|Backpack||226.69 Miles||13 Days |
|41,488 ft AEG|
|The following is a log of my solo northbound thru hike of the JMT. It took me 13 days to complete the entire trail with 1 resupply at the Muir Trail Ranch (and some snacks purchased at Reds Meadow). While I initially wanted to take the trail slow, possibly 15 to 20 days, real world commitments required that I finish in 14 days or less. I had the fortune of meeting and hiking with many great people along the way. It was definitely one of the biggest challenges I have undertaken and I am already looking for another long distance trail to complete!
Day 1 Monday 8/20 18.2 Miles AEG 6,932
Started while still dark
Made it to the summit of Whitney in 8 hours 26 minutes and 6 seconds. My head hurts and I feel dehydrated. I have less than 1 liter of water left and 5 miles remain to Guitar Lake. I hiked off and on with a guy my age named Nikolas and his father. This was his father's 8th successful summit out of 9 attempts! They are only up here for a day hike, but my journey is only just beginning!
1941 Elevation 11,042
Stopped to set up camp. I am just past Timberline Lake. Will write more later.
Set up camp and ate mac & cheese, butterfingers, and beef jerky. Today was a LONG day. By the time I reached Trail Crest I only had 1 liter left and I needed that 1 liter to get me to the summit of Mt. Whitney and back down to Guitar Lake. Obviously that wasn't going to happen. I tried to ration the water and by the time I summited Whitney I did not feel good. I had a terrible headache and sore throat. I drank half the liter and figured I could rush downhill the remaining 5 miles to Guitar Lake. Unfortunately, I left my trekking poles leaning against the building on the summit and realized my mistake a mile later. I stashed my pack and had to walk back up to the summit. The rangers had taken my poles into the building and returned them when I asked. I headed down again, but my legs were shaky and my headache was worse. I meant to fill up water at Guitar Lake, but the place was a zoo and I ended up meeting a ranger from the Crabtree station at the lake. I walked with the ranger for a short ways and neglected to fill up with water at the lake as I had planned. I eventually filtered water in the creek just north of Timberline Lake & laid down for a couple minutes for my headache and leg shakes to dissipate. I ended up taking 2 Advil and moving on. I was tempted to camp at the site by the creek, but it was too close to the water. I hiked about 5 or 10 minutes past the lake and found a decent spot. I am surprised it is so warm for 11,000+ feet: only 52 degrees according to my watch. Also, there is absolutely NO WIND! Yey! Don't know where to stop tomorrow. I need to average 16 miles a day, but that will place me on Forester Pass. I either need to cut tomorrow short or go further. I guess I will have to see how I feel in the morning.
Day 2 Tuesday 8/21 15 Miles AEG 3,322
Woke around 0600 and took my time waking up and getting ready. It got a little chilly overnight, but not bad. The sun is hitting camp now and the temperature is great. I am down to less than 1 liter of water and need to fill up at one of the creeks. I occasionally have a slight headache, but I feel almost 100%, my legs don't even hurt! I somehow lost the sponge for my Jetboil even though I never used it. It should have been next to the log with my gear, but has disappeared!
Took a detour to the Crabtree Ranger Station. Met the ranger from yesterday- he is also named Rob. He said to say hello to "Dario" at the Rae Lakes Ranger Station for him. Rob mentioned Crabtree will be torn down next year and rebuilt, so I took pictures of it. Rob also said that 90% of JMT hikers go south, so I am part of the 10% minority!
1821 Elevation 12,478
Stopped at the lake below the final switchbacks to Forester Pass. I think I have the lake to myself and found a site with a rock wall built up to protect against the wind. Gonna try to fish now!
1936 Fished the lake with no success. It is very shallow and I suspect it freezes solid in the winter. I am now slightly behind the average I need (16 miles a day) since I stopped short of Forester. I hope tomorrow I can make up time and go beyond Glenn Pass. Making it to Rae Lakes tomorrow would be great, but I don't know if I can do that. I was too slow today, however I hope as my body adjusts and the pack lightens that I can speed up. Since I am at 12,478 for tonight, the next highest location is only about 12,000 feet (besides Forester Pass). So every night from now on will be at a lower elevation!
