Tips for hiking and mountaineering

My running/hiking partner, Bob, and I have done quite a bit of hiking and would like to pass along some tips we have learned along the way. First, here is a list of some of our better hikes.

Mount Shasta. Really a climb complete with ice ax and crampons. We took 2 days, climbing to 11,000 feet on the south ridge in about 5 hours the first day. The second day we made the summit in about 4 hours and the decent all the way to the car in about 1 1/2 hours.

Mount Whitney. We started hiking at Whitney Porthole. We made the summit in 5 hours and the decent in 4. Total distance 22 mile, total altitude +6000 -6000 feet.

Grand Canyon. From the South rim we took the Kibab trail to the North rim. Time 6 hours and 50 minutes. Total altitude -5000 +6000 feet over 23 miles.

Skyline to the Sea trail. The trail starts at Castle Rock State Park and goes through Big Basin State Park in northern California. Time was 10 hours and 30 minutes. The distance was 38 miles. The route has numerous uphill and downhill sections. Starting altitude is 3000 feet and ends at the ocean.

Now for the tips:

Drink plenty of water. I know everybody says that. This is what I have found that will help you know if you are drinking enough: If you don't have to piss every 2 hours you need to drink more.

Change your hiking socks every 2 hours. This should be combined with your bathroom break.

Don't take too many stops. Hike at a pace that you can keep up for 2 hours. Too many stops and your legs start to cramp up.

Take aspirin before and during your hike. If you are sensitive or allergic to aspirin don't take it. Aspirin helps keep your joints from swelling. This will help you hike farther without getting joint pain.

When hiking at altitudes above 8,000 feet take some TUMS. Yes, the stomach antacid. This will help calm your stomach and stave off the effects of high altitude. I have never suffered altitude sickness when taking Tums.

Train for your hikes. Don't fool yourself and think a couple of mile hikes several time a week will prepare you for a difficult hike. Your practice hikes need to get harder and harder until you are doing the distance and altitude gain that you intend to do on your trip. When we trained for Mount Whitney, we hiked a local mountain by our house called Mission Peak. The trail is 6 mile long and has an altitude gain of +2100 and -2100 feet round trip. Toward the end of our training we hiked this 3 times in a row, stopping only to go to the bathroom and change our socks. When we got to Mount Whitney, much to our pleasure the hike was quite easy. Stair Masters are not the same as hiking up hill. At the most they can only simulate half of your weight.

Trim your toenails. Trim your toenails about a week before you go on your big hike. Don't trim them the day of your hike. Many people trim them too short and end up with blisters on the end of their toes. By trimming them a week in advance you can make sure they are just right.

Wear the shoes you are used to. I have seen a lot of people train in tennis shoes and then the day of the big hike change to hiking boots. It's better to hike in tennis shoes if you are used to them than to try to break in some hiking boots the day of your hike. Better yet, train in your hiking boots. Wear them to work. Live in them for several weeks before you big trip.