Part 2: Tatahatso Canyon

If you were tooling down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon somewhere near RM 38 in Grand Canyon river parlance, you’d pass the mouth of Tatahatso Wash. You might notice the pool at the mouth, but not give the drainage behind it, largely invisible above and behind the 50-foot cliff that rises from the pool, a second thought. But what a cool drainage it is. In the end, I enjoyed the slot and the challenge more than the loop through Big Canyon that we’d just completed (and that’s saying something– Big Canyon was great).

dsc_1825Post-Big Canyon foray, Bruce, Bob, and I drove up the road to Tatahatso Point to revisit Tatahatso Wash (Bob, Mo, and I had been there two years earlier, but had to scratch the technical descent because of illness).

A note about driving across the Navajo land to Tatahatso point–it can be confusing! Even having been out there previously, it was difficult to follow the written directions. Bruce’s GPS came through (although on a bit of a convoluted route).

We reorganized gear and camped the night at the point for an early morning start.

 

Early-ish, anyway. We started walking at 7am.  We made great time to the break, down the sketchy slope, and boulder-hopping, scooting, scrambling, and a bit of thrashing, to the top of the Redwall for a lunch break in about 4.5 hours of walking (allow more time if you aren’t familiar with the route).

In retrospect, we probably lolly-gagged at lunch a little too long before what proved to be a long–and awesome–slot.

The pools at the top of the Redwall where much deeper than the last time I was there. This suggested the slot would be wet, a good suggestion as it turned out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Following lunch, we plunged in. Literally. The first rap was into a pool deep enough that even this 6’5″ guy needed a short swim to get across. It was clear a group had been through recently, as the anchor was new and in good shape. We’d run into several more like this through the slot, but we still had to clean a few and build a few.

Todd Martin’s Grand Canyoneering lists the second rap at 75′. It may have  been from wherever his anchor was placed, but from the anchor right at the top of the chute, we found it to be a good 90′ straight down into the pool (we had to extend the pull side of our 160′ of rope with a good 20′ of webbing). Yep, into the pool. Another deep swimmer. We did a lot of swimming, and we were glad for a layer of neoprene in the cooler Fall temps.

Somewhere in the deep murky pool at the base of the third rap, Bruce unknowing dropped his camera. (Reward for the return of this camera hereby offered!) That’s a shame, because Bruce had taken some great shots in Big Canyon, and was the guy who had recorded much of the morning’s scamper down the wash. A short while later, my camera battery died, and I found my backup battery wasn’t charged. (The OEM battery had given a false positive in the after-market charger back at the hotel in Flag.)

While Grand Canyoneering lists 7 raps, we did 9, and we don’t think that included the “tricky downclimb”.  A couple of times we diverged from at least the previous group’s selection to avoid what we felt was an unnecessarily exposure approach to the anchor.

Given what appeared to be a very recent descent, I was surprised by one anchor. It was a different webbing than the new stuff we’d been seeing, but still looked newish and supple. It seemed in great condition. I really wanted to inspect the whole sling though, and that took some doing since fine debris had clogged the pinch point. I worked it at for a minute and was able to free it enough to slide the webbing. It showed on short section that was severely abraded, with about half the material gone. I suspect we would have been fine, but it does speak to the importance of not just assuming the anchor the last guy used is fine today.

What a long, beautiful slot. It was taking some time though. It was getting late in the day on this post-Equinox trip. And then we stuck a rope  on the penultimate slot. Maneuvering for different pull angles was awkward and ineffective in the deep pool, and eventually Bob ascended to work it loose, followed by a a sporty slide-jump into the pool. (Alas, Bob dropped his Ushba Basic ascender in this deep pool–and thus another reward offered for this piece with sentimental value.)

The section of the slot between this second-to-last rap and the final exit is spectacular. You’ll see others’ photos with some interesting pillars carved into the wall. And in them, you’ll generally see bone dry narrows. Not so this time.  I was enamored with the swim through the twisted corridor in this section–again, the water was deep. And a bit chilly. With the above mentioned camera woes, and because it was getting late and the light was fading, we’ve got no photos of this area.

Finishing the last rap in the dark, we plunked down to spend the night on the debris field beach at the mouth of the wash.

Morning came with the plan being a leisurely float down the river with a side-trip to Buckfarm Canyon. (Not as grim a prospect as the following photo suggests!)

Oops. Perhaps we were a bit too leisurely in our approach. Perhaps we were more concerned about running the riffles in our pack-raft pool toys. And I know we were a bit thrown by the speed we made it down the river. We ran the rapids (really riffles) at Buckfarm before we even realized we’d just passed our objective. And made it to President Harding Rapids in about 2.5 hours, much faster than the 4.5 hours we were expecting.

Had we had enough rope along, we would have done a quick loop through Tatahoysa at this point. But we didn’t. So there we settled in to dry out our gear, eat some food, and drink the can of cider that Bob found floating in the river.

The hike up Eminence Break is steep, but it’s pretty straight-forward (Bruce decided to try to a sportier high-route near the beginning–not necessarily recommended). The footing is good, and the route is solid even when you’ve got to use the hands. Not recommended as a first trail, but in terms of Grand Canyon river-to-rim exits, it’s toward the lower end of the effort scale.

A great little loop. Hat tip (or propeller beanie tip) to Bruce and Bob for a great time!

(More photos)

Tatahatso Point

(Once again!) “We survived the ordeal by drinking our own urine.”

 

 

 

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A Northbound Hike on the John Muir Trail -August 2017

More a collection of thoughts than a detailed report. (See also a strange itinerary, a gear list, and a collection of photos.)

John Muir Trail - Thousand Island Lake - August 2017Having slacked off for a few months, starting with a three-week eat-too-much float down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, I decided a needed a good hike to help jump-start conditioning from some Fall and Winter trips. The John Muir Trail seemed just the ticket. The 210-plus mile trail is well-defined and perfect for the two-week autopilot boot camp I was looking for.  (My base level of fitness is probably higher than average, and I had a good sense of what to expect and what I could handle. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that most attempt this hike without some serious training to prepare for the long daily miles, carry a pack up and down frequent high mountain passes.)

Because I decided this less than two months ahead of time, I missed the lottery for the more popular Southbound itinerary beginning in Yosemite. Fortunately there were slots available going Northbound from Horseshoe Meadows (Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead). I booked a date, loaded my training pack with 30 lbs of dog food, and started walking.

Getting there

2017-07 30, 9 48 09 PMI live at 200′ above sea level. My plans called for me to hike more than 23 miles over a 12,000′ pass and then an 11,000′ pass on my first day. And then early the next day, hike 15 miles roundtrip to the summit of Whitney (14,505′) and back. So I was a little concerned about the altitude and having time to acclimate. I addressed this back flying into Mammoth Lakes–which not only shortened the ground transportation logistics, it also happened to be about the same airfare as the bigger but further-away aiports when I booked my ticket.  I think the day and a half at 8,000′ helped a lot.

