Sep 10, 2012 at 5:04 pm #1293948
@julierLocale: Pacific Northwest
Next August, I’d like to hike the JMT north to south in 15 days to minimize vacation days used – 14 hiking days with one rest/day. My mom decided that she’d like to hike it too. We would start at Toulumne and average 14 miles a day. I’m trying to lighten her load (I’ll take shared gear), but still anticipating 28 lbs max weight with 8 days food for her.
My mom’s in great shape, better than most 56 year olds. She swims in a Master’s program daily, deep water runs 2x a week, lifts weights 3x a week, and walks 4-5 days a week. She typically walks 25-30 miles a week. Just last week, she walked 20.5 miles at 16.5 minutes per mile pace, and is planning to walk a marathon in October. If we hike the JMT, she has plans to switch up her walking to include lots of walking up and down foothills off trail, and also walking with pack weight.
Unfortunately, my mom’s body hasn’t kept up with her quite as well. A few years ago, she was diagnosed with pre-diabetes. She’s been able to manage it with diet and exercise, and for the most part has it under control. She occasionally has issues with her blood sugar levels dropping, but as long as she drinks enough water, eats frequently and has enough and the right kind of food, and rests as needed, she can control this. And of course we would experiment with hiking and the type of food we plan on bringing beforehand to make sure everything will work for her.
Further complicating things is her knee – 2 years ago she tore her ACL and didn’t have surgery to replace it. And it isn’t a problem, except on steep hills. We’ve been doing some hiking up and down hills with packs (750-1000 feet gain per mile) and she’s been fine, although slower than she’d like (2 miles per hour) and with some soreness. Where she has trouble is with rough trail, really big steps, and climbing up and down rocks, boulders and large exposed roots.
If you’ve hiked the JMT before, are 14 mile days too ambitious for someone like my mom? Would 3 weeks be more doable than 2? Or is it just a bad idea for her to try this hike with the pre-diabetes and lack of an ACL, and should we scratch the whole idea? Are trail conditions such that they would be impossible for her to manage with her knee?
My mom’s a tough lady who can take on a lot. I just don’t want us to do something that is beyond her physical abilities. Thanks for reading and I really appreciate any feedback.Sep 10, 2012 at 5:13 pm #1911065
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
There is a huge difference between being a good flat land walker and being a backpacker on something like the JMT.
Why doesn't she train on some shorter backpack trips now before planning anything for next August?
Some people are able to manage halfway decent function without an ACL. However, if that flares up when she is out in the middle of nowhere, then we are talking about a helicopter rescue.
–B.G.–Sep 10, 2012 at 5:56 pm #1911091
@jamesprepatripLocale: SF Bay Area
I did the JMT in 14 days back in 2008, and I thought I was pressing it from sunrise to sunset. However, NOTHING, went wrong on our trip. And we had no layover days. If anything goes wrong, you loose a day, and in your case, you will loose your trip and have to exit early.
I've met the most fit people do the JMT, and what makes the most difference is:
1) Hiking with a pack on
2) Hiking in high altitude ( 10,000+ ) elevation
3) Hiking a week on end
If you can say you and your mother have accomplished #1, #2, and #3 and have trained in those conditions and keep up your desired pace, then you have high chances of accomplishing it.
Truthfully, I wouldn't cut it so close. The opportunity to get yourself and other going on the JMT comes rarely if you're a typical working professional. I'd say take some extra days off and have a little buffer, your chances of succeeding are that much higher.
As for the terrain, you're looking at 1-3k up and down at least. There are about 7-10 passes ( I forget ) and some of those are back to back, so having ACL stamina is definitely desired.
Good luck! I'll be out on the JMT in 2013, so maybe I'll see ya =)
JamesSep 10, 2012 at 9:56 pm #1911181
I think the only way to be confident that schedule will work for you and your mom is to test it – and by that I mean a week-long trip in similar conditions on similar trails at a similar pace.
I'm guessing the diabetes is an issue that can be managed. I skied across the sierra last year with a guy who has type 2 diabetes – he had no trouble managing it. He's actually hiking the JMT right now.
The ACL I don't know enough about to speculate, other than the fact that the JMT is pretty well graded in general, so not a lot of big steps kind of trail conditions to deal with; plus you don't have to go fast to get to 14 miles per day, as long as you get up early and get going. So you can take your time.
With all that said, I would not recommend a 14 day schedule, except for someone who is a very fast walker in excellent shape, just because it leaves you so little time to just enjoy where you are.
If I were limited on time and wanted to do the JMT, I'd skip the Happy Isles to Tuolumne portion to cut it down a little. To me that's the least enjoyable part of the trail.Sep 11, 2012 at 8:04 am #1911252
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Julie I am a newly diagnosed Type 2 Diabetic. Well actually it's been a year. I have successfully hiked with this affliction. My dietician told me I can eat whatever I want during backpacking trips. I would have your mom speak to hers to get advice. When I first started out, I would test my glucose frequently on the trail, now I don't test at all. If you have specific questions about hiking and diabetes post your questions in the food and nutrition section. There are others here that have diabetes and we will be more than happy to help. You can pm me too.Sep 11, 2012 at 8:24 am #1911259
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
>"I skied across the sierra last year with a guy who has type 2 diabetes – he had no trouble managing it. He's actually hiking the JMT right now."
