JMT, July 14-25
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Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
JMT, July 14-25 on 07/26/2010 22:23:52 MDT Print View

I did the JMT, north to south, July 14-25. This is something I've wanted to do all my life, but only got around to doing at age 44. As a healthy antidote to any overblown feeling of accomplishment, I met some young kids on the trail. Two 12-year-old twins from Wisconsin, hiking with their dad, are making their third attempt to set an age record for yo-yoing the JMT. The current age record is 17. I met them when we were all resupplying at MTR, and it was fun watching them divvy up their candy, etc. Later the same afternoon, I passed a woman and her small daughter along the south fork of San Joaquin. I didn't think much of it at the time (except to be surprised at someone hiking with a small child in a relatively remote region), but I learned later that afternoon that the girl was 6, and is trying to set an age record for the JMT. When they come to a significant creek crossing, her mother carries the pack across first, then goes back and carries her daughter across.

This was a heavy snow year, and a lot of PCTers have reported problems on the JMT section. A couple of PCTers were swept away at the south fork of the Kings in the first week of July, and banged up pretty badly. A lot of PCTers have resorted to skipping the JMT section, and then coming back to do it later. Unfortunately for my nerves, stories like these were bouncing up and down the trail, where they lost the accompanying information about when they actually happened. For the most part, there were no huge water or snow problems on my hike. The two crossings at Mono Creek were the hardest for me, but were not really too bad by the time I got to them. I don't use trekking poles, so I learned to anticipate the bigger crossings and pick up a couple of good, strong sticks well in advance of each one. Evolution Creek I crossed upstream in the swampy, safer area. The south fork of the Kings was absolutely inconsequential by the time I got to it.

The high passes in the south half of the JMT mostly just had a little snow, which was no big deal. The biggest problem was Muir Pass, which was very time-consuming to get through due to a large amount of snow, mixed with some white-water creeks. I brought a small tarp and no special-purpose rain clothing, although I had a spare trash-compactor bag that I could cut up for use as a poncho in an emergency. This turned out to be OK, although I was a little psychologically intimidated by a very intense evening hailstorm early on in the trip near Squaw Lake. I wasn't as well practiced in my tarping skills as I would have liked to be, and took a long time to get the tarp up.

Although it was early season, bugs were mostly pretty manageable. I hiked in long sleeves and long pants, and wore a head-net fairly often. 100% DEET helped in the evenings.

After some ... er ... spirited discussion on this site, I decided to up my amount of food from the 2100 cal/day that I normally eat on 3-day trips. I ended up packing in 43,000 cal, buying ~5,000 cal worth of meals at Tuolumne, Red's Meadows, and VVR, and dumping ~19,000 cal in dumpsters and hiker boxes, for a net calorie consumption of about 2,500 cal/day over 11.5 days. Since I completed the trip somewhat more quickly than my original estimate of 14 days, this meant that I ended up packing out a huge amount of food. I lost 4.5 lb of body weight.

My gear list was discussed here: http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=33701 My base weight ended up being about 12.5 lbs.

I had seen quite a bit of the northern half of the JMT before, but the southern half was 100% new to me. My backpacking guru had waxed poetic about the beauty of Evolution Valley, but I honestly didn't see what was so special about it. For me the scenic highlights were Donahue Pass and especially the middle fork of the Kings: aspens, wildflowers, ferns, deer, and butterflies so thick they became a hazard to navigation. It was also a real rush to go over Forester Pass in high gear after having been thoroughly acclimatized by all the preceding 12,000-foot passes. I actually thought Forester Pass was more impressive than Whitney, where the view from the summit looked like something you'd see from an airplane. One of my goals for the trip had been to learn to identify a lot of the plants. I studied up using the Wenk guidebook and the Laws field guide. Ate some wild onions as trail nibbles, although I never really managed to get together a really good wild-veggie salad.

Had a lot of fun meeting the PCTers, who seemed like the coolest people ever. A ton of them were hanging out at VVR taking zero days after coming up through the southern Sierra.

As far as gear, the biggest thing I would strongly think about changing in the future is that I might want to switch from running shoes to sandals. I had a bunch of foot problems in the first half of the trip, all of which seemed to be related to the interface between my toes and the fronts of my close-toed shoes. I ran into a JMTer who was hiking in Chacos, and showed me how they could be adjusted to fit his feet exactly the way he wanted.

People on this site were very generous with their time in critiquing my gear list, suggesting how to dry lentils, and in lots of other ways. Many thanks!

Edited by bcrowell on 07/27/2010 11:18:32 MDT.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Nice Job! on 07/27/2010 15:14:30 MDT Print View

Benjamin,

Nice job in completing the trail in 11 days. I did it with my son, brother and nephew in 14 days last summer. That was plenty fast for me but my son could have finished much faster. I too thought Donahue Pass was quite impressive. The glacier at the end of the valley is quite beautiful. How about those switchbacks on the backside of Forester!

All in all, the JMT is a beautiful hike. I'll be back there in 2 years when my son gets back from a 2 year stint in the Dominican Republic.

This website and its members were extremely helpful to me with my planning also.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: JMT, July 14-25 on 07/27/2010 17:40:54 MDT Print View

So were your feet wet most of the day from creek crossings?
Seems more little creeks would be harder than just a little jump at this time?

Ben Crowell
(bcrowell) - F

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: JMT, July 14-25 on 07/27/2010 19:13:42 MDT Print View

Aaron wrote: "So were your feet wet most of the day from creek crossings?"
There were some days when my feet were just wet all day, and it became pointless to worry about keeping them dry. Other days there were no crossings at all that couldn't be done on logs or rocks. It was the small number of crotch-high ones, some of them pretty fast, that were scary for me, although as the trip went on I got better practiced at the physical technique of crossing.

"Seems more little creeks would be harder than just a little jump at this time?"
Sorry, I don't quite follow what you're asking...?

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: JMT, July 14-25 on 08/05/2010 00:40:16 MDT Print View

For what it's worth, I was on Mount Whitney on Aug. 3, and of course it is the southern end of the JMT. The conditions were very normal, despite the unusual winter and spring weather. The Whitney Trail was normal as far as stream crossings, a tiny amount of snow on the trail, and wildflowers. It was dry enough that there were no mosquitoes.

--B.G.--

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Shoes on 08/05/2010 08:15:20 MDT Print View

" had a bunch of foot problems in the first half of the trip, all of which seemed to be related to the interface between my toes and the fronts of my close-toed shoes."

Shoes too small or not laced tight on downhills?