From Mammoth to Horseshoe, there was a snafu with the shuttle I’d arranged. Pivoting to Plan B, I teamed up with another hiker, and we took the ESTA shuttle down to Bishop where we arranged a ride with Sherpa Max (Max was awesome! Prompt, accommodating, and the lowest prices I saw from any of the legit shuttle services! SherpaMax @yahoo. com or call or text (805) 341-6360. Thanks, Robin for dialing this in.) Since my shuttle mate need to stop by the permit office in Lone Pine, I did too. And I decided to switch my trailhead to Cottonwood Pass, knocking the first day’s mileage down a couple miles, and the height of the first pass down to 11,000′–I still had an ambitious first day, and wanted a bit more margin for error. Then it was off to Horseshoe Meadows for another night at 10,000′ before hiking.

Getting Going

JMT Northbound - Sunrise at Cottonwood PassUp before the dawn, I quickly packed and started hiking. This let me get most of the way up Cottonwood Pass before sunrise, and so I was on my way. Several miles in, I bumped into Jamie, hiking a section of the PCT, and we made each other walk faster for the next few days. It was a tough first day, but making Crabtree that evening, I was confident that I could finish the hike in 13-14 days. (I’d given myself 16 if I needed it, but preferred to shoot for 14 for the level of conditioning I wanted to get–and because it meant I would have time for a few good beers in Oakland after.)

Going Onward

2017-08 12, 10 17 41 AMIt was absolutely gorgeous out there! The remaining snow made nice contrast on the peaks. The southern half in particular was lush and green. The wildflowers were still blooming all over. Even the clouds and thunderstorms  added different contexts and textures. What a great year to go!

There are plenty of descriptions of the JMT route, and I’m not going to give the inch-by-John Muir Trail - Camp at the suspension bridgeinch accounting here. (For 2017 hikers, here are some quick thoughts on 2017 conditions.) From then on, I walked, talked with Southbound hikers. It was fun sharing encouragement and swapping trail conditions and thoughts–good to see your smiling faces. (Or sometimes grimacing faces–see below.) I strolled with a few Northbound hikers from time to time, but not many! After leaving Crabtree, I met fewer than a dozen full-trail NOBOers the rest of the way. Part of that is normal: you meet fewer people headed in the same direction. Part, I think, is that there are simply fewer who go NOBO. And part was likely my strange pace.  My itinerary was a bit goofy as I slowed down on days 3-5 to meet and hike a bit with a friend hiking in on Rae Lakes loop (thanks for the beer Bruce!). But generally speaking, a walked a fair amount each day, conversed with my demons, and enjoyed a beautiful landscape.

Mt Whitney Approach - JMT August 2017Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48, made for a fun second day. We we up and walking by 1am, hoping for sunrise. Alas, we didn’t quite make it! That last two miles, as I still wasn’t used to the altitude, took almost two hours. But some nice glimpses of the pre-dawn glow through the notches was great. And summiting just after sunrise made for some nice views of the surroundings. On a trafficked trail like this, I expect to help out from time to 2017-08 02, 9 51 10 AMtime. This day gave a hint of that: I lent a headlamp to a hiker, shared my pussy hat with a shivering Dane, made a cup of coffee for another (I’d brought a stove to the summit, just to provide a little warmth so I could linger and enjoy. Jamie gave away his hot chocolate to that first shivering Dane!), and I got to help a woman temporarily fix her delaminated boot sole with a couple zip ties and Leukotape (no gummy bears, Duncan!). Karma hit me right back as I discovered my iphone charging cable was corroded, and a day-summiter gave me his (thanks Stranger!).

John Muir Trail 2017 - Walking a snow field at Forester PassMuch ado was made of the snow this year, and rightly so. The deep snow made travel in June and July difficult at best, and in some cases potentially dangerous, requiring great care. However, but the time I got there, the conditions had greatly improved.  Largely sticking to the trail,  I could certainly SEE miles of snow, but I wasn’t wasn’t on it very often, and then only for very short stretches–think more like a football field at a time, and less 2017-08 08, 11 55 12 AMthan a mile total over the whole trail. It was mostly low-angle (“flat”) terrain, with just a couple of steep sections at Silver, Muir, and Mather (avoidable if desired) all manageable without microspikes or crampons. I walked them in my low-tread approach shoes (think trail runners). Out of an abundance of caution, I had brought crampons (lighter than my microspikes), but I never came close to putting them on, and handed them off to a friend hiking after five days.

2017-08 03, 4 03 45 PMAnd if it wasn’t the snow people were concerned about, it was crossing the raging streams. These were downright dangerous in July. People died. Again, though, by August, at the trail, all streams were crossable at the trail.  Yes, there was still water. You had to pay attention. And there was no avoiding getting wet. But with attention and due care, it was possible to cross the streams safely.

JMT Evolution Creek Crossing August 2017Mosquitos ranged from practically nonexistent to INSANE, depending on micro climate and hatch. Some places, they were absolutely overwhelming–Deer Creek comes to mind. There, permethrin-treated clothes and DEET seemed to have little effect. Full body armor was required! (Sufficient thickness of layers that they couldn’t bite through and head net–the only time I donned the head net.) People warned me about Bear Creek, 20 minutes before I got there, but I didn’t see one skeeter. I didn’t see one at Garnet Lake overnight, but they were swarming in daylight at Thousand Islands Lake at about the same elevation just a couple miles away. The permethrin treatment seemed to help a lot in low-load areas–I’m normally a guy the mozzies love to munch on. This trip, I only noticed three bites. (And three fly bites in two days in the Yosemite section.) So even in a relatively bad year, they were manageable.

2017-08 04, 21015851 credit Jamie Clifton

By and large, the trail and campsites were clean. No toilet paper blooms. Not really much more than the rare piece of accidental garbage on the trail.  Exceptions to this were a few fire pits. Fire pits are not garbage pits. Well, they shouldn’t be anyway. And foil doesn’t burn (well, not a reasonably small campfire temperatures, anyway). People should know better. I pulled enough foil and other garbage out of a fire ring at the Woods Creek crossing to fill a gallon-sized ziplock bag. (Thanks, Bruce, for packing it out.) This was a bit ridiculous. A couple other pits I looked it had some of the same foil debris, although thankfully not as much.  Speaking of fires, please respect the limits. I witnessed three fires above the permissible elevations. Yeah, I know no one hiking the JMT would do that. But let your friends know!

JMT Silver Pass August 2017Some people had enormous packs! And there was a strong correlation between big pack size and grimacing, especially on the uphill stretches. By all means, HYOH! At the same time, if you’re new to this, consider asking some folks to evaluate your gear. Someone with a 59 lb. pack asked me why mine was so small. “You must have a lot of expensive gear.” And I do. But I expect I could have easily chopped 15 lbs out of his pack without spending a dime (other than on postage to send stuff home). It’s worth taking some time to think about what you really want to carry for 200+ miles. Even better, go out a few times, even for a weekend, and see what you need–and what you don’t! (See some of my specific gear thoughts.)

