relative difficulty of HST?

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sparkler
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relative difficulty of HST?

Post by sparkler » Thu Mar 29, 2018 6:15 am

hi all-

i'm a mostly east coast/AT backpacker and have been thinking about doing the HST this summer. i've noticed many mentions, both by the NPS and others, that 6 days to hike from giant forest to whitney portal is a fast trip for an experienced backpacker.

the full trip, including summiting whitney, seems to be about 72 miles. if i were planning a 72 mile trip most anywhere on the east coast i'd plan for 4 days, possibly 5. but not 6.

some of the days in a suggested 6 day itinerary are, to me, half days at best (8 or 9 miles). this generally leads me to believe that an under 6 day hike across is by no means difficult. that and i note the FKT is under 16 hours.

so has anyone here done it in 4 days? has anyone done it and a lot of the AT and can draw a comparison between them? for instance, i've hiked across the smokies and slightly beyond on the AT in 4 days. would this hike be dramatically more difficult then that? is it more like hiking in say, the white mountains or the maine high peaks?

thanks for any insights.








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balzaccom
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Re: relative difficulty of HST?

Post by balzaccom » Thu Mar 29, 2018 6:21 am

My first reaction is that the HST is mile higher than the AT, which begins to make a difference at 10,000 feet or so. Have you ever hiked at this elevation before? Both the elevation and the very low humidity make hiking in the Sierra a very different experience than anything on the East Coast.

Second thought is that there may well be more reasons to stop and look along the HST.
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The Other Tom
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Re: relative difficulty of HST?

Post by The Other Tom » Thu Mar 29, 2018 6:53 am

Being from the east coast myself, and hiking in the Appalachians , I can echo Balzaccom's sentiments. Don't under estimate the effect of altitude. I find that my pace in the Sierra is about half that of the Appalachians. And, since you'll be above tree line (unlike most of the AT), you'll want to stop and take in the views.
You might want to ask your question on whiteblaze.net. You'll probably find more people there who have hiked in the Sierra and the AT.
By the way, once you hike in the Sierra, you won't want to go back to the AT :)

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sparkler
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Re: relative difficulty of HST?

Post by sparkler » Thu Mar 29, 2018 7:15 am

ive hiked above, or at least near 10K feet before, but not much. i cant say ive ever felt any sort of fatigue or anything that i would attribute to the altitude, but ive never done it all day for days on end either.

it doesnt seem like the HST is above 10K all that much though? i'm confident in saying 8 or 9 K (think grand canyon, glacier NP, grand teton, yellowstone, yosemite around the valley, etc) doesnt effect me at all. at 11K maybe it would.

as far as stop and take in the views... sure, but not for the half of the day. i go hiking to hike. i enjoy an awesome landscape while i'm walking through it much more than when i'm sitting on a rock. i dont hike fast and you wouldnt look at me and see me as being in any sort of rush, not remotely. but i don't sit still much.

the lower humidity i take as a big positive. not sure if it was meant that way or not. its also my understanding that the trail grade, at least on the PCT/JMT, is a lot more gentle than on much of the AT. i'm fairly comfortable in guessing the same applies to the HST?

my mind comes back to 2 key factoids- people, a whole freaking lot of them, presumably not all experienced, do up and back to mt whitney in a day. and the FKT for the PCT is, considering the increased length, much faster than the one for the AT.

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Re: relative difficulty of HST?

Post by AlmostThere » Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:05 am

You are right than many people summit Whitney. Many people also die there. Many many many people are taken down by SAR, injured or suffering elevation sickness.

Anyone can develop elevation issues whether they have been at 10k many times or only once. Never say never, know as much as you can about the symptoms, and follow recommendations.

You're also going to dehydrate yourself working hard - that predisposes you to elevation symptoms as well as to hypothermia, which occurs more often in summer than it does in winter. Another condition to be knowledgeable about. Because you can get it when it's 50F and breezy, and mild hypothermia can slip into moderate, start to impair your thinking, and next thing you're making very bad decisions for yourself.

