JMT part 2. August 2021

August 1st. So I have decided to go back and try and finish off the JMT. Starting where I left off last time, Vermillion Valley Resort (VVR), and continuing south the Mount Whitney. I am hiking solo as I could not persuade anybody to join me, though I expect many others to be on the same trail. I have scheduled 13 days for it, including one rest(zero) day and two half days.

I am currently flying from Toronto to San Francisco and there I transfer to a flight to Fresno. I overnight there and tomorrow I get a transfer in to VVR, picking up my permit en route. I will spend a day at VVR acclimatizing before starting hiking.

I am not as fit as I would like to be for this trip. My training was interrupted by a knee injury which is still having residual effects. I also started developing an on again off again sore hip, early signs of a replacement being needed down the road I am told. The hip didn’t like me carrying more than 30 lbs in training. Pity as my starting pack weight is going to be around 40! 13 days of food does not come lightly. No resupply points on this half of the trail. Well that’s not quiet true. There is one after 2 days, but very expensive. Then there is the possibility of having a resupply package delivered by mule at another spot, but a logistical nightmare requiring much forward planning. Given that I needed the ability to abort the whole trip at the last moment, this was not really an option for me. So 13 days worth of food it is. Still it will get lighter day by day.

Testing the rig and the back

August 3rd. VVR. 11.30am

Well here I am at VVR. All the travel plans worked out fine. This place is as beautiful as ever and so catering to hikers. Lots of North bound hikers this year, but finally come across a couple going south tomorrow. Bought my way into their favour with a couple of compeeds !

The water level is way down so they are not/cannot run the water taxi. It is about a miles walk to the dam and the water, so I probably will not be taking a swim.

All you can see is usually covered with water!

One thing I had to sort out here. I found I had not downloaded the maps for my navigation app. I had the trail but with no idea of the country it was going through. A hiker from Germany should me how to down load them, but I had to walk to the dam to get enough bars on my phone. I also had to but expand the data on my roaming plan, twice! Anyway that is done now.

The view from the dam

No breakfast this morning as I was not feeling hungry . A tossing and turning nights sleep, but no troubles temperature wise in shorts and puffer jacket. I have three extra layers in reserve for when it gets colder at the higher altitudes I am going to, so I should be ok.

Here’s my sleeping set-up

Now I think I have an appetite for lunch so let’s go and see what I can manage. Not much apparently. Still pretty usual for first day at altitude.

This afternoon I have to send out my first garmin text, and then recharge everything and I should be good to go in the morning.

August 4th. 8.00pm Bear creek.

Not a very helpful description as the creek is a long one, but I am on the bear creek access trail about a mile before it meets the JMT.

It’s been a long hard day but a beautiful hike.

Last night was a bad one. I had caught a mountain cold and spent the night coughing and going to the loo every hour. My stomach and bowels were also griping. Nevertheless I packed up, deciding it could only get better. A light breakfast, apple pie a la mode helped quiet the stomach , though I could not finish it.

8.00am shuttle to the trail head and off I went. The hike started with an hours uphill.

View back to VVR

Then an hours down hill. All through beautiful red wood forest. Lots of pine cones and alpine flowers.

Lots of pine cones. Seemed a thing at first but soon became commonplace
Alpine flowers

The descent brought me the Bear Creek and a wonderful bathing spot, which naturally I took advantage of.

First bathing spot

The rest of the day was spent following the creek , upwards! And it was descending quite rapidly which meant the I was going up likewise. Hard work.

Stopped for two more cool offs before the creek entered a narrow gorge and the trail swung away up even steeper to get above the gorge.

On the way up the creek
Brilliant
Final swimming place, occupied by a set a boy scouts having a great time on a three day explore of the area.

Three very tiring hours later, after many stops I reached a high point and were able to gently descend to meet the creek again.

It was 5 by now. So a joined a group of others who had likewise had enough. They had picked a spot with good water access so needless to say another cooling swim was taken.

