The 2004 John Muir Trail Hike


 

Two years after hiking the John Muir Trail (JMT) on my own, I suggested to Lucy she join me on a second attempt in late August, 2004. From my previous experience, I formulated a logistic plan based on using two vehicles, leapfrogging them down Hwy 395 on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada. We would park both vehicles at Mammoth Springs, take the YARTS bus to Yosemite Valley and begin hiking the JMT at it's northern start point of Happy Isles. On reaching Reds Meadow, we'd take the shuttle into Mammoth Lakes, collect both vehicles and position one at South Lake trail-head above Bishop, return to Mammoth and shuttle back to the JMT at Reds Meadow. Eight days later we would leave the JMT at Le Conte Canyon and hike over Bishop Pass to South Lake, collect the vehicle, drive to Mammoth, collect the second vehicle and position one at Whitney Portal and finally return to South Lake for the last eight days hike on the JMT to the summit of Mt. Whitney.

In the event, the plan worked very well; providing an efficient re-supply method at both Mammoth Lakes and Bishop, with the added benefit of hot showers, laundry and the occasional night in soft beds. The vehicle positioning was a little tedious, but proved a pleasant break from stumbling along the trails. The only downside was an added 26 miles and 5,000' climb to hike from Le Conte Canyon to South Lake and back ... not happy days for either of us!

 

 

  • Peter at the Happy Isles terminus ,Yosemite Valley, of the John Muir Trail Peter at the Happy Isles terminus ,Yosemite Valley, of the John Muir Trail
  • Only 215 miles to the southern terminus, Mt. Whitney summit, of the John Muir Trail Only 215 miles to the southern terminus, Mt. Whitney summit, of the John Muir Trail
  • Cathedral Peak looming over the lake by the same name Cathedral Peak looming over the lake by the same name
  • The upper reaches of Lyell Canyon with Mt. Lyell on the skyline The upper reaches of Lyell Canyon with Mt. Lyell on the skyline
  • Two young bucks feeling safe inside the bounderies of Yosemite NP Two young bucks feeling safe inside the bounderies of Yosemite NP
  • Lucy descending the gentle slopes on the southern side of Donahue Pass Lucy descending the gentle slopes on the southern side of Donahue Pass
  • Our beautiful campsite location in the upper reaches of the Rush Creek drainage Our beautiful campsite location in the upper reaches of the Rush Creek drainage
  • Peter waiting for the Reds Meadow shuttle bus, with the Mammoth behind Peter waiting for the Reds Meadow shuttle bus, with the Mammoth behind
  • Lucy resting on the bridge over Fish Creek, between Tully Hole & Silver Pass Lucy resting on the bridge over Fish Creek, between Tully Hole & Silver Pass
  • A morning crowd of hikers waiting for the Edison Lake ferry to VVR A morning crowd of hikers waiting for the Edison Lake ferry to VVR
  • The beautiful aspen grove on the climb to Bear Ridge from Mono Creek The beautiful aspen grove on the climb to Bear Ridge from Mono Creek
  • Peter standing on Selden Pass with Marie Lake behind Peter standing on Selden Pass with Marie Lake behind
  • Lucy on the last stages of the climb to Selden Pass ... Marie Lake behind Lucy on the last stages of the climb to Selden Pass ... Marie Lake behind
  • Lucy on the precipitous rocky trail above the South Fork of the San Joaquin River Lucy on the precipitous rocky trail above the South Fork of the San Joaquin River
  • Lucy at the Muir Hut on Muir Pass Lucy at the Muir Hut on Muir Pass
  • Descending the eastern side of Bishop Pass for resupply at South Lake Descending the eastern side of Bishop Pass for resupply at South Lake
  • Peter and Lucy standing on Pinchot Pass Peter and Lucy standing on Pinchot Pass
  • Resting at Bubbs Creek on the northern side of Forester Pass Resting at Bubbs Creek on the northern side of Forester Pass
  • Lucy and Peter on Forester Pass, 13,200', the highest point on the PCT Lucy and Peter on Forester Pass, 13,200', the highest point on the PCT
  • Peter descending the switchbacks on the southern side of Forester Pass Peter descending the switchbacks on the southern side of Forester Pass
  • The magnificent desolation of Bighorn Plateau The magnificent desolation of Bighorn Plateau
  • Lucy resting during the climb of Mt. Whitney from Guitar Lake Lucy resting during the climb of Mt. Whitney from Guitar Lake
  • On the summit of Mt. Whitney, 14,495', and the southern end of the JMT On the summit of Mt. Whitney, 14,495', and the southern end of the JMT
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We began the hike at Happy Isles on August 24 and reached the summit of Mt. Whitney on September 16, a total of 24 days. See the attached schedule for a detailed breakdown of our activity. As expected, the Californian weather treated us kindly: No rain, no thunderstorms, little wind, daytime temperatures in the 80's with night time lows in the 30's. Most of our camp-sites were at elevations between 8,500' and 10,500'.

Was the trip fun? Hiking the JMT is a serious undertaking even for very fit hikers like Lucy and myself. The daily regimen of 6 am rise, on the trail by 8 am, hike 10-15 miles in high altitude rugged terrain with a heavy pack, establish camp by 5 pm, crash for the night on hard cold ground ... then do it all again the next day, and the next, and the next. Taking rest days on the JMT is not an option because you can quickly run out of food and fuel, requiring a bail-out on a lateral trail (if available) to civilization. Seeking handouts from other hikers is not encouraged ... if you've screwed up your food planning, tough luck, leave the JMT and try again another year.

Lucy and I travelled light, not minimalist like some do, but at an optimum comfort level. Our tent weighed 4 lbs, our sleeping bags 2 lbs, inflatable sleep-pads 1 lb and light mountain clothing that would have handled a quick descent from the high Passes in blizzard conditions. We each carried BearVaults, the latest bear-proof food containers into which we jammed 8 days of dehydrated meals and high energy trail snacks. The containers must work; we never saw hide nor hair of a bear during the 24 days we spent in the mountains. Overall, the trip was a great success. With some variation, we plan on a return to the JMT in 2005.

 

©Peter W Tremayne Vancouver, WA March, 2005

 

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