The clouds that were looming earlier have dissipated and the wind has died down. I am a little chilly when sitting still, but not bad. However my fingers are cold since I don't have gloves.
I found the sponge I thought I lost; it was in the bear vault!
Its 1944 now and there is still plenty of useable/hikeable light.
I am down to 1.3 liters, but will skip filling up tonight and try to run over the pass to the first lake with only 1 liter tomorrow to make the climb easier. I probably have less than 1 mile to the pass, then 2 or 2.5 more to the lake. I will need to do laundry tomorrow and that should be interesting. I am going to take some Advil now and get to bed.
Day 3 Wednesday 8/22 17 Miles AEG 4,165
On Forester Pass! It hailed and snowed last night! I prepared for rain due to lightning at 0100 and by 0300 it was hailing. It started and stopped through the night. My bivy, sleeping bag, shirt, and sun hoodie are soaked. I left camp in a hurry at 0615 during a break in the storm and hope that the sun will come out later so I can dry everything. Also, last night around 2100 I heard a HUGE rock avalanche that sounded like it was coming from the north side of the lake. At first I thought it was someone breaking into a bear locker (but there are none here) and it went on almost long enough for me to capture video (sound) of it! The trail has snow and it's cloudy, but hopefully conditions will improve! Heading down now!
Stopped at Rae Lakes Ranger Station. Dario was not here, but I met "Suse", a ranger that was temporarily staying at the station. He said to relay a message to George at the LaConte station that he was temporarily at Dario's station.
1846 Elevation 10,332
Stopped next to Arrowhead Lake. Found spot with bear locker and no one around! Must set up camp now, will write more later.
It has been a long day. Covered two passes: Forester and Glenn today. Got hailed on and had to dry out the wet clothes from the previous night. After going over Forester I took advantage of sun near Center Basin Trail (which I never actually found) and was able to partially dry my bag and bivy before clouds rolled in again. I dried my UnderArmour shirt by wearing it, but my hoodie is still hopelessly wet.
It rained and hailed for the last 1.8 miles up to Glenn Pass. It was pretty miserable and I moved as quickly as I could. After dropping towards Rae Lakes the rain stopped and the sun peaked through the clouds. I visited the ranger station (see previous note) and kept hiking. It sprinkled very little and I did not need my rain jacket after passing Rae Lakes.
I fished the unnamed lake directly north of Rae Lakes and landed about 3 Brook Trout. I also fished Rae Lakes with no success. I then continued north and found this great site with a bear locker at Arrowhead Lake. I fished the lake and landed 2-4 more Brook Trout. The trout were very active and biting on almost every cast. I had Mac & Cheese, Salami (delicious) and Emergen-C for dinner. I filtered 3 liters of water when I arrived at the lake, but have gone through almost all of it by eating and washing myself & my clothes. Guess I will filter more tomorrow.
It looks like tomorrow I will go over Pinchot Pass, followed by Mather Pass on Friday. Also, the clouds seem to have cleared and I can see the stars! Here's hoping I don't get rain tonight!
Two notes: First, the mileage in the front of my guidebook does not match with the trail elevation & mileage in the back. Second, I noticed my MTR claim voucher shows a pickup date of 8/14/12 when it should show 8/26/12. I am pretty sure I double checked what I typed before I contacted them and think 8/14 is when I sent in the bucket. Either way, they should hold my stuff for two weeks past the pickup date, so I should be ok.
Day 4 Thursday 8/23 15.8 Miles AEG 3,895
It got really cold last night but I made it. The sleeping bag and bivy were damp when I went to bed, but I wore my rain pants and puffy jacket to keep dry. Everything is wet again from condensation, but at least it didn't rain! The sky is clear now. I will go over Pinchot Pass today and see if I have enough time to go over Mather, but I am getting a late start. I caught 3 Brook Trout & a Rainbow this morning. Also took a single package of tuna from a "free" bag that was in the bear locker.
On top of Pinchot Pass! It took me MUCH longer than I expected. Time for a quick snack, then heading downhill. Hopefully I can make it to the South Fork before it gets dark. It is very cloudy now, but no thunder or rain. People heading south from South Fork said it poured on them overnight. Hopefully it won't rain tonight!