Final swimming place
of the day, no that is not me

Usual evening activities, filtering water, supper and the bed, where I am writing this. Cowboy style tonight, DEET close at hand.

Fitbit says 33000 steps, 7100 calories! Cannot get it to tell be how much vertical. >2000ft I would guess. It would have been easier if there were not so many bloody enormous steps.

Didn’t get as far as I hoped, but further than the worse case scenario. Just means my rest day the day after tomorrow might just be a half one. Tomorrow I hope to get over Selden pass. At around 10500 ft. So more climbing to do. If I am too slow then the are plenty of campsites on this side.

Weather continues fine. Clear blue skies, temp probably 15 to 20, but a cold breeze from the south makes it feel 10ish.

August 5th. Marie lake, just before Sheldon pass.

Only 11k today. My ass was dragging. Body generally fine, but zero energy, especially for the steepish up hill bits. It was actually uphill all day again following the creek.

Follow that creek!

Very pretty scenery which was nice as I had plenty of stops to admire it.

A good spot to take a rest and cool ones feet

A few stepping stones alone the way. It’s been a dry year so such crossings were never a concern.

Typical stream crossing.

Probably acclimatization issue, 3247 m here, maybe not taking in enough calories. Heavy pack obviously not helping.

Minor panic this evening. When I got to this lake, which incidentally is way larger than shown on the map, I found a so so camp site. It was only around 3 so rather than set up I had a little siesta. When I surfaced an hour later I decided to move on round the lake and find a better one, and cut some time off tomorrow’s hike. Well I found another one, not much better really. But set up, cowboy style again, filtered water, tried unsuccessfully for a number 2, then realized I couldn’t find my phone! Took camp apart twice. Went up hill to toilet site. Still no phone. Went back to siesta spot. No joy. Back to camp site and there it is sitting to one side on top of a small boulder. Deep breath and on to make supper etc.

Final lake. Too cold and too tired for a swim
View to tomorrow’s pass
My resting place for the night

Fitbit says 28764 steps today. They must have been small ones. 5135 Calories.

Time for a cup of tea and try and force in some more calories.

August 6th. Near Muir Ranch.

Pre dawn

Fun morning, woke to find my water had frozen. I wasn’t cold during the night, and had extra layers in reserve. So after an earlyish start headed up to today’s pass.

A look back from the pass.

Went well and soon at the top of the long long descent. The top section was very pretty and ended at a nice lake, so I took a swim.

Cannot wait to get down there and have a swim.
First mule train! Either suppling rangers or catering to folks who are being catered to, having packs tents etc mules up while the walk with just a day pack.

From here on it was hotter and steeper with big zigzags . Not much fun as it got progressively hot on the way down.

Over half way down, but still plenty to go .

I had decided not to camp at the hot springs at The John Muir ranch but further up stream by the cold waters of St Joachim river. I found a nice spot to camp but unfortunately it was by a set of rapids with no bathing holes, so I had to consent myself with paddling and splashing.

Feet cooling

This was about 2.00pm. so I got half a rest day, sort of.

After setting up camp and doing laundry I set off, sans pack, for the half hour stroll to the Muir Ranch resupply station, taking with me my garbage and recharging cable for my phone.

Resupply point
A quiet moment

Got recharged, dumped garbage, brought some more camping gaz, just in case. Found the whole set up much more hiker friendly than rumour had led me to believe. Decided against exploring the hot springs, it was more of a day for cooling than warming.

Then headed back here for supper, for which I found I again had little appetite, and now writing this before turning in. Hope to make an early start tomorrow so get up tomorrow’s pass before it gets stupid hot.

Fitbit says 35809 steps and 5800 calories

August 7th. McClure meadows.

Made it. Actually made it here in good time. Would have been sensible to take a long break here then put in another couple of hours to reduce tomorrow’s marathon. But hey, the flesh was weak and so was the spirit. Besides it is a beautiful spot, if only I could keep my eyes open.

Left early this morning as planned, circa 7.30. Got here about 3. Saw 2 deer and a glimpse of a bear.

