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[pct-l] Steve's Excellent JMT Adventure

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 
routine going.

- 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?")