1900 Elevation 10,173
Stopped near South Fork, between Pinchot and Mather Pass. Will write more once set up.
I AM TIRED! Pinchot Pass was much more difficult than I gave it credit for. The 7+ mile climb coupled with a warm sunny day and already tired legs wore me out. The suspension bridge at the start of the climb was awesome: very bouncy. When I reached Sawmill Pass Junction I took a break and dried my sleeping bag and bivy. I chatted with southbounders, then headed up trail and filtered water. As I continued climbing, clouds rolled in, but it never rained. When I dropped down towards Lake Marjorie I met 3 guys who told me there was good fishing & Golden Trout at Evolution Lake and its creek. I stopped at Lake Marjorie and had great fishing. I landed 3 Brookies and a Rainbow. I was hooking up on almost every other cast and even took video for proof. The clouds started to clear and the views of Pinchot and Mather from the lake were amazing! I found a small campsite on a rock outcropping above the 1st junction with the South Fork. If it rains (and I doubt it) there is a rock I could take shelter against. I ate Raspberry Crumble (not great, wouldn't buy again) and tuna for dinner. I filtered water and consulted the guidebook. Trying to reach MTR by midday on day 7 is going to be TOUGH! I am exhausted from putting in major miles and still uncertain if I will arrive on time. I will try to push to at least Bishop Pass junction tomorrow after I go over Mather Pass. Then on Saturday I will go over Muir Pass and get as many miles as I can under my belt. 10 or less miles to reach MTR on Sunday would be great. I want to arrive with plenty of time to hang out and try to make contact with Mom through email and make sure my ride is still on schedule.
After Muir Pass, things look like they will be much easier. The elevation will be lower and the only major pass I will have left is Donohue.
Day 5 Friday 8/24 19.8 Miles AEG 2,934
It got pretty cold last night, but still no rain. My bag and bivy are wet from condensation, but there are no clouds and I will dry them out in a couple of hours. Off to hit Mather Pass and see how far I can make it today!
On top of Mather Pass! This is the earliest I have hit a pass and it is the first time it has been sunny on a pass! There are 3 other people here, two going SB to Taboose Pass and a 3rd going NB.
Taking a break just above Palisades Lakes. Met John & Chris, two NoBo JMT hikers that started at horseshoe meadow near trail pass. They had to exit briefly due to a knee injury, but are back on the trail intending to hike to Happy Isles. They are headed up to Little Pete Meadow approximately 11 miles north of here and invited me to camp with them tonight.
1827 Elevation 8663
Stopped 100 yards south of the LaConte Ranger Station & Bishop Pass trail with John & Chris. Sky was clearer today than any previous day. On to Muir Pass Tomorrow!
Temp is good, sky is clear. Have fire going. Had mashed potatoes + garlic and hot sauce for dinner. Golden staircase was not too bad going down. View into the valley from the top was great. Landed my first 3 Golden Trout at Grouse Meadows today. Found it much easier to keep moving when hiking with others than when solo.
There are two small packages at the trail junction next to the ranger station that are marked for northbound hikers to deliver to the McClure ranger station. Since we seem to be just about the only north bounders (NoBos) on the trail we have taken the packages and will hopefully deliver them tomorrow.
Day 6 Saturday 8/25 15.8 Miles AEG 4,056
Camped on a slope last night so I kept sliding downhill. Very uncomfortable. Waiting for the guys to get up so we can hit Muir Pass and head to Evolution Lake.
At Muir Pass! We met a group of 3 from Salt Lake City who are with Mountain magazine. We told the group about the packages we were delivering to McClure ranger station and their photographer took several pictures of us holding the packages on the pass.
1805 Elevation 9,927 Feet
Found campsite well off the trail below Evolution Lake switchbacks. Fished Little Pete Meadow today and caught a single Golden. Fished Sapphire & Evolution Lakes but didn't catch anything (John caught 1 golden at each lake). Fished the creek below camp tonight and caught 2 Goldens.
Day 7 Sunday 8/26 15.5 Miles AEG 735
Getting ready to leave camp with the guys. Headed to MTR to resupply. I have some pain in my right knee. I hope it will go away soon.
