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Need advice for JMT this early July

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Need advice for JMT this early July

Postby Nepal » Wed May 04, 2011 4:52 am

Hi there, I am new here, folks at trailspace.com pointed me to this place so here I am.

Let me introduce myself a bit: I have some short trip backpacking experience but mostly in southwest desert areas, south america, 3 nights max. So I guess I am inexperienced in HS backpacking.

I plan to hike the JMT (south half) this early July solo and need some advices from experienced JMT hikers. I am a landscape photography hobbyist and have to carry ~15 lbs extra weight of gears, so although I have really thought hard on the gear and food I need to carry, seems it is almost impossible for me to cut the weigh of my pack below 50 lbs. Doing landscape photography means I will walk very slow anyway (need wait for the lighting), so I guess the weight might not be a big issue.

My permit allows me start on July 2nd from Bishop pass and end at WP. I guess I have to resupply at independence.

My questions are:

1. temperature condition: how cold it can be in high passes in the night? I plan to layer with a Arc'teryx beta AR hardshell, Arc'teryx atom SV hoody as middle and icebreaker 260 as base, is this combo enough for the night when I am doing night photography?

2. do I need crampons in early July for high passes? Crampons do bring in additional weight, not to mention an ice axe. What's the snow condition in early July on JMT? Which sections are considered to be difficult?

3. Do I really need a bear spray? (another 10 oz of weigh that I really don't want to carry.)

4. what's the average weigh for people on JMT carry? I saw pictures of hikers on JMT with incredibly small pack with obviously no bear canister, and probably doesn't even have enough space to hold more than 4~5 day's food, I am really amazed. How could they do it?

5. Stream crossing: any really challenging ones? Do I need sandals for stream crossing?

Any comments and suggestions are very welcome. Thanks in advance!



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Re: Need advice for JMT this early July

Postby markskor » Wed May 04, 2011 5:08 am

Wait a month.
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Re: Need advice for JMT this early July

Postby AlmostThere » Wed May 04, 2011 6:52 am

Wait a month.

It can be as cold as you don't want it to be. Below freezing, and then up high, there is wind chill.

Not familiar with those clothing items so can give no guidance in that matter.

No, you don't need bear spray. You do need a bear canister in Yosemite, Rae Lakes, Dusey/Palisades, and the Whitney zone. Might as well carry it the whole way you go.

There is no average weight. I carry 25 lbs total for three days adding a pound and a half per day for more days of food, can be carrying 30-35 for more than a week. I have seen packs of all sizes and capacities on trail. It's not hard to get pack weight down. Take what you need, not things like extra pants, chair, that really heavy tent - replace tent, pack, and sleeping bag with lighter ones, eliminate all but one pot, eliminate the heavy stove and get something that weighs less than 3 oz... and yeah, look real hard at that 15 lbs of camera gear.

Wait a month and stream crossings won't be an issue. The river crossings on the JMT have bridges.
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Thanks for the suggestion

Postby Nepal » Wed May 04, 2011 7:47 am

So you guys suggest that I should go at early August? That's probably will cause some problems for me because my vacation schedule has been set. It's not like I can't change it but....

I understand early August will certainly be better than July, however I do believe a lot of folks hike JMT in July. Is this because this year we have a lot of snow? How dangerous can be if I go there in July 2?

As far as cut down the pack weight, there is really not a lot I can do. I basically already got the lightest gears available (I am calculating based on grams). 15 lbs of photo gears are necessary evil, a great downsize compared with my last year's Nepal trip. I have to buy two new lenses and a new lightweight tripod and ballhead for this trip.
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Re: Need advice for JMT this early July

Postby fishmonger » Wed May 04, 2011 8:04 am

Nepal wrote: 1. temperature condition: how cold it can be in high passes in the night?


My guess is that high up on the actual passes, it can drop into the 20s at night with all the snow around. Whatever you need to wear to be warm depends on your expereriences.

Nepal wrote:
2. do I need crampons in early July for high passes? Crampons do bring in additional weight, not to mention an ice axe. What's the snow condition in early July on JMT? Which sections are considered to be difficult?


probably not, but you need serious boots, not the flimsy running shoes that are so popular in the summer. Boots keep you dry and provide the hard edge you need to kick steps. They also don't cake up with wet snow like most trail runners. Ice axe may be useful to feel secure when crossing the snow field just south of Mather Pass, which will certainly still cover the trail this year in early July.

Nepal wrote:
3. Do I really need a bear spray?


nope, just like you don't need a water filter

Nepal wrote:
4. what's the average weigh for people on JMT carry?


anything between 15 and 70 pouds. I'm not in the ultralight camp at all, and my pack is about 40 pounds including 8 pounds of camera gear. More with a full pack of food for 8 days. I do not resupply between Bishop and Whitney.

Nepal wrote:

5. Stream crossing: any really challenging ones? Do I need sandals for stream crossing?



Sream crossings are your best chance to die in early season. Bring crossing shoes that fyully protect your feet, so that sudden pain by pinching toes doesn't upset your balance. Sandals are not ideal, but better than nothing. Some people just hike through in boots and cahnge socks after the crossing and then hike with wet boots. I don't do that. Some info and photos in this recent thread (especially page 2) about what to expect: http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ubbthread ... #Post13332
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let me be more specific

Postby Nepal » Wed May 04, 2011 8:10 am

If temperature is the only concern, I think I can deal with that. I have experiences camping on snow in 20's, so slightly below freezing is not a problem, at least by itself.