If you want to do the HST in two days, four, whatever, more power to you... that will never be me. I can do 8 miles by lunch but - nope. Swimming, fishing, side trips, there's plenty of reasons to not waste your time powering straight through.

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Re: relative difficulty of HST?

Post by Eiprahs » Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:37 am

Why not, when in Rome, do as the Romans do? Plan the trip for 7 days per recommendation. If you are all strong and gnarly, finish early. And get back to us with a trip report with lots of photos!!

PS. AlmostThere is correct in all respects. We saw lots of very fit sick people on Whitney, including one so ill he could not continue. You can't train to prevent altitude sickness but you can gradually adapt by taking time. Have a great trip!
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Re: relative difficulty of HST?

Post by zacjust32 » Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:46 am

I did it in 5 days 2 years ago and stopped early several days so I wouldn't finish in less. A good early start will get you to Hamilton in 1 day. Hamilton --> Moraine Lake --> Junction Meadow --> Guitar Lake --> Whitney Portal. The last day started at 2AM and was the longest, but going through the Kern canyon was most difficult because of the sand and heat. It's a beautiful hike and most people I met on the trail were doing it in 5-6 days carrying average backpacking weights. If you are in decent shape it should be no problem as the altitude builds towards the end, giving you a couple days to acclimate. Do what you are comfortable with and HYOH.

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Re: relative difficulty of HST?

Post by kpeter » Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:57 am

The HST is a very good, well maintained trail with reasonable grades and I see no reason why you shouldn't make exceptional time if that is really what you want to do. Some stream crossings will slow you down, depending upon the time of year.

Elevation is a concern since you are inexperienced with it. Kaweah Gap is only 10700, but Trail Crest is 13,600, and of course Whitney is nearly 14500. Learning all there is to know about elevation concerns and being prepared would be wise.

I think the sentiment you are hearing is that powering through the Appalachian Trail makes perfect sense to those of us who have hiked (parts) of it. Making time on the long green tunnel is what delivers the sense of accomplishment. But the HST was specifically engineered for the views--the first trail in America to be built for recreational purposes first and foremost, and was laid out with an eye for viewsheds and not strictly for transit. Most people who have hiked it want to savor it.
Last edited by kpeter on Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

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sparkler
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Re: relative difficulty of HST?

Post by sparkler » Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:01 am

as to "when in rome...." there are many reasons why not- transportation arrangements chief amongst them. an another is because i dont want to spend half of my days just hanging out.

speaking of that, i'm not sure why someone needs to criticize someone for wanting to walk all day rather than do half a day and then do all of that other stuff. if thats your cup of tea, great. it isnt mine. i have zero interest in stopping to go for a swim.

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sparkler
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Re: relative difficulty of HST?

Post by sparkler » Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:09 am

i feel the need to state again- i do not hike with my head down focused on nothing but walking as quickly as possible. not remotely. but i get up and break camp by 7 am and i walk until 7pm, with a maybe a total of one hour of break time in 5 and 10 minute chunks.

a suggested 8 mile day from the NPS itinerary broken up over 11 hours of hiking comes to .7 MPH. no one can literally walk that slow and i simply do not enjoy taking tons of long breaks on a hiking trip. over that 11 hours of hiking, i would aim to cover... lets say 18 miles. thats 1.6 MPH. is anyone here really going to tell me that walking at 1.6 MPH is just trying to make time and not enjoying it? it is a very slow, leisurely stroll. i enjoy the hell out of it. while moving. this notion that one either must take a ton of breaks and really stretch things out or else they must just be hyper focused on nothing but making miles quickly is very common in hiking circles (plenty of people on the AT take that position too) and always puzzles me greatly.

so i guess the question is, will i be able to maintain 1.6 MPH or slightly more on the HST? seems the answer is that if the altitude doesn't get me then yes i will.

side trips is an interesting idea if anyone wants to suggest some, but thats not going to change how many miles i walk in a day, just maybe give me more to fill any "extra" time i might find myself with.

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