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Mt. Whitney '04

Climbing Mt. Whitney


Monday August 9th
Temps were in the low 90s as we drove into the town of Lone Pine that's just under 4,000ft of elevation. Drove down the main street looking for motel vacancies in the late afternoon. Found a place right across from the ranger station with a pool. Ordered a rack of ribs from the local restaurant that wasn't that great. Ribs were boiled instead of smoked for hours and the bbq sauce wasn't quite carmelized.

Tuesday August 10th
Loaded up the car at the motel and drove up to the trail head at 8000ft of elevation. Started hiking at 10am and made it to Outpost camp by 2pm at 10,000ft of elevation. Lugging a 55-lb pack is not fun. Next time, it's dehydrated food instead of 2 pounds of steak, pound of bacon, pound of ham, pound of turkey, pound of sausage, pound of chicken, and a dozen eggs. We ate great but I suffered carrying that pack up to camp. Definitely don't need to start off with a full 100oz camelbak either since there are places to filter water.

Wednesday August 11th
Started off at 3:20am on Wednesday for the climb to the summit. Reached Trail Camp by 6:30am. Somewhere around 12,000ft of elevation I started developing this throbbing headache. Took some ibuprofen but it didn't help much. While walking along the final ridge, saw this ominous sign:
-----------------------------------------------------
           EXTREME DANGER FROM LIGHTNING
To avoid being struck by lightning, immediately leave
the area if any of the following conditions exist:
o dark clouds
o thunder, hail, or rain
o hissing in the air
o static electricity in the hair or fingertips.
The Whitney shelter will not offer protection.  You
should leave the summit and proceed to a lower elevation.
-----------------------------------------------------
The last 45 minutes of the climb to the top was the most exciting. It started to hail just under a mile from the top. Heard some thunder as well. Considered bailing at that point but the hiker next to me was on the radio to her friend at the summit and the friend at top was saying it was starting to clear and it might be worth the chance to climb up.

Eventually, made it to the summit by 2:10pm. At the summit, a university researcher was conducting a 10 minute altitude sickness study. Stuck a pulse oximeter on my fingertip and my O2 level registered at 74% (should normally be 97-99% at sea level) and my resting pulse was at 104bpm (normally mid 60s at sea level). He said most people had a O2 level in the mid 80s and the lowest he'd recorded so far were in the 60s. He said since I had a headache and my O2 level was at 74% that he confirmed that I had altitude sickness at 14,496 feet.

Took a few more pictures and heard more thunder while at the top. Saw some lightning strikes on an adjacent mountain, hail started to come down, and I could feel and hear static electricity buzzing around my ears. Everybody at the top kind of looked at each other at that point and we started running downhill as fast as possible.

Thursday August 12
Got visited by a rangerette in the morning and she scolded us for stringing up our garbage between two trees. She said we should store everything in the bear canister. It drizzled a bit on the hike back down to the car, and there was hardly anyone attempting to climb to the summit that day since the weather forecast was rain.

Notes for Next Time
  • Acclimate at least two days at 8,000ft beforehand. Altitude headaches hurt.
  • For the one day hike, start at midnight and travel light
  • Carry lightweight dehydrated food
  • Register early for the camping reservations and don't rely on cancellations

Harvey's camera shots


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