Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
John Muir Trail fastpack
Display Avatars Sort By:
Mark Davis
(Trailster) - F

Locale: Cascades
John Muir Trail fastpack on 09/06/2008 18:06:12 MDT Print View

Hiking the John Muir Trail has been a dream of mine almost my whole life. I decided to do the trail after my 80-year old father completed his coast-to-coast bike ride while undergoing chemotherapy. The idea of a fastpack came about because I have two young children who can't go with me and I didn't want to spend a lot of time away from them. After researching it on the internet I found several people who were completing record-setting fastpacks in self-support fashion and I decided to follow this model for myself.

I acclimated for my hike by backpacking with my family up the Miter Basin in Sequoia National Park for 8 days. I departed Whitney Portals at 5:10 a.m. on August 14, 2008.Pack Weight 18 lbs.
I hiked to the Summit of Mt Whitney in 4 1/2 hours and departed at 10:00 a.m. Kept hiking till midnight and camped at Rae Lakes. The next day I felt tired going over Pinchot and Mather passes, and camped on the Kings River.

The third day went better. I made it over Muir and Seldon passes. This was my favorite part of the whole trail and I hope to go back there someday to explore. The fourth day also went great and I made it to Devils Postpile for the night. Leaving Devils Postpile the next day, I came upon a small wildfire, attempted to put it out as best I could and called 911 with my cell phone - which worked! I felt very good about doing something to protect this gorgeous wilderness. That afternoon my left leg developed a horrendous cramp and I limped into Tuolumne Meadows for the night. The next morning I felt a little better and hiked the 24 miles to Happy Isles, where I was surprised to find the bridge missing. My wife and kids met me here and took me down to Cathedral Beach so I could soak the dirt off of my feet and drink a beer. My total time on the jMT was 5 days, 5 hours and 18 minutes (not that I was keeping track).

This was a very exciting and challenging 5 days...and I'm thinking about doing it agian. Also, I like the way it removed my "love handles". Through the whole trip I had doubts about being able to finish this trail and I was pleased every time I passed an exit trail and kept going. This helped build my confidence and made me feel real good.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: John Muir Trail fastpack on 09/06/2008 18:32:48 MDT Print View

Congratulations Mark!!

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: John Muir Trail fastpack on 09/06/2008 18:44:22 MDT Print View

Great job!!!

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
John Muir Trail fastpack on 09/06/2008 19:53:26 MDT Print View

Talk about being in shape..........!

What did that pack weigh? I can't read the scale in the photo.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: John Muir Trail fastpack on 09/06/2008 21:08:06 MDT Print View


"The idea of a fastpack came about because I have two young children who can't go with me and I didn't want to spend a lot of time away from them."

I completely understand...this is why I go fast when I'm out there.
Thanks for the report.

Mark Davis
(Trailster) - F

Locale: Cascades
Pack Wieght on 09/06/2008 23:29:18 MDT Print View

Thanks Bob,
I had an 18 pound pack, 8 for base and 10 for food.
Hiking light sure is fun. Beats the 70 pound pack I have when I pack with the family. But I do prefer having the company. someday it will all come together.

(strong806) - F
John Muir Trail fastpack on 09/07/2008 11:11:33 MDT Print View

Great story!

What kind of gaiters are you wearing in the photo?

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 09/07/2008 12:02:30 MDT Print View


Edited by DaveT on 01/18/2015 19:09:09 MST.

Roger B
(rogerb) - MLife

Locale: Here and there
Re: John Muir Trail fastpack on 09/07/2008 12:09:01 MDT Print View

Mark, well done, for me my family is also the most important part of my life.

Can you give us a brief overview of your gear? And more importantly what would you change (or not take next time).

Edited by rogerb on 09/07/2008 12:36:42 MDT.