Sunrise on Half Dome - Yosemite - John Muir TrailAs I crossed Donahue Pass, the smoke become more noticeable, and it got worse as I got nearer to Yosemite Valley. I missed some of the iconic views. But that’ll happen sometimes. I got to finish my hike. In the last few hours, before a late breakfast and a shower, and before encountering the big crowds in Yosemite Valley, the smoke was clear enough that I saw sunrise from the top of Half Dome. Ah. It was interesting finishing where many people start. A couple weeks hiking, most of it averaging above 10,000′, meant the walk up Half Dome was pretty easy. I happened to hit the junction at the same time as a few other groups heading up. 10 minutes later, I pulled out GPS to verify I was still on the trail because there was no one else even within earshot, I was that far ahead. Certainly a different feeling than I had wheezing up Whitney a couple weeks earlier!

In the End.

The John Muir Trail takes you through some simply stunning portions of the Sierra. Hiking more than 200 miles is probably an ambitious undertaking for most. But if you’re able to make it, you’ll find there are worse ways to spend a couple (or few) weeks.

(See also a strange itinerary, a JMT gear list, and a collection of photos.)

Fin Dome, Rae Lakes, Hiking the John Muir Trail

 

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JMT Strange 14 (15!) Day Itinerary

Hiking the John Muir Trail

Photo credit: James Clifton

I covered a bit more than 240 miles in just over 14 days, but with a strange itinerary that included some big mileage days and some low-mileage days on this walk on the John Muir Trail in August, 2107, especially the first week. Below, I’m including the approximate mileage per day, and the elevation I camped at.

The lower mileage on Days 3 and 4 were to slow down to meet a friend coming in on the Rae Lakes loop, and Day 5 was hiking a shorter stretch so we could hang out for the day.  I slowed down on Day 8 knowing I wouldn’t hit MTR for resupply before they closed, and under the mistaken impression that I’d be able to prepare myself a huge mid-day meal there (note to self: they don’t allow cooking at the resupply station. next time just get there early and charge on!).

My original plan called for watching the sunset from Clouds Rest on the final day, and then hiking out at night. Alas, smoke reduced visibility, and I decided to bag the sunset-from-the-summit idea. And then the smoke started lifting at sunset! So I decided to stick around and go up Half Dome for sunrise.

Day 0 – Arrive and camp at Horseshoe Meadows/Cottonwood Pass Trailhead. (9,940′)

Day 1 – 21.5 miles to Crabtree Meadows, near the ranger station. (10,710′)

Day 2 – 15 miles leaving at 1am to summit Whitney and return to Crabtree. (10,710′)

Day 3 – 11.4 miles, to a couple miles shy of Forester Pass. (12,000′)

Day 4 – 11.4 miles, over Forester Pass to Bullfrog Lake Trail junction. (10,520′)

Day 5 – 11.3 miles over Glen Pass to Wood Creek Trail. (8,550′)

Day 6 – 19.3 miles over Pinchot and Mather passes to Upper Palisades. (10,700′)

Day 7 – 15.6 miles down the Golden Staircase to to Middle Fork Kings River, just below crossing. (10,700′)

Day 8 – 14 miles to about a mile past McClure Meadow. (9,660′)

Day 9 – 15.4 miles to MTR by noon, considerable lollygagging, and then up to Sallie Keyes Lake (10,200′)

Day 10 – 17.7 miles over Seldon Pass to a bit below the Mott Lake Trail.

Day 11 – 20.2 miles over Silver Pass and on to Deer Creek. (9,115′)

Day 12 – 21.3 miles to Reds for shower and breakfast and then up to Garnet Lake (9,685′)

Day 13 – 23.1 miles to Tuolumne backpacker campground and a beer. (8,500′)

Day 14 – 16.9 miles to somewhere past the Clouds Rest junction. (7,100′)

Day 15 – 10.9 miles detour to watch sunrise over Half Dome and then on to breakfast and shower in Yosemite Valley.

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Spring/Fall Grand Canyon Backpacking List

Grand Canyon Backpacking Spring/Fall Gear.

This picture can change slightly from trip to trip, but it gives you an idea! Note, the photo actually includes 8+ days of food, a bear can, and extra socks/shoes in anticipation of extended snowy, wet conditions, items beyond the base weight described below.

GC 2015 - Tanner to Grandview MR DSC_0891Here’s my basic gear list for backpacking in the Spring and Fall in the Grand Canyon. I tweak the insulation layers depending on how close to summer I am and the weather forecast right before I leave.  I’ve provided measured weights for the items listed (some, weighed with an appropriate amount of dirt integrated in!)  Because I’m usually doing multi-day trips, with a lot of food, and carrying Grand Canyon-appropriate amounts of water (often a lot!), I try to keep the rest of the weight down!

Holler if you have questions, and I’ll do my best to answer.

Items in green really stand out for me as favorite/best-in-class items.

Pack/Shelter/Sleeping System: 88.8 ounces (5lbs, 8.8oz)

Item Ounces Notes
Pack  
Hyperlight Mountain Gear Southwest 2400 (Tall) 28.8 Hyperlight Mountain Gear makes some world class adventure gear. I really like the Southwest 2400 pack. It handled even the maximum weight comfortably. It was more than up to the task durability wise. Very impressive in a sub-2 lb. package. And the dirty white makes it look like something I stapled together in my garage for bonus style points! 😉
Trash compactor bag liner 2.4 Pack liner. While the HMG pack
fabric is waterproof, the pack itself is not completely. The liner gives added assurance, for down quilt and dry clothes in particular, that stuff will stay dry. (I think the trash compactor liner works better than a pack cover in extended rain.)
Essential Elements shoulder strap bottle carrier 0.8 Securely held 750ml bottle. Fit was perhaps too “perfect”–sometimes took a moments wrestling to to get the bottle in.
Essential Elements shoulder strap camera caselder strap camera holder 1.0 Work great. Very Convenient. For phone-camera or compact camera. When I’m bringing a bigger camera, I use a Peak Design gizmo to clip my camera on the strap.
Shelter
Hyperlight Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp 10.7 One of the most versatile lightweight shelters out there, it can be pitched many different ways. The only downside for some is the lack of an integrated bug net. If you really want a net, check out the Zpacks Duplex.
Stakes in sack (4 MSR Ground Hogs) 2.1 The MSR Groundhogs are great stakes. Not the lightest option, they were more practical and durable than the titanium wire stakes I used to carry.
Sleeping Gear
Thermarest NeoAir (Large) 17.2 With two added cords for quilt attachment. Super comfortable! When it’s going to be colder, I use the NeoAir XTherm.
Katabatic Gear Palisade Quilt (Long/Wide) 22.8 A few ounces heavier than the 35-degree Western Mountaineering sleeping bag it replaces, but wow, I love the Palisade quilt! As a thrashing side-sleeper, I found it extremely comfortable. On the one sub-freezing night I’m aware of, I was toasty without even cinching it down. I can see this easily going down to 20-degrees comfortably. For warmer temps, I still use the WM bag, open like a quilt, because it’s a few ounces lighter.
Sea to Summit Air Pillow (Small) 3.0 Not pushing the limits of temperature range, I could have used clothes–but this pillow is more comfortable. I hike better, especially on multi-day outings if I sleep better.

