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North Lake - JMT - South Lake
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Eric Eichelberger
(blatargh) - F

Locale: Northcoast
North Lake - JMT - South Lake on 01/30/2012 22:58:50 MST Print View

The plan is to enter and exit via Piute and Bishop pass, hike a portion of the JMT, and include a crossing of Glacier Divide via Alpine Col or the Keyhole, a visit to Darwin Canyon, an out and back through Evolution Valley, with a few free days open to explore whatever catches my attention.
1. Assuming an average snow year, when do the higher regions in this area open up to reasonably pleasant hiking? ( pleasant = limited snow travel and no ice axe required to cross the passes)
2. Will I stand a high probability of ruining my trip if I plan on getting a same day permit? ( hiking solo )
3. Dusy Basin has a bear canister requirement. Any recommendations for renting a canister which can hold at least a week's worth of food? My pack is not big enough for a trip of this length so I will be purchasing a new pack to accommodate whatever canister I choose.

Don Amundson
(amrowinc) - M

Locale: Southern California
North Lake - JMT - South Lake on 01/30/2012 23:55:22 MST Print View

1. I would say mid June to late Sept would be the best chance for a non-ice ax adventure. Hopefully this year will be more in the "normal" range. I went in Aug 1 last year over Bishop pass and there was still a lot of snow from there down to Whitney. Ice axes and crampons weren't necessary but there were a few times I would have used an ice ax if someone had handed me one.

2. You should be able to get a walk in permit without a problem. Here is a link to the process:

https://fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5167488.pdf

This year you can reserve up to 6 months in advance for Inyo. Done online through:

Recreation.gov

3. I would recommend renting the Bearikade Weekender. I carry it in my Jam2 vertically. Here is the link:

http://www.wild-ideas.net/products.html

I'm planning on an Aug 11 start date from North Lake to Mt. Whitney and after last years experience I'm praying for a normal snow year!

Still Lookin'

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: North Lake - JMT - South Lake on 01/31/2012 00:14:01 MST Print View

Last year, due to the heavy snow, I went North Lake-Evolution-South Lake starting on August 3. On a normal year, this could have been a month earlier. I had shown up at the permit office on August 3 with the intention of getting a permit to start on August 4, but they could not give me August 4 and they could give me August 3, that very day. At the end, I went from LeConte Canyon over Bishop Pass to South Lake in eight hours, so I barely slowed down through Dusy Basin. The best wildflowers were in the Piute Pass area, although Darwin Bench can be very nice.

One week's worth of food seems like a lot. Did you intend to go fast or slow? I had started my trip with five days of food, and I gave away about 24 ounces of granola bars to some guy at Muir Pass with a problem, and I finished on the fourth day still with one day's worth of food left.

--B.G.--

Eric Eichelberger
(blatargh) - F

Locale: Northcoast
Re: Re: North Lake - JMT - South Lake on 01/31/2012 09:23:53 MST Print View

Thank you both for your replies.
Bob- My original plan was to hike half of the JMT, I set aside ten days in the sierra to do so, but I started to wonder if spending my vacation working towards a critical deadline would be the most enjoyable way to introduce myself to the high sierra. I therefore decided to plan a trip with lots of time for off trail exploration. Your comment regarding food has me thinking I have overestimated the amount of time I will be happy to just wander around in this one area. Maybe I should start a recommend-me-a-hike thread.

L Miller
(LMiller) - F

Locale: Maryland
Re: Re: Re: North Lake - JMT - South Lake on 01/31/2012 10:25:55 MST Print View

I did the loop last year in 5 days and wished I had at least another 2. I think that between the JMT and the off trail stuff like Humphreys Basin, Darwin Bench/Canyon, McGee Lakes, Davis Lake, Ionian Basin, Dusy Basin and some class 2-3 peaks, you can easily tailor a trip for 7 days without feeling rushed or getting bored. And since it's all in a relatively small area easily accessed from the JMT, you can add or delete on the fly depending on how you feel.

IMO an out and back through Evolution Valley would not be a highlight and I would rather spend more time on or off trail between Darwin Canyon and LeConte.