They did not seem worried by my presence

Got to big hill about 12. Temp not as bad as feared as the mistral (cold breeze driven thermal activity) started up. it dies at night. Managed to cool off feet at various points during the day. Oh did I say, gorgeous scenery all the way.

Some views from the way up
Spectacular McClure Meadows, my stop for the night.

Had to use a stop and charge Fitbit as it had run out, missing 40 minutes of activity and now permanently 40 minutes slow.

Some smoke haze early in the hike, but soon left behind. Helicopter activity to the south of us as I write this, but no signs of fires.

My camp spot

Sunday August 8th. Lake Wanda

Packed and on the trail by 7.45. Here by 3 and absolutely pooped so decided to camp here rather than continue over the pass. Some pictures from the way up.

Typical trail thru the woods
Looking back, as one must from time to time
Purple flowers by path
Fish in clear water
Fishes’ lake
Now above the tree line again
Final stop for the day. Lake Wanda. The pass and it’s famous hut can be seen on the first ridge line

No shade and breeze not as strong as usual so could have been better, but no prospects of any better between here and the pass. Too cold for a swim.

Not much else to report, the weather remains stunning as do the views. Had to deal with a couple of minor blisters. No problem. Now at 3500 m which may explain lack of energy. Or not eating enough.

Only 3.5 k to the pass tomorrow morning, plus some vertical of course. Hope to do it before it gets hot again.

13k today! I’ll never finish at this rate

Odd Socks Bob is camping next to me. He has just been over for a conversation. Very one sided as he is very deaf, and was not wearing his hearing aids. One learns just to nod or shake ones head, and give diminino signs as he tends to be a bit loud.

7.00 pm now and the sun is set. Now the temp should drop with a vengeance. I have a lot of stored heat to give back.

August 8th. 5.20am.

Well that was a fun night. Not cold, a bit of dew but i imagine that will dry off quickly. Not so much that my inflatable mattress sprung a leak, which sucks, but I have a repair kit so hopefully will be able to fix it, and besides I chose a nice hollow to sleep in so I wasn’t too uncomfortable. No it’s waking up in the middle of the night to aching knees and hips and finding one has been lying to one’s self about the state of ones bod. Midnight doubts perhaps but I am resolved to bail . This gave a sense of relief but also of what next. Is this a change of life style? Am I going to (have to?) give up hiking ? And do what? Gardening? Baking?

Anyway realized I was hungry. Only second time this trip. I still am, so shrimp risotto for breakfast! If I am aborting I don’t have to follow the meal plan. If I change my mind I can always have porridge for dinner one night.

9th August. 7.00pm. At trail head for Bishop pass.

Woke before sunrise. Another beautiful still morning.

Damn I didn’t get the reflections quite right

Slight frost. Slow again getting moving. 8.30.

1 1/2 hrs got me to the Muir Pass.

View back from the pass. Not a tree to be seen. Camped by nearest lake

Fantastic hut there.

Muir pass hut
Inside the hut
The amazing roof

Then start of an all day descent to here, arriving ~3. Descent initially above the tree line by a series of lakes,

By trails both rough and less rough.

A rough piece of trail
And a less rough

Then down into the red woods again following a creek down into the valley

A way down yet to go to the valley bottom
Here we are at the bottom

Not the prettiest valley but ok.

Some weird tree stumps just by my camping spot. Definitely spooky at night.

16.5 k longest day yet!

On way down met some people who had just come over Bishop pass. Plenty of water and camping spots, so that’s good. I am going to try and unload some of my surplus food supplies at the ranger station so I don’t have to carry it up and out. I hope he will be obliging.

August 10th. 7.00pm Just below Bishop Pass.

Beautiful up here in a rugged sort of way, but you certainly had the earn the views! I did not get started until just before 9. My trip to the ranger station was a bust. However I got chatting to an older gent with feet problems and had to introduce him to Compeed. He and his party, are also bailing here, but taking a rest day before coming up this pass. One of his party was a nurse, who on hearing me cough, was not impressed. Apparently she told others coming up the trail after me to look out for me and check up on me.

