1. kieran kelly
    kieran kelly October 8, 2018 at 6:21 pm

    bought your book and just finished reading it – congratulations. Extraordinarily helpful. I am from Australia, experienced bushwalker and going to have a crack at getting JMT permit in September next year. I had a couple questions in relation to appendix C – your packing list. Various items that you mention in the book and what I would have expected you to carry are not there. Are the following items conscious omissions or just an error:
    personal emergency locator beacon
    waterproof notebook and pencil
    toiletries e.g. toothbrush, toothpaste, trail soap, hand disinfectant
    sunscreen. I come from a country where I don’t even go out my front door without sunscreen and the backs of my hands and face wether climbing or hiking always get hammered. I couldn’t do something like the JMT without a bottle of sunscreen
    toilet paper
    cooking utensils e.g. plate, mug, knife fork spoon
    role of gaffer tape
    electrolyte powder

    1. Kathy
      Kathy October 9, 2018 at 10:00 am

      Kieran – I tend to agree with Ray on a lot of the items he mentions, but hopefully this might help you.

      I do use an InReach, but only because it gives my family peace of mind and they like to follow-along with my hike.

      I use a map downloaded to my phone because it is multi-purpose, (serves as my camera as well) and the trail is fairly easy to follow, with the possible exception of the Devil’s Postpile area (although I download the map as there is very, very little reception on the trail). I also use the phone to take notes, (I do bring a battery bank) so I don’t bring a notebook.

      I do bring a hygiene kit, but it is very minimal and lightweight. Camp soap (no deodorant – it’s useless) some toothpaste tablets, mini toothbrush, a teeny tiny amount of sunscreen, (only wear it on face, and only in a couple of sections). I find sunscreen to be bug-attracting, and uncomfortable. I keep arms and legs covered, and wear a hat. I only use the sunscreen during those rare times when my face might be exposed, so the total I bring is approximately an ounce. I bring very little toilet paper – use mostly the bidet method.

      My stove has an igniter, but I do bring a mini-bic lighter, as an emergency backup and for those rare areas where fires are allowed.

      Only cooking utensils are my cooking mug and a spork, same as Ray

      Duct tape wrapped around the trekking poles. Approximately 6 inches of the mini duct tape (I believe it is SOL brand) on each pole. I do keep some tenacious tape in my repair kit.

      I do use some electrolyte powder, but sparingly. Only make 8 ounces of electrolyte drink, and only do that on the hard pass climbs.

      More than anything – I have learned that I pack lighter every year. I’m getting older, and a lot of weight is prohibitive for me, and the lighter weight sure makes a difference in high altitudes. I learned through multiple multi-day backpacking trips, what I really need, and what is unnecessary.

      1. Kieran Kelly
        Kieran Kelly October 10, 2018 at 3:22 am

        Thanks very much for your comments. It sounds like you have a lot of experience on the JMT. I wonder if you could help me with a few other queries?

        1) It seems as if it’s best to have a departure date after Labour Day – September 2, 2019 – to maximise chances. I was thinking of putting the permit application say starting August 25 which would take me through until about the second week of September for the ballot. I’m planning on 25 days so even if I got a permit starting say September 7 it would still get me to Mount Whitney by the first week of October. What do you think of that as a plan? How difficult is it to get September departure permits do you know?

        2) I presume they have no allocation for senior applicants or allocations for foreign hikers on the JMT. Is that correct?

        3) One item I didn’t put on my list that I sent Ray is a Leatherman tool. I always take one but neither he nor you mention it. Is there a reason?

        4) I’m having real difficulty finding out the closing dates of the resupply points at places like Reds Meadow et cetera. Some of the blogs suggest that many of the resupply stores start closing very soon after Labour Day. That would make it a bit problematic for a departure say at the end of the first week of September. Do you have any information?