Other Things In or On the Pack: 145.4 ounces (9lbs, 1.4oz…but varies!)

Item Ounces Notes
Kitchen
JetBoil Sol w/ .8L Cup 11.8 Probably not ideal for a one-person trip, but I find it very good choice for 2-4 people. Works in the katabatic winds that seem to kick up every evening just around the time I’m thinking of boiling water.
Sil Mug 2.3 To drink my coffee! Extra weight, but I just like it that way.
Bic Lighter 0.8 The piezo igniter on the Jetboil is very unrealiable.
Sea to Summit Alpha Long Spoon – Long 0.4 Great for reaching deep into food bags. I attach a loop of Glowire to the handle to make it easier to see–otherwise the dull metal spoon just disappears against a variety of backgrounds.
Fuel (Starting weight varies, usually ~7oz.)
Packed Clothes
Smartwool Microlight Boxer Brief Underwear (Medium)derwear boxer briefs 3.1 Sleeping/spare while the other pair is drying.
Darn Tough 1/4, Light Cushion Socks (Large) 2.2 Extra hiking socks, and/or clean, dry socks to wear at night. It seems a lot of West Coasters aren’t yet tuned into the fact that Darn Tough socks are comfortable and durable. They seem to have a tighter weave than Smartwool and some other brands, helping keep dirt out and blisters at bay. And their Lifetime Guarantee? Simple and hassle-free. Turn in your worn out socks and get a new pair!
Wool long johns 5.6 I generally change into these at night, as much to keep my sleeping bag clean as for warmth.
Ibex Indie Hoody (XL) 12.6 Love this piece of gear! The Indie Hoody a very versatile base layer or primary layer. Huge comfort range. Treated with permethrin, the long sleeves and hood were great at keeping the mozzies away, except in a couple of insane locations. and very stylish.
Montbell UL Down Jacket (XL) 8.5 While I’ve thought of upgrading this for years, it has remained faithful. The jacket makes a nice light insulating layer.
Wool hat 3.5 (varies depending on hat!) I like a beanie instead of a hood if it isn’t too cold. I sleep in this most nights.
Outdoor Research Realm Jacket (XL) 11.8 Rain/Wind Gear: The OR Realm is awesome, breathable, dry, and light. I could hike in this without swimming in my own sweat. Regarding sizing, I’m normally a large-tall, but the very slim cut Realm fits me great in XL.
Mountain Hardware Stretch Ozonic Rain Pants Large-Longch Ozonic Pants, Large-Tall 10.5 (Only bring when I expect it to be very cold or wet–these usually don’t make the trip.) Rain/Wind Gear: Comfortable, super breathable, and almost long enough for my long legs.
Misc. Bag
Silnylon dryish bag 1.0 Bag to hold all the first aid and small stuff together. I really need to switch this out to a cuben fiber sack at some point.
First Aid Kit 4.3 In Small Aloksak, including: Blister Pads, Band-Aids, Alcohol Pads & Neosporin, Dipenhydramine Tablets x8 (50 mg), Chewable Pepto x4, Lomotil x4, Acetominophen 325mg x10, Ibuprofen 200 mg x20, Aleve 200mg x15 Diamox 125mg x10, Valerian Root tabs x10
Leukotape 2.6 Biggish roll! But I shared with a few different hikers in need.
Repair Kit
2 Safety Pins, Needle & ThreadThread in a Small Ziploc 0.2 Sewing Kit, First Aid…and somehow I lost my safety pins between the hotel in Mammoth and Day 7 on the trail.
~30 feet 2mm Lawson GloWire 0.8 Used a couple of times for unique tarp pitching, and once as clothes line
Tenacisous Tape (24″) 0.5 Fix-it–only repair this trip with the top to my Smartwater bottle.
Small roll Gorilla Tape 1.2 Different fix-it
Small Zip Ties x 4 0.3 For other things that need fixing (Used two ties and some Leukotape to repair a woman’s boot–the sole had delaminated-a pretty solid repair than only had to last her a day and a
half.)
Small Carabiner 0.9
Miscellaneous
Aquamira tabletsnt tablets 1.2 Back-up water purification
Iodine tablets 1.2 Back-up water purification
Ear Plugs in Tiny Case 0.3 Just in case
Firestarter 0.8 Spark can light stove. Tinder.
Brunton TruArc 3 Compass 1.2 The most basic compass…
Micro Leatherman 2.0 Knife, scissors, file, flathead screwdriver, tweezers & a toothpick…
Travel Toothbrush w/ head cover 0.3 To brush my teeth…
Toothpaste tube 0.5
ID/Cash/Cards/Permits in small ziplockn small ziplock 1.5
Other
Map/beta 2.0 (varies) I always have a hard copy
Closed cell foam sit pad 0.5 Use as sit pad during the day
and to supplement/protect my NeoAir at night.
Glasses in Hardshell case, plus micrfiber cloth 3.2
1 Gallon Ziploc Bag 0.4 First Garbage Bag
Sawyer Mini Water Filter 1.8 While I’ve used the mini for several years, I’m leaning toward replacing with the slightly bigger and heavier, but twice as fast, full-sized Sawyer.
2L Evernew Bottle, Gravity hose, plunger, spare cap, in a small sackty Hose, Backflush plunger, spare dromedary cap, small
sil stuff sack
5.8 Dirty water bag, and gravity set up.
MSR Dromeday with hose 5.8 I still like the bladder with hose when I’m a long way between water stops.
750 ml Smartwater Bottlee 1.1 Drinking vessel…
Toilet Paper in Ziploc Bagg + Dirty Bag 3.9
Deuce of Spades Trowelrowel 0.6 To dig a hole…works well enough
Purell 1.1 Kill the nasties on my hands!
Lotions and Potions (Varies: sunscreen, bug juice, body glide) 3.5 (varies) Stored in hipbelt pockets
Lip Balm 0.2 Stored in hipbelt pockets
Black Diamond Storm Headlampeadlamp, w/ 4AAA batteries 4.1 To light the way… I’ve been
impressed with the durability–it’s been submerged in water canyoneering many
times.
mini Space pen 0.8 Ink doesn’t freeze or run in water. Used it to jot down notes about my gear so that I could tell you later, 😉
mini sharpie 0.2 In part for emergencies, I’ve also used this to make a sign for hitch hiking to/from trailhead.
iPhone 7 w/ case 6.3 Camera/GPS/and communicator. Or dedicated camera–weight varies!
Garmin InReach Explorer+ w/biner 8.8 A newer edition to the kit, and doesn’t go on every trip. But works well in the GC environment. (Not as strong a signal as a true PLB, like the ResQLink, but provides for two-way communication.)
Large cotton hankerchief 1.4 Gets heavy use for a variety of things.