Anyway I made it up. Hard work, difficult to get pace right, lots of long rests admiring the view. Some pictures from the trip.

The early part parallels an enormous slab
A magnificent redwood
Arriving in the upper basin
Relaxing by the lake. Unfortunately only a foot deep but a very nice muddy bottom. It will probably be dry by the months end.
My final nights campsite. About as good as it can get.

No appetite again tonight but forced a meal down. Still occasional sore throat. Energy levels still not what they should be.

One of the couples tasked with looking out for me invited me over to be sociable which was nice. Travelling with their two children! Probably 12, 14. Kids seemed to be enjoying it, but had definite views on what were too long days.

Tomorrow 500 ft up to pass then downhill all the way.

August 11th. Bishop. Evening.

A peaceful night. Cold before the sun came up.

Pre dawn

No appetite again for breakfast but forced half a porridge down. Still coughing. Got going before 9. Had enough energy to get to pass in 45 minutes.

View back from the pass

Very nicely engineered trail, low gradient and few steps.

And, eventually, a view down the other side

Then the long long descent. Some good , some less so. First part, above the tree line was extremely rocky.

Lower down there were trees and pretty lakes and I had time for one last swim.

Leaving the wilderness
Final lake/reservoir. Note how low the water level is.

Got the trailhead in good time for the shuttle down to Bishop. Tired, quite enough down hill. My knees were not appreciating it. Not too regretful of not doing the whole thing. Looking back thunder clouds were forming so definitely had the best of the weather.

I got a lift down to Bishop with a couple who’s son had driven up to meet them. Saved about 30 minute wait, and $5. They are staying in Bishop tonight, so I just booked into the same hotel.

Felt weird and spaced out, but had a shower, did laundry and then took my self out for dinner. It remains to be seen what my stomach will think of real food. And alcohol!

Interesting side bar . I had hoped, with my calorie deficiency, to lose some of my stomach flab. Sitting here at diner it seems more likely I have lost it off my butt. It’s hard to sit!

Postscript

I have received some feedback that I was imprudent in my decision making. Some comments from my perspective.

1. The start was at 7700ft, a not unreasonable step up from sea level and the next two days going up first to 9000 ft and the to 10500 before returning to 8000 is I still believe, a good acclimatization program.

2. One is never fully fit for this sort of adventure. We are not professional athletes. Regardless it takes 4 days on the trail to get ones trail legs. This is what happened this time. From night three I had no more leg cramps .

3. I often start these hikes taking anti inflammatories and wean myself off them over a couple of days. Indeed apart from my left knee I could have done so this time. My “bad“ right knee behaved beautifully . Another plus thru this was my left hip which I thought might be a problem gave me no issues at all except at night it did not like me sleeping on it.

4. Loss of appetite when first going to altitude is a well known phenomena and one I had been through before. It was expected and not, initially at least, a concern. It was only when it continued past three days that it was worry.

5. I did have contingency plans, and eventually I used one of them. Going back to VVR after day 2 was never sensible as the Muir Ranch is at the same altitude and only a day away and just as easy to escape from.

6. In my defence of continuing on, sometimes one just has to try. It was new territory for me carrying that weight, and one is battling ones one expectations as much as anything. What seemed slow to me was quick to others. It was looking ahead and seeing that it was logistically impossible at my pace that made aborting a necessity as much as concerns about my energy levels and left knee. The next easy abort point was 5 days on. I think that I was being prudent, and given the nature of my recovery having left the trail, I continue to think so. My stomach has now recovered and my energy levels are back up, but my left knee remains worrisome.

One thought on “JMT part 2. August 2021”

  1. Another interesting hike of yours, Mike.
    I like the photos and am envious since I can no longer do hikes like yours. BTW, I’ll put up a link to your blog in mine tomorrow, maybe get you more readership such as you deserve.

    Look after yourselves!

    Stu

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s