Thursday, July 30, 2009

Altitude Problem Solved (on paper)

I always say that if you do something wrong just enough times then you can't help, but get it right eventually.

I now have enough information to go up to at least some altitude.

The problem for me always comes back to running out of oxygen and getting sick from it.
This is caused by
- overexertion - particularly with carrying a backpack
- sleeping too high since my breathing slows down when asleep
- not enough time for a gradual assent - there never is

In the gradual ascent realm is: The one time we went through the Mitre Basin I did not get sick. I was at 13k and fine.

I have been sick at Outpost (10k') several times but at that low altitude was able to recover although oddly enough I have been at Lower Boy Scout Lake (also 10k') twice and one time was fine and one time was ill and didn't recover till I descended, but getting to LBSL is much, much harder than the Whitney Main Trail.

I have been sick at Trail Camp (12k') more times than I have been well.
This most recent time at Trail Camp I was fine when we got there and I was fine until I went to sleep. When I went to sleep my breathing slowed down and when I work up I had a headache, was nauseated and couldn't walk more than a few steps at a time. This is a real live example of the adage Climb High, Sleep Low.

One time I was fine at Trail Camp was when I had come up from Outpost with a day pack. I was able to continue on to Trail Crest and ran out of water and decided to descend (back in those days I was afraid to drink unfiltered water - now I see that there isn't enough evidence to support the claim that the water has Giardia - yes a little, and so does a public swimming pool which actually has more risk.)

I have been saying that the problem with Climb High, Sleep Low was that I could only get so high. Yesterday I looked up the elevation of Trail Crest. It's 13,600'.

Pause. Really? That high huh?

I had been saying it was 13k', but 600 feet higher is a Big Difference at that elevation. That day I climbed with a day pack from 10,400' to 13,600 which is a gain of 3200' which is not something to just write off with pat on the head saying "nice effort." The summit of Whitney is only 900' more in elevation gain. I have been past Trail Crest once, but was crawling and stopped at maybe 13,700'. In that case, I had slept at 12k' which I realize now, probably put me at a disadvantage.

So the take away lesson from last trip is clear: Don't sleep at 12,000', unless you are well acclimated to it. Sleep where there is more oxygen. Sleep with the trees. Thank them for the oxygen by exhaling on them.

And if I have trouble on a day climb with not getting enough oxygen there are the personal oxygen solutions which do well in a pinch. Though I need to mess around more with them.

I have tried Oxia and really didn't like the fact that a lot of it seemed to go out into the air. Plus I also had two canisters leak.

So if I'm going to make use of it while climbing. I need to find another source.

Some choices are still listed from the last time I did this search - others seem to have disappeared.

Now, of course, I want to go back to Whitney. The only issue is when? My time is pretty booked and the trail quotas are booked for this year till Oct 15th (though cancellations do occur because of party size reduction). While it's tempting to go in late October (I can deal with snow - however snow really does slow you down, plus it's a lot colder then too), my time might be better spent testing out my theories on the higher peaks of Yosemite (Dana, Gibbs, Lyell), though those are only in the low 13's, but that's not bad as a testing ground.


Elf said...

Highest I've ever spent the night is about 10,300. Had no issues. Wasn't long ago; I think I was 13. I don't know that I've ever been over 11,000. Hmm, now you've got me thinking... OK, just went searching. Nope, not even in the Rockies. [I can't BELIEVE that on that whole weeklong--or 2 weeks?--trip to Colorado, I took NOT ONE photo and didn't mark on ANY map where I went?! Was this the real Ellen?]

Ellen said...

Funny how our priorities shift around. I would go through phases of not taking photos, then would immediately go back to it. Now in this digital age I know I'll never stop as there's no prohibitive film cost.

Come to Yosemite with us.

Elf said...

When? (Have a feeling you sadi that in a post somewhere...)

Elf said...

AND there was that 6-week trip cross-country vacation trip with my whole family & fiance. Not a snapshot. Not. One.

Ellen said...

Haven't decided when at all. Have to do it before Tioga Rd closes for the Winter.

If you like, you can always join us for Mt. Whitney next year (I think I'm going to convince myself to wait), that usually is around late July.

Not a snapshot makes one wonder what it means.

Elf said...

Well, let me know when you decide, but I'm thinkin' not this year. Actually I wasn't nuts about photos until later in life. My whole 2 years away at college I took maybe a couple dozen photos.

Elf said...

Plus my bro-in-law has been wanting to camp in Tuolumne and I keep saying sure, sometime...

Jennie said...

I love reading these and knowing you two did go!

I'm glad you're able to find a path to a solution, Ellen.

Ellen said...

Well we compromised and went to the much lower Yosemite Valley instead, but it was still a very nice climb even if no altitude issues. (4000'-7200')