The 2009 PCT/John Muir Trail Hike

 


  • A ptarmigan (grouse) in summer plumage encountered along the Trail       A ptarmigan (grouse) in summer plumage encountered along the Trail
  • Rosalie Lake as seen from the mosquito plagued camp on the first night from Reds Rosalie Lake as seen from the mosquito plagued camp on the first night from Reds
  • Peter standing on the Trail overlooking Thousand Island Lake with Banner Peak above. Peter standing on the Trail overlooking Thousand Island Lake with Banner Peak above.
  • Mal on our crossing Donahue Pass, northbound on the JMT Mal on our crossing Donahue Pass, northbound on the JMT
  • The pond on the summit of Donahue Pass. The pond on the summit of Donahue Pass.
  • Mal resting at the Tuolumne backpackers' campground, sampling beer! Mal resting at the Tuolumne backpackers' campground, sampling beer!
  • Our camp in Cold Canyon, north bound on the PCT Our camp in Cold Canyon, north bound on the PCT
  • Mal crossing the fast moving, deep waters of Return Creek Mal crossing the fast moving, deep waters of Return Creek
  • Peter climbing out of Virginia Canyon ... Summit Lake below Peter climbing out of Virginia Canyon ... Summit Lake below
  • Fellow JMT thru-hikers, Carla and Gavin, at Red's Meadow Resort Fellow JMT thru-hikers, Carla and Gavin, at Red's Meadow Resort
  • Evolution Lake seen from the northern end Evolution Lake seen from the northern end
  • The climb out of Le Conte Canyon to cross Bishop Pass on a resupply mission  The climb out of Le Conte Canyon to cross Bishop Pass on a resupply mission
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2009 JMT/PCT Hike with Mal

This year’s activity along the JMT and a section of the PCT was a departure from previous hiking forays in the High Sierra.  My first trip took place in mid-July, in the company of Mal Hill, northbound from Red’s Meadow.  Our plan was to follow the Sierra High Route from Minaret Lake to Tuolumne Meadows … an off-trail scramble across steep, difficult terrain.
Recently, Mal and I had successfully climbed 14,180’ Mount Shasta in northern California, and returned to my Reno home, both suffering severe sinus infections. 

 Despite antibiotic treatment, the debilitating effects remained as we began our trip north on the JMT.  It quickly became obvious we lacked the stamina and energy reserves to tackle off-trail travel, so the mutual decision to continue hiking the JMT, versus taking a left turn towards Minaret Lake was a no-brainer.  So, on the first night out we found ourselves camped at Rosalie Lake wreathed in a miasma of voracious mosquitoes. 

 


Subsequent camps, at Island Pass, upper Lyell canyon, Tuolumne Meadows and finally in the northern section of Cold Canyon, resulted in nights of similar misery.  An old lesson relearned: Don’t go hiking in the Sierras too early in the summer or before the last of the snow melt in the high meadows.  On the sixth day of this rather unpleasant trip, we stumbled out of the mountains and Yosemite NP at Virginia Lakes Resort.

 

2009 JMT Hike

My second trip was another solo attempt (having failed in 2008) to hike the JMT from Yosemite NP to the summit of Whitney, with a start date of August 20.  Jim Keogh agreed to accompany me on the first three days, planning to leave the Trail at Reds Meadow.  During those three days, we made friends with a number of fellow JMT hikers who would later make appearances at intervals further down the trail, including a final meeting on the summit of Whitney three weeks later.  Unexpected rain greeted us at Red’s Meadow; Jim returned to work and I used the wet weather as an excuse to take a rest day in Mammoth.

On August 24, I was back on the Trail, southbound solo from Red’s Meadow, sometimes overtaking other hikers but more often being overtaken by folks I’d met in the first few days of the hike.  Many stopped to camp at Duck Creek, but I staggered on the next few miles to Purple Lake for a long peaceful sleep in the cool moist aftermath of the recent rain.  The following days travel over Silver Pass, Selden Pass, Muir Pass, down into Le Conte Canyon and finally the climb out to South Lake over Bishop Pass, were lonely affairs.  Of the acquaintances’ from the first days, some had stopped for one or two nights at VVR and the fleet of foot were well ahead of me down the Trail.

 

As on previous JMT through-hikes, the purpose of exiting at South Lake was for resupply, but due to a combination of problems which included a resurgent sinus infection, associated breathing difficulties and dissatisfaction with my solo pack weight, I decided to drive home to Reno for medical treatment and to reorganize.  After a few days dosing on Methylprednisolone I felt well enough to return to the Trail and decided that in order to maintain the schedule of my JMT Permit … and limit my pack weight to what I considered manageable at my reduced fitness level, I’d skip the Le Conte to Glen Pass section of the Trail, thereby saving four days of travel toward the final goal of Mt. Whitney.

On September 4, I drove to Onion Valley and hiked over Kearsarge Pass to spend the night in the Bullfrog Lakes area.  Subsequent nights were spent at the Forester high camp, Wright’s Creek crossing and Guitar Lake before climbing Whitney on the early morning of September 8 and then descending to Whitney Portal that afternoon.  During this last day on the Trail and on the summit of Whitney, I was delighted to meet again some fellow hikers last seen at Red’s Meadow.

2009 JMT-PCT Schedule

 

  • The high meadow on the northern side of Forester Pass The high meadow on the northern side of Forester Pass
  • The ridgeline to the western side of Forester Pass The ridgeline to the western side of Forester Pass
  • The lake at 12,200' on the climb up the northern side of Forester Pass The lake at 12,200' on the climb up the northern side of Forester Pass
  • The southern view from 13,200' Forester Pass.  Looking towards Tyndal Creek The southern view from 13,200' Forester Pass. Looking towards Tyndal Creek
  • The plaque bolted to a large boulder by the Trail on the southern side of Forester Pass The plaque bolted to a large boulder by the Trail on the southern side of Forester Pass
  • The well weathered trunk of an ancient tree (probably a Fox Tail Pine) lying at 12,000' The well weathered trunk of an ancient tree (probably a Fox Tail Pine) lying at 12,000'
  • Catching up with fellow hikers Carla, Marty, Ross and Gavin at Guitar lake Catching up with fellow hikers Carla, Marty, Ross and Gavin at Guitar lake
  • Evening light at Guitar Lake ... last night on the Trail Evening light at Guitar Lake ... last night on the Trail
  • Early morning reflection of Mt. Hitchcock in the lake of the same name Early morning reflection of Mt. Hitchcock in the lake of the same name
  • Ross and Marty reaching the JMT intersection with the Whitney summit trail at 13,500' Ross and Marty reaching the JMT intersection with the Whitney summit trail at 13,500'
  • Peter at the intersection, 13,500', between the JMT and the Whitney summit trail Peter at the intersection, 13,500', between the JMT and the Whitney summit trail
  • Peter standing on the summit of Mt. Whitney,14,495', with Kevin, Marty and Ross Peter standing on the summit of Mt. Whitney,14,495', with Kevin, Marty and Ross
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