The 2012 John Muir Trail Hike


Hiking the length of the JMT, at age 73, with a titanium knee was my personal motto this year ... and it worked! On September 6th, in heavy rain, I hiked off Mount Whitney and the JMT; down 6,500’ to Whitney Portal with my two trail companions ... Mike from Australia and Jeanne from Hawaii.  Despite many days of rain and other trail problems, we’d completed our planned 25 day itinerary from Tuolumne Meadows to the Portal on schedule. 

This year I'd adopted part of the ultralight hiking dogma from 2001, which was: Carry less, go farther, feel better. I'd reduced my overall pack weight by 3-4 pounds from last year, but instead of going farther, I also reduced the daily distances by 2-3 miles ... and certainly felt better for the changes, particularly with my 6 month old titanium knee! Check out our completed JMT Schedule for 2012

  • Peter, Jeanne and Kristy beginning their JMT hike at Tuolumne Meadows Peter, Jeanne and Kristy beginning their JMT hike at Tuolumne Meadows
  • Yvonne and Manny beginning their JMT hike at Happy Valley Yvonne and Manny beginning their JMT hike at Happy Valley
  • Jeanne and Kristy hopping the rocks across the drainage from Lyell Glacier Jeanne and Kristy hopping the rocks across the drainage from Lyell Glacier
  • Arrival at Luna Lake.  A long access hike but worth the effort Arrival at Luna Lake. A long access hike but worth the effort
  • Kristy and Mike at Luna Lake Kristy and Mike at Luna Lake
  • Mike, Kristy and Jeanne sitting on the edge of the escarpment by Luna Lake Mike, Kristy and Jeanne sitting on the edge of the escarpment by Luna Lake
  • Manny and Angela resting near the Red's Meadow Cafe Manny and Angela resting near the Red's Meadow Cafe
  • The wind-blown devastation to the forest south of Red's Meadow. Mainly Red Firs. The wind-blown devastation to the forest south of Red's Meadow. Mainly Red Firs.
  • The wind-blown devastation to the forest south of Red's Meadow The wind-blown devastation to the forest south of Red's Meadow
  • Peter taking a water break and refill of his half liter container at Lake Virginia Peter taking a water break and refill of his half liter container at Lake Virginia
  • Peter, Jeanne and Mike enjoying a "real" dinner at Vermilion Resort (VVR) Peter, Jeanne and Mike enjoying a "real" dinner at Vermilion Resort (VVR)
  • The store and cafe building at Vermilion Resort (VVR) The store and cafe building at Vermilion Resort (VVR)
  • Yvonne dealing with a simple, small breakfast at Vermilion Resort Yvonne dealing with a simple, small breakfast at Vermilion Resort
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Even in the fine weather years, with good knees and younger age, I've never found the JMT to be an easy proposition.  It requires considerable self discipline, self reliance, stamina and determination.  It’s as much a mental exercise as a physical one.  Each day begins at 6 am (first light) with a meager breakfast, then packing up and hitting the trail by 8 am.  Then, 6-8 hours later, having hiked 10 – 13 miles, it’s time to find a suitable campsite near a water source, make camp, wash off the dust & grime in ice cold water, cook and eat a meager dinner and off to bed by 8 pm (last light).  After ten hours lying on the hard ground – often cold, it’s time to get up and start all over again – day after day after day etc. However, once the routine has been established and accepted, life along the JMT can be most enjoyable, particularly with good travelling companions.

This year, with ten days of rain over the three weeks we were on the Trail, the level of enjoyment became unpredictable. The result was unpleasant hiking days with wet tents and clothing at night.  On a number of occasions we stopped short of our scheduled campsites to take cover in our tents before everything got wet.  Still, we managed to make up the lost mileage on subsequent days.

 

  • "Tent City" for five hikers now we've been joined by Angela and Yvonne from Germany "Tent City" for five hikers now we've been joined by Angela and Yvonne from Germany
  • First night south of VVR ... near the Bear Creek trail intersection with the JMT First night south of VVR ... near the Bear Creek trail intersection with the JMT
  • Angela negotiating the Bear Creek crossing Angela negotiating the Bear Creek crossing
  • Yvonne negotiating the Bear Creek crossing Yvonne negotiating the Bear Creek crossing
  • Mike carrying Angela's (very heavy) pack across the log at Rosmarie Meadow Mike carrying Angela's (very heavy) pack across the log at Rosmarie Meadow
  • A long rest stop at Marie Lake A long rest stop at Marie Lake
  • A long rest stop at Marie Lake A long rest stop at Marie Lake
  • Jeanne and Peter resting somewhere along the Trail Jeanne and Peter resting somewhere along the Trail
  • Yvonne trying to figure how to fit her many food packets into the bear canisters Yvonne trying to figure how to fit her many food packets into the bear canisters
  • Our isolated & wonderful campsite on the South Fork of the San Joaquin River Our isolated & wonderful campsite on the South Fork of the San Joaquin River
  • Peter and Mike at John Muir Corner Peter and Mike at John Muir Corner
  • Peter, Angela and Yvonne at John Muir Corner Peter, Angela and Yvonne at John Muir Corner
  • Mike crossing the lower ford of Evolution Creek in Evolution Meadow Mike crossing the lower ford of Evolution Creek in Evolution Meadow
  • Another great campsite, with fire, in the upper section of Colby Meadow Another great campsite, with fire, in the upper section of Colby Meadow
  • A conference on Muir Pass ... Muir Hut behind A conference on Muir Pass ... Muir Hut behind
  • Our cold camp on the southern side of Muir Pass Our cold camp on the southern side of Muir Pass
  • My travelling companions can't believe I'm bothering to shave in the wilderness My travelling companions can't believe I'm bothering to shave in the wilderness
  • Just look at the fine result.  No longer the image of a street person! Just look at the fine result. No longer the image of a street person!
  • Friends in high places ... on the summit of Mather Pass Friends in high places ... on the summit of Mather Pass
  • Another cold camp between Mather and Pinchot Pass Another cold camp between Mather and Pinchot Pass
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The abnormally bad weather conditions were pleasantly compensated for by a shifting party of wonderful hiking companions. The core group was called the Three Musketeers: Me, Mike Fox - who'd been with me last year and Jeanne Furukawa from Hawaii. On the first section from Yosemite to Mammoth we were accompanied by Kristy, also from Hawaii. Then, after heading south from Vermilion Resort, we were joined by Yvonne and Angela from Germany.

