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Trip to piute pass questions

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Trip to piute pass questions

Postby dooder » Mon Sep 07, 2015 8:02 pm

First let me say I think I'm posting this in the right area... Its my first post after introducing myself.
I had planned a trip in advance (my first mistake) as now smoke and weather will probably ruin it. Here goes I got my cousin on board to go as he hasn't even been North of so cal ever. Our plan was to reach North lake campground in the morning on Sept 28 2015. Spend that day and night at North lake campground . The following day trying to slowly gain altitude over the piute pass. The next day either exploring the creek through Golden Trout lakes area maybe heading to Tomahawk Lake. My main concern is I've never slept for more than one day at high altitude, I've researched AMS, HACE,HAPE to the point its putting a damper on going. I've read almost every report I could find on piute pass . People seem just fine to bring pets , kids, drink alcohol, and hike fast as possible to get far in and or peak bag. My question on the altitude is lets say one of us starts getting a bad headache ? Should you pack out and head down like even at night ? Or wait and see if you wake up feeling better? I've gotten many a headache at slightly lower altitudes but i was either drinking beer while fishing all day or working construction for 8 hours, Like in the town of big bear CA 8000 or so feet, then driving back to around 1700ft. Its only happened a few times and it was always at the end of the day the headaches where pretty bad. Other times I've gone up and had no headache . I've never experienced trouble breathing with the headache , so it could of been the beer :drinkers: there will be no beer for me this trip ! But I'm pretty paranoid about getting two days back and trying to tough out a migraine. I guess I'm asking do serious medical complications from around 11,000 feet come on fast or would you have to ignore symptoms for a few days to really get in trouble with HACE and HAPE ? While I'm at it should I just scrap this plan do to the smoke alone ? I've reserved our permits Sept 28,-Oct 3. For piute pass via North lake. Lastly does anyone have any advice on what kind of weather to expect? I know weather is unpredictable , but from other trip reports from around that time seemed pretty nice and night time temps of low teens. Our gear list takes into account cold weather and headache meds etc. I know I'm over thinking such a common so called easy entry point but kinda want to run it by you all before I drag my cousin out with me. Any advice on alternate plans, seasonal weather, etc. Is greatly appreciated.
Last edited by dooder on Tue Sep 08, 2015 1:11 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Re: Trip to piute pass questions

Postby rlown » Mon Sep 07, 2015 8:09 pm

don't drink alcohol the week before you head out.

stay hydrated before and on the drive up and of course on the hike. A headache the first night isn't a direct sign to abort immediately. Take two aspirin and drink more water. you won't sleep well the first night anyway unless you're already coming from a similar altitude.

If you lose appetite, you need to eat something so take your favorite comfort food.

As for Sept 28th, you'll have to pay attention to the fire situations (rough fire) and any weather reports for the time period you plan to be there. It's really too early to predict. The backup plan I always keep is somewhere South out of Tuolumne Meadows, or North outside the park to Saddlebag and 20 lakes basin.

Don't worry.. Just have to watch the conditions.
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Re: Trip to piute pass questions

Postby dooder » Mon Sep 07, 2015 9:07 pm

I know the altitude thing has been covered to death, HST has good threads on it and I downloaded the check list just to see if it offered any thing new. We will be packed out with food, tent, headache stuff, cold weather clothes, and a Delorme Inreach SE mainly to let our loved ones know what's going on. We will definitely be drinking water and eating good in the days prior and during, I doubt we will have a way to acclimate locally around So Cal before hand, do to work. The north lake camp ground for 24 hours will be about it. Then taking it easy the first day in. I also know everyones different so its hard to give advice. But that's what I was hoping just a bad headache isn't truely reason to think your going to need to leave immediately. I also don't ever recall feeling like puking or not eating at 8000-11000 feet. The only thing that even really started me wondering is this stat that 40-60% of people sleeping above 9000 feet will develope symptoms of AMS . I can't sleep as it is at low altitude so I already take 10mg melatonin nightly. I'm going to try to avoid them if it all possible. I've read that piute pass season is through Sept. Does it ever close? I can't really find an answer on that, as I've seen fall trip reports from October. Or is based on snow fall? The overnight car park/ camping area seems to be pretty tiny considering how many overnight hikers they permit daily. The one east closest to north lake as far as I know is for day trips only or at least that's my understanding.
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Re: Trip to piute pass questions

Postby rlown » Mon Sep 07, 2015 9:17 pm

fill this out: i put it on a lurker reply but what does it cost to do it again: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4205

