off assuming we can safely get on with things.
As to gear, if there a lot of snow you will need crampons and an ice axe and know how to use them. If there is some snow then hiking poles and microspikes will do and if there is little or no snow regular hiking gear is all the is required. No climbing gear is required unless you plan to take the mountaineers route. For clothing you need to plan for sun, wind and thunderstorms. For camping you need to be prepared for 30F or lower at night and afternoon thunder storms which may prevent you from summiting and possibly some hail and rain. If you do go via the back side you may need to plan on some mosquito abatement.
As far as getting prepared, unless you have health problems just being in reasonable shape and being used to carrying your gear including supplies comfortably in the footwear and socks that you will use for the sort of mileage you expect to do will get you there but also hiking hills will be better. Mt Diablo is a ~3000ft ascent local to you...maybe next spring? You can do more of course. Good aerobic fitness and warm up and cool down stretching exercises can useful as can core and leg strengthening exercises. When you go you need to plan on a day or two to acclimatize before hand. Spending the night a Horseshoe meadow campground (~10,000ft) is a good way to do that. You can drive there. Also be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness which if you are going to get it badly generally starts at around 8000ft and the best cure is immediately descending. Ibuprofen is useful for mild symptoms and there is a prescription drug, Diamox that can also help. Look it up and ask your MD about it.
OldGuyot speak with straight tongue. There are lots of peaks that present significant challenges - technical difficulty, remote location, isolation. It is not just about altitude. Consider Mt. Rainier, essentially the same elevation, but technically far more challenging - glacial crevasses and all that.
Actually, for Whitney, I prefer the Mountainers route, pionered by some guy named John Muir, I believe (Why isn't the beginning of hte John Muir Trail the mountaineer's Route?), It is basically a scramble, although snow conditions introduce some variability, and it is a lot of fun, and you don't encounter hordes of people.
But any climb is a good climb - "Go climb the mountains and get their glad tidings"