- Date Hiked: August 30, 2005
- Miles Hiked: 23.0
- Elevation Gain: 7,348'
- Hiking Partner(s): Chuck Bauman,
Brandon Kirby, Mark & Renee Smith
- Brandon picked me up at the Las Vegas Airport while driving to Lone
Pine, California from Salt Lake City, Utah. We met Chuck, Mark,
and Renee at the ranger station in Lone Pine after they made the drive
down from Boise, Idaho. After getting our permits, we drove up to
the Whitney Portal to get a camping spot, rent our bear canisters, and
have a burger. We visited around a fire for a while before calling
it a relatively early night.
- We awoke the next morning and quickly prepared our large
backpacks. The scale at the trailhead indicated I had the heaviest
pack at 41 pounds, while Renee was the lightweight winner with only 25
pounds. The first hour of backpacking was slow as we played leap
frog with other groups and tried to find a pace for everyone.
After a while, Mark and Renee cut Brandon, Chuck, and I loose, and we
broke into two parties.
- Once at Trail Camp, we found an adequate location for our three tents
and Brandon and I began to scramble up the south side of Wotan's
Throne. We had limited knowledge of the route, but we managed to
make the summit. After smearing up some slabs above Trail Camp, we
scrambled up a loose scree slope to a headwall. After climbing a
bit to the left and running into a dead end, we back tracked to the top
of the scree slope to analyze the route to the right. There was a
very well protected and narrow chimney that I worked my way up and
Brandon followed after throwing his day pack up to me. We
scrambled a short distance and encountered another moderately difficult
section of climbing on some steep slabs above and to the right of the
chimney. After this, it was easy scrambling to the summit.
- I wasn't able to find a route rating on Wotan's Throne, but from my
experience in Colorado, I would have rated it class 4 with the two more
difficult sections. The upper section may have been avoidable.
They probably aren't rated that high in California, but I haven't quite
figured out the differences in scales yet. After radioing Chuck in
camp, we decided to head down. The north and northwest slopes
appeared as though they would be easy to descend and then we would just
have to circle around to the west to return to camp. Brandon
agreed, so that is exactly what we did. The northwest slopes made
for a quick descent and avoided the "technical" climbing
experienced on the way up the south route.
- We had dinner and went to bed early again. I am generally
concerned about low blood sugar reactions (Hypoglycemia) in the back
country, so my food bag is usually loaded with lots of sugar and is
twice as big as anyone else's. To further avoid problems on summit
day, I didn't take my late night insulin shot in anticipation of a
relatively big hike the following day. This ended up being one of
the biggest mistakes I've made with regard to hiking and my diabetes.
- Brandon and I started up the switchbacks shortly after 5:00 am the
following morning. On our first break, I indicated to Brandon that
I already wasn't feeling well. The next stretch went better until
about 500' below the summit. Extreme thirst and fatigue were
slowing me down considerably. I summitted with no celebration as I
continued to feel poorly. We passed Chuck on our way down.
He was only an hour behind us. We told him we were going to still
try Mount Muir and that he should wait for us near the base of the
turnoff for this peak. My condition worsened as we approached the
cairn and climber's trail for Mount Muir. I tried to recover by
eating, but I wasn't able to force anything down.
- The thought of some scrambling and climbing didn't improve my
condition, but it did help my spirits and give me something to look
forward to. We scrambled up to the ridge crest where I pulled out
our information and studied the route. Similar to Wotan's Throne,
we initially made one wrong decision, but then nailed the route after
retreating a short distance. Again, I'd easily rate the last ~50+'
of climbing class 4, but the only information I found on the internet
had it at class 3.
- After down climbing to the Whitney Trail, I worked my way back to
Trail Crest struggling with the 120' of gain. Chuck and Brandon
arrived shortly, and I indicated I'll likely need some of their water to
get down. They were both feeling great and agreed to help me
out. I had to break every 15 minutes and wasn't improving.
We were all speculating on what was wrong. Dehydration, over-exertion,
heat exhaustion, low blood sugars etc. etc.. All of these were reasonable diagnosis; however,
I had my doubts regarding all of them. Finally, about half way
down the switch backs, I told them that the thirst and fatigue were
symptoms of high blood sugar levels (Hyperglycemia).
- I said we just need to get back to camp so that I could take a shot of
insulin. (In my confusion, I forgot I had my insulin and diabetes
kit in my pack along with me.) After Chuck and Brandon lightened
my load and took some of my gear, we hiked for another 10 minutes before
I kneeled down and began puking. It was a pretty good wretch and I
lost at least the last liter of water/Gatorade I drank. At this
point, I think I scared Chuck and Brandon who thought the situation had
just got serious. Chuck took off down the trail to recover my
insulin (which I had), and Brandon took my pack and the rest of my
gear. I thought it was better to continue than to wait and rest.
- I only took a couple of sips of water to rinse my mouth and finished
the hike back down to Trail Camp with Brandon. Chuck was
scrambling to find my kit, which of course he finally found in my pack
that Brandon carried down. After checking my blood, I confirmed my
suspicion with an extremely high reading. I took a shot and
rested. About one hour and 30 minutes later, I got my reading down
to a reasonable level and started packing up camp. Given that it
only took Brandon and I two hours and 30 minutes to hike out the 6.2
miles to the Whitney Portal, I feel like I recovered relatively quickly.
- We went from the highest point in the lower 48 (Whitney) to the lowest
(Death Valley) in a 14 hour period. We checked into the Stratosphere
in Las Vegas around 12:30 am. We got a few weird looks walking down the middle
of the casino in desperate need of a shower and a huge backpack
on. I still wasn't able to eat that night as I threw-up
again and my body continued to reject any food until the following
morning. Even then, my throat was so sore from puking, I almost
started to cry while eating breakfast at the airport. I basically
hiked 17 miles and went 36 hours on nothing more than one GU packet and
- I realize that the valuable lesson learned on this little mini-epic of
mine really only applies to me, but I thought I'd share it
anyway. I still think Mount Whitney was pretty cool and thought
the climbing to Wotan's Throne and Mount Muir was the highlight of the
trip. Thanks to Chuck and Brandon for helping me out.
||Trailhead - Trail Camp
||Trail Camp - Wotan's Throne
||Wotan's Throne - Trail Camp
||Trail Camp - Trail Crest
||Trail Crest - John Muir Trail Junction
||John Muir Trail Junction - Mount Whitney
||Mount Whitney - Mount Muir Trail Junction
||Mount Muir Trail Junction - Mount Muir
||Mount Muir - Mount Muir Trail Junction
||Mount Muir Trail Junction - John Muir Trail Junction
||John Muir Trail Junction - Trail Crest
||Trail Crest - Trail Camp
||Trail Camp - Trailhead
||Cumulative Elevation Gain/Grade/Miles
here to view a 2D
map of the area where this hike is located.