Both were on a tighter schedule than us, with flights back to Germany from San Francisco that required them to be out at Whitney Portal two days ahead of our plans. We had an essential resupply mission out over Kearsarge Pass, while they had carried enough food from Muir Ranch to reach Whitney.

 

We, the Three Musketeers, marveled at the ability of Yvonne and Angela to carry their heavy packs. Not only were they loaded down with extra food and fuel, but had higher weight equipment than us. This is not unusual for hikers from Europe, Australia and New Zealand. They study the high elevation environment expected along the JMT and translate that into their experience of high mountain weather conditions in other regions of the world ... and then over-equip for the California Sierra. As for Mike, Jeanne and me, we carried very light loads with our new gear (see my list at the Equipment page)and resupplied at Mammoth, VVR, Muir Ranch and finally at Onion Valley. The only heavy day we had was leaving Muir Ranch with 8 days of food and fuel.

 

On the subject of equipment, I was pleased with my choices this year: The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 solo tent was very effective in keeping out the rain ... as long as the fly was fully pegged out; The Osprey EOS 58 backpack was the perfect size for the other new gear and comfortable up to a gross weight of 33 lbs; The Bearikade Weekender II canister was delightfully light and held up to 8 days of my food choices ... with the first night's dinner carried separately; The titanium JetBoil stove was light, compact and very efficient.

The SunTactics solar panel did an excellent job of charging both my Samsung smartphone and Mike's. These phones we used as cameras, Kindle readers, music players, SPOT interfaces and communication (when available).

Apart from the unseasonable rain, this year's JMT hike was near perfect.

 

©2012 Peter Tremayne, Reno NV

  • A relaxing, but cold evening at our campsite near Taboose Pass A relaxing, but cold evening at our campsite near Taboose Pass
  • The cold morning at our campsite near Taboose Pass The cold morning at our campsite near Taboose Pass
  • Farewell to Yvonne before she dashes ahead to Whitney from Pinchot Pass Farewell to Yvonne before she dashes ahead to Whitney from Pinchot Pass
  • Relaxing on Pinchot Pass ... now without Yvonne Relaxing on Pinchot Pass ... now without Yvonne
  • Chatting with Brian at the Onion Valley trail intersection with the JMT Chatting with Brian at the Onion Valley trail intersection with the JMT
  • Breakfast at Dennys in Bishop during our day off the Trail from Onion Valley trailhead Breakfast at Dennys in Bishop during our day off the Trail from Onion Valley trailhead
  • Ranger's Leslie Johnson, Rick Sanger and his wife Suzzette met near Bullfrog Lake Ranger's Leslie Johnson, Rick Sanger and his wife Suzzette met near Bullfrog Lake
  • Jeanne climbing the last switchback to the summit of Forester Pass Jeanne climbing the last switchback to the summit of Forester Pass
  • Jeanne and Mike on the 13,200' summit of Forester Pass Jeanne and Mike on the 13,200' summit of Forester Pass
  • Young JMT thru-hikers on Forester Pass Young JMT thru-hikers on Forester Pass
  • Angela standing on Forester Pass ... now two days ahead of the 3 musketeers Angela standing on Forester Pass ... now two days ahead of the 3 musketeers
  • Another cold evening at our campsite by Wright's Creek Another cold evening at our campsite by Wright's Creek
  • Holding up my favorite tree ... a very ancient Foxtail Pine on the climb to Bighorn Plateau Holding up my favorite tree ... a very ancient Foxtail Pine on the climb to Bighorn Plateau
  • Our camp at Guitar Lake, drying out after an afternoon thunderstorm Our camp at Guitar Lake, drying out after an afternoon thunderstorm
  •  Peter on the long switchback climb from Guitar Lake to Trail Crest Peter on the long switchback climb from Guitar Lake to Trail Crest
  • Jeanne on the climb from Trail Crest to Mount Whitney summit Jeanne on the climb from Trail Crest to Mount Whitney summit
  • 3 September: Yvonne standing on the 14,495' summit of Mt. Whitney 3 September: Yvonne standing on the 14,495' summit of Mt. Whitney
  • 6 September: Jeanne and Peter standing on the 14,495' summit of Mt. Whitney 6 September: Jeanne and Peter standing on the 14,495' summit of Mt. Whitney
  • 4 September: Angela standing on the 14,495' summit of Mt. Whitney 4 September: Angela standing on the 14,495' summit of Mt. Whitney
  • 6 September: Mike standing on the 14,495' summit of Mt. Whitney 6 September: Mike standing on the 14,495' summit of Mt. Whitney
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