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Down The JMT: Late July-Early August 2011

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Down The JMT: Late July-Early August 2011

Postby Coolbreeze » Sat Jun 04, 2011 10:24 pm

Greetings, all.

I'm planning a 21-day trip from Red's Meadow down the John Muir Trail to Whitney starting July 24. Of course I've been watching the snow levels like a hawk (actually that's how I found this board), and may postpone things, time and financial constraints permitting, if the present Siberian Daydream refuses to abate. As of right now, though, it's a go. I don't normally frequent or post on forums, but I couldn't help but notice the level of knowledge and experience, courtesy and camaraderie here and thought I'd see if you gentlefolks might have a little advice.

I've been camping, trekking and climbing for years and have always preferred cross-country rambling and exploring (climbing only when it was necessary or just plain fun) to more strict, hardcore-style climbing. I don't go ultralight. (Actually, I guess you could say I come from the Norman Clyde school, but new gear is so light that it doesn't really seem appropriate.) This trip I'll just be carrying essentials.

I haven't been on an extended trip for a while, and I've never hiked the JMT before, so my plan is to take it pretty easy. I figured around 8+/- miles a day. I plan to move cautiously the first week in order to acclimate, make the mental/physical transition and check out the conditions - maybe 6 or 8 days to Muir Trail Ranch. Hopefully, moving slowly southward will give the snow a chance to gradually recede, as well. The plan is to resupply at the Ranch, relax a bit, and make a decision whether or not to push onward and upward. I'm bringing a bear can, of course, and, heading south from the Ranch, I'll be carrying some extra food to hang for a few nights until reaching the restricted areas as it's a pretty long haul from there on out.

Generally, my concerns are probably obvious. Non-stop snow-slogging and I'll be headed for greener pastures. Not the end of the world but still disappointing. I'm wondering about the high passes - Mather, Forester, and Glen Pass in particular. My understanding is that Glen Pass is essentially a knife-edge and I'd hate to find a cornice there. I'd hit it around August 9th or 10th. Any other particular passes to be extra wary of? I certainly won't be relying on footprints to navigate, but it would be nice to have some trail broken over the passes. Is that likely? My other main concern, of course, is stream crossings. I understand there are several bridges along the way, but I'm not sure which crossings to look out for.

Any and all input is welcomed and very much appreciated.

Many thanks for reading, folks. And thanks for the great resource. I'm glad I stumbled in here.

Happy Trails,
Coolbreeze
Last edited by Coolbreeze on Fri Jun 10, 2011 11:15 am, edited 2 times in total.



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Re: Down The JMT: Late July-Early August 2011

Postby gary c. » Sat Jun 04, 2011 10:43 pm

Since I have yet to hike thru the area I'll let the more knowledgeable reply to your questions. I just wanted to point out a problem I had this year when trying to get permits that ended thru Whitney Portal. For all of the dates that would work for me the last week in July there were no exit permits available and that was almost two months ago. I was told that I would have to backtrack and exit at Horseshoe Meadows or someplace simular. Unless you get lucky and catch someone elses cancelled permit I think you will have the same problem. The Ranger at the permit office said that because of all the heavy snow delays everyone was planning later trips and basicly all of the Whitney Zone Exit Permits were already reserved into September.
"On this proud and beautiful mountain we have lived hours of fraternal, warm and exalting nobility. Here for a few days we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is hard to return to servitude."
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Re: Down The JMT: Late July-Early August 2011

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Jun 05, 2011 8:30 am

I would not assume you would need "cold weather gear" this August. Yes, there will be more than normal snow on the high passes but temperatures could well be very normal and warm by August. The Mammoth Lakes area has a lot more snow than the southern Sierra, so why not go south-to-north? You may have better luck getting an earlier entry permit through the Whitney Zone than a later exit permit. You stated you were a "Norman Clyde" type backpacker- which I assume means carrying the extra food needed for the longer first leg for the south-to-north route would not be a problem. As for slogging through snow, many others will have gone before you, so there will be tracks and a well beaten path. I think the later you delay this trip the more problems you will have getting permits. I would "bit the bullet" and just deal with the snow. Honestly nobody knows today what snow conditions are going to be like last week in July.
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Re: Down The JMT: Late July-Early August 2011

Postby Coolbreeze » Sun Jun 05, 2011 11:52 am

Both of your comments were very helpful and confirmed what I suspected. Thank you.

I'm jumping off the fence and will be heading for the hills.
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Re: Down The JMT: Late July-Early August 2011

Postby maverick » Sun Jun 05, 2011 12:09 pm

Hi Coolbreeze

Welcome to HST!
No cold weather gear needed, days will be long, and hopefully warm to hot on some
days (I say hopefully because of the cold Spring we have experienced so far all over
California).
You should have no problems going over Glen Pass, since by this time enough PCT hikers
and others should have go over it so your path will be evident.
If you do have a lot of snow still lingering just go over later in the morning so the snow
softens up, and you do not have any icy sections left.
This goes for Mather (probably the most difficult in snowy conditions), and Forester Pass.
Check the PCTA site, SEKI NP site, and of coarse HST for any updates, and back country
conditions updates to the area's you will be passing through.
Any info you receive from us now is just a "best guess" based on what we experience
while passing through these area's at other times, and the only reliable info will be
from folks who can give you a first hand, real time conditions update.
Check out "Fishmonger's" site(a HST Member) for some good JMT info: http://didnt.doit.wisc.edu/outdoor/Muir ... x2010.html
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Down The JMT: Late July-Early August 2011

Postby fishmonger » Sun Jun 05, 2011 12:29 pm

you'll be fine that late in the season. Starting in late July puts you in the snow regions that could be iffy (north face Mather, Glen and south face Forester)in August when there will just be patches of snow. Nothing you won't be able to handle in proper mountain footwear.
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Re: Down The JMT: Late July-Early August 2011

Postby Mike M. » Sun Jun 05, 2011 12:39 pm

Also note that the snowpack is (generally speaking) much higher than normal the further north you go. In other words, you are starting your trek at the Yosemite end of the JMT, where the snowpack is the highest. The snowpack at the southern end of the JMT is only slightly above normal.

