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Sept JMT Gear List
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Duane Bindschadler
(DLBVenice) - M

Locale: Venice
Sept JMT Gear List on 07/15/2014 08:20:06 MDT Print View

I'm preparing for JMT starting Sept 4th. Traveling with a friend, we're expecting to take about 22 days to reach Whitney (including some zero days).

I'd love to have comments on my gear list, particularly from anyone with experience backpacking in Sept on or around the JMT.

My gear list is here: Duane's Gear List!

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Sept JMT Gear List on 07/15/2014 09:11:41 MDT Print View

I've backpacked in the sierras at the end of September many times as it is one of my favorite times to escape the crowds at the more popular places. I will be there at about the same time this year. Your list is pretty good, except the obvious craziness of the 4 oz fuel bottle - if you are actually cooking then I'd guess 3 times bigger might be more appropriate for the southern stretch.

So I will focus on the "September" part. The thing about that month, especially the second half, is it is the point where the weather finally may snap - where the temps drop 20 degrees suddenly and you know the summer is officially over. Once this happen you can pretty much rely on the temps being low 20 or lower overnight at the elevation you will be at at the end of your trip. The good news is that this seldom leads to any seriously rough weather, and any snow should burn off in a day or so.

Still, and for full disclosure this IS from a guy who both sleeps cold and likes to be toasty, you are potentially cutting the edge of comfort with your 30 degree bag and very light jacket - maybe even at times if it doesn't get "summer is over" cold. If you wear everything at once, worst case scenario, you will be safe, but possibly uncomfortable. The pad will go a long way with this, but if you have one, or can afford one, seriously consider a 20 deg bag. It would only be a few oz more. The most efficient use of the extra down. I have been borderline cold the last week in September at 10k feet in my 15 deg bag.

The thing about being cold is that in the abstract it seem like "oh, I can deal with it", but in reality if you actually are cold almost nothing else will seem to be important. :-)

Edited by millonas on 07/15/2014 09:26:20 MDT.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Re: Sept JMT Gear List on 07/15/2014 09:22:07 MDT Print View

full disclosure, I'm not a tarp person.

now regarding shoulder season on the JMT (Sep 4 is not really shoulder but late Sep is), I would much rather bring a 35* bag and a real tent than a 20* bag and a tarp.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Re: Sept JMT Gear List on 07/15/2014 09:34:50 MDT Print View

Yeah, wouldn't disagree with Art on that. Don't want to crimp your ultralight style, but having n fully enclosed shelter makes a HUGE difference under those conditions. In my BD FirstLight I can usually sleep with a 20 deg bag unzipped under those conditions. Still oz per oz more down in your bag is the most efficient. But really know how to pitch that tarp in a strong wind, not to just stand up, but to keep it off you. Makes me shiver just thinking about it. But a fully enclosed shelter will not only cut the breeze to zero, but will raise the temp a bit inside - a powerful double whammy.

Edited by millonas on 07/15/2014 09:39:47 MDT.

J J
(jraiderguy) - M

Locale: Puget Sound
re:shelters on 07/15/2014 10:12:43 MDT Print View

I've been planning on a 10x10 flat tarp for a Sept 6-13 trip for 3 tall guys. I've been thinking that a low A-frame would do the job in wind or rain; now I'm second guessing. Should this be a last minute decision based on the forecast? Time to go practice pitching I guess.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: re:shelters on 07/15/2014 10:27:13 MDT Print View

the decision here partly depends on your level of experience and familiarity with the High Sierra. those with more experience can maybe push the envelope a bit further.

in late April in our very mild local SoCal mountains (el. 6,000 ft) a cold one day storm blew in and some PCT hikers were texting for help on their cell phones because their Tarps couldn't cut it. imagine if they had been in the High Sierra.

Edited by asandh on 07/15/2014 10:29:13 MDT.

Duane Bindschadler
(DLBVenice) - M

Locale: Venice
Sept temps & shelter choice on 07/15/2014 13:54:33 MDT Print View

Marko, Art:

Thanks for the insights. Really appreciate your perspectives. I've been going back and forth on the issue of my 30 deg. quilt ("do I need a 20 deg bag?"), particularly because I'm beginning to think I'm a bit of a cold sleeper.