Worn or Carried (not in Pack): 85.2 ounces (5lbs, 5.2oz)

Item Ounces Notes
Darn Tough 1/4, Light Cushion Socks (Large) 2.2 West Coasters, listen up. Darn Tough socks are darn tough! Comfortable and durable. They seem to have a tighter weave than Smartwool and some other brands, helping keep dirt out and blisters at bay.
Smartwool Boxer Briefs (M)(9″ Inseam) 3.1 All day comfort! Once you go wool, it’s hard to go back.
Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts (34) w/ Mountain Hardware Belt 8.2 Tough, breathable, water-resistant, fast-drying, good sun coverage, light. The OR Ferrosi are perhaps my favorites shorts ever (and I’ve tried a lot!).
Ibex Echo T-shirt (L) 5.5 This is my favorite hiking T-shirt ever. Wool. Broad comfort range. 1/2 zip for venting. Collar for warmth/bug protection. Alas, Ibex doesn’t make it any more, and this one doesn’t have much life left. So I’ll sub in another wool T. (I’ll be testing Icebreaker’s Strike Half-Zip as a replacement.)
Smartwool Sleeves (L/XL) 1.9 Very glad I had these. Expand comfort range of T even further. Great on cool morning. Great on warm days–sun protection that feels good. On hot days, awesome, as I wet them in
streams (along with hat and shirt), and it was like walking in air-conditioning. I preferred the weight of Ibex’s Indie sleeves, but I can’t find them for sale anymore.
Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Hat (L)

 

2.7 I think this is the best of the goofy looking sun hats. Wide brim, great back-of-neck protection for NOBOers, good ventilation. It stayed on it the wind. (I found the OR Sun Runner too hot, not enough air movement.)
Sunglasses 1.3 Don’t leave home without ’em. Nothing fancy prescription, polarized sunglasses. If I’d been heading South, I think I would have preferred good Class 3 glacier glasses.
La Sportiva TX3, with Superfeet Insoles (12.5) 33.2 I really like these shoes.
https://mikeshikes.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/review-la-sportiva-tx3/ The trail is so good on the JMT, I probalby would have been fine with Altra’s Lone Peaks–but that pack was heavy with 8 days of food starting from Horsehoe Meadows.
Dirty Girls 1.2 Help keep feet cleaner and pebbles out of the shoes–and lots of wild fabric choices.
Black Diamond Leather Palm Gloves (XL) 3.4 The specific hand warmers change depending on conditions, but I usually have something–my fingers get cold. And something I like protection from rough rock.
Timex cheapo watch 1.4 I use this to gauge distance, time until dark, and alarm for early morning starts (e.g., Whitney and Half-Dome).
Leki Corklite Poles 18.3 My weight puts me above the comfort level for carbon poles, and these aluminum guys are pretty tough.
Tether for knife, whistle 0.2
Storm Safety Whistle 0.2 On a small piece of GloWire in shorts pocket.
Knife 2.4 On a small piece of GloWire in shorts pocket. Redundant, but I use this more than the micro Leatherman

John Muir Trail gear - worn

Now add food weight (1.5 – 2 lbs per day, depending on length of trip and other variables) and water weight (often 4 liters in the morning, sometimes even more!, and when I’m lucky, less, at 2.2 lbs per liter–water weight can be a big deal!)

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Mike’s 2017 JMT Gear List – With Comments

John Muir Trail GearHere’s my gear list for the presumably snowy and wet first-half-of-August 2017 JMT hike from Horseshoe Meadows to Happy Isles. (See more info and further thoughts on the trip.) This was a 14+ day trip, with one resupply at MTR.

IOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA‘ve provided measured weights for the items listed. But something doesn’t quite add up! My measured pack weight was more than a pound and a half less than the sum of the items below. (33lbs, 6 oz at the start; < 32lbs after resupply at MTR, both without water.)  Some of this is likely variance in food weight as I kept playing with the load. Some may be transcription error. Either way, you get a sense. Note, I’m 6’5″ and most of the sizable gear (e.g., clothing to pack to quilt) is slightly bigger than the average bear.

Holler if you have questions, and I’ll do my best to answer.

Items in green really stood up for me as favorite/best-in-class items.

While there were a few things I guessed wrong on, most of this gear is tried and tested, and I didn’t really have any gear “fails”, per se.

Pack/Shelter/Sleeping System: 102.5 ounces (6lbs, 6.5oz)

Item Ounces Notes
Pack  
Hyperlight Mountain Gear Southwest 2400 (Tall)r Southwest 2400 Pack 28.8 Hyperlight Mountain Gear makes some world class adventure gear. I really like the Southwest 2400 pack. It
handled even the maximum weight comfortably. It was more than up to the
task durability wise. Very impressive in a sub-2 lb package. And the dirty white makes it look like something I stapled together in my garage for bonus style points! 😉 I only saw 7-8 HMG packs out there, but members of this exclusive club where happy! The Bearikade Weekender fit in (just) positioned vertically. I was definitely at the limits of capacity for the pack with 8 days of food.The most common brand pack I noted was Osprey, and most of these were larger Aether/Ariel/Atmos models, stuffed to the brim–likely a heavy set-up. (A lot of these folks were grimacing on the uphills.)  I saw four folks struggling with Zpacks failures, one broken carbon stay, and three versions of the stay supports failing–2 of the 4 were leaving the trail to get a fix or a new pack.
Trash compactor bag linerer 2.4 Pack liner. While the HMG pack
fabric is waterproof, the pack itself is not completely. The liner gives added assurance, for down quilt and dry clothes in particular, that stuff will stay dry. (I think the trash compactor liner works better than a pack cover in extended rain.)
Essential Elements shoulder strap bottle carrier.lder strap water bottle holder 0.8 Securely held 750ml bottle. Fit was perhaps too “perfect”–sometimes took a moments wrestling to to get the bottle in.
Essential Elements shoulder strap camera caselder strap camera holder 1.0 Worked great. Very Convenient.
Shelter
Hyperlight Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp

r Flat Tarp, with guy lines, in stuff sack

10.7 One of the most versatile lightweight shelters out there, it can be pitched many different ways. Twice during afternoon rain storms, I pitched it high as a fly, allowing myself and
others to hang out out of the rain. In an evening thunderstorm at 12,000′ below Forester pass, I pitched it off a rock wall without using poles. 3 can sleep under it in a pinch. This is a great, lightweight shelter that pack to size of a Nalgene bottle. The only downside is lack of an integrated bug net.
Bearpaw Bug Shelter (X-Long custom length)elter, plus lines 8.0 Bringing the flat tarp, I wanted bug protection. Easy to use, if a bit tight. The combo wasn’t as light as some options…but I guy can only own so many tents! For 2 people, the on-trail winner seemed to be the Zpacks Duplex with integrated bug screen and floor.
Stakes in sack (5 MSR Ground Hogs, 2 aluminum wire stakes)round Hog + 2 aluminum wire) 3.4 The MSR Groundhogs are great stakes. Not the lightest option, they were more practical and durable than the titanium wire stakes I used to carry.
Sleeping Gear
Thermarest NeoAir Xtherm (Large)m (Large) 20.3 With two added cords for quilt attachment. Super comfortable, warm! Temperatures where warmer than anticipated, even at elevations, and I could have saved a few ounces with my regular Neoair, but I can’t complain about the decision.
Katabatic Gear Palisade (Long/Wide)s Quilt (Long-Wide) 22.8 A few ounces heavier than the 35-degree Western Mountaineering sleeping bag it replaces, but wow, I love the Palisade quilt! As a thrashing side-sleeper, I found it extremely comfortable. On the one sub-freezing night I’m aware of, I was toasty without even cinching it down. I can see this easily going down to 20-degrees comfortably.
Sea to Summit Air Pillow (Small) 3.0 Not pushing the limits of temperature range, I could have used clothes–but this pillow is more comfortable. I hike better, especially on multi-day outings if I sleep better.
Zpacks down hood 1.4 Very practical and comfortable, pairs with the quilt to extend the range of sleeping comfort. It wasn’t needed this trip. It is quite sexy, though!

