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#50302 - 07/12/08 12:09 AM Whitney Main Trail Speed Hike Report - 7/5/08
adam_up Offline
Member

Registered: 06/17/08
Posts: 6
Loc: San Diego, CA
It's been almost a week, and my legs are just about back to normal from the beating they took last weekend. I figured its about time for a quick report on my hike last weekend. [edit] It ended up being way too long! I hope it may be of some interest for those looking to hike the mountain fast.

I headed up to Lone Pine with the ambitious goal of Portal -> Summit on the main trail in under 3 hours. A couple of years ago, I made it in about 3.5 hours, with some stopped time, so I thought I might have a shot. I'm lighter and fitter now (from bike racing), and I figured I needed at least some hiking in before trying the JMT later in the summer. After all, that's just over 3.5 mph, so can't be too hard , or so I thought smile .

GEAR
*Brand new pair of Brooks Defyance shoes. (Pure running shoes, worked great!)
*Garmin Forerunner 405 GPS watch (worked great, with only some dropped signal problems).
*REI ultralight carbon trekking poles (HIGHLY recommended!)
*Camelbak Lobo small pack, with a 100 oz bladder stuffed in (With aqua mira water purifier solution just in case)
*I wore: thin cycling socks, REI running shorts, tech tee, sunday afternoons large hat, and cycling arm warmers for the top. Took a Marmot Windshirt, but didn't need it.

Permits, etc.
I was a bit worried about getting permits, but was reassured after checking the posts on this board. As it turned out, I arrived in Lone Pine on Friday morning, was able to grab a day-of permit, take a "warm-up" hike up to Trail Camp and back, and grab a day permit for the full hike on Saturday. Absolutely no problems, and totally free! The Lone Pine inter-agency office is a very smoothly run operation!

THE HIKE
My dry run hike on Friday went well, but in retrospect, I went way too hard. Got to trail camp in about 1:40. I was worried about getting back to the inter-agency center for my permit by 2, when they release the leftovers, and made the 6 mile trip back to the portal in 1:19. Bad idea - downhill rips up the legs worse than uphill, and I paid for it on the real hike the next day.

The result of this was, even well hydrated and carbo-loaded, I started out my hike with legs that were a bit too sore. The muscles used in cycling do not automatically carry over to hiking! I tried to shake it out, stretched a bit, and headed out from the portal at about 7:30 Saturday morning.

Trailhead --> Start of Whitney Zone ~

3 miles - 43:30 min - 4.1 mph

This is a great way to start out a hike, with consistent, steady grade, and soft, even ground. I know I needed to be fast on these early sections, to make up for the tougher terrain at higher elevations. My tired legs hurt a bit, but I started to warm up. I hit the sign above Lone Pine Lake, marking the start of the Whitney zone.

Start of Whitney Zone --> Mirror Lake

1.4 miles ~ 20 min ~ 4.2 mph (1:03:30)

The flat meadow through Outpost Camp is a nice breather, but the section is bookended by steep little climbs. I was feeling good, but knew it would only get harder ahead!

Mirror Lake --> Trail Camp

1.6 mi ~ 30:45 min ~ 3.2 mph (1:34:15)

This is where Whitney starts getting truly hard. This is where the air starts getting noticably thin. The brutal carved switchbacks near the beautiful Trailside Meadow are the first real proving grounds of the trial. The section gains almost 1400' in 1.6 miles, making it the steepest section on the trail, over 15%! This is where I started having to figure out how to ration my efforts - my HR was nosing up above 180, and I decided to slow it down to keep something in reserve for the final pitch.

Trail Camp --> Trail Crest

2.4 mi - 48 min - 3 mph (2:22:15)

My pace was slowing considerably with the tougher, higher terrain. I was still encouraged though, to be right on my planned pace. I reached Trail Camp in under 1:35, leaving me 1:25 to make it to the summit. That's anything but a foregone conclusion though, as my legs were starting to feel empty. I tried cramming down a nature valley bar, but it was tough to swallow. The first switchbacks hurt the most, and I was able to push through to some kind of a groove after getting through them. But the realities of the thin air set in, and I struggled to maintain 3 mph. I was VERY happy to hit the last long switchback approaching Trail Crest.

