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Das Beerd

Acclimating Question

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A group of us are heading down from Oregon in a few weeks to climb Whitney via the standard dog-route as a single day 22-miler. We're camping at the Portal and the current plan is to spend Friday just chillin' to start acclimating before heading up the trail around 1 or 2 that night.

 

I've been wondering about doing a hike that Friday up to some Lake that sits around 11k to hopefully assist in acclimating. It's 4.5 steep miles up to make for a 9 mile out and back.

 

Do you guys think it would be better to do the hike to assist with acclimating or save my energy for the Whitney climb?

 

Thanks!

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It would be in your best interest to do an acclimatization hike up to high elevation rather than just hanging out and saving energy. You might consider visiting the South Lake, Lake Sabrina or Kearsarge Pass trailheads as you can get pretty high from the parking areas in relatively short distances.

 

A better option for avoiding altitude illness, however, would be to change your ascent plans and spread the trip out over several days rather than banging it all out in one push. Even with an acclimatization hike the previous day, there is a reasonable chance of getting sick with your current plan.

 

There are many people who do Whitney in a day and don't get ill just like there are many up in this area... many of whom frequent this site... who can do Rainier in a day and not get ill. The problem is that the tolerance for that type of ascent varies a lot from person to person and some do not do well with that type of fast climb. If you know you have good altitude tolerance based on prior experiences, you'll do fine, particularly with an acclimatization hike the day before. If you or your partners don't know your tolerance or have a prior history of altitude illness, you could be asking for problems.

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With the time frame you're giving yourself, I would focus more on hydration, fueling your body, and being reasonably well rested. Your body will already be working to adapt to the 8K at the portal, so I don't think the added stress of the acclimatization hike just before your big effort will be of much benefit to you.

 

But, if you're pretty fit and are able to hike up to the lake in the morning and spend the afternoon napping, eating, and rehydrating, why not go see that lake?

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With the time frame you're giving yourself, I would focus more on hydration, fueling your body, and being reasonably well rested. Your body will already be working to adapt to the 8K at the portal, so I don't think the added stress of the acclimatization hike just before your big effort will be of much benefit to you.

 

But, if you're pretty fit and are able to hike up to the lake in the morning and spend the afternoon napping, eating, and rehydrating, why not go see that lake?

 

Hydration doesn't prevent AMS. That is a bit of a myth. What is does is prevent dehydration (easy to develop that at altitude particularly down in the dry Sierra) which feels a lot like AMS. An acclimatization trip would do more for getting ready for altitude issues on Whitney than hanging out drinking and eating.

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Yeah, I wish we had 2 days for the actual climb but we only got a 1 day permit.

 

Thanks for all the info though. We'll probably see how it goes. I'm not worried about myself since I've been that high before but everyone else in the group has pretty limited experience with altitude. I'll be really surprised if everyone makes it up.

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You should check at the Forest Service ranger station that does the permitting before you head up to the trailhead because they often hold permit spots for the day of the trip and you may be able to get a longer permit once you're down.

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In my experience, a fast one day trip to altitude doesn't affect me nearly as bad as say camping at 10,000', then continuing up the next day.

On Rainier I usually feel altitude symptoms around 12K, but on a one day climb of Rainier I felt like a million bucks....?

 

Back in the '70's Doug Scott discovered the "antidote" to AMS. I will neither confirm nor deny the effectiveness of said antidote.

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yeah it usually takes me about two full days to start feeling back to normal energy after transitioning from sea level to 8-10K. for short trips with lots of elevation gain it's never seemed like a good idea to have any sort of acclimatization plan other than go up and come back down. warding off problems by making sure to keep rested, fueled, and hydrated are better things to stay focused on. a headache is a headache whether it's from AMS or dehydration. iluka, i think we are just going to agree to disagree, but for my benefit, how is it possible to make such a rapid acclimatization? in my experience, Das Beerd is not allowing enough time to acclimatize even to the elevation at the portal, let alone higher, so why bother taking an "acclimatization hike" on a 1.5 day trip?

 

To play the devil's advocate, does anyone think it may be better not to bother spending the day up at the portal, and instead drive up immediately before the hike? What would Anatoli have done?

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yeah it usually takes me about two full days to start feeling back to normal energy after transitioning from sea level to 8-10K. for short trips with lots of elevation gain it's never seemed like a good idea to have any sort of acclimatization plan other than go up and come back down. warding off problems by making sure to keep rested, fueled, and hydrated are better things to stay focused on. a headache is a headache whether it's from AMS or dehydration. iluka, i think we are just going to agree to disagree, but for my benefit, how is it possible to make such a rapid acclimatization? in my experience, Das Beerd is not allowing enough time to acclimatize even to the elevation at the portal, let alone higher, so why bother taking an "acclimatization hike" on a 1.5 day trip?

 

To play the devil's advocate, does anyone think it may be better not to bother spending the day up at the portal, and instead drive up immediately before the hike? What would Anatoli have done?

 

A headache from dehydration is not the same as a headache from AMS. A headache from AMS can progress to HACE (a potentially fatal problem) if someone continues to ascend when they have AMS whereas that wouldn't be expected with dehydration.

