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How not to prepare for a pack trip

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How not to prepare for a pack trip

Postby Troutdog 59 » Thu Jun 12, 2014 4:36 pm

This is kinda embarrassing to share this, but others have shared some of their failures or harrowing experiences and it has helped others learn, so I’ll share my own epic fail from last weekend even though it’s certainly not my highest moment of backpacking. I was supposed to meet up with some of the HST crew (Old Ranger and Marksor) in the Woodchuck area for some fishing. I had been part of the planning for months and was really looking forward to meeting some of the HST crew and getting to do some back country fishing with them.

Now, while I am no backcountry mountaineer and have done far fewer trips than many on this site such as the guys I would be hiking with, I’ve been at it since the mid 70’s and my background as a geologist has me quite comfortable with cross country travel and route finding. However, one thing I need to account for more these days is I’m just really getting back into packing after only going on a few pack trips in the 00’s. Choices, career, and youth sports limited me to just 3 pack trips in the 00’s. But as my kids have moved on to college and out of the house, I have revived my passion for backpacking and have gone on 6 trips since 2011. In fact, my children (19 and 24) our now venturing out on their own into the backcountry, and if there’s one talk I always give them, it’s the old “try and acclimate before the hike, get plenty of rest, and stay hydrated” spiel. So of course I always follow my own advice right? Well as it turns out, not always. :retard:

By chance, my work required I be in Sacramento on Friday, so I couldn’t make the Friday start with the others. Add to that that I didn’t get all of my stuff together before I left on the work trip, so I still had to pack and do some last minute shopping before I could hit the road. This is not my typical MO for getting ready for a pack trip, but it was for this one. Long story short, it was midnight before I was packed and closer to 1:00 am when I hit the sack. I also had not picked up my wilderness permit, so I had to wait until the Forest Service office opened in Prather in the morning.

So I got up at about 5:30 with about 4 hours of sleep, drove from my home in Clovis (~350’ in elevation) to Prather to pick up my permit, and then on to the trailhead at ~ 8,200’. Knowing I needed to have something to eat before I took off, I grabbed some greasy fast food on the way up. I ski regularly at our local ski resort (elevation about 7,000’ at the base), and I typically do quite well going from Clovis to the resort and skiing in the same day so acclimation is not typically an issue for me.

I got going a little after 10:00 am and noticed I wasn’t really myself right away. I was sweaty and my stomach was queasy. I figured a granola bar and some water would smooth things over and I would just tough it out. I made it about a mile into the trip and had just made my way up to a point at ~ 8,600’, where I planned hike across a canyon and join the main trail. However, near the top of the ridge I became very dizzy and light headed. Luckily, I was near a good shaded spot and had some water. I dropped my pack and drank some more water, hoping to clear up my head. It didn’t work. I was overcome by nausea and I got sick. I was very dizzy and very near passing out (may have, not sure), and I knew I had to stop and rest. Still the old geologist in me figured I would be able to continue. I tried to convince myself that a 20-minute power nap would replenish my energy and I would be able to continue on.

I woke up to find myself hot, sweaty, and in the direct sun. I looked at my watch and it was a little after 1:30 in the afternoon. I had been asleep for over two hours and I still felt like crap. I had to make a few choices at this time. Continue on? Sure I could, but I doubted I would get to the lake that afternoon. Still, I could camp at the lake in front of it and make my way to the guys on Day 2. This might have been about the time I made what I now think was my first smart decision of the day. I still had to drop down cross country about 400’ and then up another 300’ or so to the trail. Nothing technically nasty, but off trail none the less. I stood up and found myself weak and my legs were shaky. I knew that my best option was to turn around and head back to the trailhead, but I was distressed about not meeting my friends at the lake. What would they think? Would they be worried and change their plans and maybe place themselves in harm’s way? I was seriously conflicted, but after some time, I knew I needed to head out as much as it pained me to do so.

What took about an hour to do on the way in, took me over two hours to do on the way out. I was still nauseas and dizzy and had to stop often (not that my being slow is that unusual, just worse than normal). I refilled my water bottle by a small stream and the cool water actually made me feel a bit better for once, so I rested some more. Finally back at the car I rested for another half an hour before leaving a note for OR and Marksor and letting know what happened to me. I then headed back to Wishon Reservoir. By chance, some friends were camping at the resort and I saw them at the store. They were concerned and said I didn’t look well. I kinda laughed and said I think I feel worse than I look. I spent some time with them in camp, and actually started feeling a bit better in the late afternoon after some rest and good food. They invited me to stay, but I packed it up and headed home with my tail between my legs like one thoroughly whooped puppy.

All of this falls firmly on my shoulders. I broke almost every rule I have for going on a pack trip and I paid the price. You would think a guy in his 50’s with my experience would know better, and I do, but??????. I should have gotten my things together far earlier than I did, and I should have spent the day before at elevation to acclimate myself. With the fact that I didn’t get organized or a good night’s rest, I should have delayed the start one day and just hung around Wishon and Courtright to acclimate and get a good night’s rest, and then started the following day. I’m sure I also concerned those who were expecting me to show up. I sincerely apologize for that, but in the end I knew the best option for me was to retreat, so I could return to hike another day.

My hope in sharing this with all of you is that others can learn from my poor planning and hopefully won’t make the same mistakes.
If you stand in the light, you get the feel of the night, and the music that plays in your ear......
In your mind you can hear, a voice so sweet and clear, and the music that plays in your head......
As it flows up from the ground, taking all that hear the sound, close your eyes, it’s about to begin.