Trail Crest --> SUMMIT

2 mi - 41:45 min - 3 mph (3:04:00)

I hit the ridge with plenty of time to make my goal - I just had to be under 38 minutes - I thought it was very doable. But as I glanced over the gorgeous terrain that opens up before your feet as you crest the pass, my hat blew off in the strong wind and I lost a minute retrieving it from the side of the mountain. I had to face it. I was tired. My hands were getting a bit numb and swollen (I find this happens to me often at altitude), my legs felt empty, and I was a bit light-headed. I jogged down the rocky slope to the JMT junction, doing my best to navigate the challenging trail, but all the jagged, upheaved rock takes a LOT of energy to move fast on, and my reserves were low! My heart rate was falling, and I couldn't exert myself enough to keep it up. As I was passing through the windows, my confidence in meeting my goal waned, and I convinced myself I couldn't make it. Funny how your reasoning changes with a lack of air... Each violent up and down over the fractured rocks was testing, and in my pessimism (and perhaps a bit of self-preservation), I slowed down, and it felt great. I was approaching the last ascent up the summit mound, when I realized I was actually closer than I thought to making my goal. I sped it up a bit as the trail jumped over the granite slabs, and watched my elapsed time hit 3 hours when I was at 14350 feet. Oh well =). I arrived at the summit hut 3 hours and 4 minutes after I started. I was on top of the 48 states once again. It felt great!

The trip back

I had an enjoyable and relaxing break up top - relishing the view, which was surprisingly good given all the fires raging around California, and chatting with some other hikers. I had a bit of food and headed down. I kept a relaxed and enjoyable pace down the mountain, with the Whitney Portal Store burgers in mind the whole time, and reached the Portal, my burger, and a beer, 3 hours later.

Traveling light was essential for this trip. I would have made the 3 hours had my total weight been just 4 pounds lighter - and I actually had 4 pounds worth of water left over at the top. Hiking poles were also crucial to conserving energy on the rocky trail. And although I love pushing myself and trying to find my limits, you definitely do lose a bit of the enjoyment of being out in nature when time is the #1 goal. I'll get plenty of that on the JMT this summer =).

As a side note - judging from my comparisons with top cyclists, and cross-referencing Pikes Peak marathon times, I would guess that a super-elite and acclimated trail runner would be able to get up in about 2:15 or so. Ouch.



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#50306 - 07/12/08 12:56 AM Re: Whitney Main Trail Speed Hike Report - 7/5/08 [Re: adam_up]
innerlight Offline
Member

Registered: 06/17/08
Posts: 11
Loc: Davis, CA
Nice report adam! That sounds like quite a challenge! Especially to me since I just summitted for my first time on the 3rd. 7-1/2 hrs for me.
One thought though, coming from an another avid cyclist/former racer; for lightweight nutrition up the mountain, I'd have thought of some PowerGels (or GU or whatever brand you like), some with caffeine, some without, and beef jerky (assuming you are not vegetarian). These are 2 items that saved my bacon during Paris-Brest-Paris last year!

Good on ya!

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#50313 - 07/12/08 08:10 AM Re: Whitney Main Trail Speed Hike Report - 7/5/08 [Re: innerlight]
DocRodneydog Offline
Member

Registered: 01/13/07
Posts: 612
Loc: Santa Clarita
That is an amazing time to Portal to Summit.I can't believe that you did your "warm-up" to Trail Camp.Obviously you are in world class shape but Outpost might have been a little easier on your legs.That would have saved your legs for your summit attempt and given you a chance for a sub 3 hour trek. Who am I to question someone who Summits in 3 hrs.OUTSTANDING JOB !!!

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#50333 - 07/12/08 09:59 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail Speed Hike Report - 7/5/08 [Re: innerlight]
adam_up Offline
Member

Registered: 06/17/08
Posts: 6
Loc: San Diego, CA
Yeah, I've used gels in the past.. although I prefer solid food generally while hiking, and I probably should have brought them. That or Clif Bloks. All I had going up was one nature valley bar. I'm very accustomed to eating on the bike, but hiking and eating without stopping at all is something new, and not easy! Nice on the Paris-Brest-Paris - I'd definitely like to do that someday.

And yep, Doc, Outpost Camp would have been a better idea =). My rationale, if I really had any, was I wanted to get acclimated, so I needed to get up higher. Also, a 3 hour bike ride is routine for me, so I didn't think much of it, but a 3 hour hike, I definitely feel the next day!

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#50337 - 07/12/08 11:55 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail Speed Hike Report - 7/5/08 [Re: adam_up]
innerlight Offline
Member

Registered: 06/17/08
Posts: 11
Loc: Davis, CA
Someday is as soon as August 2011! I plan on being there. You will never feel more at home as a cyclist than you will as a PBP'er in Bretagne!

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#50363 - 07/13/08 02:11 PM Re: Whitney Main Trail Speed Hike Report - 7/5/08 [Re: adam_up]
nyker Offline
Member

Registered: 09/28/07
Posts: 247
Loc: New York
Adam,

That is a great time. Congrats!

Out of curiosity, how much time if any did you have to acclimatize? What is the elevation where you live? Also, do you have any details concerning how you used a HRM along the trip (if you used one)?

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