You probably will be able to secure a campsite in your timeframe at North Lake. It comes down to weather. If it ever snows again, they will close the gate. PLEASE watch the weather reports prior to committing. So you're not going to sleep well. You're not alone. I like the day before plan and a slow hike up the hill if you're coming from low elevation. You might barf. doesn't mean you're gonna die. fluids. not coffee.
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Re: Trip to piute pass questions

Postby rayfound » Mon Sep 07, 2015 10:08 pm

Having just hiked out of the area this morning, I'll say:

Smoke: Yes, it is there. It never presented bad enough to irritate lungs or anything like that. Did make some views less purdy. I'd say was essentially a non-factor.

Altitude: You'll probably be fine. Camping a night at North Lake is a good bet. drink LOTS of water. You may get a headache, take a couple advil. Hike your normal pace. 11,400 of the pass is not really all that high, I've taken sever first timers to that elevation without duress (beyond mild headache). If you feel BAD, beyond a moderate headache, trust your instincts.

Weather: It gets cold up there. This morning about 11,100 in the canyon we had significant freezing. Make sure you have lots of warm clothes, and I would suggest 20-degree or warmer bags. I was pretty uncomfortable in my 30-degree this morning.

Acclimating: You could try and spend a night at the top of the PS Aerial Tramway. I think you can get into overnight wilderness with a short hike, and that would put you at 9000+. Big Bear Lake is only about 6,700ft so isn't really relevant.



Keep your permits. Take your time. drink lots of water and skip the booze. Drink more water than you think you'll need. If I'm not peeing out the tent door at 3am, I probably didn't drink enough.
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Re: Trip to piute pass questions

Postby dooder » Mon Sep 07, 2015 11:05 pm

Thanks for the detailed info guys. The tramway from palm springs is a good idea. Maybe we can fit it in before hand . we both have spent time up there. Just not overnight yet. Yeah big bear lake isnt as high as I thought. The metal white roofs we where fixing where blinding. I'm guessing the metal roof bouncing the sun in my eyes all day could of caused the bad headaches. My boss got the same headaches but didn't work with us at all . Either way if weather allows we are going to give it a go. Smoke would have to be real bad for us to quit. About 12 years back we had wildfires with heavy ash and a separate dust storm at the same time, schools where still in session even though you couldn't see very far, smoke, ashes and dirt everywhere for a few days to a week in a row. Although I imagine that would be worse struggling for oxygen... We shall see if its going to all work out. Hopefully I can put together a report with some good pictures for you guys. Like there's not enough pictures of this route already.
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Re: Trip to piute pass questions

Postby dooder » Mon Sep 07, 2015 11:54 pm

rlown wrote:fill this out: i put it on a lurker reply but what does it cost to do it again: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4205

You probably will be able to secure a campsite in your timeframe at North Lake. It comes down to weather. If it ever snows again, they will close the gate. PLEASE watch the weather reports prior to committing. So you're not going to sleep well. You're not alone. I like the day before plan and a slow hike up the hill if you're coming from low elevation. You might barf. doesn't mean you're gonna die. fluids. not coffee.


I'm new so I'm not sure if this is where I add the requested info about myself but here goes
What level backpacking experience do I have?
Ide say level 3 .
What terrain am I uncomfortable with?
Climbing in Heavy snow, glaciers or rope climbing as I have no experience yet with them.
My main interest
Lakes, forest, scenery, photography, fishing, there will be no unnecessary climbing to avoid injury and altitude sickness.
How long will trip be?
4 days start of hike to drive out if all goes well.
Will there be pets?
No pets.
What part of Sierra am i interested in?
For now the piute pass north lake trail head accessible areas.
Yes I will make a report with lots of pictures. If successful .
I've read many reports on the pass itself, trails and the lakes that one can hike to. The main reason I started a new thread is a few details about seasonal info, gate closures, experience with altitude on this trail and parking specifics where not easily found in most people reports/ blogs. Not necessarily on HST just in general on the web. Thanks for your input as I'm sure this is newb stuff. I'm going to call the info center tomorrow about the gate and parking specifics.
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Re: Trip to piute pass questions