R. Trower



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Re: How not to prepare for a pack trip

Postby rlown » Thu Jun 12, 2014 4:50 pm

Glad you're ok, TD.

Thanks for sharing. Those late night runs are never fun and don't usually bode well.

I think the "boys" are out now as OR was online earlier today.
Last edited by rlown on Thu Jun 12, 2014 4:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How not to prepare for a pack trip

Postby maverick » Thu Jun 12, 2014 4:50 pm

Troutdog wrote:
My hope in sharing this with all of you is that others can learn from my poor planning
and hopefully won’t make the same mistakes.


Nothing to be embarrassed about, and thank you so much for having the courage to
post this! Yes you made some mistakes, but you made the correct and wise decision
when it came to the most important one, bailing instead of trying to push on and
possibly having to deal with a more serious medical emergency later on!
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: How not to prepare for a pack trip

Postby sparky » Thu Jun 12, 2014 5:48 pm

Ive been there man, many times. Theres nothing you can do but rest and rehydrate, and lower your altitude. Sometimes I just dont have the luxery to acclimate properly.

My wost cases seem to pretty much exactly match your prep. Little sleep, fast food, late start hiking hard in the hot sun, and of course, sudden altitude. It seems when i have good sleep and a proper breakfast I am much less suseptable. Also, when it is hot, it seems to amplify the effects. But who knows, except it is completely debilitating!!

I was also supposed to meet up with those guys in lake area, and life just got in the way. It is ok as they are in paradise while we are stuck in the city.
There is a million ways to be human, all are worthwhile.

True happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
-Chuang Tzu.
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Re: How not to prepare for a pack trip

Postby oldranger » Thu Jun 12, 2014 7:30 pm

Yes we were worried. Our worst fear was that your car would be at the trailhead when we returned. A few minutes before we arrived at the car I mentioned to Mark that I wouldn't be surprised if there was a note attached to the car. Besides missing your company our biggest complaint was toting the extra goodies we planned on sharing with you! Way too much summer sausage and good cheese.

mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: How not to prepare for a pack trip

Postby Shawn » Thu Jun 12, 2014 8:45 pm

Sure hope it is a simple case poor acclimatization; those symptoms would have me a little worried.
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Re: How not to prepare for a pack trip

Postby austex » Thu Jun 12, 2014 8:54 pm

Consider it a hard decision, as well as a disappointing lesson for the less experienced here and hope they too take heed to do the right thing. It would have been even more disappointing to your friends to find your vehicle at the TH w/o contact from you. Woodchuck w/b there the next time you want. You have potentially given yourself another chance to tackle it another day. You could have been one of those so called statistics that people hate to read about. There is no shame in doing the right thing; ever.
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Re: How not to prepare for a pack trip

Postby markskor » Fri Jun 13, 2014 11:38 am

Hated to miss TroutDog... BTW, OldRanger has re-named him Flatlander, (at least until he shows up tonight and pays for a round...his last chance at redemption too.)

Just to add my own taste of misery for this summer -
The fishing in Woodchuck Country was some of the best ever experienced -
Mike would never admit to it but, I outfished him this trip...Those one man rafts really produced big-time for us...and Z-Rays too. Unfortunately, I messed up and did not cover my legs/ankles while out bagging some amazing jumpers - 15 - 16 inchers. Not respecting the 10,000 foot high-altitude sun, I awoke yesterday to serious, quarter sized sun blisters on my ankles...can't walk...and as such will miss the next trip - the planned spot pack to Rockbound with Mike and his son Matt - which was to start Saturday.
FYI, I got little if any respect too walking back off trail the 5 mile trek to the car after the great trip...BTW, Mike always plans a great trip (mucho thanks again) but if you cannot keep up - no sympathy at all.

Right now he is in the hotel room re-dividing up the food stores - (was to be for three, now only two) while I try to find my way back from Shaver Lake (today) or from Oakhurst (tomorrow) back to Yosemite and eventually Mammoth lakes. (Big sigh!)

BTW, while sitting/hobbling around in Shaver Lake this morning, I looked up and just across the street, saw an old 80 foot pine fall - right across 4 parked cars, now low-riders ...epic way to end this trip I guess.

Looking forward to meeting the big guy Eric tonight in Fresno if no ride found today.
Hike safe!
Mark
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Re: How not to prepare for a pack trip

Postby rlown » Fri Jun 13, 2014 11:49 am

nice. I hope you got a picture of your ankles and the pine tree. maybe some fish pics also. maybe the red shorts aren't really good in the boat? :)

btw, your phone is off.

Glad you guys had good fishing. Wish i could have been there.

Russ

Didn't mean to steal your Thunder, TD. I always add a day to acclimate before i go in.

I've done the exact same thing 2 times, and had my "episode" at 8800'. It's not a fun feeling. One trip, i was able to re-hydrate and be ok. The second wasn't fun. But I was younger.
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Re: How not to prepare for a pack trip

Postby phoenix2000 » Fri Jun 13, 2014 2:57 pm

Troutdog,

I've experienced the same problems you had on your trip. It always happened towards the end of the 1st days hike which was always the hardest. We would always spend one night at elevation to get acclimated and I would still get sick. For the first nights dinner we would have Top Ramen. After eating that I would soon return normal.

Years ago I found this post viewtopic.php?f=26&t=3950&p=23498&hilit=+salt#p23498 . So I tried taking pretzels on the first day of our trip and taking Gatorade mix so that I always had one canteen of Gatorade. It worked. Since then I've never had a problem with getting sick.

Salt may or may not be the solution to the problem you had but give it a try next time your out there. :)
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