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JMT; Kearsarge-Whitney (6/24-6)
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David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
JMT; Kearsarge-Whitney (6/24-6) on 06/30/2008 16:47:53 MDT Print View

My good friend Brian and I, usually partners in mountain bike racing crime, did a three day backpack on the JMT last week. Following are a few details from the trip that might be useful to others in the future.

Originally we had planned a 100+ mile trip, from South Lakes to Whitney Portal. However, after the 130 mile Kaibab Monstercross bike race two weeks ago, we both decided that a mellower outing was in order. The trip got essentially cut in half: we hiked in Kearsarge Pass, hiked out and back to Rae Lakes on the first day, camping at Vidette Meadows. The second day ended at Crabtree Meadows, with a fantastic hike up and over Forester Pass. There was plenty of snow on both sides, but nothing we found at all worrisome in trail runners and trekking poles. We did loose the trail crossing snow fields around the 12k mark on the north side, which from above seemed an unpardonably silly mistake. Day three was to the top of Whitney, then downdowndown to the Portal, where we were installed having beers and burgers by a little after 1400.

We went pseudo-light, bringing what light gear we had not taking much extra stuff. I had an Osprey Talon 22, 35 degree Western Mtneering bag, a lightweight emergency bivvy, and a small foam mat. Perfectly warm enough, though it offered no evening bug protection which would have been nice on both nights from around 1700-1930 or so. I went heavy on food, with freeze-dried dinners and lunch items such as three oranges, a full jar of Nutella, and a loaf of Walnut/Raisin/Molasses bread from Schatt's in Bishop. My pack was quite full due to this.

Both of us were glad we had light loads, as the climbs up the passes were much more fun, and we saw a large number of hikers with traditional, load monster packs, complete with full-on ice axes, crampons, and quasi-mountaineering boots. No thanks. We were also astounded at the number of thru-hikers with ultra light (Gossamer Gear, etc) packs that were appallingly overstuffed and appearing hideously uncomfortable.

We were also glad that we trimmed our ambitions. 18-22 mile days were nice and casual, allowing for plenty of long snack breaks, photo time, and hanging out. I should have brought a fishing rod. Bigger days on the JMT are certainly possible, and would be great fun. Back in March when I was in ultra-running shape, that is. A 4-5 day thru hike is already taking shape as a possibility for next summer.

Overall, the accolade as "America's Most Beautiful trail" seems very possibly correct. The terrain was gorgeous, the trail's path through it clever, logical, and diverse. The construction that went into it, especially sections like the south side of Forester and both sides of Trail Crest, is astounding and beautiful. It's a massive, miles long work of art, and a national treasure. We saw lots of people, it certainly is not wilderness; yet they were almost all friendly, and of a hugely diverse sort. Everything from PCT thru-hikers to 11 year olds on family outings. Great trail experience.

I look forward to returning, and highly recommend a comparable trip.

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
jmt report. on 06/30/2008 17:03:35 MDT Print View

thanks for the report! and glad you had a great time. it's beautiful up there. and MUCH more fun with a light load. plus Schatt's bread. nice!

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
bear boxes on 07/01/2008 10:01:12 MDT Print View

One thing I forgot to add: bear cans are required up there, and can really cramp your style when trying to use a small pack.

We did not bring ours, instead relying on the several in situ bear boxes at several camps. There are two different sites around Vidette Meadows, about 1/3 and 3/4 of a mile south of the trail junction. The southernmost one is preferable in every respect. There was one at Crabtree (upper meadow) also.

We saw one about 5 miles south of Forester in a nice open spot near the creek, and two more between there and Crabtree. I'm not sure who or where one could find the specific locations of all such boxes throughout the JMT, but it'd be an option worth pursuing when planning a trip.

If anyone has anything approaching a list to share, it'd be of great utility.

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
bear box locations. on 07/01/2008 10:52:03 MDT Print View

a couple of sites that Google returned. It's always possible that this information is not wholly up-to-date.

Clickable map from Climber.org
http://www.climber.org/data/BearBoxes/map.html

SEKI Locations
http://www.nps.gov/archive/seki/snrm/wildlife/wildlife_data/lockers.rtf

Aaron Wallace
(basilbop) - F
bear box locations and canister-required areas... on 07/01/2008 12:27:47 MDT Print View

This page indicates both where backcountry bear boxes in the Sierra can be found, and which areas require canisters, at least for '08:

http://www.sierrawildbear.gov/foodstorage/foodstoragemap.htm

It is expected that SEKI will expand its canister-required areas and remove some backcountry lockers starting next year:

http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/bear_bc.htm

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
bear boxes. on 07/01/2008 12:38:40 MDT Print View

personally, i'd rather carry a canister and be able to camp wherever i want than have to camp in heavily-used campsites at boxes anyway. and i'm usually just hiking all day until dark, and that rarely lines up with being at a bearbox.

but dang those canisters are heavy!

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Thanks! on 07/01/2008 14:15:37 MDT Print View

Sorry for my laziness. A lot of that info looks good insofar as my knowledge goes.

There are certainly better camps, but it's a good piece of knowledge to have.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: bear boxes on 07/01/2008 17:02:18 MDT Print View

Dave,
You can get a list of all the bear boxes in SEKI from White Mountain RS in Bishop, Whitney RS in Lone Pine, and probably any other SEKI RS(those are just the 2 I have used). They are, indeed, a valuable source for planning trail hikes. As Dave said, they don't always coincide with where you end up for the night, but knowing where they are may let you decide on the fly to bag it a couple of miles early, or push on an extra couple of miles, just for the peace of mind at the end of a long hard day if you're in serious bear country.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Thanks. on 07/04/2008 12:58:46 MDT Print View

Thanks for the report, I'm doing the exact same trip (Kearsarge to Whitney) solo on the 19th of this month. I was wondering about the snow on Forester- it'll surely be fine for me if it was good for you weeks ago.
(I was nearly turned back by Forester pass once- I went across, but without trekking poles and in trail runners. The snow was abundant and hard enough, even late in the day that I was seriously worried about taking a slide to the bottom on the North side- I carried a large pointed rock, the best thing I could find for self arrest if needed.)
Anyhow, thanks, it is a great trip, some of the best of the JMT.