I had an unusual experience hiking Mt. Elbert in Colorado last September — something I've never faced in my almost three decades of hiking — I believe I "hit the wall" with my energy levels.
Feeling somewhat sick the night before this hike and the morning of, I did not eat or drink anything.
About two-thirds of the way up along the peak's north trail from Halfmoon Campground, I suddenly felt drained. This was not altitude sickness, I was no longer ill and I was breathing fine. I started to eat and drink, but it was too late to head this off. This was simply a lack of overall energy.
As a struggled along, questioning if I would make it to the top, as my body worked to convert fat into energy, I soon realized it was essentially the same feeling I had experienced decades earlier while running 26 mile marathon races at about the 20 mile mark or just over two hours in time.
My body had used up all its stored energy and needed to tap fat storage.
Anyone else out there ever face a similar situation? I'm also wondering if this is more likely to happen with increased age. Sick or not, I don't want a repeat of this situation in 2005.
I never had anything like this on Whitney or Kings. or any other peak.
--Also, I've given up on the regular, traditional hiking boots now. I've somehow become very prone to heel blisters of late and despite mole skin, heel cups, etc. I lost enough layers of skin off my heels to set me back two weeks.
(My feet seem to sweat a lot more than they used to, a likely cause. Is this sweating problem too related to older age?)
There's talso too much give in my traditional hiking boots on steep elevations. They break in fine on moderate elevation gains, but give me hell on steep trails. I'm going to try low cut, trail running type shoes this year.
I've had similar problems when I haven't been eating & drinking enough while hiking, snowshoeing, etc. I'll be going along just great, then, in a short period of time, become really exhausted and "out of it".
It seems to help if I sit down, eat something that'll give me a burst of energy (Gu or Kendall Mint Cake, for example), plus eat something that'll keep me going long after all those sugars do their thing. And drink. In short order, I'll be re-energized and moving along well again.
You may be onto something about the sweaty feet and age. I never used to have a problem with sweaty feet (and blisters), but I've had a lot of problems the past couple of years. Menopause? Too many gray hairs showing up on my head?
I've heard that antiperspirant applied to the feet might help. I haven't tried it yet, though.
I heard the term "bonk" from a Powerbar commercial a few years back. It seems that when your body runs out of readily available energy sources, and/or electrolytes, you bonk. This should be a good thing, since it is your body's way of keeping you alive...as continuing on with your stressful activity (be it a marathon or Mt. Elbert) may hurt or kill you.
Keep your hydration up with things other than water (any sports drink, or water with electrolyte tablets), and keep fast carbs coming. I've tried Powerbars, Cliffbars, trailmix, PowerGel (mostly when going lite or marathoning), granola bars...etc. Apparently anything like that with sugar and fat is good for now energy. I remember reading somewhere a while back that Nature's Harvest granola bars, while not ideal for snack foods since they're so high in sugar, are great for on-the-go energy from a price standpoint. Pay $1.00 a piece or close to it for PowerBars or Cliff or anything like that, or buy the Nature's Harvest bars in a box of 8 for $2.00 or something.
And about your boots rubbing- As gross as it might sound, I have always had excellent results when I started using vaseline on problem spots. I usually gob a bunch on my heel, certain parts of each foot that usually get rubbed into mega-blisters, and occasionally my toes. Gently put your socks on over the vaseline goo, and presto- your socks and feet are now lubed up and shouldn't be nearly as bad to your feet anymore.
I find that I also have to really monitor my body, especially my fluids, because I perspire a great deal during heavy activity (such as climbing). Therefore, I usually take (and drink) about 50% more water than is recommended for a given trail or hike. If I don't, I can definitely "bonk".
I also have to force myself to keep taking nourishment. I have found that a good supply of lemon drops, kept in a small packet attached to my pack's shoulder straps, both provides instant sugar and keeps my mouth moist and fresher. Butterscotch candies work well, also. And they are available anytime! Minted toothpicks also keep your mouth moist and fresh, and give you something to chew on during those "tense" moments! (Besides, sidling up to a peak with a toothpick properly perched at just the right angle gives you that certain cool "look" on the peak, right?)
As for blisters, I almost never get them, whether hiking or refereeing soccer, primarily because I ALWAYS wear a pair of wicking liner socks along with the heavy wool or wool blend hiking socks. I also try to remember to tighten my boots during descent, so as to reduce the forward shifting of my foot into the toe of the boot as I walk downhill. This is often a major source of blisters. I also found out (the hard way on Whitney) that worn lug soles, which provide much less traction, can result in more slipping and sudden stops on descent, which, of course, forced my foot forward into the boot. The result: some nice blisters.
Haven't used Vaseline or similar materials. but I can see where they could be very helpful.
Hope these ideas are of assistance. Good luck! JES
I've had problems with "bonking", suddenly out of energy. I could continue, but at a snail's pace. Sometimes after a while I seemed to recover and pick up the pace a bit. Gorp (mixed nuts, M&Ms and a few raisins) didn't seem to help that much; I wonder if candy (like those lemon drops) would work better. (as well as adequate fluids; I try to keep hydrated but my 2 liters sometimes runs low). I felt myself flagging after I started up Jebel Katerina in Sinai (its highest, not Mt. Sinai or J. Musa which is much lower) in Oct. 2001; took some candy, recovered and made it to the summit though the 1000 m. (3300') took 5 hours.
I recently found out I have congestive heart failure (not that grim; I'm still working out and do OK at lower elevations), after I completely ran out of breath on the Colorado Trail at 11K' or so and had to give up the hike. However I think I started to "bonk" some time ago before I got it, or complications from a terrible case of flu in Marrakesh and Germany in 97, including cardiomyopathy which may have led to CHF. Perhaps it was just the dread aging process.