Other Things In or On the Pack: 232 ounces (14lbs, 8oz)

Item Ounces Notes
Kitchen
JetBoil Sol w. .8L Cup 11.8 Probably not ideal for a one-person trip. Nonetheless, because it is efficient with fuel, I made it the first 8 days with 110 g fuel canister (small) with gas to spare, and ditto
the second 6 days. This would be a very good choice for 2-4 people.
Sil Mug 2.3 To drink my coffee! Extra weight, but I just like it that way.
Bic Lighter 0.8 The piezo igniter on the Jetboil is very unrealiable.
Sea to Summit Alpha Long Spoonht Spoon – Long 0.4 Great for reaching deep into food bags. I attach a loop of Glowire to the handle to make it easier to see–otherwise the dull metal spoon just disappears against a variety of backgrounds.
Fuel (Starting weight) See consumables, below
Bearikade Weekender 31.3 The lightest option for the volume (6+ days for me)…and occasionally used with my sit pad as a camp stool. Customized with some reflective tape to make it easy to find in the dark.
Bubble wrap insulating food pouchpouch 1.6 At elevation, this definitely helped food rehydrate faster and stay warm longer. Some folks used their hats as a coozy…but I don’t like eating dinner out of something I’ll be sleeping in an hour later.
Packed Clothes
Smartwool Microlight Boxer Brief Underwear (Medium)derwear boxer briefs 3.1 Sleeping/spare while the other pair is drying.
Darn Tough 1/4 Light Cushion Sock (Large)shion socks 2.2 Extra hiking socks, and/or clean, dry socks to wear at night. It seems a lot of West Coasters aren’t yet tuned into the fact that Darn Tough socks are comfortable and durable. They seem to have a tighter weave than Smartwool and some other brands, helping keep dirt out and blisters at bay. And their Lifetime Guarantee? Simple and hassle-free. Turn in your worn out socks and get a new pair!
Smartwool Tights (Large) 10.1 I was prepared for colder temps, especially at elevation. These were overkill. I could have used my Icebreaker long johns at about half the weight. But they’re comfy!
Ibex Indie Hoody (XL) 12.6 Love this piece of gear! The Indie Hoody a very versatile base layer or primary layer. Huge comfort range. Treated with permethrin, the long sleeves and hood were great at keeping the mozzies away, except in a couple of insane locations. and very stylish.
Montbell UL Down Jacket (XL)t 8.5 While I’ve thought of upgrading this for years, it has remained faithful. The jacket makes a nice light insulating layer. Not as cold as I was expecting, I could have left this at home–but it’s hard to anticipate the weather above 10,000′ toward mid-August.
Wool hat (actually my pink acrylic hat) 3.5 Could have deleted this–but I like a beanie instead of a hood if it isn’t too cold.
Outdoor Research Realm Jacket (XL) 11.8 Rain/Wind Gear: The OR Realm is awesome, breathable, dry, and light. I could hike in this without swimming in my own sweat. Regarding sizing, I’m normally a large-tall, but the very slim cut Realm fits me great in XL.
Mountain Hardware Stretch Ozonic Rain Pants Large-Longch Ozonic Pants, Large-Tall 10.5 Rain/Wind Gear: Comfortable, super breathable, and almost long enough for my long legs.
MLD Event Mitts (L) 1.0 Rain Gear. An ounce of insurance for cold, rainy conditions. Didn’t need them, but don’t regret carrying them given the potential conditions. (My fingers froze in similar conditions on Mt. Blanc last summer, but with more rain.)
Misc. Bag
Silnylon dryish bag 1.0 Bag to hold all the first aid and small stuff together. I really need to switch this out to a cuben fiber sack at some point.
First Aid Kit 4.3 In Small Aloksak, including: Blister Pads, Band-Aids, Alcohol Pads & Neosporin, Dipenhydramine Tablets x8 (50 mg), Chewable Pepto x4, Lomotil x4, Acetominophen 325mg x10, Ibuprofen 200 mg x20, Aleve 200mg x15 Diamox 125mg x10, Valerian Root tabs x10
Leukotape 2.6 Biggish roll! But I shared with a few different hikers in need.
Repair Kit
2 Safety Pins, Needle & ThreadThread in a Small Ziploc 0.2 Sewing Kit, First Aid…and somehow I lost my safety pins between the hotel in Mammoth and Day 7 on the trail.
~30 feet 2mm Lawson GloWire 0.8 Used a couple of times for unique tarp pitching, and once as clothes line
Tenacisous Tape (24″) 0.5 Fix-it–only repair this trip with the top to my Smartwater bottle.
Small roll Gorilla Tape 1.2 Different fix-it
Small Zip Ties x 4 0.3 For other things that need fixing (Used two ties and some Leukotape to repair a woman’s boot–the sole had delaminated-a pretty solid repair than only had to last her a day and a
half.)
Small Carabiner 0.9 Used to attach camp shoes/hose
Miscellaneous
Aquamira tabletsnt tablets 1.2 Back-up water purification
Iodine tablets 1.2 Back-up water purification
Ear Plugs in Tiny Case 0.3 Just in case
Firestarter 0.8 Spark can light stove. Tinder.
Brunton TruArc 3 Compass 1.2 The most basic compass…
Micro Leatherman 2.0 Knife, scissors, file, flathead screwdriver, tweezers & a toothpick…
Travel Toothbrush w/ head cover 0.3 To brush my teeth…
Toothpaste tube 0.5
ID/Cash/Cards/Permits in small ziplockn small ziplock 1.5 Prevent chapped lips, backupfire starter.
Other
Erik the Black Pocket Atlasde 2.3 Easy to read while walking
Closed cell foam sit pad 0.5 Use as sit pad during the day
and to supplement/protect my NeoAir at night.
Sea 2 Summit Bug Head Net 0.8  Saved me at Deer Creek. (Some folks walked much of the day in them.)
Glasses in Hardshell case, plus micrfiber cloth 3.2
1 Gallon Ziploc Bag 0.4 First Garbage Bag
Sawyer Mini Water Filter 1.8 While I’ve used the mini for several years, I’m leaning toward replacing with the slightly bigger and heavier, but twice as fast, full-sized Sawyer.
2L Evernew Bottle, Gravity hose, plunger, spare cap, in a small sackty Hose, Backflush plunger, spare dromedary cap, small
sil stuff sack
5.8 Dirty water bag, and gravity set up.
MSR Dromeday with hosee 5.8 I’m used to carrying more water, longer distances. Not necessary this trip–although I still like the flexibility offered by the extra capacity, and the ability to gravity filter a few liters in camp in the evening.
750 ml Smartwater Bottlee 1.1 Drinking vessel…
Toilet Paper in Ziploc Bagg + Dirty Bag 3.9
Deuce of Spades Trowelrowel 0.6 To dig a hole…works well enough
Purell 1.1 Kill the nasties on my hands!
Dr Bronners in Smaller Bottleopper Bottle 0.0 Forgot it!! Hence the zero weight.
Lotions and Potions (sunscreen, bug juice, body glide) 7.2 Stored in hipbelt pockets
Lip Balm 0.2 Stored in hipbelt pockets
Black Diamond Storm Headlampeadlamp, w/ 4AAA batteries 4.1 To light the way… I’ve been
impressed with the durability–it’s been submerged in water canyoneering many
times.
mini Space pen 0.8 Ink doesn’t freeze or run in water. Used it to jot down notes about my gear so that I could tell you later, 😉
mini sharpie 0.2 In part for emergencies, this also helped me easily make a hitch hiking sign that landed me a ride directly from Yosemite Village to Oakland, within a few blocks of my target
destination.
iPhone 7 w/ case 6.3 Camera/GPS/and communicator
Garmin InReach Explorer+ w/Biner 8.8 Generally worked very well. Had a hard time finding a signal under tree cover in a heavy storm…as I would expect.
Large cotton hankerchieff 1.4 Got heavy use, including wiping off gear before packing during the rainy/wet first part of the trip.
Things I wouldn’t normally bring…ly carry
Anker Powercore 10,000 mAh Battery Charger,  6.3 Battery charger. Worked as advertised. Not quite enough to make it 8-days. (I may have mismanaged phone battery a couple of times.)
Cords & 2-port Plug 1.7 6″ USB to Lightening & Micro USB cords and wall plug.
Tiny tripod 2.5 Didn’t really use…but I’d like to.
Aleader Camp Shoes (w/ insoles removed)o insoles) 8.7 I normally don’t bring camp shoes. But with the many wet crossings and rainy nights, I’m glad I did this time. Part of a dry foot system at the end of the day/early morning.
SealSkinz Road Ankle Socksocks w/ Hydrostop 3.7 Again, not something I’d normally bring. But with the many wet crossings and rainy nights, I’m glad I did this time. Helped ensure dry feet at night for the first half of the trip. Not used at all the second half. They also worked well hiking in snow and shallow water walking for a few hours around Muir Pass. (They would be way too hot for hiking in normal above freezing conditions.)
Extra Black Diamond Storm Headlamptorm Headlamp, w/ 4AAA batteries 4.1 I initially broght a second to aid with night hiking. However, the trails were generally so clear and easy to follow, this wasn’t at all necessary. I did lend it to a couple summiting Whitney for sunrise (with only one light) and they found it useful. I mailed it home
from MTR.
Petzl Leopard Ultralight Crampons, in Sack, with Biner 16.4 An educated guess based on condition reports just prior to departure–but I never once wore them, and sent them out with friend on Day 6.

