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onion valley acclimatization hike

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onion valley acclimatization hike

Postby jrbrenvt » Fri Aug 12, 2011 8:40 pm

Hi,

I live in Vermont. I am planning on joining some friends who are hiking the entire JMT north to south this month. They are on the trail as I write this. I join them (and I am their resupply officer as well) at Onion Valley, and will be doing the last segments of the JMT with them, exiting at Whitney portal.

I am planning an acclimatization hike hike out of Onion Valley on the day before I meet my group, Sat Aug 20. I am considering Mt Gould or University peak. Any recommendations ? I have read several trip reports on line found with google. The tip top of Gould looks hairy, I could not find a picture of someone climbing it to see if the crux is something I am likely to chicken out on or not. University looks shorter, but more vertical and more route finding. I am also curious if the high snow fall in the Sierra this year is still a factor on the routes to these peaks out of Onion valley. Are the gullies to University pass ice covered ? I would guess Gould is snow free since it is a ridge walk from Kearsarge pass. True ? I do not plan on bringing crampons or ice axe. I will have trekking poles.

Background: I am an experienced hiker both in the east and out west and (done a half dozen CO 13ers & 14ers, been to Rainier Crater Rim, Iztaccihuatl summit ridge, and done 2 high altitude treks in the Himalayan region, but have not been to Sierra), point being I have altitude experience as well. Sea level fitness should not be an issue.I find some routes that are called class 3 fun when they are in good shape and route finding is straight forward. I plan to sleep in Lone Pine the night before and after this acclimatization climb.

Thank you for your thoughts.
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Re: onion valley acclimatization hike

Postby mrchad9 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 9:06 pm

There will not be any snow en route to Gould.

Here is a picture I took of someone (unknown) climbing down from the summit last year. The climb is easy, though I have met folks with a concern of heights strong enough that it could make them uneasy, but it is NOT hairy. I don't think you could actually get hurt on it though unless you actaully attempted to throw yourself off the summit. Technically I think the edge of University is more exposed, though it is more of a walkup.

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Re: onion valley acclimatization hike

Postby OOG » Fri Aug 12, 2011 10:08 pm

I climbed Gould last spring and was quite underwhelmed. The view is pretty much the same as the view from Kearsarge Pass, and the climb is just a sand slog / loose boulder hop. I didn't think the summit block was a big deal, the easiest route is on the north side. University looked much more impressive, and most of the climb up Gould I wished I had climbed it instead.

Here's a comparison Gould is the large pile of rocks on top, Universiy is the awesome looking rugged peak on the bottom.

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Re: onion valley acclimatization hike

Postby goldenhopper » Fri Aug 12, 2011 10:46 pm

I agree with 3Deserts - why not make camp in Onion Valley and spend two nights there? Also, if you plan on staying in the valley you might want to find a place in Independence rather than Lone Pine, it would save you about 35-40 miles round trip.
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Re: onion valley acclimatization hike

Postby fatdad » Fri Aug 12, 2011 11:36 pm

Are you meeting them in Onion Valley or on the other side of the crest near, say, Junction Meadows. I was just thinking that that might open up some possibilities on the west side. You could also just drive north a little ways and do something out of Big Pine or Bishop. That opens up LOTS more possibilities. The stuff around Independence is just 'meh'.

University looks fun, but is probably better early season when lots of that talus is buried. Dragon Peak looks nice I want to recall that it may have some 4th class near the top, so that may be a deal breaker.
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Re: onion valley acclimatization hike

Postby jrbrenvt » Sat Aug 13, 2011 1:45 am

Thanks for the feedback. Right now I thinking Gould is the "smart choice" as it is not as high and satisfies my admittedly inane but real desire to "bag a peak", and is on a main trail for most of the hike. I suspect the statement that the view is pretty much the same from Gould then Kearsarge pass is true. I agree that from an acclimatization stand point it would have been wiser to reserve a camp ground spot at OV for the 2 nights I am staying in Lone Pine. (Lone Pine over Independence simply because it looked like there was allot more to the town from what I read). But I opted for the sleeping in a bed, running water & shower option for a couple more nights before camping for the next week. The other advantage of the motel was to have an address to ship the food stash I am bringing with me for the rest of the group (~50lbs worth of food, would have been really expensive as baggage on the airline flight). As to why pack the food in Vermont instead of buy it in Cali, I think it has to do with our group leader found a good deal on bulk food and packed each day's dinner over 2 nights at his place last month. But that would be a tangent to this thread on the cost trade offs. I do not know if we actually saved anything with the cost of shipping & airline baggage.