        5) Interesting how different countries treat sunscreen. Both you and Ray don’t put it high on your list of priorities. I found in long-distance hikes in Australia and certainly mountain climbing in New Zealand and heli-skiing in Canada that even when wearing a hat and protective gear, my earlobes, underside of jaw and the septum in my nose, gets very badly sunburnt through upward radiated sunlight. This can be very painful and debilitating if it’s left to its own devices. A hat helps for most sun protection but not in these areas because the radiation is coming from below.

        6) in many of the blogs and in Ray’s book there is an emphasis on water purification. However when I look at the topographic maps it seems that as you’re walking across a lot of ridges that you are actually near the headwaters of a lot of creeks and streams. In this situation in Australia in backcountry hiking we would never purify the water. We tend to purify water here in reasonably heavily populated areas at the bottom of valleys e.g. in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. Do you think that there is a bit of overkill with water purification on the JMT. I would have thought that as many of the lakes are presumably snowmelt or springs that they would be very clean.

        7) I don’t understand the use of phones on the JMT. You mention it and so does Ray but then you point out that the reception is very bad? How do you download maps if there is no reception and what is the point of taking a phone, particularly if you can’t call anyone? I have only ever hiked with laminated paper map compass and pencil system – light and simple, never breaks down, no batteries required, no recharging

        1. Kathy
          Kathy November 6, 2018 at 8:00 am

          Kieran Kelly – My apologies for replying so late. I didn’t receive a notification on this post for some reason. I agree with Ray on much of this.
          1. Getting a permit in September is still difficult as Ray points out, and permits seem to be an issue every year. My personal preference these days, is to actually go Northbound, rather than Southbound, starting at Horseshoe Meadows, (Cottonwood Pass) as this is an easier permit to obtain, puts the sun at my back most of the way, and eliminates the worry of being on Whitney in October, (I turned back from a Whitney climb one year after a major snowstorm occurred the first week of October, the year climbers had to be rescued via helicopter). I do however, spend extra days acclimatizing because you get the high elevations early in the trip. This is personal preference, but is an option.
          2. Ray is right. No distinction here. If you are coming from out of country, and planning is crucial, then the Northbound permit is (in my humble opinion) is much easier, and less of a hassle than the typical lottery process (like starting at the Main Whitney Trail). It does add a few days to the trip, and you will want to do extensive research, but I find the permit process much easier.
          3. I do use a multi-tool, but only ever tend to use the little mini scissors and sometimes the knife to cut extra line. Other than weight, can’t hurt to bring it. I use a bearikade like Ray, (although I use quarters to open mine) and bring 3 quarters just in case, (and I have lost more than one…lol).
          4. Agree with Ray here. You need to check directly with them. Opening and closing dates can vary by year.
          5. I do bring a bit of sunscreen….just not very much, and not for arms and legs. As stated previously, I go Northbound now, so need a lot less of it these days.
          6. I personally always purify water. Here is my reason for that – in addition to seeing quite a few animals “doing their business” while drinking from a stream, I have seen way too many humans, not using proper precautions near water. I’ve seen them going to the bathroom mere feet from a water source, and even witnessed someone doing their dishes (with tons of soap) directly in Chicken Spring Lake. Maybe I am over cautious, but this is one thing that I do not compromise on. You will no doubt, need to tank up at quite a few lakes where people swim with sunscreen on. Not trying to be alarmist, but I also knew someone who got giardia in the Sierra, and the small inconvenience of purifying water, is well worth the peace of mind for me.
          7. I use my phone exactly like Ray, including Gaia app. I also keep mine in Airplane mode, and use the phone as my camera. I’ve spent more than one day sitting in my tent during heavy downpours, where the Kindle app really helped pass the time as well. In addition, I have had to exit early or had plans change on multiple trips, and being able to make calls and change travel plans was crucial. In addition, I use the Garmin InReach, where I have 2-way texting, to let family know how I am doing, and to get weather reports. Yes, this requires that I carry a battery pack, but the battery pack and phone together, way less than my DSLR camera, which I leave at home, in favor of the phone. For me personally, the phone is a valuable multti-function tool that I wouldn’t leave behind. I am acutely aware that my family worries about me while I am hiking, so I check-in every time I have signal.

