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Best portion of JMT for a 7-9 day trip?

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Re: Best portion of JMT for a 7-9 day trip?

Postby Hobbes » Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:17 pm

markskor wrote:Getting into (and out of) the West side trailheads...well IMHO, the road just plain sucks.

What he said. To paraphrase a certain term, once you go east, you never go back. I know, it doesn't rhyme, but seriously, there's nothing like getting to a TH within 20-30 minutes of leaving a major, 2-lane highway (US 395). Not only are the distances shorter, but most of them are almost straight shots that gain 4-5k in elevation.

As for the Yosemite valley to Reds section of the JMT, I think most would agree the real high-point is Tuolumne to Agnew via Donohue, Thousand Island & the Minarets. At only 9 miles/day, it's a 2 night, 3 day affair, so you really wouldn't be getting a good bang for the buck.

Mav's suggestion about S to N Lake is also sound - hitting Lamarck out of the box is tough.

markskor wrote:2) Onion Valley to Kearsarge - Whitney - Portal...a good 50+ mile adventure

That would be my suggestion as well. If you want to be in the highest of the High Sierra, go over the highest pass (Forester), and then summit the highest peak, this would be the call.

Also, by hitting the S Sierra, you open up the possibility of flying directly into SoCal. It seems counter-intuitive, but it's really only 4 hrs to Lone Pine from LA. In fact, if you could arrange to fly into Ontario, you could rent a car and be in Lone Pine the same day. From there, you could decide on what you wanted to do. (With only 2 people, I would forgo attempting to schedule in advance with reservations. They keep 40% for walk-ins - I've never been shut out.)

If you were real maniacs, you could attempt to do each of the "Big 3" as separate section hikes. Think about it - if you can do 14 miles/day, you could do Tuolumne - Agnew in 2 days/1 night. Pull into Mammoth D2 and drive to S Lake. Power through Evolution in 3-4 nights, then head to Onion. There are plenty of trip reports for the Kearsarge to Whitney section, but again, if you were in shape, you could pull it off in 3 nights.

Personally, I know when my wife & I were younger, and we were on a big trip to someplace new, we'd literally go for 12-16 hrs/day straight for the entirety, while depending on the long plane flight back home to catch up on some sleep. If this is a big deal, don't short-change yourself.

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Re: Best portion of JMT for a 7-9 day trip?

Postby maverick » Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:50 pm

Hi Stephen,

If we stick to your requesting info asking about about the JMT maybe a better
question would be, "what is everyone's least favorite section?" that way you can
do some research about the remaining sections and rank them by your own
requirements (scenery, possibilities for loop, mileage, and difficulty).
You will find a lot of TR's that include many sections of the JMT here on HST, and
on-line to make an informed decision.
Many of us will chime in with great ideas, but after a while it may become little
overwhelming so take a step back, check your own priorities, and decide
I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member:
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Re: Best portion of JMT for a 7-9 day trip?

Postby Mike M. » Thu Jan 31, 2013 5:01 pm

Stephen, the JMT is a bit of a highway in many places -- crowded for sure. But it is ideal for getting from one remote area to to another, which is how most of us use it and the way I think it is best appreciated. As an example, the North Lake-South Lake loop uses a leg of the JMT to connect two gorgeous Sierra playgrounds -- the Humphreys Basin area and Dusy Basin. An additional bonus of this loop is that the JMT portion just happens to be incredibly scenic too.

Keeping in mind this concept of the JMT as a connector highway to really great, remote areas, there are many loops or semi loops to choose from that are much more rewarding than just hiking a leg of the JMT. Here are some examples:

- From Mosquito Flat (outside Tom's Place on Hwy 395, N of Bishop), hike over Mono Pass, explore Pioneer and Hopkins basins, then drop down to the JMT for a short stretch and hike up the Bear Creek drainage to Lake Italy, then cross country over easy Gabbott Pass, down Mill Creek to the Mono Pass trail, and back to Mosquito Flat via Mono Pass. The trailhead starts at almost 10,000 feet, so you are in the high country right away.

- From Onion Valley, hike over Kearsarge Pass and devise a loop either going north on the JMT (via Glen Pass) to Rae Lakes or south (via Forester Pass) to the upper reaches of the Kern River watershed.

- From North Lake, hike over Lamarck Col into Darwin Basin, then drop down to the JMT and do a loop down to Evolution Valley, then up McGee Creek to McGee Pass, down to Sapphire Lake and out via Lamarck Col -- or from McGee Pass, you can drop down to the JMT at Wanda Lake and continue S on the JMT to the Dusy Basin trail and exit at South Lake via Bishop Pass.

