In September 2012 Andrew F and I backpacked together the Sierra High Route (SHR) which uses short segments of the John Muir Trail (JMT) when going over Mather Pass and Muir Pass. While passing through, I told him about the three JMT hikes I had done with my family and he remarked that the JMT is way prettier than he imagined it and that he would like to backpack it too. Fast-forward into 2013, when my wife and I were planning our summer vacation with our kids. For different reasons we planned to go for only two weeks with our daughters into the John Muir Wilderness instead of our usual three weeks. All of a sudden I had a week of vacation to play with. I contacted Andrew and we tossed a couple of ideas around until I asked him what he thinks of doing the JMT in a week. Luckily I didn’t see his face, when I asked …
Although it sounded overly ambitious at first, we both felt it could be a cool trip. In May Andrew went to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Open and I went to the TGO in Scotland. We both did 30+ miles days, returned with more self-confidence and agreed on doing the JMT in a week.
Having done the JMT twice in three weeks and once in two weeks with my kids, I was mentally prepared for each and every pass. “Rushing” through this beautiful landscape was no issue at all – every time I walk the JMT, I see more and more beautiful sights. In addition it was a great trip down memory lane – so many places had memories attached, where my kids or my wife did something funny or caught a big fish or went for an ice-cold swim or …
This year we walked through several severe thunderstorms. Starting with Silver Pass, we got rained, hailed and thundered on during every pass crossing until Pinchot. Crossing Mather and Pinchot in a day in thunderstorms – after starting in LeConte Canyon and going up the Golden Stair Case in sunshine will stay for a long time with us. Going over Glen and Forester the next day after a two hour lunch break (including fishing, cleaning, cooking and eating the trout) at Rae Lakes will also be a great memory. Standing the next day on Mt. Whitney and watching the sunset was a glorious finish of the JMT. We decided to stay the night on Mt. Whitney to experience the sunrise the next morning – the burger at Whitney Portal could wait until then. The sunrise was absolutely fantastic and well worth the wait for the burger.
This was a very special trip for Andrew and me. We both stretched our limits and now feel comfortable with 30 miles days – day after day – even when they include over 12k ft combined elevation gain and loss on most of those days.
Going lightweight was essential to make this trip so enjoyable. We added a couple of gadgets (GPS, inReach, solar panel, SteriPen, fishing pole, camera) to our backpacks, which brought their baseweight up to almost 10 lbs. Our max weight including all consumables out of Muir Trail Ranch was 20 lbs (the heavy salami in our resupply was devoured at the first stop within less than three miles).
Only three years ago I could not imagine that anyone could possibly enjoy backpacking the JMT in a week. During the last three years I learned so much from other BPL members that I was able to reduce the weight in my backpack to the point where such a trip was not only possible, but a ton of fun.
Thousand Island Lake with Mt Ritter and Banner Peak
Marie Lake from Selden Pass
Andrew and Manfred on Mather Pass
Sunset on Mt. Whitney
Andrew during sunrise on Mt. Whitney
We did it - JMT in a Week
10.5 lbs at the end of the trip