July 31, 2010

All of the JMT links

Here is a list of all the John Muir Trail links that I've posted since we've returned...

Preparations: Gear - Food - Plan

Daily Recaps and Photos: Getting to Yosemite - Quick Recap - Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4 - Day 5 - Day 6 - Day 7 - Day 8 - Day 9 - Day 10 - Day 11

Reflections: Question and Answer

And, our video...

JMT Daily Updates Video

Throughout the hike, we did a bunch of progress updates on video. It started as a nightly update, then expanded to include mid-day updates as we felt confident that we'd have enough battery power for our cameras to last the entire trip.

Its 18 minutes long, but well worth it! :-) Enjoy!

Post-JMT Questions

We made this list of questions and answers on the drive back to Utah. Some reflections on the trip...

A = Andrea, J = Jake

Favorite Clif bar –

A: Chocolate almond fudge (everything else made me feel nauseas by the end!)

J: Cool mint chocolate

Food you wish you would’ve brought –

A: Mac and cheese!

J: Starburst jelly beans

Favorite food –

A: Skittles

J: Peanut butter Nutella wrap

Favorite drink mix –

A: Hawaiian punch purple

J: HP Lemonberry Squeese

Food you are temporarily giving up now –

A: Clif bars

J: Peanut butter (ate over a pound each in 11 days)

Food wish you didn’t bring –

A:Gummy bears

J: Gummy bears

Food craved the most -
A: ICE (ate snow at every opportunity but just not the same), cheese, ice cream

J: Diet Dew*, ice cream, ketchup (*surprisingly, my diet dew consumption has gone way down in the week since we finished the JMT. I just don't crave it the way that I used to. Its weird!)

Scariest moment –

A: Crossing Bear Creek

J: Day 4 lightening storm, Andrea starting to fall back into whitewater in Mono Creek

Hated most about the trip –

A: swarms of baby mosquitos that made you constantly keep walking even during breaks

J: mosquitos for the first 5 days

Period of time felt the worst –

A: Morning of Day 3 with calorie deficiency and afternoon of Day 6 with the 10 pounds added back to the packs

J: mornings of Day 3 and Day 9 because of calorie deficiency and flat legs

Least favorite pass –

A: Selden Pass (same reason as Jake)

J: Selden Pass because had to push it to the top because of threatening weather that cleared up as soon as we reached the top but then swarmed with mosquitos

Injuries –

A: 6 of 10 toes were taped by the end of the trip due to blisters, hot spots, etc., skin rashes, nose became painful due to dry air

J: backpack ripped skin off of lower back and shoulders

Thing you wish you would’ve brought –

A: lotion (developed major skin rashes because of the dry weather)

J: nothing! Had everything we needed

Unnecessary items –

A: gaiters, microspikes

J: microspikes, GPS, gaiters

Most necessary items –

A: sunscreen and DEET!

J: JMT pocket Atlas (way better than Tom Harrison maps!)

Gear that exceeded expectations –

A: bear vault, bear scratch from Yosemite proved it!

J: MSR pocket rocket stove (11 boils in one cannister)

Thing you wish you would’ve put in the resupply –

A: lotion

J: good razor blade, hot hands for Mt. Whitney morning

Best last minute decisions –

A: let Jake do research when I wanted to play Yahtzee with him at nights before the trip

J: put sleeping bags in waterproof stuff sacks, buying real rain covers for our backpacks instead of using garbage bags

Worst last minute decisions –

A: leaving backpacking clothes on the chair in the condo

J: not realizing the sleeping pad had a hole in it before we left (thanks REI Las Vegas for replacing it!)

Favorite stretch of the trip –

A: Top of Muir Pass through LeConte Canyon, Whitney zone

J: Donahue Pass to Thousand Island Lake, Whitney zone

Most beautiful lake –

A: Thousand Island lake

J: Upper Rae Lake

Hardest Climb –

A: Bear Ridge (both were mentally drained from the stream crossings and tired)

J: Bear Ridge (same)

Easiest Climb –

A: Island Pass

J: Forester and Mt. Whitney (high camp and adrenaline made them feel easy)

Best campsite –

A: Day 10 Site above Guitar Lake at 12,000ft bleow Mt. Whitney

J: Day 9 At 11,200ft located below Forester Pass

Worst campsite –

A: Day 3 tiny flat spot in the middle of the woods

J: Day 7 Land of mosquitos

Most unexpected moments of entire trip –

A: Ridiculous hail/thunderstorm on Day 4 (was told it doesn’t ever rain in the Sierra Nevadas!)

J: Standing 8 feet away from Shaq in Las Vegas for hot dog eating contest, hiking 24.5 miles on the first day

JMT Day 11

Summit panoramic from 14,505 feet - Mt Whitney!

Date: Saturday, July 24
Miles: ~15.5
Cumulative Miles: 222
Camp: Las Vegas, NV :-)

We woke up at 3:30am with energy and adrenaline – excited about climbing Mount Whitney and the last day on John Muir Trail! We broke camp within 30 minutes and started hiking at 4am... just as we hoped.

It was COLD, so we moved fast and climbed the 1600 ft to the trail junction in under an hour (as if we were wearing daypacks!). We dropped our packs and we both felt wobbly and weird without 25-35 pounds on our backs! Andrea flew to the summit while I struggled a bit to even keep up with her and not fall off the trail. The light of day started to break through the spires of the ridge as we were walking the 1.9 miles to the summit. As the summit house and sunrise came into view, my eyes blurred with tears for the final 200 yards. What we had just done really started to hit me. I'm not sure, even looking back in retrospect, how to convey what I was feeling at that point, but I sincerely hope that everyone has moments like that in their lives.