I had not considered the degree to which a fully enclosed shelter might make a difference. I have gotten some experience with tarp pitches for windy conditions. The one suggested by Ryan Jordan here on BPL as a storm pitch works particularly well for shedding wind. Still not going to be as warm as a tent.

I'm also considering a slightly heavier, warmer down hoody and some microfleece long underwear, which would help a bit.

I don't have experience with temps in below the mid-low 30s, nor with the Sierras except in June-August.

Will have to take a look at what it'd take to pitch my tarp as an enclosed pyramid...

Edited by DLBVenice on 07/15/2014 13:55:16 MDT.

Duane Bindschadler
(DLBVenice) - M

Locale: Venice
Fuel bottle on 07/15/2014 13:58:56 MDT Print View

And re: the 4 oz fuel bottle - it's actually 2 bottles (turns out 2X 4 oz. fuel bottles fit inside my can pot, while a round 8 oz sticks out above the rim). And I can get 4 days out of 1 bottle (hot meals every night, hot breakfast every other morning), so that should be enough to get between resupplies.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: re:shelters on 07/15/2014 14:08:49 MDT Print View

"a 10x10 flat tarp"

That will do fine for the rain that falls vertically. However, you need to think about the horizontal stuff. Can you close two sides of this down to the ground?

--B.G.--

Joe Lynch
(rushfan) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Snow on 07/15/2014 14:27:00 MDT Print View

Last September we were snowed on. Not sure you're prepared for that with your current gear. Warner base layers and a warmer jacket make sense. Also good advice to bring a tent unless you are really good at pitching a tarp.

J J
(jraiderguy) - M

Locale: Puget Sound
re: shelter on 07/15/2014 14:35:10 MDT Print View

I can pin the tarp edges to the ground. I put 16 tie-outs around the perimeter, plus four mid-panel using grip-clips (to pull the sides out a bit). I basically copied this tie-out pattern from the BPL article:

http://cache.backpackinglight.com/backpackinglight/images/tarp-camping-inclement-conditions-6.jpg

If the wind was blowing from a constant direction I can see 2-sided protection leaving space for comfort, but if it was necessary to put 3 sides to the ground it might get rough. I'll just need to do some more testing and see if I'm being realistic. We've got tents, so my contingency at this point would be to bring a BA UL3 and my 10x10 tarp, and if it really blows/rains then we could put 2 in the tent and 1 under the tarp comfortably, or 3 in the tent in a pinch. Of course my tarp-only high-sierra aspirations might be delayed another year. :)

Has anyone made removable beaks from polycro or similar? Not sure how I'd attach them without adding velcro.

Edited by jraiderguy on 07/15/2014 14:36:21 MDT.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: re: shelter on 07/15/2014 14:58:28 MDT Print View

First of all, I am not sure how you support your 10x10 tarp. Trekking poles work, if you have them. A ridgeline cord will work if you have trees to tie to. There are places along the JMT where you are above timberline. Now what?

Personally, I use a cuben fiber shaped tarp over two Fibraplex poles. I made my own beak using cuben fiber scraps, some velcro bits, some tape, and some paper clips. Cuben fiber is really strong stuff, much stronger than plastic.

--B.G.--

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Snow on 07/15/2014 15:17:02 MDT Print View

"Last September we were snowed on."

A reminder. Lots of beginners are told that September is a pleasant time on the JMT, even around Mount Whitney. Some years ago, some newbies camped halfway up the Whitney Trail over Labor Day Weekend. They got snowed on heavily. The experienced backpackers knew when to cut and run. The newbies didn't. A few days later their bodies were found about a thousand feet lower on the trail.

If it snows, it is more likely to be an inch or two only. That isn't enough to destroy all of your gear, but it is enough to make the trail slippery and difficult to follow. Then, you take a bad fall and everything goes to hell from there.

--B.G.--

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Snow on 07/15/2014 19:38:13 MDT Print View

Bob, Do you also have a recipe for making improvised crampons out the paper clips and tape? As a klutz I would fear the Whitney trail covered in ice going downhill more than almost anything else. I have used those springy one meant to be pulled over your trail runner at the grand canyon rim going down the first 1000 or so feet, but carrying them on the JMT in September seems like it might be excessive.

It there a way to tie cords to you shoes to make then snow-grippy? I wonder about waiting for it to melt off instead.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Snow on 07/15/2014 19:50:44 MDT Print View

wrap #18 guage galvanized wire around your boots. Provides a little grip in icy conditions.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Snow on 07/15/2014 20:56:21 MDT Print View

Hmmm. First of all, I guess you are thinking in terms of September. If there is any snow at all then, it is likely to be very new snow, and that is not so bad as old snow and ice.

I went up and down Whitney in June. There had been a snow storm just two or three weeks prior, and I had seen the new photos of snow covering the entire Switchback slope. As a result, when I drove over there, I took an ice axe and Yaktrax. Then when I talked to rational people at the visitor center, I realized that they were not needed. There was a path about eight or nine inches wide beaten into the snow. Of course, that is all gone now, and September might have something new. Remember, though, that you are not the Lone Ranger out there, and many hikers will be using the same trail ahead of you.

You could probably wind some parachute cord around your boots in a crisscross fashion. That is done in Japan using ladies nylons twisted into a rope. You want to get the rope about a quarter inch thick so that it mashes down under your weight, but it gives you a little traction.

Start with a long piece of cord and find the middle. Tie a loop there that will fit around the toe of your boot, but it won't slip all the way back to the laces. With that loop around the toe, do crisscrosses as you wind it back onto and under the boot. Then tie it off with the regular laces. That won't be perfect unless you keep it tightly on.

If you have trekking poles, it won't be so bad.

On the other hand, if you get up there and get stuck and die, then we will divvy up your gear.

--B.G.--

Duane Bindschadler
(DLBVenice) - M

Locale: Venice
Sept snow on JMT on 07/15/2014 22:03:47 MDT Print View

Don't know about J.J.'s experience, but I grew up hiking in the Colorado Rockies. Been snowed on in July and August. Once in early Aug, I was hiking solo above 12,000 ft (Flattop / Hallet's peak above Bear Lake) and was caught in a snow storm and socked in for a few hours. I had the right set of layers, and compass and map, and got down safely (although it took a while). So I fully appreciate what you all are indicating can happen.

Anyone with experience in mid-late Sept with a tarp in and around the southern end of JMT? Is that flirting with "stupid light?"

and Bob G - what killed the "newbies" near Whitney (besides inexperience)? Were they unprepared to just wait it out in their tents (did they have none?)? Was their clothing inadequate? Did they do something stupid (like allow all their gear to get soaked)?

thanks,

Duane B.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Sept snow on JMT on 07/15/2014 22:27:39 MDT Print View

"and Bob G - what killed the "newbies" near Whitney (besides inexperience)? Were they unprepared to just wait it out in their tents (did they have none?)? Was their clothing inadequate? Did they do something stupid (like allow all their gear to get soaked)?"

As I recall, their problems were all of the above.

They had a tent, and they made it from Whitney Portal up to Trail Camp, expecting to go to the Whitney summit the next day. There was a big snow dump that night. First thing in the morning, the experienced people saw how bad it was and immediately bailed. The newbies were already half-wet from inadequate equipment and clothing, but they tried to hunker down and wait it out for nice weather. By the end of that day, they were all alone and their gear was getting worse and worse, so they decided to bail as well. Unfortunately, their gear had gotten so heavy from water that they had to abandon it. Their bodies were found a thousand feet below Trail Camp. If you know the trail there, it is a good solid trail, but there are some slippery rocks if it has raining. I don't recall the COD, but it doesn't really matter. It was sort of due to inexperience. You have to know when to fold your tent and slink away into the night, literally.

--B.G.--

Keith Fultz
(In4Life6) - MLife

Locale: Central Valley, CA
Is a Bivvy warmer than a tent? on 07/15/2014 22:45:32 MDT Print View

Just wondering. I used a bivvy for the the first time last year and thought it was warmer than a tent. OR Aurora was the bivvy. About 20 0z I think and warmer.
Am I right?

Duane Bindschadler
(DLBVenice) - M

Locale: Venice
Sept snow on JMT on 07/15/2014 22:49:10 MDT Print View

Bob:

Thanks. That description fits with my observations and experiences. It's rarely a single factor that results in a horrible outcome - but a single good decision can avoid it completely. Knowing when to pack it in and bail is a valuable skill.