>4K' would have been nice but 4K' is still better then 165' where I sleep most of the year. Basically I am staying in Lone Pine for 2 nights. After the first night I do my hike for "climb high sleep low", after the second I meet my group at OV CG where we have a spot reserved for the 3rd night. The next day we hike over Kearsarge pass to Vidette Meadows. Moot point now about the CG for nights 1 & 2, it is full.

University peak, from what I have read about it, is the "sexier" of the two. But 13.5K' is pushing it, but probably doable. The following day is pretty light for physical activity to recover. In my Colorado trip two years ago I slept in Denver the first night, Estes Park (~8K') the 2nd (travel day in between) and hiked Hallet peak (~12.7K') the next day, and Ypsilon the next (>13.5K'), with no issues. I can easily picture myself climbing Gould and looking back at University and wishing I was on it. Also the first day on the JMT goes right under University. It would be "neat" to look up at where I had been 2 days earlier. Both will be unique experience for me, I have not been to the eastern sierra before. I am used to dense forest hiking. It will probably be game time call at the TH. Hoping to gather as much info as possible to make an intelligent call. Thanks again.
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Re: onion valley acclimatization hike

Postby phydeux » Sat Aug 13, 2011 1:58 am

University might be a bit of a grunt for an acclimatization hike. As stateda bove, Gould is fairly straightforward.

Want something a little more 'relaxed'? How about Independence Peak (11,300 ft). Head up the slope on the SOUTH side of the OV parking lot; in about 1 hour you'll come to tiny Robinson Lake (fishing here sucks, only small fingerling trout). Take a rest, then head up the rocky slope to the EAST for another hour and you should reach the summit ridge, which you follow up until reaching the summit rocks. Decent views of the Owens Valley below.

On the north side of the parking area is the ridge line of Kearsarge Peak (12,000 ft?). Hike back down the OV road a short way until you see a dirt road off to your left (NORTH), follow this up. It'll eventually start coming back towards the Sierra Nevada, and fade out, at which time you should find a trace trail up to the east end of Kearsarge's summit ridge. Follow this to the far west end of the ridge to get to the true summit.

If you have a car and don't feel like hiking why not drive up into the White Mountains to see the bristlecone Pine tree preserve at 12,000 ft. Its that mountain range across (east) from the Sierra Nevada Mtns. Drive north to Big Pine, drive through town and take the turn-off at the north end of town to Westgard Pass (Hwy 168?) and you eventually reach the turn-off for the Bristlecone Pine area. Kind of interesting area with a high altitude desert landscape, and great views across the Owens Valley to the Sierra Nevada Mtns.

Have fun on the JMT!
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Re: onion valley acclimatization hike

Postby 96avs01 » Sat Aug 13, 2011 6:24 am

fatdad wrote:University looks fun, but is probably better early season when lots of that talus is buried. Dragon Peak looks nice I want to recall that it may have some 4th class near the top, so that may be a deal breaker.


No class 4 on Dragon, see my profile pic for the crux...exposed class 3 with good hand holds. University would be fine, have hit it much later in the year and wasn't enduring a talus nightmare. If I had 2 choose I would rank the options: Dragon, University, Independence, Kearsarge, then Gould. YMMV
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Re: onion valley acclimatization hike

Postby peninsula » Tue Aug 16, 2011 3:59 pm

jrbrenvt,

Acclimatization has been a hot topic over the years at SP. It is a great subject and I figured I might as well throw in my two pennies. (make that 50 cents)

Onion Valley is one of the easier trailheads along the eastern escarpment of Kings and Sequoia NPs. I think it would be a fine choice regardless of the peak you choose. The key to acclimatizing, as I have come to understand, has less to do with camping at altitude and more to do with working and laboring at altitude. Doing a day hike, bagging a peak, then returning to Lone Pine for some solid rest will accomplish more towards recovering and acclimating than camping in OV where sleep will be more deprived, especially the first day. I think the key is rest after day one, and as long as you plan light activity the following day, you will probably be okay.

Other acclimatizing rules of thumb: drink frequently and take a snack every few hours (even though you will likely not have much of an appetite). If you are not peeing frequently, you are not drinking enough. Urine should remain clear, if it is visibly yellow, you are not drinking enough.

