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Matt Butler
(MButler) - F

Locale: Midwest
Rookie JMT thru-hike 2010 on 11/16/2010 17:08:20 MST Print View

Is it foolhardy to assume a couple of backpacking rookies from Ohio can complete the JMT north to south in 14 days next July/August? We've got a few weekend trips between the two of us, and ought to add a few more by next summer. Looking for general guidance based on your personal experiences. Any and all advice is appreciated. Thanks!

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Rookie JMT thru-hike 2010 on 11/16/2010 17:30:49 MST Print View

When Midwesterners arrive in California, they commonly get a few surprises:
1. They are surprised by how much up and down there is on the JMT, especially UP when you start from the north end. Your leg muscles may complain, so you need to train at home. The DOWNs can ruin your knees.
2. They are surprised by the thin air at higher elevations. That is not so bad if you start at the north end, and I hope that you have adapted by the time you get to Mount Whitney. That is awfully hard to train for at home, and about all you can do is to be in good enough shape that you can keep going until your body starts to adapt. I would suggest to hike around some at the north end before you actually start.
3. They are surprised by how little protection there is from the prevailing weather. At the north end, it isn't so bad. By the time you get into the middle, there isn't much between you and the sky. At the south end, some people feel like they are at the edge of space. Expect sunburn at a minimum.

If you can, arrange it so that you have a couple of buffer days at the south end. If you don't need them, you can always duck over to Death Valley for a quick visit. Hmmm. In July or August, it may be a very quick visit (but that is what Telescope Peak is for!).

--B.G.--

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F - M
Depends on your general fitness on 11/16/2010 17:39:29 MST Print View

My 15 year old son planned a three week JMT hike for this summer and I went with him. You can look at his website to see his hike report with our milage, elevation gain/loss and time. The time is very deceiving, because we didn't hike all the time but stopped often and long to go fishing. Have a look at his preparation hikes to see how he prepared. So if you have a couple of weekends to practice with full backpacks in terrain that allows for enough elevation gain, you will get a better feeling whether you can hike 15+ miles with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain day after day for two weeks with a full backpack. After having done the three week trip and having almost every morning waited for 3 hours until my two teenage sons would finally get up too, I know that I could do it in two weeks, BUT I really enjoyed the quiet mornings where I could watch everything around me and I enjoyed the long lunch breaks where we would fish trout and cook them for lunch, etc. Stopping and smelling the roses was a big part of the experience for me. If you are restricted in your time, but still want to experience the trail, you might want to consider to start at Tuolomne Meadows and save the long climb from Yosemite Valley and avoid the crowds in that part of Yosemite.

Edited by Orienteering on 11/16/2010 17:41:01 MST.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Depends on your general fitness on 11/16/2010 17:47:42 MST Print View

"If you are restricted in your time, but still want to experience the trail, you might want to consider to start at Tuolomne Meadows and save the long climb from Yosemite Valley and avoid the crowds in that part of Yosemite."

I agree. If you start from Yosemite Valley at a normal hour, like 8-9 a.m., you will be in the middle of a large pack of people heading up to Half Dome. If you start at 4-5 a.m., the trail will be almost empty. Once you get past Little Yosemite Valley, the trail isn't that busy. Some people try to beat all of that by starting at Tuolumne Meadows and dayhiking DOWN to Yosemite Valley, then bussing back up to Tuolumne Meadows to start the backpack trip in earnest up Lyell Canyon and over Donohue Pass.

You almost deserve a day to walk around Yosemite Valley with your jaw agape as you stare at the high cliffs and waterfalls.

--B.G.--

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Depends on your general fitness on 11/16/2010 17:53:55 MST Print View

I agree with Bob. The trail is magnificent and there are a couple of places I can think of where you might want to enjoy for longer than a few hours if you have a much more forced pace. But if you are able, planning your hike with a bit of a cushion might make it more enjoyable. Walking around Yosemite is one of the things I would do.

This is of course always contingent upon actually having the time available for a longer hike...

Have fun!

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Depends on your general fitness on 11/16/2010 17:59:27 MST Print View

The day before you start the JMT, hike up and down the "4-Mile Trail" to Glacier Point. It is actually about 4.6 miles one way, but the view from Glacier Point is indescribable. The only problem is if you arrive there anytime after 10 a.m., and the place is overrun with tour bus traffic and people.

--B.G.--

Samuel Kau
(Skau)

Locale: Southern California
Re: Rookie JMT thru-hike 2010 on 11/16/2010 18:18:22 MST Print View

I would suggest since you are not use to the altitude level of the JMT to take it slower the first couple of days. Maybe 14 days is a little ambitious if not properly acclimated and imo to leave a little more error room.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Rookie JMT thru-hike 2010 on 11/16/2010 18:31:23 MST Print View

Some of the issue, like Samuel suggests, is about altitude. I know that I used to live in the Midwest, and when I went up my first big peak in Colorado, it kicked my butt big time. I'm not saything that you WILL have trouble with altitude, but I am saything that the adjustment to altitude is something that is unpredictable. Some people adjust rapidly, and it really doesn't bother them after the first day. Others adjust more slowly, and it takes them at least a couple of days just to feel normal at a normal pace. Then there is a small percentage of people who will not adjust well at all, probably less than 5%. But, if you have never been up high in the mountains at all, you won't know what you are walking into. It doesn't hurt to be in top shape, but that is no guarantee of altitude success. The good thing is that the north end isn't that high until you are about a half-day in. I think that Cathedral Pass is somewhere around 10,000'.

--B.G.--

Matt Butler
(MButler) - F

Locale: Midwest
Thanks! on 11/16/2010 19:39:51 MST Print View

Thank you all for your advice and suggestions. I appreciate the quick replies. Please keep them coming...