2015 John Muir Trail Hike: Rise of the Wannabes


 

2015 was a tough year for acquiring permits to hike the JMT, thanks to the ridiculous story, Wild, by Cheryl Strayed and the movie of this book by Reese Witherspoon. The account of this pathetic loser hiking only 1000 miles of the 2650 mile Pacific Crest Trail to "find herself", was a clarion call to like-minded wannabes; most with no idea of what they were getting into. These doofuses loaded up the PCT and JMT as permit holders that had little or no chance of completing either Trail ... and probably didn't!

Anticipating this influx of newbies inspired by their outdoor heroine [ or should I say heroin?], we chose to delay our annual JMT hike until early September and after Labor Day. We were aware that this timing would create some support problems [resupply and transport], but had failed to take account of the shorter daylight hours of late September. Instead, relying on previous schedules with daily distances during an August summer. This limitation, coupled with a partial day lost to rain, put us constantly behind our daily schedule by 3-5 miles; finally catching up at Rae Lakes. To add to our daily struggle, we'd arranged a resupply for an expected 11 days from Muir Ranch to Whitney Portal.

  • First night out on the JMT ... at Lake Virginia First night out on the JMT ... at Lake Virginia
  • Second night out on the western slope of Goodale Pass.  Smoke down the valley near VVR. Second night out on the western slope of Goodale Pass. Smoke down the valley near VVR.
  • Tree cutting at VVR ... a fine job by Chris the woodsman [and Opera Singer] Tree cutting at VVR ... a fine job by Chris the woodsman [and Opera Singer]
  • Early morning after our cold, snowy night at Marie Lake. Early morning after our cold, snowy night at Marie Lake.
  • The campsite at Marie Lake which gave some protection from the cold southerly wind. The campsite at Marie Lake which gave some protection from the cold southerly wind.
  • Looking back at Marie Lake from Selden Pass. Looking back at Marie Lake from Selden Pass.
  • Bob by the Sierra Juniper at John Muir Corner. Bob by the Sierra Juniper at John Muir Corner.
  • Our last minute campsite perched above Frog Lake on the southern side of Muir Pass. Our last minute campsite perched above Frog Lake on the southern side of Muir Pass.
  • Looking down on Frog Lake from our camp on the edge of a steep bluff. Looking down on Frog Lake from our camp on the edge of a steep bluff.
  • Bob near Lower Palisade Lake, between the Golden Staircase and Mather Pass Bob near Lower Palisade Lake, between the Golden Staircase and Mather Pass
  • Peter above Palisade Lakes, between the Golden Staircase and Mather Pass Peter above Palisade Lakes, between the Golden Staircase and Mather Pass
  • Looking north to Lower Palisade Lake with Mount Sill in the background. Looking north to Lower Palisade Lake with Mount Sill in the background.
  • Bob resting below the northern side of Mather Pass. Bob resting below the northern side of Mather Pass.
  • On the descent below the southern side of Mather Pass. On the descent below the southern side of Mather Pass.
  • Our new campsite two miles north of the Taboose Pass Trail intersection. Our new campsite two miles north of the Taboose Pass Trail intersection.
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  • The small lake just south of the Bench Lake trail intersection. The small lake just south of the Bench Lake trail intersection.
  • Descending the southern side of Pinchot Pass. Descending the southern side of Pinchot Pass.
  • Our camp at Rae Lakes with the Painted Lady peak behind. Our camp at Rae Lakes with the Painted Lady peak behind.
  • Bob at the half way point bewteen Rae Lakes and Glen Pass [behind and above]. Bob at the half way point bewteen Rae Lakes and Glen Pass [behind and above].
  • Peter resting by the lake on the southern side of Glen Pass Peter resting by the lake on the southern side of Glen Pass
  • Benjamin on the climb from Bubbs Creek to Forester Pass. Benjamin on the climb from Bubbs Creek to Forester Pass.
  • Peter and Benjamin climbing the final switchbacks to Forester Pass. Peter and Benjamin climbing the final switchbacks to Forester Pass.
  • Bob getting ready to move south from the summit of Forester Pass. Bob getting ready to move south from the summit of Forester Pass.
  • Peter taking a break at the top switchbacks on the southern side of Forester Pass. Peter taking a break at the top switchbacks on the southern side of Forester Pass.
  • Peter relaxing by his favorite ancient Fox Tail Pine on the Bighorn Plateau. Peter relaxing by his favorite ancient Fox Tail Pine on the Bighorn Plateau.
  • Benajmin and Bob on the high desolate section of the Bighorn Plateau. Benajmin and Bob on the high desolate section of the Bighorn Plateau.
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The result: From Muir Ranch to Rae Lakes, Bob Williams and I awoke each morning with the sure knowledge of another "Death March" from first to last light, carrying backpacks not ideally suited for weights much above 30 lbs. After Muir Ranch, all bets were off that we would make our scheduled campsites before dark ... and we never did, until struggling into the Rae Lakes camping area. One advantage of being off schedule was the introduction, by default, to new and exciting campsites which we can use on future trips.

Finally back on schedule, we crossed Glen Pass in fine style to meet with Ben Spillman at the JMT intersection with Kearsarge Pass Trail [Lower]. From there, the three of us continued south on the JMT to the well used campsite on Bubbs Creek. The next day it was an easy crossing of the 13,200' Forester Pass and descent down to Tyndal Creek.

 

 

 

For me, one of the constant joys of hiking the JMT, is the crossing of the high desolate section of the Bighorn Plateau. This time was no exception: The climb from Tyndal Creek past the Frog Ponds, through the magnificent stand of ancient Fox Tail pines to the high desert section of the Plateau was sublime.

Arrival at Guitar Lake was a pleasant surprise ... the only hikers there until a few stragglers showed up from the Horseshoe Meadow trailhead. The last day was a total success, but one heck of a long way out: 16 miles in 15 hours of climbing/hiking! We made the summit of Mount Whitney in fine style, but ran into a few unexpected problems [including 2 hours of darkness] on the way down to Whitney Portal.

Read Benjamin Spillman's Reno Gazette Journal newspaper story about our journey.

Also see our actual 2015 JMT Schedule

 

©2015 Peter Tremayne, Reno NV

 

 

  • Peter and Bob resting by our tents at Guitar Lake. Peter and Bob resting by our tents at Guitar Lake.
  • Benjamin resting at Guitar Lake. Benjamin resting at Guitar Lake.
  • Peter, really relaxed between tent and rock at Guitar Lake. Peter, really relaxed between tent and rock at Guitar Lake.
  • Looking back and down at Guitar Lake on the final climb to Mt. Whitney Looking back and down at Guitar Lake on the final climb to Mt. Whitney
  • Peter negotiating the narrow trail below the Keeler Needles. Whitney summit on the upper left. Peter negotiating the narrow trail below the Keeler Needles. Whitney summit on the upper left.
  • Peter on the Whitney summit, for perhaps his 20th visit ... and maybe his last! Peter on the Whitney summit, for perhaps his 20th visit ... and maybe his last!
  • Peter with Bob [his first visit] on the Whitney summit. Peter with Bob [his first visit] on the Whitney summit.
  • Benjamin [his first visit] and Peter on the Whitney summit. Benjamin [his first visit] and Peter on the Whitney summit.
  • The year round ice on the lower switchbacks below Trail Crest and above Trail Camp. The year round ice on the lower switchbacks below Trail Crest and above Trail Camp.
  • A Winter view of Guitar Lake from the final climb to the summit of Whitney. A Winter view of Guitar Lake from the final climb to the summit of Whitney.
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