Stephan Doyle
(StephanCal)
Re: North Lake - JMT - South Lake on 01/31/2012 11:47:28 MST Print View

This is a gorgeous loop, and seven days gives you lots of time to explore and soak in the Sierra beauty.

As far as a bear can, the Bearikade is the best but much more expensive than the rest. I have a BearVault, which is priced alongside a majority of the cans, is see-through, has a better shape, opens easier, and is even a little lighter than others in its class. IMO, big canister options are two: Bearikade or Bearvault, depending on if you're willing to pay the big bucks.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Re: North Lake - JMT - South Lake on 01/31/2012 11:51:05 MST Print View

I can happily walk for 12 hours down the trail, or just as happily spend the day in a flower field soaking up the sun. There are so many beautiful little tarns, grottos, canyons, etc. in the Sierra that you can easily spend a week exploring a small area. Nothing wrong with taking a week for a short point-to-point distance.

On the other hand North Lake to Whitney is a reasonable 7-8 day hike.

Eric Eichelberger
(blatargh) - F

Locale: Northcoast
Another Question on 01/31/2012 14:56:54 MST Print View

I want to keep my options open for a North Lake to Mount Whitney hike. Do I need to specify that I am going to Whitney when I reserve my permit in order to have the permit honored when I cross wilderness boundaries?

Edit: Mt Whitney requires a special permit and the lottery opens tomorrow, February 1st. Looks like it is time for me to commit to a summer hiking plan.

Edited by blatargh on 01/31/2012 17:53:44 MST.

Peter James
(pbjames) - F - M

Locale: High Sierra
Whitney isn't everything on 02/01/2012 22:29:48 MST Print View

Don't get overblown into letting the Mt. Whitney permit situation determine you summer fate so early. Mt Whitney is a gorgeous and amazing hike, but I wouldn't go to crazy lengths just to tie it into one particular outing. I've had no trouble getting walk-in day-hike permits for Mt Whitney, keep this in mind. It's not the end of the world if you don't get a lottery permit, and you needn't feel forced to change your plans to accommodate one. The area you were discussing, around North and South lakes, is one of my absolute favorites.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Whitney isn't everything on 02/01/2012 22:59:47 MST Print View

Keep in mind that there is no one single type of Whitney permit. One kind lets you dayhike on the East Side, one lets you backpack up and down on the East Side. One kind lets you come from the West Side (e.g. JMT) and exit East Side. I believe that the ordinary Sequoia/West Side permit is all you need to do Whitney from the West Side and exit west.

In the old days, East Side dayhike permits were free and unlimited, but you had to have one. Then finally the overuse situation forced Inyo into the Lottery that we've had for some years. Now the Lottery is online.

In a few more years they will probably issue Frequent Flyer cards to some of us, and we will just swipe our card at Whitney Portal before heading up.

--B.G.--

Don Amundson
(amrowinc) - M

Locale: Southern California
North Lake - JMT - South Lake on 02/01/2012 23:48:35 MST Print View

Eric--You do need to specify you're exiting at Trail Crest (Whitney) on your permit. This is not part of the Whitney Lottery. If you enter from Inyo and want to exit at Whitney you need a Whitney exit permit. You can apply for your permit a maximum of 6 months ahead of your entry through Recreation.gov. So tonight at midnight +1 they are issuing reservations for July 2. There is a reserved exit quota for Whitney of 15 people per day which is different than the entry quota for your starting trailhead.
The North Lake/Piute pass trailhead has a quota of 30 per day--18 reserved and 12 walk in. There is a Whitney exit quota of 25 per day--15 reserved and 10 walk in.
See this link: https://fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5143453.pdf

Don

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Whitney isn't everything on 02/02/2012 17:47:36 MST Print View

"I believe that the ordinary Sequoia/West Side permit is all you need to do Whitney from the West Side and exit west."

