As most of you already know I spent July, August and into September on a solo backpacking trek on the JMT.
July found me in San Francisco to wrap up a couple of business matters and to make arrangements for supplies to be be delivered to resupply pick up stations on the JMT (John Muir Trail). I also took a stroll around China Town with a hat cam – click here to view video.
After leaving San Francisco I headed over near Lone Pine, CA to meet up with some friends and fellow mountaineers who would be accompanying me on the first phase of traversing the Eastern face of Mt. Whitney, than dropping me off at the trail head to start my 210 mile solo journey from Mt. Whitney to Yosemite.
GLIDING OVER THE MOUNTAIN
A few days before we were planning to traverse Mt. Whitney we received reports of heavy rain, ice and snow storms on the mountain. The weather in the high Sierra’s can change in a matter of minutes from bright sun shine to freezing blizzard conditions, and everything in between.
We decided to get a hold of another friend who has a glider and take a look to see what the conditions were like on the mountain. Trust me when I say it is no fun climbing the face of a cliff in the middle of a blizzard (or rain and ice storms). Particularly at 14,000 feet with serious winds.
During the 1970s and 1980s while living in Hawaii I’d been heavily involved in hang gliding and flying gliders. I always enjoyed the feeling of being able to soar through the air like a bird while hang gliding. A couple of my hang gliding buddies owned a glider aircraft. After my first glider flight — I was hooked! But, after leaving Hawaii I drifted away from it. So this was a welcome treat to be in the cockpit of a glider again.
Gliding around on the wind currents is about as close as you can get to seeing the world the way a bird does. It’s awesome! If you’ve never tried it, put it on your bucket list of things to do — once you’ve done it, you’ll have a new perspective of the world (and how we humans are just a microscopic spec).
Here is a short unedited video clip shot from the cockpit while we horsed around shooting gaps and checking out the face of Mt. Whitney we’d be traversing in a few days.
CLIMBING THE MOUNTAIN
Once we were comfort the weather had cleared (or as comfortable as you can be with a mountain where the weather can change from sunny to a blizzard in a matter of minutes), we set out on phase one.
To traverse the East face of the mountain.
On the first day we hiked to a base camp at the foot of the mountain and got a good nights rest.
On the second day we woke up around 2:00 a.m. ate a hearty breakfast, prepared our climbing gear and departed at 4:00 a.m. on the climb to the top of the mountain. We estimated it would take about 6 to 8 hours to climb to the top, and about as long to come back down. So it would be a long exhausting day. But, fun and exhilarating.
For those of you who’ve never dangled by ropes from the face of a cliff 14,000 feet in up in the sky, here is a short video clip taken with a helmet cam going up the mountain. Just to give you a little taste of what it feels like way up there … It’s Awesome up there!
Around 1 a.m. I was awakened by hail pelleting my tent. A hail storm blew through lasting about 3 hours. After it passed (and the NOISE subsided) I drifted back to sleep until about 6 a.m. when we awoke to begin breaking camp and heading out on phase two of my 210 mile trek.
STROLLING UP THE MOUNTAIN
After eating breakfast and packing everything up we hiked back to where we’d left my friend’s vehicle parked. They drove me to the trail head were we parted ways as I begin the second phase of my wilderness adventure with a leisurely stroll back to the top of the mountain by way of the normal foot trail used by most hikers. Not as exhilarating as dangling from ropes going up the face, but still a breath taking experience of magnificent vistas from the highest place in the United States. Here’s a short video clip, taken with a GoPro Cam, showing what it’s like on the foot path to the top.
Once I got back down, I made camp for the night. The next morning I set out for Yosemite, 210 miles northward. Most hikers start at Yosemite and go south ending at Mt. Whitney, but being the contrarian I’m I started at Mt. Whitney and went north to Yosemite.
Why you ask?!
I always like to eat the big frog first and Mt. Whitney was the big frog. And, with the majority of hikers going south (and me north) I had an abundant supply of people who’d just come from were I was going that could tell me how the trail, weather, etc. were in the direction I was going. Make sense?! It did to me. Particularly, after meeting a guy who’d almost drown when a heavy rain storm blew in creating a flash flood on the trail ahead. After talking with him, I decided to stay were I was camped for another day until the weather cleared up.
I’ve got hundred’s of miles (literally!) of video clips and photos, taken on the trip, to go through. I’ll add more of them to this post as I sort and edit them.
If you’ve never done the JMT you should add it to your bucket list of things to do. It is truly a beautifully wonderful Spiritual journey that you’ll never forget and be glad you experienced.
I had originally planned on taking 40 days to complete the hike from Mt. Whitney to Yosemite. Which I did. But, once I got to Yosemite I was enjoying myself so much that I extended for another 10 days in the wilderness.
As always, you’re welcome to leave your comments below.