My partner Cody & I won permits to hike the John Muir Trail for 2022.
This is a breakdown of our prep for the trip and thoughts afterwards!
Red Tape - Permit
We won a permit of 4 people for North to South or North Bound (NOBO) – Happy Isles to Mt. Whitney. It’s my understanding this is 4 out of 15 available slots to start from this coveted location. The new permit system as of 2022 is a different lottery system on recreation.gov – there are plenty of information sources on how to apply so I won’t cover that here. May the odds be ever in your favor.
After winning the lottery the new website requires you to select all potential camping areas before the checkout times out after 15 min. This was annoying, the named areas in the drop down menu did not have an associated map so we had to consult about 3 different maps to piece it together.
Here was our itinerary that was approved – I’ll include below what we actually did.
The JMT permit includes a half dome permit–you let them know when you pick up your permit and then you pay for it at the permit office – we paid with a credit card.
Prep for JMT
We quit our jobs, dehydrated/freeze-dried meals, 2 mailed resupply locations [Tuolumne Meadows & John Muir Ranch]. We started with 1 bear can for the first few days; then mailed the 2nd at our Tuolumne re-supply to save on carrying weight up the elevation gain for the first few days.
During JMT Notes
The YARTS has outlets for charging devices on the bus. It was difficult to find the backpacker’s camp navigating through the different campgrounds; after the fact, I found the location on Google Maps but I did not have cell service that far into the park. Should have downloaded an offline map for the area.
Construction on Mist Trail required an early start for us. Hiked Half Dome, people recommended bringing gloves, IMO no gloves needed. If you did bring some, make sure they are rubber/grippy gloves. I was grateful for a headnet due to the annoying gnats that dive for your eye juice. Cody’s notes; the jog/detour to the JMT trail viewpoint with Nevada falls was worth it for the view.
Woke up to Cody's poles chewed by mice and one missing a strap we couldn't find – AMATUER TIP: don’t leave your hiking poles out for critters to chew up, they like the salt that builds up on foam/cork handles. There was an active wildfire in the area – the Red fire started on August 4 between Red Creek and Illilouette Creek at 7800 ft elevation. Smoke from that fire poured into the valley and made the valley in the sunrise light look apocalyptic. Hiked an alternate route up to clouds rest and past the sunrise lakes before meeting back up with the JMT at Sunrise High Sierra Camp. Afterwards, we did a side hike up Columbia Finger to mix things up. The beta said it was a 3rd class scramble – I would say to get to the summit block required some 4th class moves.
Resupply at Tuolumne went smoothly. If you’re there when the post office is open – ask the “Post Maestro” about his fart machine. Hiked most of Lyell fork and camped by a lake about a mile from Donohue pass.
Dropped our packs at Donohue pass and hiked to Donohue peak – was a nice side excursion. To go straight for the ridge was a lot of boulder hopping–at the top we noticed the north side had a nice meadow that probably would be an easier ascent. This part of the trip, the area was experiencing record high temperatures–we were grateful to take swims in lakes/streams to cool off. Quote of the day: “I did 7 passes today: 5 gas, 2 mountain.” Camped at Thousand Island lake on the less popular south shore.
Did the minaret detour which takes you past 4 alpine lakes each with a unique hue of blue. The trail is well defined to iceberg lake but turns to a route after that until you reach minaret lake. It was pretty easy to follow the general path to cecile lake, where it turns into a bolder hop around the lake where it took a little effort to find the path down to minaret lake. Camping at minaret lake was busy but very scenic spot.
Red Meadows stop has a charging station outside but it was in the sun and my device stopped charging because it was overheating. There is an outlet inside of the laundry room where I could relocate the charging devices. Side hike to Rainbow Falls was worth it, we went for a little swim to prepare for the hike out. This hike loses elevation on the way in and gains on the way out so plan accordingly with temperature/pack etc. Camped at Red Cones, hiked to the top of the southern red cone for sunset which was beautiful, definitely recommended.
Hiked to Muir Trail Ranch – ran into a hiker with a head laceration that I assisted with dressing. Was surprised that MTR had a dismal first aid kit. I will make a few notes on my current first aid kit recommendations below. Weather changed dramatically with rain as a result of a Tropical Storm spin off from Baja Coast.
Met up with our friends Dan & Monica who joined for the last half of the trip. We met at the exact time their trail met ours–crazy coincidence.
Were not able to go for the planned side hike of 14er Split Mountain because it was covered in clouds/rainey weather. Would recommend it as a way to break up the monotony of the trail and it’s a quick peak bag as compared to the traditional approach from the Valley. This also was the last lake dip for us in Marjorie as temperatures started dropping.
Received more rain. Had to forgo our planned side excursion to scramble Fin Dome due to weather.