Unfortunately not anymore, Bob. Now you have to get what is called a "Whitney Zone Permit" to be in the defined zone around Mt Whitney, as an add on to your regular permit. There is an add on to the cost as well. I think they're trying to control the total number of people in the area immediately around Whitney to avoid further environmental degradation. In any case, it is a bummer. I have avoided that area now since the early 80's for precisely the reasons they're limiting access. It's an ant hill, IMO.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Whitney isn't everything on 02/02/2012 18:08:15 MST Print View

>"In a few more years they will probably issue Frequent Flyer cards to some of us, and we will just swipe our card at Whitney Portal before heading up."

No, Bob, they'll just inject an RF/ID chip under the your skin between your shoulder blades like a Iditarod sled dog. And some races chip every dog even if they already have one in.

It amuses me that there are many more transitor-equivalents pulling a dogsled than were used to break the German Enigma code.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Whitney isn't everything on 02/02/2012 18:21:59 MST Print View

"Unfortunately not anymore, Bob. Now you have to get what is called a "Whitney Zone Permit" to be in the defined zone around Mt Whitney, as an add on to your regular permit."

NPS web site: "Permits obtained for the western trailheads from Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are valid to climb Mt. Whitney and exit via the Mount Whitney Trail - no extra permits are required."

The Mount Whitney Zone is a defined area strictly east of the crest.

--B.G.--

Eric Eichelberger
(blatargh) - F

Locale: Northcoast
Re: Re: Re: Whitney isn't everything on 02/02/2012 18:32:54 MST Print View

Everyone's comments have been quite helpful. I think I will pass on climbing Whitney. The exit quota to hike out to Whitney Portal has motivated me to reserve a JMT permit. If I change my mind at a reasonable date and decide to hike the North/South Lake loop instead, will I be making a permit unavailable to someone else who wants to hike the JMT?

Edited by blatargh on 02/02/2012 18:34:21 MST.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Re: Whitney isn't everything on 02/02/2012 20:00:59 MST Print View

"NPS web site: "Permits obtained for the western trailheads from Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are valid to climb Mt. Whitney and exit via the Mount Whitney Trail - no extra permits are required."

Something is funny here. A friend of mine is going in over Shepherd Pass and exiting via Trail Crest. He had to get an additional permit to exit that way, because they have a limit of 25 hikers/day who are permitted to exit via Trail Crest/Whitney Portal from the west. It makes sense, because how are they going to know when they have reached the limit of 25 if they don't have some sort of permit? This is pretty fresh in my mind because he just got it straightened out last week. I'm meeting him for coffee tomorrow morning and I'll run it by him again, just to make sure I'm not having a "senior moment".

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Whitney isn't everything on 02/02/2012 20:20:48 MST Print View

Tom, I certainly did not claim that all of the wilderness rules and permit regs made sense. I just found what I found on the various web sites. Also, I have found a little bit of inconsistency within one jurisdiction, but I think that is more a matter of one web page being updated and a second page is not yet.

Now, what I was referring to was a start from the west side of Sequoia National Park, e.g. Giant Forest, and coming east to Whitney. What I was originally thinking of was Giant Forest to Whitney on the High Sierra Trail, and then a complete reverse course back to Giant Forest. For that, it is a standard Sequoia wilderness permit, and the only trick is that the permit issuer must note that it includes the Whitney summit or Whitney Trail exit or whatever.

This gets a little messy for Shepherd Pass. Here, you are starting within Inyo N.F., then crossing into Sequoia N.P., and then exiting back out through Inyo N.F. I don't know this for a fact, but I am guessing that this goes into Inyo permits and quotas and has very little to do with Sequoia permits and quotas, even though it obviously crosses Sequoia land.

For what it's worth, in 1976, I was slowly approaching the Whitney summit, and a Sequoia park ranger was descending hurriedly at 3 p.m. He stopped me to check my permit and then we continued our ways. That is the only time in all of these years that I've seen a Sequoia ranger anywhere around there. National Forest wilderness rangers tend to be all over on the east side, because that is where the most people are.