- From Horseshoe Meadows, you can use a stretch of the JMT to connect a few fine cross country areas -- Miter Basin, Wallace Lakes Basin, and Wright Lakes Basin. I use it also to connect to the Kawaeh Basin, on the west side of the Kern.

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Re: Best portion of JMT for a 7-9 day trip?

Postby paul » Thu Jan 31, 2013 8:08 pm

Here's a trip that I did way back when before I did the full JMT:
In at South Lake, over Bishop Pass, off-trail from Dusy basin by way of Barret Lakes to Palisade Lakes where you meet the JMT and then stay on it the rest of the way to Whitney. Took me 6 1/2 days - I spent the last night on top of Whitney, if I hadn't done that it would have been 6 days.
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Re: Best portion of JMT for a 7-9 day trip?

Postby lambertiana » Thu Jan 31, 2013 8:13 pm

If you are entering from the west side (Fresno area) and are not married to the idea of being on the JMT, there are a few routes that are good 7-9 day trips that get to spectacular areas that few people visit if you are willing to do some class 2 off trail. I prefer to do 8-10 miles/day, but will go up to 15 under the right conditions. I'm a medium speed backpacker - some people pass me, and I pass some people. That information should help you gauge the difficulty/length of the trips relative to how long I took for them.

One is from Roads End, over Granite Pass to Horseshoe Lakes, then XC over Gray/White/Red passes to Lake Basin. Then go over Cartridge Pass to the South Fork Kings. From there either go down (epic bushwhack down Muro Blanco) or head up to meet the JMT, which you then take south over Pinchot Pass and exit via the Woods Creek trail back to Roads End. Lake Basin is a very nice place. I did that route in seven days.

Another one is from Crescent Meadow. Go to Bearpaw, then over Elizabeth Pass, down Deadman Canyon, up Cloud Canyon, down to Gallats Lake. From Gallats Lake go XC up to the Picket Creek drainage and cross over to Kaweah Basin. Exit Kaweah Basin via Pyra-Queen col, then hook up with the High Sierra trail in Nine Lake Basin and follow it out to Crescent Meadow. I did it in nine days. This is a truly spectacular route, I highly recommend it to anyone who is not afraid of class 2.

Another is to go from Rancheria to Tehipite Valley, up the Middle Fork to the JMT, south on the JMT to Woods Creek, and then out via Roads End. This would require a shuttle/two cars. I did that trip in eight days.

I've done the North Lake-South Lake loop (eight days, including a summit of Agassiz), Onion Valley to Whitney (six days), Horseshoe Meadow to Whitney (five days), as well as some of the suggested route around Thousand Island Lake. Each has its own beauty. But out of all those, the loop I did out of Crescent Meadow is my favorite. PM me if you want to see some pics.
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Re: Best portion of JMT for a 7-9 day trip?

Postby LMBSGV » Thu Jan 31, 2013 8:42 pm

I hope this doesn’t add to your confusion with all the different advice, but I can’t resist adding my two cents. My favorite section of the JMT is between Palisades Lakes to the lakes below Pinchot Pass. So my trip suggestion is from South Lake into Dusy Basin with an exit at Kearsarge Pass. You can either catch the JMT at LeConte Canyon or take Knapsack Pass into Palisade Basin and then catch the JMT at Palisade Lakes. (The route through Palisade Basin involves some gnarly cross-country sections–-check past trip reports and the Cross Country Passes section to see how comfortable this would be for you.)

The hike from Mather Pass through Upper Basin is one where one feels they are walking on top of the world. They are numerous possible side trips to the various unnamed lakes in Upper Basin where cross-country travel is relatively easy. The Marjorie Lakes basin with a side trip to Bench Lake is one of the most sublime places on earth. The chain of lakes below Pinchot Pass are wondrous and the view of Mt. Clarence King from some points takes one’s breath away. I’ll admit the section of the descent to Woods Creek is not so marvelous, though the “Golden Gate of the High Sierra” (the suspension bridge over Woods Creek} is a kick to cross. Rae Lakes justify their reputation, though that section can be crowded with all the people doing the Rae Lakes Loop.