I have a medical background, so naturally, I like drugs (my excuse, ha!). Besides helping to ward off a headache, I ingest ibuprofen to help keep my knees oiled (Vitamin I, don't leave home without it). If your knees are already well oiled, I find aspirin does a better job than ibuprofen when it comes to headache remedies. Another must-have in my kit is acetazolamide. I take 125mg every 6 hours the day before going up and continue that dose for the following 24 to 36 hours. You will read of doses all over the map, and that is simply because it really depends on your body. The dose I ingest is on the low end of that labeled, but more than others find necessary. You should consult your physician if you have never used acetazolamide. A prescription is required and test dosing well ahead of the trip is recommended. Some people do not tolerate sulfer based drugs like acetazolamide. For me, it is indispensable.

Best of luck!
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Re: onion valley acclimatization hike

Postby peninsula » Tue Aug 16, 2011 6:38 pm

3Deserts wrote:While Cheyne-Stokes Respirations can occur while sleeping at altitude--it's what wakes us up repeatedly through the night--leading to less than perfect sleep, the body won't be cued to increase the production of red blood cells, adjust vessel pressures and reduce blood acidosis if sleeping at Lone Pine. The latest research by Dr. Peter Hackett and others is increasingly pointing to processes such as these that occur much more effectively during sleep cycles than during waking periods, whether or not physical work is occurring.

Anyway, I refer everyone again to Dr. Peter Hackett. He's probably the number one authority on the subject, with a climbing resume to back up the medical research.


Good post, 3Deserts. In response to your reply, I'll expand on the subject of Diamox (acetazolamide). Diamox will mimic the body being cued to increased altitude while sleeping in Lone Pine. Although I have never returned to Lone Pine in a like manner, I do think the labor had while bagging a peak combined with Diamox, and a night's worth of rest in Lone Pine will do well in terms of getting a head start.

Along the lines of sleeping at altitude without any exercise, I have reservations it does any good whatsoever. I used to do it myself for many years, camping in the back of my pickup at the trailhead the night before heading up. Coming from sea level in San Diego, I figured it would help. But after reading lengthy debate on the subject, I decided to go instead for a good night's rest in Lone Pine before hitting the trail early the next morning. I did not notice a difference between the two approaches myself, be it a night at the trailhead or spending the night before in Lone Pine... other than a much sounder sleep in the comfort of a REAL bed, a lovely hot shower, and a tasty breakfast the next morning. Makes me think of the first day out of the mountains!
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Re: onion valley acclimatization hike

Postby mrchad9 » Tue Aug 16, 2011 7:06 pm

I do not think this guy needs to get drugged up for a hike to a (barely) 13er and a walk down the last 55 miles of the JMT.
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Re: onion valley acclimatization hike

Postby peninsula » Tue Aug 16, 2011 8:25 pm

mrchad9 wrote:I do not think this guy needs to get drugged up for a hike to a (barely) 13er and a walk down the last 55 miles of the JMT.


People have died of AMS doing far less. It really depends on an individual's physiology, past experience, and personal preferences. Generally speaking, the shorter a trip, the more one has to gain using Diamox, at least speaking in relative terms. I understand the tendency of many when it comes to avoiding something like Diamox. That said, I am of the opinion Diamox is a no-brainer when it comes safety and efficacy. Others will disagree, but few of them have a medical background.

On the other subject of "drugs", you might not appreciate the benefits of Vitamin Ibuprofen at the young age of 34. Wait until you are 45 or 55, you might think otherwise. Besides, "getting drugged up" is another way of saying "getting the most out of your trip", so to speak.
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Re: onion valley acclimatization hike

Postby mrchad9 » Tue Aug 16, 2011 8:39 pm

Ibuprofen seems perfectly reasonable if it helps, but I was referring to the Diamox (given that he seems to have experience with altitude already and has given no indication that it was necessary in the past).

Diamox seems premature unless an individual has a history of some sort of altitude issue that has already demonstrated a need for it.
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Re: onion valley acclimatization hike

Postby fatdad » Tue Aug 16, 2011 9:54 pm

Re sleeping at altitude (e.g. the trailhead), I think it may be a personal thing. I've always found that it helped ALOT to sleep at the trailhead if I'm driving up from sea level. Those few times I've slept lower down, I've felt really leaden when starting to hike and regretted I didn't sleep higher. It does wonders for me.

Eight hours adapting is better than zero hours adapting. It may not be a magic bullet for everyone, but I think you'd be hard pressed to prove there's no benefit.
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Re: onion valley acclimatization hike

Postby mrchad9 » Tue Aug 16, 2011 10:08 pm

fatdad wrote:Re sleeping at altitude (e.g. the trailhead), I think it may be a personal thing. I've always found that it helped ALOT to sleep at the trailhead if I'm driving up from sea level. Those few times I've slept lower down, I've felt really leaden when starting to hike and regretted I didn't sleep higher. It does wonders for me.

Same here. I notice a huge difference.
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