Stopped at second bridge, mostly downhill ahead. Should be about 3 hours out from MTR. John caught 4 Goldens on his first 5 casts in the river. We delivered the packages to the McClure Ranger Station right around 0900. The ranger gave us all snickers bars for our efforts. Two day ground delivery over 18 miles and a nearly 12,000 foot pass isn't too shabby!
1800 Elevation 7706
Picked up supplies from MTR. Checked out the hot springs that John wanted to see (they were terrible) and are now back on the MTR side of the river to camp. When crossing the river to see the hot springs, Chris lost his sandals and almost lost his hiking boots. I was just able to spear the hiking boots with my trekking poles before they floated out of my reach. After spearing his boots, I almost fell into the river myself- pack and all, but just barely managed to avoid catastrophe.
Day 8 Monday 8/27 14.8 Miles AEG 3273
Headed uphill to Seldon Pass today. Last night was good temperature and there is no condensation on my gear. Will Likely Fish Marie Lakes Today. I left camp early without John & Chris, I told them I would wait at Seldon Pass for them
Top of Silver Pass! It was not nearly as hard as I thought, even with a full pack from resupply. Probably the easiest pass so far! Weather is sunny, but with a nice cool breeze! It was a nice change hiking alone and at my own leisure for a while. I fished all 3 lakes on the way up, but only caught 1 golden at the final lake (on 1st cast). Met a group of about 8 girls on the summit who were all about my age and were headed southbound (SoBo) JMT from Tuolumne Meadows on their 9th day. They all cheered and applauded me as I reached the summit. I asked if they were willing to turn around and become NoBo hikers with me to be my personal cheerleaders, but they declined. This morning I met an older man, Luke, who was also a NoBo JMT hiker. He is headed out in a similar time frame as me and I assume I will see him again later today.
1655 Elevation 8954
Camped by Kipp Camp/Bear Creek Trail.
Had garlic mashed potatoes w/ beef jerky for dinner. Also drank hot chocolate w/ dehydrated milk (very good!). Today was long, despite the low miles. We fished Marie Lakes and everyone landed good size brook trout. I caught two, the second was between 12 and 14 inches and the biggest of the 4 we caught. Luke passed us as we ate lunch at the lake and we haven't seen him since. Two SoBos showed up at our camp (an uncle & nephew) and are hiking Tuolumne to Whitney, then returning to hike the Happy Isles segment. The SoBos were out of water purification tablets, so I gave them the backup purification solution I was carrying.
I switched from fishing with kastmasters to John's trout magnet tonight in the river. The results were amazing. The lure is much more lifelike in the water and flows better with the current. I was getting multiple bites on almost every cast and landed several small Brookies.
Tomorrow we will push to Lake Virginia, 20 miles away. The plan is to depart at 0700. I hope we can make it, but it will be tough. The goal is to get close enough to Reds Meadow so we can get burgers on Wednesday. It will also be good to reach a phone & check in with the outside world (internet was too expensive at MTR). I did hear there is cell service in Deer Creek south of Reds Meadow so I may give that a shot. Today was sunny with no clouds. There was a nice cool breeze up to the pass and over to Marie Lakes. After dropping down into the canyon it got warm due to lack of breeze, but it wasn't too bad.
Day 9 Tuesday 8/28 21 Miles AEG 5,178
Preparing to hike to Lake Virginia today. Should be 20 miles & very tough. It got chilly overnight and there is condensation on my sleeping gear, but nothing too terrible.
Top of Silver Pass!
1859 Elevation 10,361
Stopped on the north side of Lake Virginia. Very tired, long day!
Today was long! We took minimal breaks and tried to keep moving at all times. We met Luke near the VVR turnoff & proceeded to leap frog him up Silver Pass. Last time we saw him he was resting approximately 2 miles before the pass. We took a break and filtered water at Squaw Lake. I hooked a trout, but it flipped off as I was raising it out of the water. It appears there is at least one other group camped at the lake with us, but we are separated by a couple hundred yards and can't see their camp. It is chilly now and I suspect it will be cold in the morning. We are headed to Reds tomorrow for burgers, and Chris & John will be obtaining their second resupply package. Then we are likely parting ways. I started the trip solo, and I should finish it solo. We told Luke we were planning to eat at Reds so he may be meeting us there. Quick Note: Tully Hole is not really marked and looks like any other meadow, I am glad we skipped it.