I work with someone who did the Iditarod with an insulin pump (Type 1). He made the mistake of getting overly dramatic at one point saying, "I could die out here." and the Discovery Channel played that sound bite ENDLESSLY on their multi-part series on the Iditarod that year.
Editted to add: Bruce is up to 12 marathons, 3 full Ironman Tris, and 6 Iditarod (1050 miles each).Sep 11, 2012 at 9:52 am #1911279
@aviddkLocale: SW Oregon
I echo the sentiments of a poster who suggested trying out a five day hike for a test. There is still time this fall to get out and see if your Mom can handle a similar trip.
If that isn't possible how about picking a section of the JMT and giving that a go. The idea, I would surmise, is to have fun in the wilderness with your Mom, isn't it? I think doing half the hike in the same amount of time would allow for sharing an experience that you will always both remember. Remember there are other factors like this August's week long + daily after noon deluges lasting two hours that can dramatically alter one's plan.
By the way, does your Mom uses trekking poles. I would highly recommend getting her a pair and seeing that she learns how to use them. There are some tall steps on JMT passes and in places the trail is not all that. With her knee problem the pass/day could be an issue. Any chance this trip could motivate her to get her knee repaired?Sep 11, 2012 at 11:03 am #1911298
Here's a second on David's suggestion about trekking poles. They've made a huge difference for my knee. Since your mom's doing some weight lifting, she presumably has some upper body strength which, with poles, she can use to take some of the stress off her knee.Sep 11, 2012 at 8:35 pm #1911455
It's been years since I hiked the JMT from start to finish. My friend and I took a full 3 weeks to get from Tuolumne to Whitney Portal. That allowed for 10-mile days with a couple of layover days. We're both in better shape now, so I'm sure we'd go faster if we started tomorrow. However, back then she had knee issues. The relatively easy going in the north was good for strengthening her knee as we went south. The descent from Donahue Pass, your first pass, is only 1k. Much further south the descents get to 3k-4k. From a knee's perspective, you are correct to go north-to-south. My friend really suffered on the 6k descent from Whitney even with a now-strengthened knee.
If I had two weeks and a mom with a knee issue, I might hike from Toulumne and exit via Kearsarge Pass. That gives you the ability to shorten your days and/or take "zero" days. It also gets you all the way through the Kings Canyon National Park section. Kearsarge is a gentle exit. Others will differ, but I don't think the section from Kearsarge to Whitney was the most scenic part of the JMT; I think Tuolumne to Kearsarge captures the best stuff.
– ElizabethSep 11, 2012 at 10:04 pm #1911477
I agree with the suggestions of a week long check out backpack before doing the JMT, and maybe even working up to this (not knowing what your mom has done recently).
Also, you will want to test some big days. I suggest at least two twenty mile-ish dayhikes. This will test, and provide learning on how to sustain consistent blood sugar levels over an extended time period. A couple Grand Canyon rim to rim hikes would be perfect (also testing up/down hill hiking) but you'll have to find good testing grounds close to home.
For me, on long-ish days, and a two week JMT trek will have 14 back to back longish days, I need to eat something EVERY HOUR, and I manage it by the clock. I suspect your mom will require something similar, but what to eat that will work for her is a bit trial and error (hence do at least two 20 mile-ish hikes since on hike one you are likely to determine the fail point and on two learn enough to dial things in for the show).
Nothing prepares you for the the show like a dress rehearsal so test it all out. And if you need time to make sure you know it will all work, set your JMT hike for 2014 instead of next summer. It will look pretty much the same and having worked the bugs out, will be quite enjoyable.Sep 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm #1912769
@julierLocale: Pacific Northwest
Thanks for all of the great feedback. My mom does use trekking poles and finds them to be very useful. We'll plan on doing some trial backpacking trips and see how it goes. We're looking into some different options too, longer trip (if I can get the vacation time) or shorter over all distance.Oct 2, 2012 at 2:51 am #1917442
@brianleLocale: Pacific NW
My wife and I are the same age as your mother, and we just finished the JMT in 16+ days — really, 15+ with a day off at Reds Meadow. We started from Happy Isles on Sept 8th, finished on Sept 24th.
I have a fair bit if backpacking experience, and my wife has done a good bit too. I had hiked about 150 miles already the previous month, so already being in trail shape I carried the discretionary stuff (tent, stove/pot, water treatment). I think our base weights were in the upper teens somewhere. We loaded up on food at Muir Trail Ranch so as to not have to go out Kearsarge Pass; that was a bit uncomfortable, walking out of there with bearcans stuffed full of 8+ days of food, but it was certainly do-able.
My guess is that if your mother has little (or no) backpacking experience then a 14 day passage will be unhappy — more likely that you'll end up going out one or another bailout point (Bishop, Kearsarge, whatever).
I also found that the climb up Whitney triggered some fear of heights in my wife, who's somewhat prone to that. I had recalled it as just a long uphill hike, didn't remember any areas of exposure, but there were a few.
Ah, perhaps I should mention that my wife had (minor) knee surgery last year. She brought a knee brace and wore it, had no significant knee problems, despite the minor bits of ups and downs involved in doing about a pass a day towards the latter part of the trip.
My suggestion is that if you're limited to 14 days then just plan to do a defined chunk of the trail, but not all 210 (really, 220 counting the portal exit) miles in the same trip.
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