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Skiing the JMT
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Kevin Sawchuk
(ksawchuk) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Amen! on 03/18/2010 09:41:12 MDT Print View

Amen and thanks to both Sam and Dave's good wishes. So far the weather and snow look good but there's another week before we leave. We're having a warm week so the snowpack should be stabilizing and forming a lovely corn harvest.

Tim Halberg
(Turtlehead) - F
envious! best of luck! on 03/18/2010 23:42:49 MDT Print View

dude... epic trip!!! I've through hiked it twice, once when it was still half covered in snow in late May. We hopped over Forester pass the day after a snow storm and man, that freaked me out... I can't wait to hear how you do some of those passes in complete winter conditions.

seriously going to be waiting on pins and needles for a trip report on this one!

Best of luck with your trip!!!

oh, if you want to see an AWESOME elevation map of the trail, I had a copy in possession for a while and took it upon myself to scan it before returning it to the owner:

Edited by Turtlehead on 03/18/2010 23:45:02 MDT.

Gerry Volpe

Locale: Vermont
JMT ski on 03/19/2010 07:30:39 MDT Print View

Good luck and have fun. Can't wait to read a trip report.

Kevin Sawchuk
(ksawchuk) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Northern California
JMT update on 03/29/2010 18:33:19 MDT Print View

as of today (3/29), Kevin is doing well, but proceeding on his journey solo. You can check his progress on the links he posted earlier on this thread.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Allez! on 03/30/2010 18:04:30 MDT Print View

Looks like he's making good progress. Hopefully that bespeaks of good conditions.

Klas Eklof
(klaseklof) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Today's weather... on 03/31/2010 17:46:59 MDT Print View

Based on SPOT and NOAA, he went over Mather today in these conditions:

Cloudy and cold, with a steady temperature around 3. Wind chill values as low as -17. West wind around 20 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Total daytime snow accumulation of 2 to 4 inches possible.

- klas

Edited by klaseklof on 04/02/2010 10:58:57 MDT.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: JMT Ski Update on 04/01/2010 21:22:01 MDT Print View

"Kevin has decided to abort his attempt. He is on the Bishop Pass Trail heading out."

This is posted on Kevin's Google Buzz site.

Edit: Click "Expand this Post' under March 27 to get the details.

He is fine, just hammered by weather and snow.

Edited by greg23 on 04/01/2010 21:47:45 MDT.

Ed Engel
(Doorknob) - F

Locale: West of what you think is west
JMT Ski on 04/01/2010 22:33:14 MDT Print View

I give him credit for following a dream of his. Sounds like he gave it his all. He certainly did not fail in any way. I have no idea what physical and mental hardships he went through. Good job Kevin.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Good showing! Re: Skiing the JMT on 04/02/2010 15:06:32 MDT Print View

Even with weather, fresh snow, breaking trail he put in a good pace. It's bad when you can't glide downhill!

I had always thought of the JMT as a monthlong ski expedition. Of course I also can't imagine hiking it in less than 12 days vs Kevin's 4 day record.

Looks like he's walking all the way down South Lake road to Bishop- Somebody drive out there and pick him up!


Edit: Here's another story on James Lutz' website about skiing the length in '92 with Jeremy Sommer:

Edited by jimqpublic on 04/02/2010 15:16:58 MDT.

Kevin Sawchuk
(ksawchuk) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Skiing the JMT on 04/03/2010 10:55:56 MDT Print View

I'm home and a full report will follow. Conditions started out great on Saturday with well consolidated snow and lovely corn/freeze cycles. Despite being a competitive ultrarunner and experienced backcountry skier my partner just wasn't ready for the incessant miles and bailed over Shephard Pass after two days.

I was able to pick up the pace and hammered out 25 miles over Forester and Glen passes on Monday. The descent of Forester was about as much fun as you can have on a ski day.

Monday night a storm moved in with temperatures in the single digits and wind chills much below--winds over the passes had gusts to 50 MPH. I proceeded cautiously over Pinchot Pass in the winds and light snow making it further than I had expected in the morning and having pushed my limits significantly. I learned a new technique for stabilizing myself in the wind gusts by bending over and sticking my knees and ski tips into the snow. (skis were carried in pack as I cramponed up the very steep last 600' of the pass)

Tuesday night 10-12" of powder had fallen on the south side of Mather but the winds had abated. The heavy powder and very cold temperatures slowed my pace to ~1.5 MPH. The north side of Mather had 20+" of heavy powder and I couldn't even ski downhill except on the steepest slopes with skis pointed straight down (and then at the pace of a beginner on a bunny slope). It took 1 hour to cross lower Palisade lake (~.6 miles) another to go the .3 to the top of the Golden Staircase before descending exhausted into Deer Flat at its base. 10 hours of hard skiing had netted me less than 10 miles.

