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[pct-l] Steve's Excellent JMT Adventure
- Subject: [pct-l] Steve's Excellent JMT Adventure
- From: steve_peterson at sbcglobal.net (Steve Peterson)
- Date: Mon Sep 27 22:15:27 2004
Just got back from my 16-day JMT hike (7 Sep - 22 Sep). I'll be making a website
for the details, but here are some highlights:
- This was to be a "dress rehearsal" for an '05 PCT thru-hike, so I tried to do
it as if I were thru-hiking (though in the opposite direction and without snow
on the ground, high stream levels, etc.). Generally did 15-18 mile days and
resupplied only once, at MTR.
- I crammed 28,000 calories into my Garcia bear can (4,000 per day) in an effort
to see if a) I could actually eat that much of that type of food (I couldn't),
b) it was enough for the effort I'd be exerting (it was), and c) if I would lose
weight on that amount (I did, but not as much as last year, when I lost 6 lbs in
11 days, hiking only 10-15 mpd). This year I seem to have lost only 4-5 lbs over
16 days, but I need a better selection of food so I'll eat more. I had plenty, I
just didn't eat it all.
- Saskia and Jan arrived from Holland with no easy way to get to Yosemite;
housed them the first night in SF, helped them assemble their resupply and UPS
it to VVR (on Labor Day, no less) then we all drove to Y together on one of the
hottest days this summer. Had great weather for the first 2/3 of the hike--high
70s, low 80s, no clouds. We hiked together the first few days, then got
separated for good when they resupplied at VVR and I hiked on.
- We were told by a ranger in Y that there was no water between LYV and Sunrise
and no water at Sunrise. Figured we would have to stay at Sunrise Lakes if we
wanted water that night, but the ranger turned out to be wrong, wrong, wrong.
Water was scarce on the way, but definitely there and findable. Plenty at the
high sierra camp, too (from the faucet). Others had the same experience.
- Saw a young caramel-colored bear while having lunch along Sunrise creek. It
ignored us, and I think Jan got some photos, while Saskia and I were hastily
packing up lunch and looking for Mom.
- Used a bunch of new-to-me gear: alcohol stove (previously used Esbit), Nunatak
quilt (needs more down), a pack of my own design/fabrication (worked well, needs
some minor enhancements), tarp of my own construction made of spinnaker fabric
and taped (not sewn) together which held up even in very high winds, Propore
jacket (worked well), solar umbrella (2nd season--love it; shades entire upper
body, not just head) with telescoping shaft that doubled as tarp pole when 2nd
tree (or any tree) was not available; and Aqua Mira (used iodine for previous
long hike) which worked well and wasn't too fiddly once I got an efficient
- Left my fuel bottle behind on day 3, used small (4" diameter) camp fires to
cook dinner until my resupply at MTR. Boils water as fast as alcohol stove,
simmers well (just rake it apart a little), but blackens pot and is fiddly.
Haven't cooked over fire since I was 9. so it was a little strange at first, but
after the first time worked well. Thankfully this happened during the first half
of the trip, not the last, since fires were totally banned in Sequoia/Kings
Canyon, but not Muir Wilderness. Anyway, what a bozo mistake--not a good sign
for a budding thru-hiker. I could have also eaten cold dinners (i.e., 2nd
lunches) and stretched the food, and survived as well.
- My training hikes (once/week, 8-9 hrs, full pack, 3-4,000' gain, similar loss,
with few rest breaks and fast pace) along with supplementary 2-hr, easier walks
for the 2-3 months prior were enough to get me in adequate shape (and I'm 54).
The trail did the rest, though I made sure that days 2 & 3 were easy days to
recover from the first hard day (we went up the more scenic, but probably harder
Mist Trail) and to acclimate to the altitude.
- Encountered very high winds and drastically colder temps as I approached
Pinchot pass; figured all hell was about to break loose but couldn't read the
weather well enough to know what form it would take. The night at Lake Marjorie
(just before the pass) was very windy and very cold--the tarp, pitched so low I
could hardly crawl into it, cracked like a whip in the wind and was weighted
down with rocks all the way around to keep it in place. Climbed over the pass
and hiked on, watching clouds come in. Got to Rae Lake and got some light hail,
which turned into about an inch of snow overnight, with high winds and low
(28-32F) temps. Windy, cloudy, and intermittently snowy in the morning, I
debated going over Glenn Pass vs. bailing; finally got a small break in the
weather which served to get me going toward the pass, but the blue sky
disappeared quickly and the snowstorm returned. Going over the pass I couldn't
really see the trail that well, but by following footprints, made it over the top.
Down the other side a ranger stopped me to ask for my permit. I'm ultralight,
wearing everything I own, and staying warm only by moving fairly rapidly. I
protested mildly, but to no avail. The permit was buried halfway down my pack,
so out came a bunch of stuff, scattered like a yard-sale over the snow-covered
trail. Satisfied, she let me pack up and take off, but it took me an hour to
warm up. Found a dry place to camp below Vidette Meadow, survived the night,
then had a magical morning of walking through fresh snow (maybe an inch or two
deep) looking at various animal tracks, snow sparkling in the sun with not much
wind, icicles hanging from boulders in the creeks. By the time I got over
Forester, the trail was bare, the temps were cold, but the wind had abated
significantly. Chugged down the other side, I camped at Tyndall Creek, where
another hail/snow storm did its thing for a couple of hours.
The next day it started to warm up a little, though at Crabtree it was only
about 50F in the shade -- a far cry from what I had been dealing with at the
beginning of the trip. Got to Guitar Lake early enough that the sun still had
enough warmth that I could bathe and wash clothes for the first time in four
days. Nice! Found a nicely protected site in the rocks to hide from the wind and
enjoyed a relatively warm and quiet night.
Got up Whitney the next day in warm, sunny conditions. Definitely worth the
climb! Got down to Whitney Portal by about 4pm after chatting way too much with
people coming up; got a ride to Bishop with a guy I'd met on the way down from
the peak--a definite boost up Hwy 395 that I hadn't planned on (my car being
back at Yosemite Valley).
Next morning I was hitching for about 20 minutes when a black Cherokee swerved
over and stopped. It was Saskia and Jan with Jeffrey, a guy we'd met in Yosemite
and that I'd seen only once since then, at Sunrise the first night. What a
coincidence!! They'd bailed over Taboose pass after spending a day trying to
wait out the storm and had hitched to get to WP where Jeffrey had stashed his
Jeep. They'd stayed in Bishop that night, too, and only a block or so away from
me. Needless to say, this was a terrific piece of luck since Jeffrey was headed
back to SF via Tioga Pass and could drop me off at the Valley (and very kindly
-- Learned a lot on the trip; have some hard thinking to do before I tackle the
PCT. I can really appreciate what those who thru-hike the Sierras in mid-June go
through--my trail was (mostly) obvious, (mostly) snow-free, I never got my feet
wet, even at Evolution Creek (found a rock-hop), no bugs (except ants) and it
was still a pretty tiring 8-9 hours/day most days.
--I'm putting together a website containing my detailed log, gear list, water
observations, etc. that should help others planning a late-season/dry year hike.
I'll post the URL here when it's up.
-- Steve ("Fuel? Who needs fuel?")