Food/Fuel/Water: 269.4 ounces (16lbs, 13.4oz)

Item Ounces Notes
Food 192.0 1.5 lbs/day x 8 days. (This should be the most carried at one time…will have a 6-day resupply at MTR, upped to 2 lbs/day.) Including various ziplocks which will be repurposed.
Water 70.4 Water weight at heaviest
Fuel 7.0 110 g Snow Peak Fuel Canister, max weight. Still had some fuel in canister at end of first 8 days (ditto with new canister at end of 6 days).

Max Weight of Pack: 605.9 ounces (37lbs, 13.9oz)


Worn or Carried (not in Pack): 85.2 ounces (5lbs, 5.2oz)

Item Ounces Notes
Darn Tough 1/4 Light Cushion socks (L) 2.2 West Coasters, listen up. Darn Tough socks are darn tough! Comfortable and durable. They seem to have a tighter weave than Smartwool and some other brands, helping keep dirt out and blisters at bay.
Smartwool Boxer Briefs (M)(9″ Inseam) 3.1 All day comfort! Once you go wool, it’s hard to go back.
Outdoor Research Ferrosi Shorts (34) w/ Mountain Hardware Belt untain Hardwear Belt 8.2 Tough, breathable, water-resistant, fast-drying, good sun coverage, light. The OR Ferrosi are perhaps my favorites shorts ever (and I’ve tried a lot!).
Ibex Echo T-shirt (L) 5.5 This is my favorite hiking T-shirt ever. Wool. Broad comfort range. 1/2 zip for venting. Collar for warmth/bug protection. Alas, Ibex doesn’t make it any more, and this one doesn’t have much life left. (I’ll be testing Icebreaker’s Strike Half-Zip as a replacement.)
Smartwool Sleeves (L/XL) 1.9 Very glad I had these. Expand comfort range of T even further. Great on cool morning. Great on warm days–sun protection that feels good. On hot days, awesome, as I wet them in
streams (along with hat and shirt), and it was like walking in air-conditioning. I preferred the weight of Ibex’s Indie sleeves, but I can’t find them for sale anymore.
Sunday Afternoons Ultra (L)

Adventure Hat

2.7 I think this is the best of the goofy looking sun hats. Wide brim, great back-of-neck protection for NOBOers, good ventilation. It stayed on it the wind. (I found the OR Sun Runner too hot, not enough air movement.)
Sunglasses 1.3 Don’t leave home without ’em. Nothing fancy prescription, polarized sunglasses. If I’d been heading South, I think I would have preferred good Class 3 glacier glasses.
La Sportiva TX3, with Superfeet Insoles (12.5)perfeet insoles 33.2 I really like these shoes.
https://mikeshikes.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/review-la-sportiva-tx3/ The trail is so good on the JMT, I probalby would have been fine with Altra’s Lone Peaks–but that pack was heavy with 8 days of food starting from Horsehoe Meadows.
Dirty Girls 1.2 Help keep feet cleaner and pebbles out of the shoes–and lots of wild fabric choices.
Black Diamond Leather Palm Gloves (XL)Palm Gloves 3.4 A guess at what would be best for possible cold, possible sun, and possibly holding on the cables at Half Dome, but a bit much. Sun gloves would have been better. Leaving today, I’d bring these, though. (It’s getting colder.)
Timex cheapo watch 1.4 I use this to gauge distance, time until dark, and alarm for early morning starts (e.g., Whitney and Half-Dome).
Leki Corklite Poles 18.3 My weight puts me above the comfort level for carbon poles, and these aluminum guys are pretty tough.
Tether for knife, whistle, washer 0.2 On a small piece of GloWire in shorts pocket.
Storm Safety Whistle 0.2 On a small piece of GloWire in shorts pocket.
Knife 2.4 Redundant, but I use this more than the micro Leatherman

John Muir Trail gear - worn

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Some August 2017 JMT Conditions and Thoughts

Update: I now have a fuller report and pictures, and gear from the trip.  