Carlos Figueroa
(cfigueroa) - F

Locale: Santa Cruz Area
Re: John Muir Trail fastpack on 09/07/2008 15:26:57 MDT Print View

Hi Mark,
I am amazed about your fastpack since I also had limited time (two young kids) and I did the JMT in early August in the opposite direction. I trained for 40 miles per day and was happy with my results. Starting at Happy Isles, I was able to get to Island Pass by the end of the first day, which I consider to be the hardest day of hiking I have ever experience. I estimated that the first day I climbed around 15,000 ft. After a slow start, I started feeling a lot better and luck was on my side – this part of the JMT has the least climbing – I was able to get to Silver Lake Pass. The third day I was able to get to Evolution Meadow; the fourth to Lake Marjorie; the fifth somewhere before Crabtree (this was a hard day, mainly because my did not like the descend of Forester Pass); and finally I was in Whitney Portal by the morning of the sixth day. Mark, I amazingly took about the same amount of time but I left my watch in my backpack and purposely did not time myself. My pack started at 20 lbs (8.5 lb base plus 11.5 lbs of food and water loaded up) and I did it without any food pick-ups.

I agree with you Mark, after this trip I was fired up and was already looking forward to doing this again sometime in the future. It was amazing to see the whole JMT within a week’s time, and of course, I would love to go back and explore many of the spots I saw, given enough time. Furthermore, something to keep in mind if you have not already done this but in July, I was able to do the TRT in four days (it was also a lot of fun). Great job Mark!

Mark Davis
(Trailster) - F

Locale: Cascades
JMT Gear on 09/07/2008 19:17:44 MDT Print View

JMT Gear

This was all the gear and food I used on this hike.

The things I would change start with the 40 degree sleeping bag. I have exchanged it for a Golite ultra 20, because I was very cold at night. I usually sleep very warm , but after the long days of hiking into the night I needed a warmer bag than normal. I think good sleep is very important and it sure makes the trip more fun.

My converted xc skating poles (4 oz) worked great, but I have removed the Leki metal tips and glued on Leki rubber tips. I think these will work much better on rock slabs, won't stick in soft soil, be quieter, and give some cushion.

My gaiters were from REI, but I only used them one day. The dirt was not that bad without them and I would not take any on my next trip. I would rather bring more socks.

I used a Katadyn filtering water bottle and it worked great. It is nice to be able to refill it with water without even taking off my pack, and carrying less water lowered my pack weight.

My shoes were Salomon xa pro 3d with a Sole insole. My feet were very comfortable with no pain on the soles at all. Toed socks stopped any blisters from forming.

My food was Hammer Perpetuem and Recoverite, which work great and was very light, but I would add more variety next time. A couple of gels and power bars each day would be good. Another item that worked was Hammer Endurolytes. These are electrolytes replacement caps and are a must have in hot weather.

Otherwise all I would do is trim an ounce or two from some of the other gear.

Another gear issue is a bear container. I did not take one. I talked about it with the permit issuing ranger in Lone Pine, and we worked out a plan of using bear storage lockers till outside the container required area. I stayed at the Tuolumne Meadows Hiker Camp for the one night in Yosemite NP. After calling 911 to report a small wildfire at Trinity Lakes I pasted the ranger responding to the call. She asked me about my bear container and I told her I was hiking all the way to Tuolumne Meadows. I don't think she believed me, but let me kept hiking any way. I was hoping to use a Ursa bag, but it seems they lost their approval last year.

And yet another issue was the WAG Bag in the Whitney Zone. Again, I did not have one, and I ended up running fast for the boundary past Crabtree. There seems to be some confusion between the different government agencies. The NP ranger at Crabtree (I talked to her on my family backpack trip) said that I would not need one (I don't think she wanted hikers to drop them off at her station in a used condition). The USFS ranger did want me to use one and then carry it to Yosemite (not going to happen). This is a small glitch in an otherwise very successful program.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Wag Bag on 09/08/2008 09:29:18 MDT Print View

The sign on the Wag Bag pickup box at Crabtree was pretty clear- Only required for those exiting at Whitney Portal.

So for those doing the JMT- Southbound only. Northbound not required.

Mark and Carlos both of your hikes are amazing. I did well to finish in 15 days last month considering I hadn't backpacked in several years and did limited conditioning. After the trip I started thinking of "next time" and figured somewhere between 9 and 11 days would be the fastest that I would attempt. The idea of a family trip immediately before to acclimate would be great.


