Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Road to Whitney 4: The Final Countdown

Here we are, just a few weeks away from summit day and I have finally begun final preparations for the trip. My training plan has been doing it's job and all my gear is together and ready. The final weeks before a trip are often the hardest as the anticipation has built up to astonishing levels over the past months of training. The key now is to continue to train and keep the fitness you have built up and refine and organize your gear load for max efficiency on the trip.

Gear load out

How you pack your gear is the second most important decision you can make behind what you take.  Gear selection itself should be complete by now (see my post on gear selection here) so you just have to figure out how to stuff all your things in your pack in a way that won't hinder you on the trail. I have laid out a photo of nearly all of the gear I will be bringing (excluding clothing and food) to give you an idea of the range of items that you need to carry.
Observant readers will notice the lack of a headlamp...it's in the pack!
There are two important factors to consider before you start stuffing things into your pack; the item weight and when you will need them. Balancing your load with heavy items can sometimes be difficult to manage due to either size or shape. My rule of thumb is to place my heavy items vertically about 3/4 of the way to the bottom of the pack and in the direct center line of the pack right up against my back. This ensures most of the load is directly on my hips and I won't be unbalanced. If you are strapping heavier items externally, I always make sure to balance the load with something of equal weight on the opposite side of the pack; I don't want to be tipping over on rocky traverses or falling in creeks.

The other important factor when determining gear location is when or how often I will use the item. Items like sleeping bags and tents can be placed at the bottom of the pack, while items like food and water should be right at the top or near an access point so you don't have to take anything else out to get to them.

An example of my pack load layout is as follows

  • Top: Small, high use items.  Food, water, lights, first aid and navigation, cameras.
  • Upper-Mid: Rain gear, Jackets, gloves and water filtration.
  • Middle: Stove, cooking gear, spare batteries, rain fly.
  • Lower-Mid: Bear Canister
  • Bottom: Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad.
  • Externally: Rock helmet, tent poles, ground tarp, trekking poles.
The most important thing here is to make sure the items you need most often on the trail are easily accessible and that your load is distributed comfortably.  You want to avoid strapping too much stuff to the outside of your pack as this can get caught on trees or underbrush and hinder your movement.

Another often overlooked packing strategy is how you pack your food.  I always arrange my snacks into pre-measured bags with a time written on it I have to eat it by. This ensures I eat enough along the trail and don't have to search around for different food items in my pack. As you gain altitude, this become a real life saver as you will naturally lose your appetite. By stuffing down the food in each bag by the pre-determined time, I am always assured of having eaten enough.

All that is left now is to make sure you pack everything in your car for the trip. I find it an absolute must to use a detailed checklist so I avoid forgetting anything important. The last thing you want is to leave a camera battery at home or to forget your hiking boots.

Final training

With so little time remaining before the trip, there is not really much time left to continue to improve your fitness. I am currently focused on maintaining my form and avoiding injuries. My current training tempo looks something like this:

Cycling- 30 miles, 4x per week.
Stair climbing- 80 reps, 4x per week.
Running- 4 miles, 1x per week.
Hiking- 10+ miles, 1-2x per week.
Rock climbing- 2 hours, 3x per week.

Again, I want to stress that there is no point in killing yourself trying to get into better shape this close. You are simply maintaining the base fitness you have already built up and moving towards a peak training tempo about 1 week prior to leaving. At that point, you want to begin resting so you will be fresh for the actual summit attempt.

Avoiding injuries or illness is the biggest worry at this point in time; I generally recommend ramping up your intake of vitamin C and observing strict sleep schedules to help you avoid illnesses and to train with a healthy dose of caution.

1 comment: