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John Muir Trail (JMT) Record Attempt - Unsupported, Without Resupply

BPL subscriber, Al Shaver, will attempt to break the JMT speed record for an unsupported hike without resupply. He starts on the full moon, September 7th.

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by Al Shaver | 2006-08-23 03:00:00-06

John Muir Trail (JMT) Record Attempt - Unsupported, Without Resupply


Paralleling nearly the entire length of the majestic Sierra Crest, the John Muir Trail switchbacks its way over 10 passes, almost all 11,000 to 13,000 feet in elevation. Named after the master conservator, naturalist and adventurer himself, the JMT winds through over 200 miles of some of the most beautiful and dramatic landscape on the planet. Hundreds backpack the JMT every year, normally taking two or three weeks to complete the trail. A few adventurers run or fastpack the trail trying to set speed records. The current record for traveling the trail carrying everything you need, including food, from start to finish (unsupported and without resupply), is 5 days and 7 hours set by Reinhold Metzger. I hope to beat Reinhold's record this September.


I had been on many parts of the JMT over the years, but only came to know the full extent of the trail while setting personal best times climbing Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome. I would pass the Happy Isles Trailhead sign and read the distances to nearby hiker destinations, noticing the incongruous inclusion of 211 miles to the 14,497 foot summit of Mt. Whitney. Curious about the inclusion, I learned the distant goal is on the sign because Happy Isles Trailhead and Mt. Whitney are the respective northern and southern termini of the John Muir Trail.

I immediately felt that a full length hike in one push was calling, but somehow that felt too predictable. Then the idea of hiking it unsupported and without resupply resonated with me. It would be very difficult and I didn't know for sure if I could do it. The perfect recipe for a challenge!

After much training on the steep 3000 foot high escarpments of Big Sur, I had peeled 20 pounds off my 47 year old, 193 pound frame. In 2004 I took 13 days of food in a 41 pound pack, including 5.5 pounds of bear canister, and stood on Whitney’s summit 12 days later. Upon my victorious arrival home, I googled the trail and quickly discovered that at the tender age of 61 summers, former U.S. Marine Reinhold Metzger had covered the same route, unsupported and without resupply, in 5 days, 10 hours.

In 2005, after the heavy, late snow melted, Reinhold lopped another 3 hours off his personal best. He then injured his shoulder skiing at Mammoth Mountain this past winter and may be out of the swim for a while. He did say that his 5 day, 7 hour effort was his last fastpack on the JMT... We'll see. Never count a great spirit like Reinhold out of the game.

Catra Corbett of Fremont, California is a terrific ultra runner who holds the lady's JMT speed record and has yo-yoed the 422 miles at 7 days southbound (uphill) and 6 days northbound. Technically, she doesn't do it unsupported as she resupplies mid-route. But she doesn't load up again until she hits the trail's end, turns around and reaches her single resupply location again, so I know she could kick my sorry old butt any day of the week. Fortunately, this summer she's engrossed with her vision of linking the JMT to the Yosemite to Tahoe Trail to the Tahoe Rim to Rim Trail.

So it seems that if the Mountain Gods choose to smile upon me this September and allow me to hike/run/crawl 40 sleep deprivation induced psychotic miles a day for 5-1/4 days, I may be able to briefly bask in obscure glory until the next season when some real runner puts me in my place.

I separate myself from "real" runners because I've never displayed any particular talent for this activity. What I really am is a climber. I may not climb at a high level, but I'm passionate about it. I discovered that if I ran the approaches, I could get in more climbing in a day. That's how I became a trail runner. They say short distances require talent and long distances require guts (and although being a little daft in the noggin isn't officially required, it is reported to help). And that's how I became an ultra trail runner.

Gear Choices

By the time I started my first JMT through-hike in 2004, my quiver included: a 14 ounce GoLite Cave1 tent, 1 pound 3 ounce GoLite Gust pack, 1 pound 3 ounce The North Face Beeline 900 sleeping bag, 3.7 ounce Marmot Mountain Works down hood, 7.8 ounce Montbell UL Down Inner Jacket, 12 year old 12 ounce Montbell Stormcruiser GTX jacket, 1 ounce wing stove with Esbit fuel tablets, 2.6 ounce Snowpeak titanium pot and aluminum flashing lid, 1 ounce Black Diamond Ion headlamp, 16 ounce pair of Leki titanium/aluminum trekking poles and 3 ounce Aqua Mira water purification chemicals.

With this arsenal, my starting pack weighed in at 41 pounds dry. That's 5.5 pounds courtesy of two Backpacker's Cache bear canisters (which withstood a fierce pummeling my first night from a bear that was tragically destroyed by the Park Service two weeks later), 26 pounds from 13 days food at 2 pounds per day and a 9.5 pound base weight. Losing 15.5 pounds of food by shortening the trip to a record breaking 5-1/4 days and trading the bear cans in for two, 1 ounce Watchful Eye Designs O.P. sacks, drops my dry pack weight to 20 pounds 2 ounces. Since I won't have time to sleep much there's no point in hauling 3 pounds 1 ounce of tent, titanium stakes, silnylon ground cloth, foam pad and sleeping bag. Without sleeping gear I will be dozing during the day or early evening at lower (8,000 -9,000 feet) elevations. Let's face it - if a scree pile is too uncomfortable to crash out on for two hours, then I'm just not tired enough to stop and need to get back on the trail and pound some more miles. The same goes for rain. If it's too wet or cold to stop and sleep... guess what?

Hot meals are strictly a time and energy consuming luxury for my record attempt. Cutting out the stove, fuel and paraphernalia is good for 11.1 ounces. Some of my clothing, such as my 7.4 ounce Outdoor Research Zealot Gore-Tex Packlite jacket, 1 pound 9 ounce Mizuno road running shoes and 2.3 ounce Montbell UL Wind Pants, will be lighter than their counterparts used on my last trip. However, my food will probably weigh more per day this trip due to my higher caloric needs and my switch from calorie rich fat to a less caloric, high carbohydrate diet. I am moving away from the high caloric density of my oil based previous JMT effort because the energy output required for 40-50 mile days is better suited to a carbohydrate based diet. As such, the weight savings from lighter clothing will probably be wiped out. Losing that chubby GoLite Gust pack in favor of the 4.5 ounce Gossamer Gear G6 Uberpack buys me another 14 ounces.

Now we're down to 15 pounds 7.9 ounces dry starting pack weight, which will actually start dry as I will hit water not much more than an hour after I begin. With heavier headlamp, spare batteries and more food, this time I can easily envision the actual pack starting weight swelling to 17 pounds. This I can live with.

My clothing strategy is three layers. Layer one is a sun hat, sun shirt, stretch shorts, and running shoes. Layer two is a thin polyester balaclava and down balaclava, down jacket, and stretch thermal pants. Layer three is a Gore-Tex jacket, waterproof/breathable mitts, wind pants, and Gore-Tex socks.

The difference between my torso system and the more common strategy, is that I use no middle insulating layer. I go straight from light sun shirt to down jacket. My 5 ounce GoLite C-Thru zip neck t-shirt would be a very convenient mid layer, but I don't need it. For medium warmth, I throw my shell jacket on. Then, 1.2 ounce balaclava, carried for face protection from icy, early morning winds, driven snow and sleet. As the temperature drops further I can remove the shell and add the unsnapped down jacket. By being creative and juggling layers, I can do without a surprising amount of weight in clothing.


I have carefully mapped the 21 exit routes along the trail for emergency aborts. Many of them, however, involve crossing the 12,000 foot Sierra Crest to the east and down to a remote and likely deserted trailhead. If injured or depleted this could easily be an arduous 3-4 day trek. Of course, since the JMT is a trade route, there is always the possibility of rescue from a compassionate good Samaritan. A satellite phone would be a great tool to carry but the last one I rented weighed 14 ounces.

On the brighter side, the September full moon falls on the 7th, which is likely a good date this year to have a firm, dry trail with low rivers. The season is also likely to be past the August heat in the lower valleys and the worst of the mosquito festival, and before the occasional fall cold front with its attendant rain and perhaps snow. The days will, of course, be significantly shorter than in early July 2004 when I had ideal conditions following a low snow year. My consultant, JMT supported hike speed record holder Kevin Sawchuk (3 days 21 hours 5 minutes! - read about his adventure in Backpacking Light print magazine, issue 2), has found that the moon is actually not as much help as one might expect. Between deep, narrow canyons and trees, its light actually inhibits one's eyes from adjusting to the darkness. He says you're sometimes better off without the moon. I’ve been training in the hills of the Bureau of Land Management land at the former Fort Ord near Monterey,California at night on technical trails, and I’ve had great confidence with setting my Petzl Tikka Plus on medium brightness. One set of three alkaline AAA batteries has lasted me quite some time. One set of lithium might do the whole trip, but since I can carry three sets for 2.3 ounces, I will probably splurge and err on the conservative side for this critical item.

Unsupported and without resupply record holder Reinhold Metzger states that a 5 day, 10 hour trip requires three qualities: you must be a strong hiker, a terrific planner, and be mentally tough when your body begins to shut down. Fortunately all of these requirements play to my strengths. If anything, I plan too much - to the point of sometimes having trouble getting out into the field. I’ve heard it said that the hardest move is out the door, and I can identify with that.

As I stated before, I am not a gifted runner. Consequently, I need to create as much advantage as I can. Carrying no sleep gear and being well acclimated before I start are two advantages over Kevin Sawchuk's record run. He also started the Muir Trail fatigued, having just completed the 6,200 foot vertical 10.8 mile ascent from Whitney Portal to the JMT start on the summit of Whitney in 3 hours 39 minutes. Based on what he told me, it sounded like a resupply-style tradition to start from the 8,300 foot Whitney Portal. If my understanding is correct, he actually ran the trail in 3 days 17 hours 23 minutes, not 3 days 21 hours 5 minutes. Reinhold appears to just count his JMT time starting from the southern terminus on the summit as I will also do. The more I study this wilderness speed record business, the more clannishness and idiosyncrasies I discover.

I’ll be tapering my training in late August and will slowly ascend the peak over several days. Then I’ll rest on the summit for the better part of two days before I start.

Food and Water

I will not be treating my water. Water is found virtually everywhere along the trail and is unlikely to make me ill, except for the Merced River 4 miles from the finish in Yosemite Valley, which I have contracted giardiasis from on a previous occasion. As Kevin Sawchuk points out, "Giardia usually takes a week to strike." If I am infected with sufficient quantities of pathogen to become ill, I probably won't have to deal with it until after the hike. I’ve had many pathogenic exposures over the years, and lack of medical treatment for most of them, so it’s likely that I am always carrying a benign colony of critters in my lower intestine, which my immune system usually keeps at bay.

In 2004 I took along 2 quarts of safflower oil to beef up my caloric intake with minimal weight increase to my pack. With protein and carbohydrate weighing in at 4 calories per gram and fat at 9 calories per gram, the math is simple. Unfortunately, slugging the pungent, slippery fluid over the gums after day five without a prompt revisitation became a bit difficult. As far as the "end" result goes, I had no significant events for 4-1/2 days. I’ll say no more.

Much later, on a post which Dr. J [Ryan Jordan, Backpacking Light publisher] had started to get diet ideas for his Arctic 1000 Challenge, I learned that the body burns fat well at lower levels of exertion, like my 25 mile days in 2004. At the 40 plus miles per day required this year, my body will want to burn primarily carbohydrates with a little fat and protein added. Accelerade powdered drink fits this requirement. I am hoping that I respond well to Accelerade’s recipe of advanced electrolyte cocktail garnished with a touch of fat and protein.

I am considering taking 2 quarts Accelerade, 1 ounce teriyaki turkey jerky and 1 Clif Bar for each 10 miles. This will weigh 9.3 ounces and provide 970 calories of energy. At 208 miles, this adds up to 12.1 pounds and 20,176 calories for the entire trip. On a 5-1/4 day schedule, this comes to 2.3 pounds and 3,843 calories per day. Divided into four days this diet weighs 3 pounds and provides 5044 calories per day.


So, here are my intentions: Human powered, non-mechanized transit of the John Muir Trail between its termini at the summit of Mt. Whitney and the Happy Isles Trailhead 80 feet from the Merced River water gauging station in Yosemite National Park. My route will be the most commonly accepted definition of the trail route from literature and anecdotal reports with extra weight given to opinions expressed by fellow competitors. I will travel unsupported and without resupply (carrying all my gear and without resupply at any point during the hike), drug free (no stimulants and, hopefully, no anti-inflammatory medicines) and clean (no equipment, food or supplies left along the trail - just skin, hair, nails and bodily fluids). The only resources provided to me along the way will be air, water, the earth to run upon, and whatever is in my pack.

The worst case scenario is, too cold and wet to sleep, the coldest part of the night coming on, I'm heading up a pass and my body begins to shut down. I'm chilled, wearing damp down balaclava and jacket and my calorie, electrolyte, rest and sleep deprived body and mind are powering down as I hit 12,000 feet in elevation. The September temperatures hit the mid 20's and my down freezes. I slow, causing my body temperature to dip further; now into scary numbers. If I were at the lodge, I would receive immediate treatment, and the relentless, downward spiral would be arrested. But I will not be at the lodge.

I’ll be making my attempt in early September, and I look forward to sharing it with Backpacking Light readers, if I survive! Wish me luck!

Gear List
(not finalized)
Category / Items Weight
  Grams Ounces
Gossamer Gear G6 with compression cord, Camelbak attachments, sternum strap and waist belt 128 4.5
Homemade frontpack 17 0.6
Perry whistle, cord loop and UrsaLite Micro Carabiner 10 0.4
Timex Ironman chronograph 49 1.7
Total 204 7.2
Category / Items Grams Ounces
Total 0 0.0
Category / Items Grams Ounces
Camelbak 100 fl oz Omega Reservoir - collar removed and pack attachment system added 187 6.6
12 fl oz plastic cup for filling reservoir 3 0.1
Total 190 6.7
Category / Items Grams Ounces
Mini Bic lighter 11 0.4
Total 11 0.4
Category / Items Grams Ounces
Ziploc bag 4 0.1
Gerber Microlite LST locking blade knife with cord loop 11 0.4
Dual Duty thread and needles 1 0.0
Duct tape 14 0.5
Bailing Wire 5 0.1
6 Safety pins 3 0.1
6 ft of 2 mm cord 4 0.1
Total 42 1.5
Category / Items Grams Ounces
Soap and container 57 2.0
Poo Kit - shop towels, 2 ziploc bags, Purell 43 1.5
Ora Labs Lip Sun Shield SPF 30 6 0.2
Sunscreen 28 1.0
Total 134 4.7
Category / Items Grams Ounces
Antibiotic ointment 9 0.3
Bandaids 6 0.2
Medications 6 0.2
Ibuprofen 9 0.3
Ziploc bag 4 0.1
Total 34 1.2
Category / Items Grams Ounces
Collapsible scissors 14 0.5
Tape 28 1.0
Moleskin 28 1.0
Compound tincture of benzoin 43 1.5
Bodyglide skin lubricant 85 3.0
Ziploc bag 4 0.1
Total 202 7.1
Category / Items Grams Ounces
CLOTHES (Carried in pack in warm, dry weather)
Spare Injinji Mini Crew Coolmax Tetratsok, medium 49 1.7
Spare Balega Enduro running socks, medium 42 1.5
Spare GoLite C-Thru polyester lightweight brief, medium 46 1.6
Thin polyester balaclava 33 1.2
Nunatak down balaclava in 0.85 oz /yd2 fabric 84 3.0
Montbell UL Down Inner Jacket, medium 221 7.8
GoLite C-Thru Polyester Men's Lite Weight Tight, Large 126 4.4
Outdoor Research Zealot Gore-Tex packlite jacket, medium 210 7.4
Montbell UL Wind Pants, medium 65 2.3
Outdoor Research Talus waterproof/breathable mitten shells, medium 78 2.8
Rocky Gore-Tex Socks, size 12 83 2.9
Bozeman Mountain Works Spin Sack NANO UL, medium 8 0.3
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack 4 Liter (for down) 23 0.8
Total 1068 37.7
Category / Items Grams Ounces
Wilderness permit, ID, Trail junction log, cash, credit cards, contact sheet, pencil, ziploc bag, blank paper, emergency note and medical card in ziploc bag with safety pins, 2 cards in ziploc bag to drop at Red's Meadow and Tuolumne Meadow asking hikers to call my home to report my progress in case I disappear 28 1.0
Total 28 1.0
Category / Items Grams Ounces
Petzl Tikka Plus headlamp with 3 lithium AAA batteries 78 2.8
2 sets spare batteries 45 1.6
Total 123 4.3
Category / Items Grams Ounces
21 Clif Bars deflated and resealed @ 250 Calories 1470 51.9
21 oz Teriyaki turkey jerky @ 80 Calories 595 21
42 quarts Accelerade @ 320 Calories 3473 122.5
Ziplock bags 57 2
2 Watchful Eye Designs 12.5"x15.5" O.P. Bags (odor proof) 57 2
GoLite Landlubbers Sil-lite Stow Sack, Large 29 1
Total 5681 200.4
Category / Items Grams Ounces
WORN ON BODY (in warm, dry weather)
Marathon white mesh ball cap with mesh cape added 71 2.5
SportEyz rollup sunglasses 8 0.3
Ziploc bag glasses case 4 0.1
Nike Ladies White Stretch Shirt with mesh sleeves added, large 170 6
Asics Relay Field Stretch Short, large 134 4.7
GoLite C-Thru polyester lightweight brief, medium 46 1.6
Injinji Mini Crew Coolmax Tetratsok, medium 49 1.7
Balega Enduro running socks, medium 42 1.5
Dirty Girl Gaiters "Lime Gatorade Hurl" pattern 33 1.2
Mizuno Wave Rider 9 road running shoes, size 10 612 21.6
Superfeet green footbeds 94 3.3
Total 1263 44.6
Food: On a 5.25 day record breaking schedule the 20,370 Calories will provide 3880 Calories/day
Completing the 208 mile distance in 4 days increases the daily allotment to 5093 Calories/day
28.2% of weight of fully loaded pack will be base load plus food packaging
71.8% of weight of fully loaded pack will be food
My food averages 3.7 Calories/gram.
Clothing: 52.5% of the weight of base pack is clothing (spares, cold and wet weather)
47.5% is non-clothing
Weight Summary
Category Kilograms Pounds
Base Weight (A) 2.0 4.5
Consumables - food and packaging (B) 5.7 12.5
Fully Loaded Pack (A+B) (no water will be carried at start) 7.7 17.0
Worn on body (warm, dry weather) (C) 1.3 2.8
Full Skin Out Weight (A+B+C) 9.0 19.8

About the Author

Unsupported John Muir Trail Speed Record Attempt - 2

Born June 13, 1957 in Buffalo, New York and raised in Sacramento and Marin County, California, Al Shaver first backpacked throughout California's Sierra Nevada (John Muir's "Range of Light") as a Boy Scout and as a scout camp merit badge counselor. He first climbed Mt. Whitney at age 13 with a scout troop. An Eagle Scout with Troop 81 in 1975, he was Marin County wrestling champion that same year. He graduated from the University of California at Davis with a B.S. of Applied Behavioral Sciences in 1979.

He sold photocopiers and computer control panels in the Silicon Valley, and eventually followed the example of the protagonist in Tom Robbins' novel "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues." He called in 'well.' "I'm fine now. I don't need this job anymore. Thank-you." in 1983. Al traveled to Peru and Ecuador to learn to climb on 21,000 foot peaks in 1986. Fortunately, he survived the experience. From 1986 to 1991, he spent summers touring, climbing and skiing in Europe, the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia and Alaska, and wintered at Rocky Mountain ski resorts. While waiting tables at a brewpub in Santa Fe, New Mexico, from 1995 to 2000, he began to dabble in trail running to the 12,600 foot summit of Santa Fe Baldy. In 2001 he moved to Monterey, California to be a full time Uncle to his then 10 and 13 year old nephews. He continues to hike with Boy Scouts as Assistant Scoutmaster for troop 93. On his own he likes to solo his favorite technical rock climbing routes on Yosemite National Park's Half Dome and Mt. Whitney's East Face.

He began carrying a small postage scale and a 10 pound baby scale into backcountry stores almost 20 years ago - well before it became fashionable. Arriving without his standard paraphernalia, store employees have actually asked, albeit rarely, "Dude, where's your scale?"


"John Muir Trail (JMT) Record Attempt - Unsupported, Without Resupply," by Al Shaver. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2006-08-23 03:00:00-06.


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John Muir Trail (JMT) Record Attempt - Unsupported, Without Resupply
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Cat Jasins
(CatJasins) - MLife
John Muir Trail (JMT) Record Attempt - Unsupported, Without Resupply on 08/23/2006 02:35:35 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

John Muir Trail (JMT) Record Attempt - Unsupported, Without Resupply

mark henley
(flash582) - F
Re: John Muir Trail (JMT) Record Attempt - Unsupported, Without Resupply on 08/23/2006 08:34:34 MDT Print View

I would be very interested in hearing more about Al's training program to get ready for such a hike.

buzz burrell
re: JMT on 08/23/2006 09:37:53 MDT Print View

Great pre-trip report! The documentation of gear was really helpful.

My partner Peter Bakwin and I popularized the sport of multi-day trail records when we established records on the Colorado Trail in 1999 and the JMT in 2000. Besides having fun, our intention was to spur others on to what's possible ... really glad it's happenning! The sport is being moved forward, and now I'm learning a ton from everyone.

One strong recommendation: the JMT really does start at Whitney Portal. All trails start at trailheads ... that's why they're called trailheads ... not at some mark along the way. The original reason Mt Whitney summit was called the start was for marketing hype.

Have fun, BB

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Re: John Muir Trail (JMT) Record Attempt - Unsupported, Without Resupply on 08/23/2006 20:00:17 MDT Print View

Note that in Al's discussion of the trail that his definition of the trail route was based on both literature as well as fellow "competitors". I quote,

"My route will be the most commonly accepted definition of the trail route from literature and anecdotal reports with extra weight given to opinions expressed by fellow competitors."

Note the use of the words "extra weight given". In other words he's not so concerned with what the rest of us think, but rather than small group of people who are working on these record attempts.

Mark Larson
(mlarson) - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: Re: John Muir Trail (JMT) Record Attempt - Unsupported, Without Resupply on 08/23/2006 21:04:53 MDT Print View

"In other words he's not so concerned with what the rest of us think, but rather than small group of people who are working on these record attempts."

And rightly so. It sounds like quite a trip, Al. It's really encouraging to hear these stories of regular Joes doing such amazing [irregular!] things. Thanks for sharing some insight. I especially like the bit about the clothing. I'm also leaning in the direction of minimizing layers: appropriate shirt, windshirt, and powerful insulation. It just keeps life so much simpler.


Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
One dangerous problem needs to be addressed on 08/24/2006 13:45:18 MDT Print View

Al - As you correctly noted, your biggest vulnerability is going to be your body temperature when you attempt to take a nap. Your MB down inner jacket insulation layer is .8" single layer and with all layers together you will have about 1" around your torso. This will keep you in thermal balance only to a low temp of about 60F when you attempt to nap.

At minimum, you need to exchange your down jacket for something like the Phd Minimus or add a down vest that yields the same total vest/jacket loft as the Minimus. This will give you a single layer loft of about 1 1/2" for thermal balance at a low of about 40F. The weight addition is an extra (12-7.8 = 4.2 oz). Using black for your external layer and sleeping during the day in potential sunlight will also give you an added safety margin.

Ideally you would exchange your down jacket for something like the Western Feathered Friends Helios. This will give you a single layer loft of about 2" for thermal balance at about 20F. The weight addition is an extra (17.3-7.8 = 9.5 oz).
The jacket recommendations for napping also assume that you have insulation under your body when sitting or laying down (pack, forest duff, leaves, etc).

Edited by richard295 on 08/24/2006 19:26:07 MDT.

Bernard Shaw
( - F

Locale: Upstate New York
I second this important advice on 08/25/2006 06:31:51 MDT Print View

I heartil second this advice. Both in terms of possible life deeath survival in the occasion of a storm, wind, wet, and cold, and in the record attempt. Lack of proper sleep and rest will debilitate MORE than the very small increase in weight. If one computes how much more work will be done, vs the calories used up in keeping his body warm, this is another reason to go with your idea of more insulation. Good luck all.


Luke Ludwig
(ludwigl) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota
Insulation: Not Enough on 08/25/2006 15:58:29 MDT Print View

I agree with the above advice on needing more insulation. Al, I would recommend bringing some form of non-down insulation (such as a Cocoon Pullover, 9 oz) since you will not have a sleeping bag or shelter in case of emergency. Hypothermia happens,


John S.
(jshann) - F
Shelter/Insulation on 08/26/2006 05:47:51 MDT Print View

Or you could stay with the down insulation and take along shelter in the form of an AMK Heatsheet for an emergency situation where shelter or heat (vapor barrier) is needed. Cut a hole in it and make a poncho. It will weigh 2-3 oz. You could trim it to any size and lower the weight. This simple addition will keep you at a SUL baseweight..and keep you from being SOL.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Shelter/Insulation on 08/26/2006 08:54:36 MDT Print View

John- You have most succinctly stated the objective - This simple addition will keep you at a SUL base weight and keep you from being SOL. For most hikers the Heatsheet is a viable safety item but Al is already carrying two items which seems to lessen the Heatsheet’s value for this situation.

1) He is carrying a WPB jacket /wind pants. They address the convection and moisture protection while taking his naps. 2) Also the AMK Heatsheet doesn't provide any incremental IR thermal benefit since he already has greater than .75" of conventional insulation with his down jacket.

Edited by richard295 on 08/26/2006 08:55:25 MDT.

Al Shaver
(Al_T.Tude) - F - M

Locale: High Sierra and CA Central Coast
Useful Comments on 08/28/2006 18:12:55 MDT Print View

Thanks to all for support and suggestions. I am considering them all. I did decide to cut a .37"/9.4mm blue foam pad down to a 2.4oz hourglass shape to fit my torso for napping. I still may have to sleep during precious daylight to keep warm. Navigation at night is not a big problem, but psychologically it will be tough to have to run through the entire night.

Richard, You mention some interesting down products that I am not familiar with - will have to check into them. By the time I get to a jacket with the loft of the Helios, I'm within 1.1oz of my TNF Beeline 900, 900 fill sleeping bag which would be much warmer than the jacket. The only reason to use a jacket is so you can walk around and use your arms. For sleeping, a bag is much more efficient.

Buzz, I appreciate someone with your experience sharing his opinions. Yes, you and those who have followed you and Peter have inspired me to embrace the joy of moving swiftly along mountain trails. I'm having alot of fun with it.

I will speak with Reinhold re. starting at Whitney Portal as you do vs. starting at the summit as he does. He also chooses to take the shorter route (staying south of Hwy 120) at Tuolumne Meadows rather than the "traditional" longer route that Kevin Sawchuk uses.

Although competing on the Whitney Main Trail before starting the JMT is contrived and requires backtracking the first 1.9 miles from the summit, it is a far more convienient starting point and you supported style guys seem to have agreed on it as your standard. If I start at the portal and do well, perhaps it will cast a vote for both styles competing on the same route.

greg degler
(gregdegler) - F

Locale: West
JMT record attempt on 09/02/2006 23:35:48 MDT Print View

good luck to you.

the ThriftstoreMountaineer
Dixville Notch, NH

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Shelter-Insulation on 09/03/2006 19:35:26 MDT Print View

Al-The problem with carrying a down sleeping bag is that you would have to carry shelter to keep it dry where as your WB jacket would protect a down jacket while napping. You could experience napping temperatures as low as 20F on your record attempt and need approximately 2” of torso insulation.

For a 1.2 oz weight decrease from your current insulation, take a Nunatak SkahaPlus reviewed at in place of your existing jacket and balaclava insulation.

Point them to your BPL article and tell them about the potential publicity from a successful record attempt. They should provide you this garment at little or no cost.

Edited by richard295 on 09/04/2006 13:55:26 MDT.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
JMT Attempt on 09/04/2006 00:13:03 MDT Print View

O.K so trails start at at trailheads and maybe now the John Muir Trail starts at the Whitney Portal but I don't agree that it used to be that way. I believe that the marketing hype is more correct than than where the trailhead is. There was a time when Whitney Portal road was not there; then where did it end? John Muir made the trail and he made it end on the top of Whitney. So what Al Shaver is realy doing is running the "original" trail.
I also agree that for the spirt of breaking a reacord in the wildernes, that it be done in it's original fashion, not just what it says on a map because there is a road there now and that's where the trailhead starts.
Most trails have come about only after the road was put in. Just becuase they couldn't make the road go all the way up the mountain doesn't mean the entire trail should be changed from it.
Oh yeah, GOOOOO AL... and good luck!!!


Locale: South West US
JMT Record Attempt- Any news? on 09/13/2006 13:43:49 MDT Print View

Any new updates?

Paul Tree
(Paul_Tree) - F

Locale: Wowwww
Al baby! on 09/21/2006 00:13:02 MDT Print View

Can someone check on this guy and give us an update? Hope he's OK, there was a spot of cold weather the last day or so if I remember...

Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Al baby! on 09/21/2006 06:53:47 MDT Print View

Hope he's doing great. I have a feeling if he's had time to contact anyone it's likely just his family/close friends. They may not know to post an update here.

John Barnhardt
(jbarnhardt) - M
Unofficial update... on 09/21/2006 10:27:17 MDT Print View

Hi all. My wife and I were lucky enough to hike the JMT from Sept 4-17 and encountered Al on 2 occasions. Once as he was coming up Muir Pass (we were going North to South, his itinerary is South to North) looking *very* strong, and then again as we were departing Lone Pine on a bus the morning of Sept 18. There was indeed some very windy and cold weather in the Sierras around the 14th or 15th; consequently Al had modified his plan to use the first JMT run (on which we encountered him - I believe he went out at Tuolomne Meadows) as further training, and to begin the actual record attempt some time in the next few days (if he hasn't already started).

We only talked to him for a few minutes, but it sounded like all of his gear selections and such worked out well. He was quite jovial and seemed ready to hit the trail again, even more fit and familiar with the trail.

Just to reaffirm, this is all unofficial and unverified information, but it is based on our direct encounters with him over the last 2 weeks.

Best of luck Al,

-John & Liz

Reed Thayer
(ninjamaster) - F
Field Update on 09/21/2006 11:37:38 MDT Print View

My uncle just sent me this dispatch from the High Sierra.

Greetings to all from John Muir's "Range of Light." I just completed 160 mile recon run/hike from Whitney Portal to Red's Meadow (near Mammoth Lakes)in 7 days (+1 rest day soaking sprained ankle in Woods Creek.) My last day, winds hit 90+ mph on ridgelines and I woke up to light snow and 23 degrees. My Camelbak was an Accelerade Slurpee. I was lucky that was my last day. Temps are back up to 32low/60high & sunny at 8,000 ft. for the next 10 days. That's going to put me @ low to mid teens @ 12,000-foot passes at night, not counting wind chill. I'm upgrading to GTX pants, midweight thermal pants & adding GoLite Zip-neck T to get me over the passes. Fortunately my 14,000', 14,500'& 13,000' high points will all be done before the first nightfall. I'm also adding trekking poles to get me up passes when I'm exhausted & to push through the sandy sections.

Was flagged down by "Flyin' Brian" Robinson, his wife Sophie, "Mrs. Flyin' Brian" Robinson & a friend on the trail. He rightfully criticized me for running w/a 30 lb. pack so close to event date (start 9/20.) I told him that it's hard to taper when you don't have anything to taper from. I've been sewing on gear & handling logistics for the last 8 weeks rather than training--oops! I did drop from 183 to 175 lbs. on recon hike which leaves me 10-12 lbs. overweight. I'm dining on protein and fats this week to stimulate production of carbohydrate burning enzymes. (I'm working on a can of Spam & a kosher pickle in the Lembert Dome parking lot @ Tuolumne Meadows as I write this.) The last day and a half I will switch to heavy doses of complex carbs to build ATP & glycogen in muscles & liver.

Since I park car at end of hikes & bus south to Lone Pine & hitchhike to Whitney Portal, I leave a cache @ the Portal. Last time I checked it, critters had broken into bags but found no food. My 2 Ersacks (10 oz modified Ursack Hybrids--half the weight of the product as delivered) worked fine. Had no bear or Ranger encounters on recon trip. I lost the trail many times due to floods & rockfall. It's going to be a nightmare staying on route by headlamp w/no moon for 10-1/2 hrs per day.

I've decided to take the traditional longer northern route thru Tuolumne Meadows & start the clock @ Whitney Portal (10.4 miles & 6100' below the JMT start @ Whitney Summit) based on suggestions from my resupplied, supported, caffeinated brethren (Kevin Sawchuk, Buzz Burrell & Brian Robinson) to attempt to unify the route for the 2 classes of competition.

Un-resupplied record holder Reinhold Metzger (5 days 7 hours Whitney Summit to Yosemite Valley) left me a good luck note on the Whitney Summit hut. Several parties recognized me from the BPL article & had their pictures taken with me. Only in America can you be famous for doing nothing. I'm the Paris Hilton of the wilderness! I'm thinking of quitting this trail running thing, getting a personal assistant, a publicist and a table @ Spago's!

I received many comments about my 10 day food load/34 lb recon pack (Go-Lite Gust.) It looked massive to me but they could tell I was going UL. Then I looked at the 55 lb tumors perched on their backs, towering above their heads & realized I am making progress.

I'm mainling ibuprofen for my ankle & it doesn't seem to be hurting much. Hopefully when I go beyond fatigue on those 40-50 mile days it won't blow up.

Hope all is well w/everyone back home. Thanks so much for all of your suggestions & support! See you on the other side.

Cheers, Al

Paul Tree
(Paul_Tree) - F

Locale: Wowwww
Tried a new air cast? on 09/21/2006 22:03:53 MDT Print View

They seem to have a sporty model.
I have been loathe to go to the trail runners because of my poor ankles, but was considering something like these..

Reed Thayer
(ninjamaster) - F
Setbacks on Attempts 1 & 2 on 09/25/2006 13:21:43 MDT Print View

My brother Al asked me to pass this information on to you. He'll provide details and impressions later.

Attempt #1: Al began from Whitney Portal on Wed. 9/20 at 11:30 am, well-rested. At the trail junction, Al stashed his stuff and headed up the 2-mile trail to the summit. Was pleased to make the summit in 4 hr 28 min. The night before, winds at summit had probably been about 100 mph, but Wed. was "blazing and beautiful." Seemed strange that no on else was up there. On way back down, he noticed large, black birds cawing overhead. Found his food spread around, half his jerky gone and holes pecked in his Accelerade bags. Stunned and discouraged, but not defeated, he descended to Whitney Portal, spent the night there, and found a ride down to Lone Pine, where he resupplied and treated athlete's foot that was making toe-taping for blister prevention difficult.

Attempt #2: Al began again from Whitney Portal on Sat. 9/23. At mile 7 he developed a blister bad enough to turn him around. He's now holding at Whitney Portal and will advise me of his next move.

Al and I are both very grateful for your interest and encouragement and the good thoughts you are sending his way.

Janet, Al's Sister

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Re: Setbacks on Attempts 1 & 2 on 09/25/2006 19:20:54 MDT Print View

Oh, most excellent to hear the status of Mr. Shaver. Not so excellent to hear that things aren't going well. I hope there'll be enough of a window to make this happen. It's an exciting attempt he's after.

Colleen Clemens
(tarbubble) - F

Locale: dirtville, CA
Re: JMT Attempt on 09/27/2006 10:12:01 MDT Print View

Aaron - just FYI, not trying to be a snot. Muir did not design or lay out the Muir Trail. i'm not at all certain that he ever walked that exact route in one go. the route was laid out and surveyed by Theodore Solomons. funding was obtained in 1915, a year after Muir's death, and was completed in 1938 (the 100th anniversary of Muir's birth). ok, i'm done being a nerd now (yeah, right).

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
JMT Unsupported on 09/27/2006 11:16:06 MDT Print View

Thank's Colleen,
I remember hearing something about that, but I thought it was just Yosemite. I am planning on doing this same attempt Al is next year. I'm still not sure if I'll go for the 5 day 7 hour record, but I will be putting the word out just in case once my list of stuff is complete, (hopefully it will be Al's record). I'm still waiting on a pair of Reed pants for Christmas.
I was planning on taking a day to go up Whitney with my brother and start the following morning, but now starting at the Portal sounds like the better way from what everyone is saying.

Reed Thayer
(ninjamaster) - F
Attempt #3 begins tomorrow on 09/27/2006 21:25:45 MDT Print View

Al called in today to update us all.

Attempt #3: After giving his blister 4 days to heal (on the "speed-heal plan"), Al plans to begin his run again tomorrow, Thursday, Sept. 28. The blister skin has reattached to the tissue underneath it, so with a different sock combination and his taping system he hopes he can go the distance. He plans to emerge from his journey on Tuesday. As you go to bed at night, please send my brother a good thought. He'll be running ridges and traversing valleys by headlamp while we sleep. And Aaron, over the phone I read your comment to Al, the one saying that you hope to be running to beat Al's record. He asked me to tell you that your comment will inspire him along the way to set that record. Thanks again to all of you in the "Fellowship of the High Sierra."

Janet, Al's sister

First Last
(snusmumriken) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Best of Luck to Al! on 09/28/2006 13:52:40 MDT Print View

Third time's a charm. We're all hoping he'll make it.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Re: Setbacks on Attempts 1 & 2 on 09/28/2006 14:37:35 MDT Print View

Gets you kind of tingly thinking he's out there right now running. He'll be out there running and running and running all the while we're brushing our teeth or eating dinner, or sleeping, or chatting on the phone. That's a lot of miles to cover in such a short time. Can't wait to hear about it from his perspective!

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
We're rooting you on on 09/29/2006 18:23:17 MDT Print View

Go for it Al!
We're rooting you on!

Drew Thayer
(dthayer17) - F
Thinking of you, dude on 09/30/2006 15:49:36 MDT Print View

Every morning, when the sun rises over the atlantic, I know you're still running out there in the cold darkness. And when it sets, I know you've still got three more hours of radiation before more clothes go on. I wish you a trip free of friction injuries and impediments so you can unleash your stamina like you know you can. Ride, on brother. You're in a beautiful place.

-Drew (nephew)

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Record Attempt Racing Change of Weather on 09/30/2006 16:16:28 MDT Print View

Hopefully, Al will beat a change of weather in progress in the Sierra. High winds, plunging nightime temps. and lowering highs. Chance of precip, including snow.

Rats. I'm leaving for a Yosemite high country trip, mañana, too.

Reed Thayer
(ninjamaster) - F
Al has exited JMT on 09/30/2006 19:06:27 MDT Print View

Al called to say he had made the decision to hike out at 6 a.m. Friday from north of Rae Lakes. Every step was hurting due to blisters, and intestinal bugs had gotten to him. It was a 26-mile hike to the road and then there was no traffic. Finally, he got a ride to Fresno, where he spent the night in a motel. He's now ultralight backpacking in the city, working out a way to get to his car in Yosemite Valley. He's not going for Attempt #4, but plans on getting some more Sierra hiking in before descending to the lowlands again. I'm sure he'll have details for you. He really enjoyed hearing me read to him your enthusiastic messages of support. Thanks to all!


Reed Thayer
(ninjamaster) - F
Al exited JMT early on 09/30/2006 21:37:54 MDT Print View

Al called to say that after running all night (he hit Forester Pass at 11 p.m.), at 6 a.m. Friday, he decided to quit the JMT and head out to the west. Blisters were making every step painful, intestinal critters were making themselves known, and he had "bonked." However, he still had 26 miles to hike out to a road, which had virtually no traffic. Finally, he caught a ride to Fresno where he slept at a motel. He is now ultralight backpacking in the city and trying to get a ride up to Yosemite Valley to his car. He enjoyed hearing me read your enthusiastic and supportive comments over the phone. He plans to stay high while he's still acclimated and do some short hikes if he's able. Thanks to all,


Locale: South West US
Re: Al exited JMT early on 10/01/2006 00:52:58 MDT Print View

My friend was on Mt. Whitney this last Wednesday and said that he was "rained off the mountain" and came home early. I bet Al hit some of the same type of weather.

Edited by oiboyroi on 10/01/2006 00:56:20 MDT.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Re: Al has exited JMT on 10/01/2006 09:07:24 MDT Print View

Can't wait to hear some stories from Al. Someone from the boards must live in the Fresno area that could give Al a ride???

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Share! on 10/03/2006 11:05:39 MDT Print View

Alright Al,
Let's hear some details - but save the good stuff for the follow on article:)

Al Shaver
(Al_T.Tude) - F - M

Locale: High Sierra and CA Central Coast
Third Time Less Than Charming on 10/05/2006 15:05:37 MDT Print View

Alas I am not wearing the victor's laurel wreath as I do victory laps around Degnan's Deli in Yosemite Village. Instead I am holed up at the internet cafe in Lone Pine deleting unsolicited offers to "Enlarge My Thingy". An ignomonious end to a noble quest.

Suffice it to say that I took on a 40 mile/day challenge with 30 mile/day feet. Advice and support from all were much appreciated, but not enough to toughen my tender tootsies.

Carol and Cat will fill in the details with their wrap-up report.

Thanks and Cheers to all!

Jeffrey Cannon
( - F

Locale: Central California
JMT Record attempt on 05/14/2007 13:54:17 MDT Print View

I am quite interested in your trip as a partner and I are going to attempt a 7 day north to south trip starting Sept 2nd. We are going to have several food drops so technically we are not "unsupported". Also, we plan to sleep and eat cooked meals. We are hoping to add just enough mileage to a 30 per day schedule to get off of Whitney at a reasonable time on the 7th day. If both trips go off as planned, we should cross paths at some point.

Based on your research, do you know if there is an "official" record for a north-south JMT thru hike? Not that we will be chomping at the bit to walk any faster, but it would be fun to know.

Also, I notice that you live in the Santa Cruz area. We live near San Luis Obispo and would love to hook up for a training hike sometime this summer. Any interest?

Jeff Cannon

Kenneth L Muller
(ken_muller) - MLife

Locale: State of Jefferson
Re: re: JMT on 05/24/2007 18:56:31 MDT Print View

Sorry to say dude, but you are wrong. The Mt Whitney Trail starts at Whitney Portal and joins the JMT at the trail junction just to the west and a few hundred feet below Trail Crest. The JMT's southern terminus is the summit of Mt Whitney.The Mountaineers Route... the REAL way up to the summit!

Jorge DeLaSierra
(DeLaSierra) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Useful Comments on 12/14/2009 18:07:38 MST Print View


Simply stated, your JMT run report was awesome. Keep up the good work and good luck to you!

Jorge DeLaSierra
(DeLaSierra) - F

Locale: SoCal
"John Muir Trail (JMT) Record Attempt - Unsupported, Without Resupply" on 03/08/2010 18:23:30 MST Print View


I have a bug for conquering the useless... You and I know that no one on the other side of the trailhead will give a flying rat's tail about what a speedhiker might have accomplished in 3-5 days. But, I have to give it a go. I don't know why yet... I just have to go. Your report, as well as Brett's, Popov's and Ian's, tell me lots.

I have been "training" since November 2009 and just recently went on a full dress rehearsal; 32.5 miles in a little over 9 hours. I have a busy training schedule for this summer and beyond. I want to give the JMT a supported "go" on 2011 and an unsupported "go" on 2012 for my 50th birthday.

The training I am undergoing is telling me plenty about myself but, I have so much to learn in regards to nutrition and gear; not to mention I am a diabetic (type 2 --no meds) and I have to be careful not to bunk too low on sugar... Heck, the more realistic the training gets, the more I realize that a JMT record will not be possible. I went from "record" thoughts, to five day plans. I am now training for a six (6) day speedhike. It is reality hitting me and I am content it is so. Anyway, thank you for your report and I will be in touch with some questions later.

Happy Trails!