Edited by jimqpublic on 09/08/2008 09:56:29 MDT.

(Conductor) - MLife

Locale: Sierra Nevada
John Muir Trail fastpack on 09/08/2008 15:18:17 MDT Print View

I met you on top of Whitney finishing my Southbound. Man did you looked ready and rearing to go! Congratulations on your awesome fast-pack.

Mark Davis
(Trailster) - F

Locale: Cascades
JMT Fastpack on 09/08/2008 16:17:42 MDT Print View

Carlos, sounds like you had a wonderfully successful hike. I too had doubts about the final outcome of my hike. There were so many things that could go wrong. It wasn't till my last day that I started thinking I would finish the trail, but most days I was still very happy with my progress. I knew that my good luck could change at any time. I'm going to do some trails up here in Oregon this fall. Circumnavigating the Three Sisters is about 45 miles and would be a good one day run/hike. The solo aspect of these hikes does add to the risk and this is part of every decision I make. A simple fall could be a major problem. For me everything had to be going great or I would bail out early. I feel I could always come back and hike another day. I guess I have a lower acceptance of risk that some people. I wish you many happy miles.

Carlos Figueroa
(cfigueroa) - F

Locale: Santa Cruz Area
Re: JMT fastpack on 09/09/2008 04:22:30 MDT Print View

Hey Mark, how did you get ready for your fastpack? What type of training do you do? The idea about fastpacking the JMT came to me from an article written by Michael Lanza in Backpacker magazine (December 2007) on thru-hiking the JMT. Here is the link to Michael Lanza homepage where the article is in pdf format:

These group of people where able to complete it in 7 days and talk a little about their training. So after reading this article and getting fired up to do it, I knew I had to train harder than they did because they suffered a lot on their fastpack. I started training like hell and about a month before my attempt on the JMT, I was doing 40 miles per day, 3 days a week.

After showing my wife your JMT post, her comment was that “it seems that Mark and you are driven by the same fire.” I don’t know about you Mark, but over the last few years I have tried numerous times to find similar people with similar interest in doing longer day hikes (around 40 miles per day) and have not found any. Is that the same for you? I would have loved to have crossed paths with you on the JMT. That would have been something. Reading your and Kevin Sawchuk (Done in a Day) posts has really given me sense of “I am not the only one who is doing this,” and it makes me feel great. Keep up the great work Mark.

Edited by cfigueroa on 09/09/2008 20:26:14 MDT.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
JMT fastpack Training on 09/09/2008 07:01:09 MDT Print View

Hey Guys,
great job to both of you. I myself am planning a JMT for next July/August. While I am a runner so I am in a constant state of training, I am actually using the goal of preparing for a semi local mountain marathon as my training for the trip. Once I have completed the marathon I feel as though I will have a very appropriote base, so I will start heading to the local trails after work with a pack on my back to get some more specific training in. I am def not planning to blitzkrieg the route like you to did, but rather am planning a 9-11 day trip. I am really looking forward to really get moving on some of the trails out there. Here in New England the hiking is pretty slow by comparison so the change will be great.

Jesse Gibbs
(jessewg) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: JMT fastpack on 09/09/2008 11:03:03 MDT Print View

Hey Carlos,

I'm also located in the Bay Area and really interested in doing some 40+ dayhikes, in preparation for JMT as well as some ultramarathons I'm hoping to run in late '08 or '09. Keep me posted on your training plans, and let me know if you are ever looking for a training buddy!


Carlos Figueroa
(cfigueroa) - F

Locale: Santa Cruz Area
Re: JMT fastpack on 09/09/2008 15:42:34 MDT Print View

Hi Jesse, send me an email at cafiguer "at" and lets talk. I have many long hikes that are really great in the Bay Area and some that I have yet to attempt. I look forward to hooking up with you.


Michael Chamoun
(snowchief) - F

Locale: SoCal
Reading... on 09/16/2008 17:56:57 MDT Print View

Read pages 154/155 of The Last Season. There's a little blurb about trail-pounders.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: John Muir Trail fastpack on 04/01/2009 13:16:18 MDT Print View

Great job.

Edited by asandh on 05/02/2010 23:28:56 MDT.