Day 10 Wednesday 8/29 23 Miles AEG 3,486
Leaving Lake Virginia. It did not get very cold overnight and the wind died down after sunset.
Made it to Deer Creek in excellent time. About 6 more miles to Reds. Haven't seen Luke all day, I think we put on too much mileage yesterday and don't think we will be seeing him again.
1946 Elevation 9,298
Stopping for camp just north of Lower Trinity Lake
What a day! Me and the guys got to Reds at about 1540. We had lunch at the cafe- everyone had cheeseburgers. Then we went to the general store. I purchased two bags of animal crackers and some snickers while the guys picked up their resupply bucket (I wanted donuts, but the store didn't have any). The guys stayed at Reds while I pushed on. They were going to take the remainder of their trip easy and I think it was time to part ways: I began as a NoBo Solo hiker and should finish the same way. I pushed hard out of Reds and did much better uphill than I thought I would. I initially felt sluggish from the burger, but felt stronger as I continued up the hill. I am now considering pushing out the last 55 miles or so in the next 3 days instead of 4. I spoke to Mom for the first time since I started and she was already on her way up to Happy Isles from Phoenix. I may try to go over Donohue Pass tomorrow and camp near Lyell Base Camp. Then I could push another 20 mile day over Cathedral Pass on Friday. This would set me up for an easy downhill hike to Happy Isles on Saturday! I have already done two 20+ days in a row though and do not known how much more I can take. My thighs hurt now and I noticed my toes on both feet are sore. They don't feel like they want to bend all the way anymore...?
Today we had clouds developing very fast in the morning. I was getting worried about a possible storm, but they never formed thunderheads. I checked with the locals at Reds General Store and they said weather was supposed to be good over the next couple of days.
There seem to be fewer SoBos every day. I think it is likely because we are reaching the end of the hiking season.
Day 11 Thursday 8/30 21 Miles AEG 4,203
I slept well last night. It was a nice temp and I did not get cold. No condensation in the bag. The sky is already cloudy and the clouds appear to be moving north/northwest. I wonder if they will clear or provide a small storm today? My body is a little sore and my right heel feels as if it has been rubbed raw. I will try putting duct tape on it. Once I hit a lake this morning I will need to filter more water.
On top of Donohue Pass. Very cloudy today, but I guess it's not going to rain. Two trail runners passed me going up to the summit. The runners said they had ran from Tuolumne Meadows over Parker Pass, to Gem, and were now returning over Donohue Pass. I will have to look that up on a map to see what they are describing. I made the runners laugh when I told them they were the only people to northbounders to pass me since Mt. Whitney. For some reason I thought Donohue was over 12,000 feet, so I was happy to find it 1000 feet lower!
1852 AEG 4,203
Stopped for the night. Extremely tired. Whole body hurts. Specifically my left thigh and my feet. All 10 toes feel like they are bleeding. My socks seem to have sand in them that is rubbing my toes raw.
Today was long, but it was a good change to be back by myself again. It's nice to only respond to my body's limits, not the limits of others. I pushed when I had energy and slowed when I didn't. I washed my feet by the creek and they are pretty messed up. The combination of blisters and athletes foot makes them incredibly painful. I have worn sandals since arriving at camp in an attempt to air them out. I usually wear socks to bed, but I will skip that tonight. I figure I can tape my toes with duct tape tomorrow and use Advil to get through the pain. I have about 30 miles left and refuse to quit!
Hopefully tomorrow I won't have any issues following the JMT. I know it goes through Tuolumne Meadows and crosses the highway twice. I hope it's well-marked because my ancient guidebook is confusing.
I am currently in a well forested, large campsite that is well off the trail and nicely hidden. It is a nice temperature right now with a light breeze. There are a couple patches of clouds in the sky, but I can see stars. One of the trail runners told me to expect higher temps in the valley. I wonder if he was just referring to the normal temperature increase associated with lower elevation, or if the weather was actually changing? As long as it doesn't rain I am happy. With Donohue out of the way my final pass will be Cathedral, which is really a big hill and not a true obstacle.
