A few months ago I wrote a blog describing what surprised me most about thru-hiking the John Muir Trail. After reflecting a bit, I realized that I left out what was probably the most surprising aspect of the hike of all: how easy it was.
Now, don’t misunderstand me; the hike as a complete experience was NOT easy. There was getting the time off, getting myself in shape, getting my supplies to the right place at the right time, and arranging accommodations. Some days on the trail were tough, either because of the mileage I wanted to make that day, or because of my own stupidity regarding drinking and eating.
What I mean when I say the trail was surprisingly easy is that I rarely felt I was working at the edge of my capabilities as I walked. On the eight major passes—even on the climb to Mount Whitney—I almost always felt like I had a bit of a reserve that I could have drawn upon. Almost always.
The exception was Glen Pass.
Take a look at the profile, below, of the trail. Glen Pass is the section within the circle. Does it look a bit steeper than just about anywhere else on the trail? It is.
If that’s the bad news, here’s the good: the hike to Glen Pass has just about the best scenery in the latter half of the trail. Fin Dome reflected in Dollar Lake, the Painted Lady, the Rae Lakes and the terrain surrounding them all is breathtaking. I was so impressed that I have adjusted my planned hiking legs, this year, so that I’ll be able to camp in the area for the night. (I’ll be there the night of Sunday, September 8th, if it all goes as planned.)
The other reason I’m shooting for the Rae Lakes area as a campground is because it will mean less of a climb on the day I hike over Glen Pass.
The pass, by the way, was once known as “Blue Flower Pass.” It was renamed, in 1905, for Glen H. Crow, a US Forest Service Ranger. If you look at an old (prior to 1927) map, you’ll see the name spelled “Glenn”, but the proper spelling has just one “n”.
On the day you climb Glen Pass, be prepared. It’s eminently doable, but it’s not easy!
Good hiking, Ray
I was sort of dreading Glen pass and Forester too on my 15 day hike. My plan had been to camp at Wood’s Creek, then Center Basin Creek. Getting to Wood’s around noon I decided to push on. I camped almost at the foot of Glen at the last Rae Lake. Set my alarm for a pre-dawn start. It was cold. Hiked 1/2 hour in the dark by headlamp. Then dawn slowly arrived, and suddenly I was at the top of the pass. That’s all? It was an easy up for me. Got to Center Basin before noon, kept trucking and arrived at Tyndall Creek by tea time. The two most dreaded passes both in one day.
I think the issue with Glen is the steepness (though a good trail) and total climb from either Wood’s or Bubbs’ Creeks. From Rae Lakes or Charlotte/Kearsarge Lakes it isn’t all that big a deal.
Jim, That is EXACTLY the way to do it. (Although I may not do two in one day.) You get to spend the night at a great place (last Rae Lake) and you tackle Glen with strong legs. I’ve also noticed that hiking uphill in the dark seems to be easier than during the day. Something psychological I suspect. Thanks for the comment!
[…] you’ve ever seen in your life. For more information about Glen Pass and the John Muir Trail, see this article by Ray […]