The 2010 John Muir Trail Hike



Another year, another JMT hike from Tuolumne Meadows to the summit of Whitney.  Last year, because of a medical problem, I’d missed out the section from Le Conte Ranger Station to Bullfrog Lake, and in fact, I’d not hiked this section since 2006 with Lucy.  The 2007 effort had been on three JMT circuits with Lucy, Mal Hill and Mike Fox and in 2008, running late and cold, I bailed out over Piute Pass and didn’t return to the Trail.  My plan this year was to really make an effort to complete the Trail from Yosemite to Whitney, and I wouldn’t be alone for the first half because Pat Jenkins would accompany me from Tuolumne Meadows to Le Conte and out over Bishop Pass to South Lake … or so I hoped.

Sadly, Pat bailed on me after reaching Reds Meadow.  He made a very good effort during those first three and half days, including a successful fishing evening at Rosalie Lake, but his fitness level was not sufficient to keep the daily schedule, particularly on the tougher, longer sections from Reds Meadow southbound to Le Conte, or even to bailout early over Piute Pass.  He did help me position my vehicle at South Lake, before returning to his home in Los Angeles.

Before I returned to the trail again at Reds, I pondered some creative ways to lighten my load now that I wouldn’t have Pat to share the tent and stove weights.  The first thing I considered was buying a one person tent to replace my 3.2 pound, two person, Black Diamond Lighthouse.  Mammoth Mountaineering had an excellent selection of tents, but I discovered that an equal capability, one person tent would not reduce my weight significantly (1.5 pounds would be perfect!), so shelved that idea for the future when new technology catches up with my needs. 

These videos are also available on my Vimeo Channel at


My next bright idea was to change footwear to that favored by PCT thru-hikers … a sturdy pair of runners instead of boots, to take some weight off my feet.  So I purchased a new pair of Merrell Gore-Tex Moab’s: 10 ozs lighter than my Lowa boots, very comfortable, and with reasonable stiff Vibram soles.  Only problem was, I only had a few hours to break them in before pounding the trail for the next 100 miles, leaving my “never-a-blister” Lowa boots in the vehicle at South Lake.  Finally, I decided to leave my Canon Vixia HD Video camera behind; the camera I’d used extensively from Tuolumne Meadows, with the intention of capturing HD video footage throughout the journey to Whitney.  These two decisions came back to haunt me during the journey to South Lake.

Leaving Reds Meadow, southbound on the JMT to Purple Lake, has always been a problem for me; wondering how the day will go.  It’s a distance of 13.4 miles, with a cumulative ascent of 3,600’ through a mostly uninviting landscape until reaching Duck Creek, which provides the first water source in the previous five miles from Deer Creek.  Then, there’s the final steep climb up to a level traverse before plunging down the rocky trail to Purple Lake.  Surprisingly, this day went well for me, enjoying the lightness of my newfound footwear and hiking alone once more.  Approaching the Lake, I passed the Bhagwan, or Holy Man, the last thru-hiker northbound on the PCT … or so he surmised.  His Indian outfit was unusual in this setting, but would have been normal on the trekking trails of Nepal.  It was topped off by a fine looking umbrella.

Purple Lake was almost deserted when I arrived; very unusual for this time of year.  I ended up camping above the outlet at a familiar location.




2010 JMT Schedule






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