I will need to contact Mom tomorrow and let her know I am exiting 1 day early. No cell service at camp, but I assume I will find some at Tuolumne Meadows.
Off to bed now. It will be nice to sleep to the sound of the river below me in the valley.
Day 12 Friday 8/31 23.1 Miles AEG 2,995
It started lightly raining at about 0500. Luckily the night before I prepared my gear for rain. My pack had all gear inside and was off the ground on a rock. I simply ran over, spread a poncho over everything, then went back into my bivy sack. To protect my sleeping bag from rain through the bivys mesh netting, I simply spread my rain jacket over it. Fortunately it was a light rain and started and stopped every 5 minutes of so. There are still clouds in the sky now, but at least it isn't raining.
Today's plan is to make it over to the backpacker sites just beyond Sunrise High Sierra Camp. This will put me at another 20 mile day and allow me to quickly drop the final 10 miles into Happy Isles tomorrow afternoon.
I have put duct tape on my blisters and hope they don't give me too much trouble today. We shall wait and see...
1918 Elevation 8610
Stopped for the night.
I did the most mileage today of any day of the trip yet! I enjoyed telling people I met that I started from Mt. Whitney 12 days ago and watching their shocked expressions.
I had some slight difficulty following the JMT through Tuolumne Meadows by using my guide book. In the end, the book combined with asking people kept me on the right track.
I had some issue with water source availability when I came through Sunrise HSC. Just before the camp, I met a guy who said "Sunrise" is dry and that the next water was "far" away. I then met an older couple walking to the camp who said they paid for shelter and water & "Sunrise" had water. I assumed that the first guy was referring to Sunrise Lake when he said "Sunrise" and the couple were referring to the camp itself. When I got close to the HSC, I asked a younger couple who was walking through the meadow about water sources. The couple said there was absolutely NO water all the way down to Happy Isles! (They seemed to know what they were talking about, but the trail crosses the Merced River before Happy Isles and they were obviously wrong). The couple then proceeded to try to describe a water source I could locate by walking through the HSC and going off trail "10 or 15 minutes". I tried to follow their directions, but ended up standing in the middle of the HSC completely clueless. I went into the office and explained that I was looking for a water source and the female staff member was extremely rude to me. She kept saying to "follow the trail" to the lakes which I already couldn't locate. I left the camp in frustration and continued heading down trail. I found a small stagnant pool and was getting ready to filter water when I met two hikers headed southbound who told me there was a flowing creek less than an hour ahead at the base of some switchbacks. I followed their directions and located the creek, as well as a Steve: a hiker who was just beginning his full length SB JMT journey. Steve's filter had broken, so I pumped a liter of water for him before continuing my own way and setting up camp.
I am currently camped about 10 or 15 minutes past where I met Steve, still near the base of the switchbacks. I have spotty cell coverage (one bar), but I was able to speak to Mom and confirm my pickup tomorrow between 1000 and 1200 at Curry Village. I think I am only about 10 miles out. My alarm is set for 0530. I will wake up and roll out. No oatmeal for breakfast or hanging out- just heading down trail.
The clouds that were present earlier today dissipated and I had a strong wind blowing to the east. Sky appears cloudless right now and I don't think it will rain tomorrow. Despite the full moon, it is incredibly dark right now due to the thick tree coverage.
Day 13 Saturday 9/1 11 Miles AEG 345
Changed alarm to 0555 since 0530 was too dark. Didn't hear my alarm go off, but was still out of bed at 0600. Everything is packed. Only bringing 2 liters with me down trail. My toes don't hurt like I thought they would. Only taking 2 snickers and a bag of trail mix to eat this morning.
Arrived at Happy Isles! The ending was a little sudden. The trail gradually becomes wider and more crowded with tourists before it ends at an unremarkable stretch of road. I can see how people going SB have a little more to look forward to as they hit the top of Mt. Whitney on their final day and then quickly drop to Whitney Portal. But I made it!!!