The following are a few quick thoughts which might help those leaving in the second half of August/September, based on my two-week NOBO trip the first half of August (Horseshoe Meadows to Happy Isles, with Whitney and Half Dome visits). NOTE: Conditions can change rapidly in the mountains. A couple could rain/snow storms could mean a totally different picture!

  1.  Getting around on the East Side.  The new shuttle service from Sherpa Max is awesome! Max is prompt, accommodating, and has extremely competitive rates. Contact him at SherpaMax @yahoo. com or phone or text (805) 341-6360 (Max doesn’t cover Mammoth, but he handled us from Bishop to Horseshoe Meadows.)
  2. Snow. The question of the year, or one of them anyway. 99+% of the trail is clear (as of the first half of August). You can SEE miles of snow, but you should be WALKING on very little snow, for very short stretches–think more like a football field at a time, and less than a mile total over the whole trail. It is mostly low-angle (“flat”) terrain, with just a couple of steep sections at Silver, Muir, and Mather (avoidable if desired) all manageable without microspikes or crampons. I walked them in my low-tread approach shoes (think trail runners). I saw only one person actually using microspikes, and many more walking through the short sections of snow carrying microspikes on their packs. Out of an abundance of caution, I even brought crampons (lighter than my microspikes), but I never came close to putting them on, and handed them off to a friend hiking after five days. The “trick” is to STAY ON THE TRAIL to the extent possible. Ignore footprints far off the trail that may have made sense in early July. That said, Winter is Coming! (Keep that in mind as you think about clothing choices.)
  3. Stream crossings. These were downright dangerous in July. Right now, all streams are crossable at the trail. So stay on the trail! Yes, there is still water, and you’re going to get wet. But you can cross safely (that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise due care). Bear creek–less than knee deep, slow moving, and crossable at the trail. Evolution Creek, about the same, wide and slow moving, and crossable at the trail. I did not cross the South Fork of Kings the first week of August, taking the bypass instead (and keeping my feet dry the whole bypass). However, even then, it looked crossable at the trail. Apparently, the park service now agrees–South Fork is crossable at the trail.
  4. Mosquitos. Hit or miss, depending on micro climate and hatch. Some places, they were absolutely insane–Deer Creek comes to mind. There, permethrin-treated clothes and DEET seemed to have little effect. Full body armor was required! (Sufficient thickness of layers that they couldn’t bite through and head net–the only time I donned the head net.) People warned me about Bear Creek, 20 minutes before I got there, but I didn’t see one skeeter. Didn’t see one at Garnet Lake overnight, but they were swarming in daylight at Thousand Islands Lake at about the same elevation just a couple miles away. Be prepared. The permethrin treatment seemed to help a lot in low-load areas–I’m normally a guy the mozzies love to munch on. This trip, I only noticed three bites. (And three fly bites in two days in the Yosemite section.) With longer, colder nights on the way, upper elevations will increasingly see freezing temps, and this problem will go away.
  5. Fire pits. Fire pits are not garbage pits. Well, they shouldn’t be anyway. And foil doesn’t burn (well, not a reasonably small campfire temperatures, anyway). People should know better. I pulled enough foil and other garbage out of a fire ring at the Woods Creek crossing to fill a gallon-sized ziplock bag. (Thanks, Bruce, for packing it out.) I didn’t really encounter garbage on the trail. Nor did I see toilet paper blooms. But this was a bit ridiculous. A couple other pits I looked it had some of the same foil debris, although thankfully not as much. Speaking of fires, please respect the limits. I witnessed three fires above the permissible elevations.Yeah, I know no one hiking the JMT would do that. But let your friends know!
  6. The hiker boxes at MTR. Overflowing with food and miscellaneous supplies.
  7. Crowds. Outside of Disneyland, er Yosemite, there weren’t any. The tougher conditions seem to have keep people away. Even areas like Rae Lakes which are normally quite busy this time of year. There were/are still people out, but it generally didn’t feel like rush hour.
  8. That third pair of socks. And camp shoes. I’ll discuss gear separately. Normally I bring neither a third pair of socks nor camp shoes (I cross streams in my trail shoes). I was glad I did this year, particularly the first week. The many crossing on the south half of the trail, and frequent rain, and heavy overnight dew and condensation, meant things stayed very wet for several days. It was nice to have something dry to wear in camp and sleep in the first week. And then, they weren’t needed the second week. (Other gear notes.)
  9. Gear editing. Some people had enormous packs! And there was a strong correlation between big pack size and grimacing, especially on the uphill stretches. By all means, HYOH. At the same time, if you’re new to this, ask some folks to evaluate your gear. Someone with a 59 lb. pack asked why mine was so small. “You must have a lot of expensive gear.” And I do. But I expect I could have easily chopped 15 lbs out of his pack without spending a dime (other than on postage to send stuff home). It’s worth taking some time to think about what you really want to carry for 200+ miles. (See some of my specific gear thoughts.)
  10. It was absolutely gorgeous out there! The remaining snow made nice contrast on the peaks. The southern half in particular was lush and green. The wildflowers were still blooming all over. Even the clouds and thunderstorms  added different contexts and textures. What a great year to go!

Have fun out there! Holler if you have questions.

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Women’s March on Washington

img_2347This didn’t look like most hikes I take, but it will likely remain one of the more important days walking I’ll spend walking (well, stood, mostly, although we did cover about 8 miles on foot).

img_2445HOLY CRAP! What an amazing day. So many people, standing and marching (in DC, it was mostly standing—there was literally no room to march for streets stretching out a couple of miles). A block and a half away (and around the corner) from the stage, I didn’t hear the speeches. But it was inspiring and humbling to stand among so many, young and old. We talked, we laughed, we chanted, we helped each other out, we read signs, we saw points from different angles.

With essentially no cell service for most of the day, I didn’t know the tremendous outpouring around the world, or even blocks away in DC for that matter. I didn’t see many friends who were somewhere in the masses, too. But I did get to hang with some friends, old and new, and with strangers, sharing their concern and their energy. And I’m catching up on was happened today. Thanks for everyone who’s shared.

In DC, you’ll see pictures of enormous crowds on the Mall. The Mall was actually where we went to get some breathing room AWAY from the crowds down Independence and packed in so tightly in side streets that people couldn’t move.

Trump is a disaster already, and it’s going to get worse. A lot of our political “leadership” lacks the courage to do what right rather than what they think will get them re-elected. We’ll use that as a tool. Our media has failed us, repeating tit-for-tat posturing rather than trying to find and report facts and the truth. But I’m heartened by those who will not go quietly into the darkness. I’m convinced people will rise. (The politicians who don’t see that will be in for a surprise.) We will be resilient, and we will resist. Trump will go. I hope we’ll also recognize that as bad is he is, Trump is a secondary disease. We’ve got to treat that now. But we also have to recognize that he’s just a symptom of a larger set of issues we must address, too.

It’s going to be a struggle. But, Yes We Can. So…Let’s! Coffee up, people. We’ve got work to do.

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