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JMT: VVR to Whitney Portal. Average # of Days?
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Michael Schwartz
(greenwalk) - MLife

Locale: PA & Ireland
JMT: VVR to Whitney Portal. Average # of Days? on 04/14/2013 05:06:13 MDT Print View

Hello JMTers,

I’m looking for some advice/insights on the North to South leg of the JMT from VVR to Whitney Portal. Specifically, I am trying to get a feel for the average number of days a lightweight backpacker takes on this leg of the JMT.

I realize that the answer comes down to personal fitness and experience levels, but I am trying to get an idea of the average number of days to cover the 133 miles. I have done a few 30-35 mile days on the CT, but I feel it the next day, and I don’t want to push too hard/rush the JMT. Time is not really an issue. I have the time to take more than 7 days, but if I take 7 days, I can use the extra vacation time to do something else after the JMT. Also, I’d like to avoid carrying more than 7 days of food (VVR resupply).

I’ve been using Alan Castle’s Cicerone Guide to help plan the trip, which, like all Cicerone guides, breaks the trail into “stages.” Castle breaks the VVR to Whitney Portal section into 12 stages. The stages don’t have to translate into days.
What I am considering: walking from Edison Lake to Whitney Portal (including ascent of Mount Whitney) in 7.5 days. This includes an early start on day 8 to do the Trail Camp to Whitney Portal walk-out to catch a 9.15 bus.

***7.5 days (17.8 miles/day) seems about right to me. What are your thoughts?

Below is the Cicerone break-down. And here is a link to the trail profile:

VVR to Whitney Portal
Total distance (Edison Lake to Trail Camp): 133.6
AVG distance (11.5 days): 11.6 miles/day
AVG distance (7.5 days): 17.8

Day / Stages (Cicerone Guide) / Distance/ Ascent (ft)/ Descent (ft)
1 Edison Lake to Rosmarie Meadow 12.3 / 3350 / 1050
2 Rosmarie Meadow to MTR 9.5 / 1050 / 3350
3 MTR to McClure Meadow 10.6 / 2200 / 200
4 McClure Meadow to Helen Lake 12.2 / 2450 / 1300
5 Helen Lake to Deer Meadow 11.3 / 1000 / 2900
6 Dear Meadow to Kings River 12.0 / 3300 / 2000
7 Kings River to Woods Creek 11.6 / 2050 / 3700
8 Woods Creek to Vidette Meadow 13.2 / 3650 / 2600
9 Vidette Meadow to Tyndall Creek 12.0 / 3800 / 2500
10 Tyndall Creek to Guitar Lake 12.1 / 1800 / 1200
11 Guitar Lake via Mount Whitney
and Trail Crest to Trail Camp
and the ascent of Mount Whitney 10.0 / 3200 / 2600
12 Early start to hike out from
Trail Camp to Whitney Portal 6.8 / 50 / 3700

Edited by greenwalk on 04/14/2013 05:09:20 MDT.

Bryan Oliphint
(HotTub) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Texas
Watch the terrain in the south half... on 04/14/2013 11:20:25 MDT Print View

I'm not much help on fast-packing because I can't manage to do it.

But I do want to point out that the farther south you go, the harder it is to "hike high and camp low" without having the terrain dictate your days. If you are ok sleeping at high elevations at night, then this isn't so much of an issue. But otherwise, you are forced to either one or two passes a day. Lots of up and down.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: JMT: VVR to Whitney Portal. Average # of Days? on 04/14/2013 12:42:46 MDT Print View

Your problem would get a little easier if you got your food resupply at Muir Trail Ranch instead of VVR.

Another factor is the season. Early season tends to have more stream crossings to slow you down. Late season tends to be dry, so you have to look more for water sources. This year looks like it will be very dry.


john hansford
(jhansford) - MLife
Re: JMT: VVR to Whitney Portal. Average # of Days? on 04/14/2013 16:12:56 MDT Print View

I did VVR to Whitney Portal in 7.5 days without pushing too hard, although there was one long day from Bubbs Creek to Whitney summit.

You will know how well you are going when you get to VVR, and could always buy a bit of extra food from the store if necessary. Or you could save half a day by not going there at all, and sending your resupply to Muir Trail Ranch instead, and again you could top up your food from their (small) store or possibly from hikers' barrels.

Or again, just send yourself an excess of food and leave behind what you don't want.

Edited by jhansford on 04/18/2013 08:17:01 MDT.