Glen Pass is not a "knife edge" and I have never seen a cornice there. There is often snow on the north side early in the season, but it is not dangerously steep. If you encounter snow there, just wait until later in the morning for it to soften up. By the time you reach Glen Pass, most of the snow should be gone and if there is snow, you should find it easy going because of all the other JMT hikers who have been there ahead of you and created an easy track to follow

Gaiters would be a good thing to bring along this year. I'd skip the ice axe.

Have a great hike!

Mike
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Re: Down The JMT: Late July-Early August 2011

Postby SweetSierra » Sun Jun 05, 2011 12:40 pm

My plan is essentially the same as yours, though my permit is for the first week of August and the Whitney zone in early September. I've been over all the passes on the JMT (and been to Whitney from Guitar Lake) but Mather and Forester passes and I also had concerns about snow this year. Others have given me the same advice as you've gotten here. I hiked over Glenn Pass with very little snow but I could see how snow at the top would make that pass adventuresome if it weren't for the trail that others will make by the time you get there (and I get there). Have a great trip.
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Re: Down The JMT: Late July-Early August 2011

Postby lambertiana » Sun Jun 05, 2011 6:39 pm

If you can get an exit permit, remember that it is for the date you plan to cross Trail Crest. If you are going to summit Whitney and exit at portal on the same day, that's no problem. But if you plan on spending one last night on the Portal side (Outpost Camp, Lone Pine Lake, etc) before exiting, get your exit permit on the day you will cross Trail Crest.

If you can't get an exit permit for Portal, you will indeed need to plan for an alternative. As has been pointed out, you can exit at Horseshoe Meadow, which will make the trip longer.

If your schedule does not allow for the additional couple days to exit at Horseshoe, another alternative is to start a little further south on the west side. Start at Lake Thomas Edison - you can either go up the north shore to meet the JMT at Mono Creek, or go up Bear Creek cutoff to meet the JMT on Bear Creek. This will cut off the section of the JMT from Reds Meadow to Mono Creek, but it also removes the necessity of getting an exit permit for Trail Crest. If your entry permit is not in Inyo National Forest, you do not need an exit permit. And if you do this, you can then continue to exit at Horseshoe and see that section of the PCT south of Whitney without making your trip longer than originally planned. Starting at Thomas Edison means that you will get to Muir Trail Ranch after just a few days.
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Re: Down The JMT: Late July-Early August 2011

Postby AlmostThere » Sun Jun 05, 2011 6:44 pm

gary c. wrote:Since I have yet to hike thru the area I'll let the more knowledgeable reply to your questions. I just wanted to point out a problem I had this year when trying to get permits that ended thru Whitney Portal. For all of the dates that would work for me the last week in July there were no exit permits available and that was almost two months ago. I was told that I would have to backtrack and exit at Horseshoe Meadows or someplace simular. Unless you get lucky and catch someone elses cancelled permit I think you will have the same problem. The Ranger at the permit office said that because of all the heavy snow delays everyone was planning later trips and basicly all of the Whitney Zone Exit Permits were already reserved into September.


Choose a Sierra NF or Yosemite trailhead and that problem vanishes.
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Re: Down The JMT: Late July-Early August 2011

Postby gary c. » Sun Jun 05, 2011 7:09 pm

AlmostThere wrote:[
Choose a Sierra NF or Yosemite trailhead and that problem vanishes.

Very good information to know and I wish I would have thought to ask before we got a permit for another area. If I had thought to ask here first I would have known. After being a member and reading the posts here the last few years I know that you folks almost always have a way around permit problems. #-o
The last couple of years I've enlisted Marskor and his vast experience to help me plan our "Big Trip" of year. This year I decided to plan it all on my own and see what happens. :\
"On this proud and beautiful mountain we have lived hours of fraternal, warm and exalting nobility. Here for a few days we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is hard to return to servitude."
-- Lionel Terray
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Re: Down The JMT: Late July-Early August 2011

Postby markskor » Sun Jun 05, 2011 7:24 pm

Maybe things have dramatically changed, but...
Rangers have always lent a kind eye to those doing the entire Muir...Doing any of the big ticket hikes too...They do understand.

Agreed that it has been a few years for me personally but, how are you supposed to keep exact dates straight when doing a 2+ week journey? Having to hit the exact day passing through Trail Crest, after 209 miles would be way beyond my abilities...(admittedly, I do lose time easily)...maybe what is needed here is a detailed spread sheet? (Rogue?)

IMHO, do you think will they would really give you a ticket if perhaps, your pack broke/got injured/ girlfriend started complaining, bla bla bla... at TC, and were thus forced to curtail your trip immediately? Under these situations, going down to the Portal instead of Horseshoe Meadows would make sense (and not worrying about anything else).

Not advocating breaking any laws mind you, but if I possessed a valid Muir Permit from HI to HM, I would not think twice about any Whitney regulations, (other than having a can along), and exit where it damn well suited me best. These regs are meant for keeping quotas, but more specifically to put a limit on the vast numbers of those short-timers coming up from Lone Pine, not those backpacking few who started hundreds of miles north.

I may be wrong.
Mountainman who swims with trout
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