The storm cleared Thursday but the cold and heavy snow remained. It took 6 hard hours to cover 7 miles and I'd lost 1500' and gained only 500'. Doing the pace/miles calculations I would run out of food 2 days before I got to my cache. And another cold winter storm with 3 feet of new snow was predicted to hit on Sunday. I decided the only safe option was to abandon the trip over Bishop Pass.

I'll be back to finish the trail later this year or next year. There's certainly enough snow up there and hopefully my food remains securely cached. With a partner to help break trail and ease the burden of camp chores it might be fun--even in these conditions.A

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Skiing the JMT on 04/03/2010 11:30:21 MDT Print View

Skill and experience knows when to call it quits while ego would drive us on. Good object lesson here.......

"Tho' I've belted you an' flayed you,
By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!"

by Rudyard Kipling

Edited by wandering_bob on 04/03/2010 11:32:24 MDT.

Kevin Sawchuk
(ksawchuk) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Re: Skiing the JMT on 04/03/2010 11:34:16 MDT Print View

There was no ego involved. Each decision was based on moving forward safely into challenging conditions. These were the most challenging conditions I've ever faced but only by a notch or two. My repertoire was expanded but I was never out of control--except a bit descending a steep gully on the Golden Staircase.....:-0

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Re: Skiing the JMT on 04/06/2010 22:02:34 MDT Print View

Kevin - I'm curious as to your reasons for starting so early. It seems like the prime spring skiing in the Sierra usually starts about mid-April, when the corn is getting ripe and the big storms are mostly done. DId you have particular reasons for starting in March?

Kevin Sawchuk
(ksawchuk) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Early Season on 04/06/2010 22:50:52 MDT Print View

No really good reason. I initially wanted to do it in "winter" but was really hoping for spring conditions despite it being "winter." We started a week after spring this year.

The low snow of two years ago made me aim for an earlier start. However every year is different and with our well above average snowpack this year late April or even May would have been a better choice.

For me to potentially have partners I had to plan months in advance--well before I knew the snow conditions. Once plans are made they're hard to change. One of my partners was a teacher and could only do the trip on his spring break week.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Early Season on 04/08/2010 21:21:43 MDT Print View

Boy, I know what you mean about the scheduling. Every year I plan a week-long backcountry ski trip in the Sierra and I have to pick the dates in December or January. Sometimes I've had to revise where I go to suit the snow conditions - it's tougher when you're trying to do one particular route - and even tougher when it's that long. The corn window is sometimes no more than two weeks, and it moves around.
If you try to do something in winter conditions, timing is almost impossible - two weeks of good weather and decent snow conditions prior to mid-april essentially doesn't happen - the best you can do is to assume some stormy weather and deep snow slogging in your window and plan accordingly.
This year for me, it looks like plenty of snow, but I'm a little worried that there will be too much fresh stuff and consequently too much avalanche danger to be able to do what I have planned. We'll see - gotta take what the mountains are giving.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Early Season on 04/08/2010 21:27:16 MDT Print View

If you miss the corn window, you end up in the soft ice cream.


Klas Eklof
(klaseklof) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Gear? on 04/11/2010 19:46:15 MDT Print View


Great attempt, and great job getting out. A party of three on the High Route last week ended up being rescued with a copter.

If you are able to share a gearlist, I'd love to know what you carried.


- Klas

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Early Season on 04/12/2010 20:27:10 MDT Print View

No kidding Kevin, that was amazing to even get that far.

You wouldn't happen to have any good pictures?

Klas Eklof
(klaseklof) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
pics and report on 04/13/2010 13:55:07 MDT Print View

Hey Aaron,
Kevin's pics are here:

Also, if anyone cares, the report from the other party which were picked up by the NPS chopper is here:

Kevin Sawchuk
(ksawchuk) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Gear List on 04/15/2010 22:59:09 MDT Print View

After reading the trip report of the three who were taken out by chopper I'm REALLY glad I abandoned the route on Friday.

I'll get a gear list posted sometime--on call this week.