Michael Schwartz
(greenwalk) - MLife

Locale: PA & Ireland
JMT: VVR to Whitney Portal. Average # of Days? on 04/17/2013 15:36:37 MDT Print View

Bryan, Bob and John, thanks for your posts and your insights, which are helping me to make final plans.
@Bryan. I’ve seen the profile and have an idea of what I can expect. Thanks for the reminder to “hike high and camp low.” I will have to study the make more closely and make some decisions.
@ Bob, I don’t think stream crossings will pose a problem in August, but will keep it in mind. And I coming round to your view that an MTR resupply will make life easier.
@ John, Do you recall approx. how many hours per day it took to hike that stretch in 6.5 days? Good idea to send extra food and to leave anything I don’t need in the in the hikers’ barrel.
Thanks again for your advice. Would appreciate other advice comments too.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Re:JMT: VVR to Whitney Portal. Average # of Days? on 04/17/2013 16:39:35 MDT Print View

I didn't stop at VVR, but took 2 days from the Edison junction to MTR then 7 days to Whitney Portal. Doing VVR to WP in 7 days means doing two passes each on a couple days.

My stops between Edison junction and WP were:
12.9 mi. 3560 climb Marie Lake
8.3 mi 460 climb MTR JCT (Doesn't count dist from trail to MTR)
9.3 mi 1880 climb upper Maclure Meadows
22.4 mi 2740 climb 1 mile past Middle Fork Jct
15.9 mi 4440 climb Bench Lk. area
17.0 mi 3460 climb 60 Lakes Basin Jct
18.2 mi 5370 climb Tyndall Ck Crossing
11.7 mi 2023 climb Guitar Lk
15.1 mi 3025 climb Whitney Portal

I have a spreadsheet that you can use to put in the camp locations and it will calculate mileage, altitude gain, and approx hike hours between them. Send me a PM with your email address included and I'll send it.

I can definitely see 7 days working by combining my first three days into two, then pushing ahead so I made Bubb's creek the next to last night.

For a family hike this summer (with wife and kids age 12 & 10) we are aiming for 12 days MTR-WP with an Onion Valley resupply.

Edited by jimqpublic on 04/17/2013 16:46:19 MDT.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
My JMT hike on 04/17/2013 17:29:27 MDT Print View

My son and I did the JMT in under ten days back in the days before I got into doing longer mile days. We did 5.5 days from VVR to The Portal. You can cut a days worth of food by using MTR instead of VVR which I would do since MTR is just off the trail and VVR is a money trap. I have done both but would definitely use MTR if doing the PCT/JMT again.

Day 1 - VVR to MTR
Day 2 - 3 miles over Muir Pass
Day 3 - Low point between Mather and Pinchot (kings River?)
Day 4 - Charlotte Lake (did Pinchot and Glenn both)
Day 5 - Guitar Lake (longest day)
Day 5.5 - portal

Edited by gg-man on 04/17/2013 17:32:30 MDT.

john hansford
(jhansford) - MLife
Re: JMT: VVR to Whitney Portal. Average # of Days? on 04/18/2013 08:27:15 MDT Print View

Apologies for my last post, should have read 7.5 days not 6.5. I'll go back and change it.

All times below are walk times, so add your own stops :

Day 1. VVR - Marie Lake.....................................................13.9 mls + 3660' = 6 hrs
Day 2. Marie Lake - Seldon - above McClure.....................20.2 mls + 2710' = 7.6 hrs
Day 3. above McClure - Muir Pass - junc Pallisade Creek..18.5 mls + 1730' = 6.7 hrs
Day 4. Junc Pallisade - Mather - Upper Basin....................13.0 mls + 4030' = 5.7 hrs
Day 5. Upper Basin - Pinchot - Dollar Lake.........................19.7 mls + 3830' = 8 hrs
Day 6. Dollar Lake - Glen Pass - upper Bubbs Creek.........14.4 mls + 3600' = 6 hrs
Day 7. upper Bubbs - Forrester Pass - Mt Whitney.............23.4 mls + 7360' = 10 hrs

I enjoyed the high camps most of all - below Mather Pass, upper Bubbs Creek, Mt Whitney.

My big day was day 7. After two weeks of perfect weather, high cloud began forming, and when I got my first glimpse of Mt Whitney from Bighorn Plateau, cloud was building up around it. Imagine walking two hundred miles to climb Whitney, and then finding it in cloud!

The weather was breaking, and I thought if I got a move on, I would have two chances of climbing it, either that evening or the following morning. I had left my camp in Bubbs at 0610, and arrived at Guitar Lake at 1640, finding dozens of people camped there. The cloud had cleared. I had a meal and set off again, racing the sun to get a sunset from the top, and just made it, at 1945. It was a clear night, and then a perfect sunrise in the morning.




Edited by jhansford on 04/18/2013 08:50:38 MDT.