Postby Lazeydazey » Tue Sep 08, 2015 8:52 pm

Hey Dooder, I just want to encourage you. You're going to do great and you're gonna love this trail !
I did my first backpacking in 25 years on this pass last month. It's an excellent choice, with it's higher elevation trailhead and easier elevation gains. (though while I was climbing, I didn't think so) At 47 years old I was about 15-20 years younger than 90% of the people on the trail and way less fit. I live at sea level and we overnighted in Bishop due to bad weather at the trailhead, so we hit the trail completely un-acclimated. Slow and steady won the race. Tons of stops, I can't emphasize enough to slow down and take your time, your body will thank you. All the hikers we passed were super chatty and friendly and full of information. Just do the srandard self care: Watch the color of your P, make sure it's clear. Every time you P, drink more., etc.
(I had nuun in my water bottle for electrolytes) about the time we stopped to make camp at Paiute lake I had a headache. The next day we went over the pass to Muir lake and I felt fine. The whole time we had crazy weather: thunder, lightning, big rain, even bigger hail and even biggerer winds. I know that hesitation of, "Wait, why am I doing this again?" and "Gosh, Bishop looks like fun, I think I'll just stay here." Just head into it, and get as far as you can. Don't feel like you have to have it all figured out before you go, you'll find better answers once you are there. And I look forward to a report when you get back:)
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Re: Trip to piute pass questions

Postby rlown » Tue Sep 08, 2015 8:55 pm

check the smoke this year first.
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Re: Trip to piute pass questions

Postby dooder » Tue Sep 08, 2015 9:16 pm

Thanks lazeydazey! I definitely plan on taking the first day acclimating, and the second day a slower than normal pace. Yeah I definitely hear you on not trying to over plan it. I'm feeling better about just diving in and seeing what happens. Did you attempt to stay in the trees when the lightning was striking or just never got close to you? I figure that would be about the only place to be instead of the open granite basins and lakes?
Rodger that rlown. I wish I kept my pics of the year we had dirtstorms with smoke and ash it was pretty unique for my area.
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Re: Trip to piute pass questions

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Sep 08, 2015 9:36 pm

One of the worst things you can do at altitude is push it too fast. Start out REALLY SLOW. Gradually speed up, but always keep your breathing easy. If you are huffing and puffing and sweating, you are going too fast and will likely get sick. On the uphill sections do the "rest step"- that is step, pause, step, pause- a slow pace but keep going. Going to fast and often stopping is hard on your body. Eat very small amounts of non-spicy, carbohydrates- easy on the fats and proteins which are harder to digest and sip water often.

I question that statistic that 40% get altitude sick at 9,000 feet. Mild loss of apatite, headache, light-headedness and faster than normal heart rate is fairly common, but not what I would call altitude sickness. My favorite food at a first night of high altitude is miso soup and mashed potatoes - get one of those flavored instant potato side packets. Herbal tea is also great to comfort the stomach. And an electrolyte drink, like Gatorade, helps too. Take a pain relief pill BEFORE your headache gets bad. Wear a good pair of sunglasses - glare can also give you a headache.

The good thing about the Piute Pass trail is that there are plenty of place to stop and camp if you get to feeling sick. And it is all beautiful- great scenery and fishing even if you never even make it over the pass.

A more realistic worry would be the weather. You could get caught in a snowstorm. Be prepared for some snow. But a 4-day trip is short and a major storm should be predicted. Check the weather report just before you get on the trail.
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Re: Trip to piute pass questions

Postby Lazeydazey » Tue Sep 08, 2015 10:04 pm

Hahaha! Oh my goodness is Wandering Daisy ever right about the weather being a bigger concern than altitude sickness. Dooder, to answer your question about what we did in the lightning, we did it all wrong. I would love to hear from others the corrrect way to do the barren high sierra in a lightning storm. (Are trekking poles conductors?) When it came in, we were fishing at Muriel. We stayed too long, thinking it was further away than it was (is it true each second between lightning is 1 mile? And at what point do you stop fishing?) then went up and over the pass…Bad! Bad! Bad! There were others seeking shelter near the lake in a rock overhang (also wrong). I guess the goal is to be off the highest passes and peaks before 2pm during the electrical storm season (is September safe?) to avoid it altogether, but if you get caught out in it, find the low, scrubby pines instead of the taller ones, to wait it out, which means possibly coming home in the dark. Which makes me wonder if we had a headlamp in our daypacks…?. Also good to keep scrubby trees in mind when choosing a campsite.

There was a website, I think I found it through a link here on HST, with diagrams on the flow of electrical energy that was really helpful.

The only good thing we did was not continue on to the higher and even more barren Lost Lakes after lunch…all bets of us getting back would have been off!!
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