 

Your personal experience at high altitude is not a sound basis for providing advice to others. The same would apply to anyone else, not just you, in particular. The problem is that the response to high altitude varies dramatically between individuals. Some adjust great and can get up to high altitudes very quickly without problems while others have a lot of trouble with similar ascent profiles. Just because one person does well doesn't mean that others should follow their lead. Everyone has their own tolerance for altitude and they need to plan based on that.

 

Unfortunately, unless someone has been to altitude in the past, there's no real way to predict beforehand how well they will do. And... even if they did fine on a previous trip, if they go higher and/or faster on a subsequent trip, it's possible they could get sick.

 

A night at the portal before starting the hike slows the pace of ascent and gives the body time to acclimatize. A hike to higher elevation than the portal then coming down to sleep at the portal elevation would also be of benefit... consistent with the fairly well-accepted "climb high, sleep low" philosophy many adhere to. Either option is far superior to sleeping down in Lone Pine and then coming up, starting the hike to the Whitney summit immediately. That trail is often littered with people doubled-over feeling ill because they insisted on doing it in a single day.

 

 

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iluka, yes, I respect, understand, and agree with these points regarding personal adaptations to altitude. Based on your response I think you may be misinterpreting my posts. I don't recall saying that dehydration is the same as AMS, I get that. These folks are not going to get very far into "acclimatization" by spending, like, about 30 hours between 8K & 14K. Since they are not allowing time to acclimatize, my point is that they should focus on things which are under their control to make sure their bodies are feeling good to make the effort. Rest, hydration, fuel. As far as "climb high, sleep low," there's just no time scale for this outing with which to apply such tactics. besides, isn't it typical to take a good rest at a relatively low elevation before making a final push to peak altitude? They are driving to 8K, hanging out or day hiking (doesn't matter which as long as they are fresh and good to go for the 1AM wake-up call), and then realistically getting like 4 hours sleep. They will be dragging up there for sure. I don't think my advice of resting, drinking, and eating is going to endanger anyone.

 

FWIW I think spending time and getting some sleep at the portal is a good idea, I was just initiating what I thought might be an interesting discussion. There are some who would advise going through a full acclimatization routine with gradual ascents and efforts at altitude (including climbing high and sleeping low), followed by a rest period at low elevation prior to a final summit push. I'd be curious whether that may still be a good idea if no time was given to acclimatize. For folks here in Seattle (like you I imagine), who frequently make weekend trips from sea level to 8-14K, there seems to be a lot of anecdotal evidence that sleeping high (the opposite of sleeping low by the way) may be counter-productive when gaining elevation in short periods of time.

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Well said Nate, I like your reasoning.

 

It could take a week to climb Rainier or Whitney if one followed all the "rules" of acclimatization. I will reserve "climb high, sleep low" for Denali and K2.

 

Disclaimer; the above statement is NOT advice for others, but based on my personal performance at altitude :)

 

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The rules of acclimatization that keep getting referred to in this discussion generally refer to not increasing your sleeping elevation (not the highest elevation reached during the day) by more than a certain amount each day and as a result can be applied to climbing peaks like Rainier or Whitney. The reason many people do fine with fast ascent rates on Rainier is that they start coming down soon after ascending and end up at a very low elevation, if not all the way down, by the end of the day. (Still... a lot of people do get sick on Rainier, Whitney and other high peaks in that range when they try to blast up in a day) Were you to ascend rapidly to the summit of Rainier and stay there overnight the risk of illness would be different than the person who did the same rapid ascent and then turned around and descended immediately.

Edited by iluka

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Agreed. It does really depend on how long one is going to be at altitude that determines the approach to acclimatization.

 

But back to Doug Scott... Iluka have you heard about the effects of "natural" AMS remedies? Seriously.... you are obviously very knowledgable on the subject and I thought you might know.

 

Thanks,

 

Troy

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Agreed.

But back to Doug Scott... Iluka have you heard about the effects of "natural" AMS remedies? Seriously.... you are obviously very knowledgable on the subject and I thought you might know.

 

Troy

 

It depends on what you mean by "natural AMS remedies."

 

If you're referring to Gingko Biloba... the data just isn't there to support its use to prevent AMS. There are some studies showing a benefit in this regard but there were also several negative research studies in which it was no better than a sugar pill. The discrepancies between the various studies probably relates to the fact that the gingko products used in the various studies are not the same (no FDA regulation of production or uniform manufacturing standards etc.).

 

I've seen people refer to the wonderful effects of Vitamin E. No evidence whatsoever to suggest this has any effect besides draining your cash supply. Lots of travelers to the Andes will have guides and the like recommend the use of coca leaves or coca tea. Despite its widespread use down there, no one has ever systematically studied whether it really works. Any other "natural" remedies you've heard about?

 

If someone was going to use something aside from controlling the ascent rate, I would go with either acetazolamide or dexmamethasone as there is plenty of data and clinical experience to support a benefit from either one.

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Ginkgo works really well for me. Don't give a damn what any pharma funded study says. And it doesn't have the side or after effects that the pharma chemicals do.