Don't expect this to make perfect sense. After all, these are agencies of the federal government. Besides, the Forest Service is within the Department of Agriculture (multiple uses) and the Park Service is within the Department of the Interior (protect only). These are your federal tax dollars at work. Also, they change their rules and policies periodically. I'm guessing that the two agencies are not good about sharing any kind of quota use.

I submitted my Whitney Trail dayhike permit reservation request for the lottery, and I submitted it for one more hiker than what I know I have. We will see how that turns out.

--B.G.--

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Whitney isn't everything on 02/02/2012 20:27:43 MST Print View

"I just found what I found on the various web sites. Also, I have found a little bit of inconsistency within one jurisdiction, but I think that is more a matter of one web page being updated and a second page is not yet."

It's a mess all right. My friend was so frustrated by the time he got through he ranted for about 10 minutes when we met for coffee. The only thing that makes sense is that you have to have something on your permit, and in their system, if they are to enforce the 25 hiker/day limit coming from points west, be it Giant Grove, Shepherd Pass, Roads End, or whatever. Our tax dollars at work, indeed.

Good luck getting your permit. That is quite a streak you've got going.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Whitney isn't everything on 02/02/2012 20:42:10 MST Print View

Tom, don't let your friend get frustrated by the bureaucrats. Just outsmart them.

One year, I was hiking up the Whitney Trail. I had requested four people on my permit, but my friends had to cancel. So, when I went to the visitor center, I picked up four orange tags for hikers all for myself. I affixed one to my daypack and put the other three inside the daypack.

I got nearly up to Trail Camp on that windy day, and I was shuffling along the trail at 8 a.m. or something. The Forest Service wilderness ranger was checking permits, but he was standing 50 yards or more away from the trail where he had his clipboard of names. When he saw me, he shouted and waved, then he walked over to me on the trail. He removed my orange tag from my pack (!) and took it back over to his clipboard. That did not make a bit of sense to me, so I just continued on up the trail. After a minute, he had written something on his clipboard, and then he turned around to return the orange tag to me on the trail, except that I was gone. He scanned upward on the trail and spotted me walking away. He yelled and waved again, but I guess that I couldn't hear him over the wind noise.

He figured that he had me over a barrel, because he figured that he was holding my permit, and without it I was illegal. Of course, once I was out of sight from him, I simply reached into my daypack and pulled out another permit to hang.

Just outsmart them.

--B.G.--

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Whitney isn't everything on 02/03/2012 10:25:06 MST Print View

"What I was originally thinking of was Giant Forest to Whitney on the High Sierra Trail, and then a complete reverse course back to Giant Forest. For that, it is a standard Sequoia wilderness permit, and the only trick is that the permit issuer must note that it includes the Whitney summit or Whitney Trail exit or whatever."

I just finished discussing the issue with my friend who is entering via Shepherd Pass and exiting via Trail Crest. He had to specify that when obtaining his wilderness permit. It was not a separate permit; rather, it was an endorsement on his regular permit. If you don't have that endorsement and are caught in the Whitney Zone, you will be in trouble. When you consider that there is a limit for backcountry entry into the Whitney Zone of 25 people/day, it all makes sense. If they did not keep track of people coming into the Whitney Zone by noting it on their wilderness permit, they would have no way of enforcing the 25 person/day limit. There are literally hundreds of people obtaining wilderness permits every day who could potentially want to exit via Trail Crest and many would probably do so if they could not obtain a permit via the lottery. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but when I applied for my permit to go in over Shepherd Pass last week, they asked me if I wanted to exit via the Whitney Zone. I said "no", but that had to be the reason.

Further recollections: In 2008, a friend and I went in over Shepherd, intending to exit via Trail Crest, and we had to add a Whitney Zone endorsement to our permit. It was a special stamped notation at the time and cost us something like $15, IIRC. Coincidentally, the friend was the same guy who had all the hassles I mentioned above a week or so ago. The only difference is that last time I had to put up with all the hassle. Actually, it wasn' so much of a hassle back then because you could just call up the Inyo Permit Office in Bishop and do it over the phone. They were very nice folks and didn't give you a hard time. I'm going to miss them.

Edited by ouzel on 02/03/2012 17:07:36 MST.