One other suggestion is to get a copy of John Dittli and Mark Schlenz’s Walk the Sky: Following the John Muir Trail. The “Dancing the Earth” essay of Part Two is one of the best pieces of writing about wilderness I’ve ever read and John’s photos are beautiful beyond mere words.
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Re: Best portion of JMT for a 7-9 day trip?

Postby oleander » Sat Feb 02, 2013 10:09 am

Hi Stephen,

People have given you some fantastic ideas here.

One question, you have "some experience" on Class 2 terrain, but what is your sense for how far you want to take that? It is one thing to pop from an established trail over one single Class 2 pass to another established trail, and quite another to do a long section of Class 2 that traverses up streams, around ridges, etc. and requires very good navigation skills. There is also the micro-route finding question: Any Class 2 pass can quickly become a Class 3 ordeal if you have limited experience figuring out the proper route down.

Thus, the Crescent Meadow trip suggested by someone above, involving going over Pyra Queen Col, is not something I'd suggest to someone with only limited x-country and/or not 100% sure of your navigation skills over long distances off-trail. (If you DO think you have those skills, it would indeed be one of the most fantastic trips out there.)

Conversely, would you PREFER to have a trip that incorporates some x-country, even just a couple of easy passes, rather than one that is strictly on-trail?

One thing that might help you narrow this down is to think about car logistics. If you have only one week, then renting a car, driving it a very long way, leaving it somewhere, exiting at a different trailhead and having to shuttle back to your car, eats up precious days you could have spent actually backpacking. So if you have friends in Fresno who will indeed drop you off and pick you up anywhere, I would pick a start trailhead and an end trailhead each within easy driving distance of Fresno. That to me suggests entries and exits either on the west side (e.g. Roads End, Lodgepole, Crescent Meadow, or Edison/Florence/Wishon Lakes), or else on the far south end of the east side (Whitney Portal or Cottonwood Lakes). Mineral King trailhead (southwest side of Sequoia NP) could be added to this list if your drivers don't mind a 1.5-hour winding road.

Finally, I'm surprised no one has mentioned the High Sierra Trail, starting at Crescent Meadow and ending at Mount Whitney. That meets all of your criteria, including logistically reasonable start and finish (from a Fresno driver's point of view) without a ton of wasted driving time; a perfect length for a week-long trip (about 75 miles PLUS a ton of possible Class 1/2 x-country side trips/layovers to places like Nine Lakes Basin and Wallace/Wales Lakes); slowly increasing elevation from west to east allowing you to acclimate by just getting directly onto the trail; and it gets you onto a section of the JMT ending at a highlight, Mt. Whitney.

If solitude is really important to you, I'd pick NONE of: The JMT; the North Lake - South Lake loop; or the High Sierra Trail.

- Elizabeth
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Re: Best portion of JMT for a 7-9 day trip?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Feb 03, 2013 8:37 am

"some experience" backpacking, "some experience off trail" but in good shape, 7-9 days...
I would stay away from gnarly passes (Pyra Queen for one!), however, you probably would be OK doing something on the order of Lamark Col. I would judge your experience level more for staying on trails, although you could easily do some of the lesser used trails and connect a few pieces with easy off trail travel.

I will up front state my bias -- I HATE the JMT in August! Just too many people.

I agree that if you live in southern CA and have a short time, going in the east side is more efficient. The east side also has more public transportation options and shuttle services to the trailheads (expensive). But, east side approaches, although short, can be grueling elevation gains. Fresno is really close to Yosemite and/or Kings Canyon and there is decent public transporation to Lodgepole and Yosemite. One advantage of west side approach is that you do not have to climb up over the crest to get onto the JMT.

Also, consider flying to Reno where there is good public transporation to any location from Yosemite Valley to Mammoth Lakes. And what about flying in to one side (say Reno) and fly home from the other side (say Fresno).

There are two methods of acclimating- hang around at altitude for a day or so (Tuolumne) or just go slow the first few days and do not bite off a lot of elevation gain the first part of the trip.

Rather than ask for our favorite what about giving us a priorty list of criteria that would make it the best trip for you? Does solitude rank higher than fishing? Does "big mountain" scenery rank higher than solitude? Otherwise all you will get is a mish-mash of every piece of the JMT as someones "favorite".
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Re: Best portion of JMT for a 7-9 day trip?

Postby superstephen99 » Mon Feb 04, 2013 8:32 am

Thank you all so much for your replies! There is much to chew on and consider here! I just got done with a busy weekend of work-I'll try and find some time to log on later this week and ask some more pointed questions for you all.
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