 

and hydration is very important when it comes to performing at altitude

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What's the deal with Ginkgo? I've not heard of that before.

 

I still get a chuckle about high altitude climbers using viagra to aid in acclimatizing. Seems to me that could hinder your climbing abilities.

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Ginkgo works really well for me. Don't give a damn what any pharma funded study says. And it doesn't have the side or after effects that the pharma chemicals do.

And you think the companies selling you herbs is doing it for *your* best interest?

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And you think the companies selling you herbs is doing it for *your* best interest?

 

Both mine and theirs.

 

And it costs about 15 cents a dose. Cuz their not spending $Billions on Advertising and Lobbying.

 

I'm not saying Diamox doesn't work, just that I prefer a natural method.

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What's the deal with Ginkgo? I've not heard of that before.

 

 

Ginkgo helps circulation at the peripheries, IE hands feet head. With bad circulation by heredity I get ocular migraines going to anything over 6,000ft. That doesn't happen with Gingko. It also helps the altitude hangover dings that happens the next day after coming down.

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Interesting. I might try that since it's cheap.

 

Looks like we may end up taking another day off of work and getting to the Portal on Thursday morning, thus allowing us to do the day hike to 11k feet and then get get a good days rest on Friday before heading up Whitney. I'm guessing that will be the best idea with our group.

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Das Beerd: I assume you're coming down US 395 from Reno area. If so, take a right at Lee Vining and head up to Tioga Pass, it's just shy of 10K. Hike around, then drive back down and sleep low that night. Spend as much time up there as you can, then descend for the night. Tioga is only about 30-45 minutes out of Lee Vining.

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And you think the companies selling you herbs is doing it for *your* best interest?

 

Both mine and theirs.

 

And it costs about 15 cents a dose. Cuz their not spending $Billions on Advertising and Lobbying.

 

I'm not saying Diamox doesn't work, just that I prefer a natural method.

 

Both dexamethasone and diamox are actually both very cheap.... as they have been generic for a long time with prices down near the range you get for Gingko depending where you get it. The studies that looked at their role in altitude illness prevention and treatment were not big pharma-sponsored studies either. Cheap drugs + small market = not much interest from the likes of Pfizer, Glaxo etc. in studying or promoting them. These are not heavily advertised medications by any stretch.

 

The problem with Gingko and most of the other herbal/supplement market is that because the production of the supplement is not regulated by the FDA, people really have no idea if the product their grabbing off the shelf contains 10% active drug or 90% active drug. No one is looking at what these supplement companies are doing and one of the reasons is that they have been very successful at preventing any real oversight is a significant amount of lobbying to prevent more stringent regulations of their practices.

 

The supplement industry is amazing in some respects... they convince people to spend billions on their products in the near absence of any evidence that any of it works.

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Das Beerd: I assume you're coming down US 395 from Reno area. If so, take a right at Lee Vining and head up to Tioga Pass, it's just shy of 10K. Hike around, then drive back down and sleep low that night. Spend as much time up there as you can, then descend for the night. Tioga is only about 30-45 minutes out of Lee Vining.

 

There are actually several great trailheads at pretty high altitudes you can access on the east side coming down 395 besides Tioga Pass. Out of Bishop, you can get up to Lake Sabrina, South Lake and North Lake and do nice hikes up higher out of either one. Out of Independence, you can also head up towards Kearsarge Pass which has some nice views.

 

A key part of any acclimatization plan regardless of what you do is to make sure you stop at the Whoa Nellie Deli in the Mobil Station at the junction of Tioga Pass Road and 395. A must stop on any trip down there. Great grub for pre- and post-trip.

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The supplement industry is amazing in some respects... they convince people to spend billions on their products in the near absence of any evidence that any of it works.

The toxic chemical big pharma industry is amazing in some respects... they convince people to spend $Trillions on their products in spite of the fact prescription drugs are one of the biggest killers in the health care industry.

 

And with their greedy corrupt multi $million dollar CEO's and poor outcomes of drug "therapies" they're one of the major reasons the USA pays many times more $$$$ than the next nearest country for piss poor health care ranked 36th in the world.

 

 

 

The problem with Gingko and most of the other herbal/supplement market is that because the production of the supplement is not regulated by the FDA, people really have no idea if the product their grabbing off the shelf contains 10% active drug or 90% active drug.

actually the good ones list the content of active ingredients. All you have to do is find what works for you and stick with that. I did it myself and it's not that hard.

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The supplement industry is amazing in some respects... they convince people to spend billions on their products in the near absence of any evidence that any of it works.

The toxic chemical big pharma industry is amazing in some respects... they convince people to spend $Trillions on their products in spite of the fact prescription drugs are one of the biggest killers in the health care industry.

 

And with their greedy corrupt multi $million dollar CEO's and poor outcomes of drug "therapies" they're one of the major reasons the USA pays many times more $$$$ than the next nearest country for piss poor health care ranked 36th in the world.

 

 

Certainly not trying to defend big Pharma. We could go on ad nauseum about their issues. My basic point is that the supplement/herbal remedy industry is not nearly as benign or well-meaning an industry as many would like to believe.

 

 

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