What do make me concern are technical difficulties, such as getting lost, fall, stream crossing, etc due to snow. As I stated above, I am not very experienced with snow hiking.
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Re: Thanks for the suggestion

Postby fishmonger » Wed May 04, 2011 8:11 am

Nepal wrote:
I understand early August will certainly be better than July, however I do believe a lot of folks hike JMT in July. Is this because this year we have a lot of snow? How dangerous can be if I go there in July 2?


if you have experience on snow, this July will be epic. If you can handle twice the snow you see on this image (Muir Pass last year July 21), you will be fine

Image

Here's the usual oops on snow - it melts from below and the top
Image

Lots of sun tan lotion, gaiters, decent waterproof boots (and make sure you cover them with SnowSeal several times before you start, because goretex alone won't cut it). The trail will be easy to find, with the PCT folks laying down the track for you.

Again, water crossings are the big thing to worry about. Go upstream and look for shallow water if you don't like what you see in the main crossing. Water is powerful. It can move you off your feet very easily. South of Bishop Pass, there are only a handful of bigger crossings, but even what's usually a small stream in August can be a raging torrent this July when all the snow above finally melts down.
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Re: let me be more specific

Postby fishmonger » Wed May 04, 2011 8:21 am

Nepal wrote:If temperature is the only concern, I think I can deal with that. I have experiences camping on snow in 20's, so slightly below freezing is not a problem, at least by itself.

What do make me concern are technical difficulties, such as getting lost, fall, stream crossing, etc due to snow. As I stated above, I am not very experienced with snow hiking.


you won't have to camp on snow, anywhere. Even on Forester Pass, there will be dry spots. The snow will be in selective areas, usually heavier on the north side of passes, but not always, as wind patterns in the winter determine where the big snow deposits end up. I've seen the north side of Glen Pass with a ton of snow in a low snow year in July, and the next year that based on the average was twice the snow, the same place at the same time of the year was nearly snow free.

This year, you are looking at so much snow, though, that in early July, every pass will have snow starting at about 10,500 feet, with a lot above 11,500.

Getting lost on the JMT is difficult. The trail is impossible to lose and on snow you follow the tracks of the PCT hikers. The pass above is usually a clearly identifiable destination, so it's hard to get lost even if you make your own tracks. Crossing rivers - read up on what to do, use poles as extra legs, move one foot or pole at a time, never buckle the pack, because it's the heavy pack that will pull you under if you should lose your footing.
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Re: Need advice for JMT this early July

Postby AlmostThere » Wed May 04, 2011 8:25 am

If you need an ice axe when you go, and have never used one, get into a class in mountaineering skills beforehand, and practice the ice axe before you have to use it to self arrest. Without some experience with it, it is too easy to stab yourself on the ice axe!

I contend that you DO need a water filter, or other purification method. Stock users frequent the trail and getting water from sources where stock go leads to consequences. Unless you have some skill in water source selection, take a filter.
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Re: Need advice for JMT this early July

Postby gary c. » Wed May 04, 2011 8:28 am

Nepal, glad to see that you made it over here and are getting some good advise. Like the others have already suggested I think most everyone is pushing there trips back by at least a month or so this year because of the heavy snows this year. If yours were a short trip it might not be so big of a deal but you would hate to wait until July to find out the passes were closed because of snow. There are also several Sierra photographers that can probably tell you some must see places to photograph (and probably relate to your pack wieght).
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Re: Need advice for JMT this early July

Postby Nepal » Wed May 04, 2011 8:29 am

"1.
My guess is that high up on the actual passes, it can drop into the 20s at night with all the snow around. Whatever you need to wear to be warm depends on your expereriences."

Thank you so much. Mid 20s doesn't sound that bad at all.

"2.
probably not, but you need serious boots, not the flimsy running shoes that are so popular in the summer. Boots keep you dry and provide the hard edge you need to kick steps. They also don't cake up with wet snow like most trail runners. Ice axe may be useful to feel secure when crossing the snow field just south of Mather Pass, which will certainly still cover the trail this year in early July."

I am debating what boots I should bring? I have several boots however three of them look attractive for this trip. Lowa Mountain expert GTX is mountaineering boots, with most rigid sole and best traction on ice/snow however it is not very comfortable to hike on dry trails for long distance. My Zamberlan 760 steep GT is the most comfortable backpacking boots I own, I can walk 20 miles with them without feel a thing, but with much less rigid sole. I am thing about taking Lowa Tibet pro, with a sole rigidity between mountaineering boots and regular backpacking boots. What do you think? What kind of boots you wear when you hike JMT?

"nope, just like you don't need a water filter "

Thanks! I will dump my MSR filter from my pack just use tablets. Another pound of weight lost!


"5.


Sream crossings are your best chance to die in early season. Bring crossing shoes that fyully protect your feet, so that sudden pain by pinching toes doesn't upset your balance. Sandals are not ideal, but better than nothing. Some people just hike through in boots and cahnge socks after the crossing and then hike with wet boots. I don't do that. Some info and photos in this recent thread (especially page 2) about what to expect: http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ubbthread ... #Post13332"

I can't hike thorough streams with my boots, they are all Gore-Tex inline, once water get in there, take forever to dry! Do you have any really light weight crossing shoes in your mind?
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Re: Need advice for JMT this early July

Postby fishmonger » Wed May 04, 2011 8:33 am

AlmostThere wrote:I contend that you DO need a water filter, or other purification method. Stock users frequent the trail and getting water from sources where stock go leads to consequences. Unless you have some skill in water source selection, take a filter.


In July, there's no stock up there this year between Muir Pass and Whitney. Giardia needs to be re-introduced each year. And with all the snow melt, you won't have a hard time selecting clean water. It will be EVERYWHERE.

Now, if he was going through Yosemite and below 10,000 feet, yeah, I wouldn't touch the water there without filter or chemicals ever again. I've had my experiences.
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