The sun coming over the horizon was one of the most unforgettable moments in our lives. The 360 views from the summit were incredible. We spent 30 minutes on the top taking pictures and soaking in the accomplishment of finishing (and freezing!). The summit house was used for a quick warmup before hiking back down to the trail junction. We picked up our packs with numb fingers and hiked the final 150 feet up to the trail crest, were super excited to see the sun on the other side, but not quite as excited about beating up our legs with the 6000 feet down to Whitney Portal.

It took us 5 hours to descend 11 miles of lots of switchbacks, but the views of all the mountains in that area on the way down were well worth it. As we got withing a half mile of the trailhead, I turned on my cell phone and was able to call my Dad and tell him that we were alice and doing well. He was definitely relieved and excited to hear from me! A few minutes later, we were standing at the Whitney Portal store... we had completed the JMT!!!

Of course, 222 miles of hiking would not be the last challenge... we got to Andrea's car to find that the trunk somehow managed to open in the days we were on the trail. Luckily, nothing was touched, but the battery was dead! We had to push the car out of the parking spot and have a nice Japanese man (with extensive knowledge of Toyotas thankfully) help us jump start the car. From there it was smooth sailing to Las Vegas to stay with my super awesome Aunt Kristie. A shower and shave never felt so good! We ate mac and cheese and ice cream until we felt sick... it was great! ;-) After a good night's sleep, we drive the 6 hours from Vegas to SLC on an insanely hot day, with the highlight being my first trip to Dairy Queen in 8 years. As much as we were relieved to have finsihed the trail the day before, I was already feeling like I wanted to get back on the trail by the drive home.

So... that's the day-by-day story of the JMT... but not the last of the posts. We have a video and some more retrospective thoughts that we'll be sharing in the next few days.

4am, lets roll!

Excited and cold!

Andrea getting a look at daybreak

Light starting to fill the sky

Here it comes

John Muir called this the "Range of Light"

Sun rising

We made it!

My favorite picture of the trip... this was a special moment

We took the long way, 211 miles, to the highest peak in the lower 48 states

Looking down off the east face of Mt Whitney

Summit marker

Inside the summit house, warming up

Trail Crest... now we were heading 6000 feet down

The views on the hike down, as the sun lit up the east facing slopes, were top notch

Whitney massif

This was another really happy day for us

Mt Whitney

Posing with Whitney

I liked the color contrast here

First time we could see the road since Yosemite!

Veins popping out of my legs

Leaving John Muir's wilderness

Looking back up towards the Whitney zone


No bears got our car :-)

But we still had to jump start the car

Reunited with the dew!

Off to Vegas!

Looking back up at Mt Whitney as we were driving away

SLC, here we come

First trip to DQ since the "incident" in North Carolina in 2002


JMT Day 10

Looking North from Forester Pass

Date: Friday, July 23
Miles: ~19.5
Cumulative Miles: 206.5
Camp: 500' Above Guitar Lake

At 8:00am, we were standing on top of 13,200 foot Forester Pass, with Mt Whitney ahead of us, and most of the John Muir Trail behind us. Perfect weather, incredible views; I think at one point I asked Andrea if we should start singing "America the Beautiful." That's exactly how it felt.

After a surprisingly easy climb up to the top, we took an hour break on top of Forester Pass and cooked up some mashed potatoes... yummy! While this was the last major climb before Whitney, it wasn't by any means all downhill from Forester. The trail from the pass to the Whitney area was lots of rolling terrain at high elevation... it ended up being quite a tiring rest of the day. We made it to Guitar Lake around 5pm, and all of a sudden the clouds started to build and we heard a few rumbles of thunder.... uh oh. We hadn't even seen a cloud in the past 5 days! It was decision time again; camp at Guitar Lake, or climb another 500 (exposed) feet to the flat camping area at 12,000 feet. We decided to roll the dice and keep going... luckily, a storm never materialized, we were at our campsite by 530pm, and the weather for the rest of the evening was cool and perfect. We had a big dinner and got all of our gear organized for the push the Mt Whitney's summit.

Our plan for the next day was to wake up at 330am, break camp quickly, and hopefully be hiking by 400am. With an early start, we could make our way up to the ridge in time to see the sun break over the horizon. We were excited to say the least! It would be tough to get any sleep, being at 12,000 feet and with anticipation building for the next day, but we still went to sleep early in an attempt to get a little rest.

The last thing I wrote in my journal that night was: "Looking forward to tomorrow! Mt Whitney!!! Shorter day! Diet Dew! Ice Cream! This has been the greatest thing I have ever done w/ the greatest person I have ever known. I'll never, ever, ever forget any of this."

Andrea ready to roll

Time to climb up Forester Pass

Sun just starting to light up the pass

Forester Pass area

Andrea in some bigtime terrain

I loved this area

The last stretch across the snow to the pass

The highest pass on the trail

Forester Pass looking South

Looking South

Mashed potatoes at the top

Looking back the way we came

Dropping off the pass

Heading down

I love the color of the Sierras

Transition back to some green

The trail went across some high plateaus

The views on the stretch were incredible

We stopped for lunch on Bighorn Plateau

Bighorn Plateau

Then we crossed some meadows...

Getting closer!

Dirty legs!!!

We crossed some sandy forests...

...and then got up to the Whitney zone

Guitar Lake

Hiking past Guitar Lake

Organizing gear for the last day

Clear skies

Our campsite above Guitar Lake. Amazing spot!

Last night on the trail

Ready for Whitney!!!