Hiking Tip–Acclimatize

Hiking the Sierras on the Pacific Crest Trail--Kearsarge PassThru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail--Anza-Borrego Desert

Thousand Island Lake (2997m) and Banner Peak (...

Thousand Island Lake (2997m) and Banner Peak (3943m), looking southwest from John Muir Trail/Pacific Crest Trail at 3080m, in the Ansel Adams Wilderness of the Sierra Nevada, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Take along the PCT near Parks Creek T...

English: Take along the PCT near Parks Creek Trailhead in the Scott Mountains. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A sign warning of altitude sickness at the Mou...

A sign warning of altitude sickness at the Mount Evans observation area in Colorado. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got altitude sickness once, and I hope I never get it again. I’d left the Sierras on the Pacific Crest Trail to come home (Boston) to a family wedding. I hadn’t gotten sick when I’d been hiking the Sierras, as my body had adapted to the climbs. The problem was when I returned. I got off the plane and immediately took a prearranged ride straight up to Onion Valley Trailhead (9400 ft.) and from there, started climbing to Kearsarge Pass (11,760 ft.). Within minutes I experienced a slight headache and shortness of breath. Within twenty minutes I had no legs and a worsening headache.

For two days, I had to alternate a half hour of rest with a half hour of slow hiking. I felt lousy. I was weak, and most of the time my head felt as big as a basketball. I should have gotten a room on the day I returned, and the next morning climbed half way and made camp. I won’t make the mistake again.

Hiking Tip: Acclimatize

Here’s a different example. Prior to starting the PCT at the Mexican border in early May, I had spent several days in sunny San Diego. I had come from Boston temperatures that were in the low 50’s, but now in the desert it would get into the 90’s. The days spent adapting to a warmer climate in San Diego served me well. At the PCT border trailhead, I met another hiker who had arrived from Michigan just the night before. He was lean and mean and young, but he was toast by afternoon. He’d made the mistake of not adapting to the climate. He slept okay that night and gamely poled off the next morning, but the sun and 90+ temps took him out again. I and two other hikers moved ahead, and that was the last we saw of him.

The CDT photo was taken somewhere in southern New Mexico on a typical hot day.

The Continental Divide Trail

Hiking the Continental Divide TrailBackpacking the Continental Divide Trail

Continental Divide Trail

Continental Divide Trail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CDT

CDT (Photo credit: asafantman)

English: Looking north on the Continental Divi...

English: Looking north on the Continental Divide Trail in the Weminuche Wilderness between the Palisade Meadows cutoff and the Knife Edge – of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) begins at the Mexican border in New Mexico and runs 3100 miles through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, part of Idaho, and Montana. It is not well-marked and is still a work in progress. Many thru-hikers start at the Canadian border and hike south; others will begin in the south and head north.

If you attempt to thru-hike this trail, carry a GPS, become good at navigation–map and compass–and go with a partner. I haven’t finished this trail but hiking it alone, most of my thinking time was spent trying to confirm where I was and trying not to get lost.  I did get lost several times and had to backtrack to figure things out.

Study the CDT website: www.cdtrail.org  At the CDT website you can learn about the trail and buy maps.

Read thru-hiker journals: www.trailjournals.com  An excellent way to prepare is to read the journals of successful CDT thru-hikers. Go to the site above and look at the journals; print one out and study it. Most journalists discuss gear, navigation, how they handled snow, the towns where they resupplied, techniques, etc.

Invest in a bookwww.booksforhikers.com On the left side, scroll down to CDT. The most helpful book for me was Yogi’s CDT Handbook (Planning Guide and Town Guide) by Jackie McDonnell. Request the 2010 edition.

You won’t meet many thru-hikers on this trail. I didn’t meet any, although I didn’t finish. To finish in one season, you need to average about twenty miles a day; there were days I couldn’t do that, mostly because of snow. But it is a great experience to hike this “King of Trails.”

The Continental Divide Trail

Hiking the Continental Divide TrailBackpacking the Continental Divide TrailThe Continental Divide Trail (CDT) begins at the Mexican border in New Mexico and runs 3100 miles through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, part of Idaho, and Montana. It is not well-marked and is still a work in progress. Many thru-hikers start at the Canadian border and hike south; others will begin in the south and head north.

If you attempt to thru-hike this trail, carry a GPS, become good at navigation–map and compass–and go with a partner. I haven’t finished this trail but hiking it alone, most of my thinking time was spent trying to confirm where I was and trying not to get lost.  I did get lost several times and had to backtrack to figure things out.

Study the CDT website: www.cdtrail.org  At the CDT website you can learn about the trail and buy maps.

Read thru-hiker journals: www.trailjournals.com  An excellent way to prepare is to read the journals of successful CDT thru-hikers. Go to the site above and look at the journals; print one out and study it. Most journalists discuss gear, navigation, how they handled snow, the towns where they resupplied, techniques, etc.

Invest in a bookwww.booksforhikers.com On the left side, scroll down to CDT. The most helpful book for me was Yogi’s CDT Handbook (Planning Guide and Town Guide) by Jackie McDonnell. Request the 2010 edition.

You won’t meet many thru-hikers on this trail. I didn’t meet any, although I didn’t finish. To finish in one season, you need to average about twenty miles a day; there were days I couldn’t do that, mostly because of snow. But it is a great experience to hike this “King of Trails.”