Water is heavy, so I never carry more than two quarts for one-day ascents. I drink a lot in the a.m. and expect to be dehydrated by day's end.
I'm a strong believer in taking frequent breaks. To make sure I rest enough, I stop every hour to have a Gu and some water.
I've had AMS at least a dozen times, and I've learned the hard way that there's nothing to do but take your time getting to the top.
Getting in the right shape takes a lot of time. Start cardio--biking, running, whatever you'll stick to--at least six months in advance.
Ten months out, I do 20 hours a week of long, slow distances biking, ski touring and running. Four months prior, I add a loaded pack to runs.
Getting AMS once doesn't mean you can't ever handle that altitude. I've gotten sick at elevation one day, then been fine higher up a month later.
After a long day of climbing, simple is best. Carry something easy to prepare, nutritious and light. I'm big on dehydrated mashed potatoes.
Laphroaig 10 Year Old scotch. Plus, spare toilet paper to clean cookware--nothing's more nauseating than lasagna in your morning tea.
FOUR EASY PEAKS
If you're shooting high, start small. Notch a few of these classic one-day ascents and you'll be scaling the big boys in no time.
LONGS PEAK Colorado (14,255 feet)
An hour from Denver, Longs may be accessible, but it's no cakewalk. The eight-mile, nontechnical Keyhole Route climbs nearly 5,000 vertical feet over boulder fields and class 3 rock faces.
MOUNT RAINIER Washington (14,411 feet)
With alpine meadows leading to its glaciated volcanic peak, Rainier ranks among the country's premier training grounds for first-time mountaineers. Try the Disappointment Cleaver route.
MOUNT WHITNEY California (14,494 feet)
The main ascension trail, an 11-mile, 6,100-vertical-foot tromp, is strenuous but requires no specialized skills or equipment. Views from the top make up for the crowds.
PICO DE ORIZABA Mexico (18,855 feet)
Some 125 miles east of the capital, Mexico's highest summit requires glacier-traverse skills. The payoff? Glimpses of the Gulf and two nearby volcanoes.