          Hope this helps.

  2. Marion Davison
    Marion Davison October 9, 2018 at 10:52 am

    We carry an inreach. My husband is 80 and I am 62. He has had a few medical issues in the past that required emergency care. We hike with llamas so we typically camp out of sight of the trail. I would feel very much alone if one of us had a medical issue and no one was going to notice us, in trouble and out of sight of the trail. I am haunted by the woman, hiking solo, who died alone, half a mile from the trail, after stepping off the AT to take a bathroom break. She was unable to find the trail again and died of starvation some 17 days later. If she had a GO device or Inreach she would have been found by the multitude of people searching for her.

  3. Peter Hirst
    Peter Hirst October 9, 2018 at 11:29 am

    Ray: This is quite a task you have set for yourself. I have been delving into a bit of history as well, as part of my JMR project, and looking forward to the future installments in this series.

  4. Jeffrey Zimmerman
    Jeffrey Zimmerman October 9, 2018 at 8:21 pm

    I agree with Kathy, for “I have learned that I pack lighter every year.” Toss this, substitute that, make this other do double duty. I’m probably 35 pounds, skin out, and it’s less every time.

    As to the PLB, I understand that there’re safety in numbers. But even the strongest hiker, sprinting to a trailhead to call for help, can’t beat the speed of light summons of my ACR. Ask Amy Racina.


  5. Kieran Kelly
    Kieran Kelly October 15, 2018 at 3:47 am

    Thanks for your comments. Lot of JMT experience there.

    It’s interesting how different cultures/experience determine what we think are the critical elements in wilderness trekking.

    Through many years of guiding and exploring mainly in desert country I regard the three most critical elements when I’m planning a jaunt are:
    • Navigation
    • Hydration
    • Heat stress

    With all the people I’ve guided the most critical difficulties I’ve had and the most numerous are with dehydration and heat exhaustion. That was the first thing I looked for on the J M T. I note that towards the end of the walk there are some very stiff pitches, not long admittedly but doing them around midday in August would give some people grief particularly those not rehydrating properly, those that are overweight or those not used to carrying a pack. In that situation water and electrolyte consumption becomes critical.

    Circumstances and experience have a big bearing. A few years ago when I was guiding on the Kokoda Track in New Guinea a research field hospital had been set up in the jungle at the top of Imita Ridge one of the very steep climbs on the track. They were trying to ascertain why so many people died at Kokoda from hyponatraemia. Aware of this problem I made everyone in my group take two 1 Litre water containers – one filled with electrolyte and one filled with freshwater and drink alternatively from each container. When we got to the top of the ridge about 3 PM we were all subject to blood tests and we all came through fine. In the group in front of us was somebody already on a drip in the tent hospital. He was close to death. It was subsequently learnt that he had consumed 13 L of water between 7 o’clock in the morning and 3 o’clock in the afternoon and no electrolyte. He was on a massive sodium drip to try and save his life.

    I think one of the things that people don’t realise is the critical relationship between radiated heat, humidity, water consumption and electrolytes. Throw severe sunburn into that mix and you end up close to catastrophe. It’s not just in Australia or New Guinea we have these problems. I guided 14 Australians two years ago around some of the major national parks in southern Utah and Northern Arizona. One location Fiery Furnace, gave a classic example of the relationship between radiated heat, heat exhaustion and sunburn. It was the first week in September and while I got everyone drinking and wearing proper headgear. I still had several cases of very severe sunburn and one of heat fatigue at the end of a relatively short walk of about three hours.

    Some environments which are seemingly benign, such as Fiery Furnace or the northern rim of the Bright Angel trail in late afternoon, in August can be very unforgiving.

    Thanks once again for your comments. I find them very helpful

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