Dan, Cody and I bagged Tyndall & Williamson 14ers. Tyndall was more scramble/climbing fun exposure, Williamson a chossy chute. For Tyndall we went up Northeast Rib and down North rib–class 4 scramble with some good exposure. Williamson did the standard approach up a chute. The "chimney" after the chute mentioned in beta would be about class 4/ 5 easy, otherwise the whole thing was class 2. Traversing the Williamson bowl was tedious. Got back around 6 PM, and left camp just after 6 AM.
Last day//Summit Day – so many Wag Bags and human poop observed along the trail on the way down – very sad. The saddle smelled like human urine.
After JMT Notes
Angie: Vuori Yosemite bra, dirtygirlgaiters, quick dry clothing, Garden Goddess sunscreen [travel size], Native travel size deodorant [purchased from WalMart Travel section]
Cody: Origami bowl, foam butt pad, Patagonia sunshirt, Croakies for sunglasses [this style]
Patagonia sun shirt
REI convertible pants
Exofficio underwear + 1 generic
Darn tough socks
Generic short sleeve T
Black Diamond rain jacket
Zpack butt foam pad
15 degree bag
Sunglasses + croakies
Black Diamond trekking poles
Thermarest sleeping pad
**Would have liked gloves, a 30 degree sleeping bag, thermal underwear and down vest mostly due to the unseasonable weather that moved in during our hike. Would do away with silk liner.
Columbia collared button down shirt
Patagonia sun shirt&capilene layer for sleep
Exofficio + REI underwear
La Sportiva Bushido II Goretex Shoes
Mountain Hardware lightweight/quick dry pants
Granite Gear Rain Pants
Black Diamond rain jacket
Black Diamond trekking poles
Garden Goddess sunscreen
Sunglasses & chums
Slip on foam shoes
Granite Gear crown 3 backpack
30 degree sleeping bag
Gloves I took from half dome
Thermarest sleeping pad
**Wish I had a puffy vest & an alternative to my silk sleeping bag liner as it kept ripping. Grateful to have picked up gloves along the way because my hands broke out in a Sun Rash.
>Angie’s Hygiene Strategy:
Dr Bronners soap
Deodorant on before bed
Washed with soap to freshen
Swimming almost daily in lakes helped a lot before it became cold
*Used pot to warm water and clean self away from water sources before jumping in
Razor in last resupply
This Sawyer Squeeze strategy we used the Dirty Bag from platypus gravity filter set up and used the Sawyer like a gravity filter when at camp.
Used the Katadyn befree filter on the Hydroflask Flux. I tried to use the filter on the Hydroflask flux since it is larger (1.5 Liters) and of a thicker material. The flux cap screws on but is ultimately not compatible with the soft flask. I found with the pressure needed to filter, water would squeeze out from under the threads of the cap. Halfway through the trip the filter slowed down and the Flux developed pinhole leaks due to force needed to filter. I would have sent a new filter in the resupply or gone with a different brand with a similar process.
Was a nice strategy to have a water cleaning system that filters on the go/squeeze (Mine) and one passive that could filter at camp (Cody’s).
Returned our REI tent. Flash Air – it is a single wall tent that was horrendous for managing condensation. Set up was also annoying to find a suitable, durable place due to not being a free-standing tent.
Garmin InReach mini: forecast was not accurate during the trip and never reported/registered the rain downpours we experienced.
I brought a battery pack, high amp charging block & applicable cords to recharge our cell phones/InReach if needed. I brought a 10000mAh that has only 1 port. Wished I brought the 20000mAh to be able to charge 2 devices at once and have more charge capacity. I used my cell phone for photos, navigation and music/podcasts during uphill pushes which required the need for recharging. I looked into doing a sun panel but we hiked from North to South and the sun was in our face the whole time making putting it out on the pack useless. If hiking South to North this could be a viable option. We were hiking from sun-up to sun-down as well so placing a panel out when getting to camp would not have worked.
We picked ~ 5 recipes so we ate the same meal only 3 times. Cody went with more bulk snacks [trail mixes etc.] from our local bulk food store - advantage he definitely had less trash compared to me who had more candy bars, etc.
We only use our jetboil to boil water so we “cook” food reusing old Mountain House pouches.
Angie ran out of snacks and utilized the hiker boxes to stock up.
Cold soak lunches worked great. Favorite recipe inspiration here!
Really enjoyed having warm beverages to sip on in the morning.
Used electrolyte powder maybe every other day for sweat replacement and for something flavored to drink. Breakfasts went well with a variety of flavors of oatmeal and granola.
Angie's thoughts: it was nice to have side hike objectives to break up monotony of hiking, would have liked to have more information on flora/fauna/mushrooms, loved the hot springs near John Muir Ranch and talking with various rangers.