Sep 10, 2012 at 5:54 pm #1293949
I finished the Tuolumne to Whitney portion of the JMT on Sept 7. I’ve done the JMT from Happy Isles several times, and decided to start in Lyell Canyon this time to avoid the chaos of the Valley. A morning start walking up Lyell Canyon was much more pleasant than walking up asphalt with hundreds of day hikers. A few thoughts below:
The trail – seemed to be in good shape. Hiking through the Nov wind storm area was incredible with 1000’s of trees down – they’ve done a good job of cleaning it up. I only found and picked-up minor trash – small bits of cord, a wrapper here and there, etc. There were trail maintenance crews on Glen Pass and the Whitney switchbacks. There were all kinds of rumors among hikers about the Whitney closure during the two weeks I was on the trail. After I summitted Whitney I went to Trail Crest and there was a ranger holding everyone. They let people through at 8:30 am, 11:30 am, and 3:30 pm. The ranger said they were not blasting, just pry bar and hand work. I saw 3 – 4 crews working the switchbacks when I hiked through, thanking them all for their hard work. They were not issuing any permits from Whitney Portal for this period. After hearing this, I let the small group at Trail Crest go ahead when they let us through, and I had a unique hike down the canyon by myself, without a soul behind me, and no one hiking up the trail.
People – there were many more people than when I last did the JMT 10 years ago. Most seemed like very nice and interesting people. Most were carrying more traditional packs/loads, but they seemed to be having as good a time as those with lighter loads. The craze for fast times has brought out the worst in some people, something I did not see 10 years ago. A few examples: I was at a stream crossing taking a break and a guy comes pounding down the trail and immediately starts screaming at me “where do I cross, where do I cross? I can’t lose time”. At MTR, a guy kept weighing his pack and loudly proclaiming it weighed 16 lbs, and he did this each time a new party came in. Also at MTR, when I was rummaging though the buckets, a guy with a light pack comes over and pushed me out of the way to get to the bucket with first aid supplies, he put about a ¼ cup of sanitizer on his hands, left the bucket open, and ran off. Five minutes after getting past by 2 guys moving quickly with light loads I came across a map in the trail – I poked it with my pole and picked it up. It was dry/crisp and obviously had been on the trail a few days – why didn’t these guys stop and pick it up? Another time I was zoned-in on a good pace doing a very long uphill stretch when a guy comes barreling down and nearly pushed me off the trail. Finally, I was stopped for a quick break and a guy who was moving quickly, stopped, asked me to get his water bottle out of his pack, and after I did so he took off without a word.
Most people I met on my recent hike would comment on the peaks in the skyline , the latest lake or waterfall they saw, or the deer they saw in camp in the morning. We would talk about how fun it was to simply be out hiking for a few weeks.
The ONLY thing I was asked about from those with obviously very light loads and moving quickly was “ how many days are you doing it in?” “how much does your pack weigh?” These people were boring, and I have nothing in common with them. I’m sure there are many light and fast hikers with respect for others and the trail. I just didn’t meet any on my hike.
What is it with these people? I did the JMT the first time when I was 20 in 1972. I was a climbing bum, and burned out on climbing for the season. I walked from Camp 4 to the store, got a week’s worth of food and took off. I didn’t know much about the trail, just that I could hike from Yosemite to Whitney. My equipment was my canvas climbing pack, down jacket, cagoule and Svea stove. A standard bivouac of the day was curling-up and sleeping with your feet in your pack. I finished the trail in 7 days. So what. Who cares? There was no Internet to blog and brag about what I did. But why would I? It was nothing special. LOTS of people do incredible things all the time and don’t talk about it, even today.
Maybe I’m getting old, I just don’t get it. We all hike for different reasons and have different goals, and they are all valid. But EVERYONE needs to respect their fellow hikers and respect the trail and environment or we will all suffer.
The most inspiring, interesting, and fun person I met on the trail was a guy who was at least 50 lbs overweight and moving slowly. I spent a few minutes with him on Whitney summit day, once as I was going up, and once on my way down. He was huffing and puffing but having a great time. He had a great attitude, and understood the magnificence of the environment he was in. His accomplishment was much more impressive than any I saw on the trail.
My reason for joining this forum was to get some up-to-date info on equipment since much of mine was 15 – 20 years old. Even though I have been hiking a long time, I learned much from this community.
The need to go light and fast has been the mantra of alpine climbers for decades – primarily for safety. While some hikers are pushing new limits today, light and fast among hikers is nothing new. What seems to be new, at least what I’ve observed recently, is an “attitude” among some that think their way is the only way. Personally, I would love to have spent 30 days on the JMT fly fishing at every lake and bagging a bunch of peaks, but work did not allow that much time.Sep 10, 2012 at 7:02 pm #1911113
Amen brother….. you wrote a lot of what I felt on the trail this season as well. Lots are more interested in impressing others rather then enjoying whats actually going on in the moment.Sep 10, 2012 at 7:12 pm #1911116
Thanks for the thoughts Don. Your observations are well worth contemplating.Sep 10, 2012 at 7:19 pm #1911124
@chrismorganLocale: Southern Oregon
This is really interesting. Having been out there last year and then three years ago, I never experienced any of these attitudes, especially with regard to packing light and going fast. I wonder if the fact that you went later in the season meant that you were running into more of the "serious" hiking crowd—or maybe the overly-serious hiking crowd.
When I think about it, whenever I mention the JMT, the first thing anyone usually asks me about the trip, hiker or not, is "how many days did you do it in?" But then on the trail, my conversations were always about interesting detours, where we had been that morning, or what we had seen.
Very strange indeed.Sep 10, 2012 at 7:29 pm #1911129
@creachenLocale: East Bay
+1 Great wright up and observations. Respect the trail!!!Sep 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm #1911132
Very interesting…. my first question would be more like how long did you get to stay out. Why hurry to get through some of the most beautiful places in the country?
Fast is a four letter word.
JimSep 10, 2012 at 9:47 pm #1911179
@jasongLocale: iceberg lake
I've come across a few people like this. THey are usually on the opposite end of the weight spectrum. some guys will have huge packs and think its matcho thing to be out in the deep wilderness with a huge pack. With ultralight becoming more popular, these same kind of guys are switching to lighter loads and taking their matcho attitudes to going faster and father.
and i would have to assume that some people out there spend SOOOO much time buying, making, selling, testing etc their gear that it becomes more about the gear when they are out on the trail and thats all they want to talk/brag about.
I, as I'm sure most here, spend time of their gearlist at home so I don't have to think about it AT ALL on the trail.
Here's a good example. see the picture of the guys on Donahue
http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=67366Sep 11, 2012 at 12:28 am #1911206
and understood the magnificence of the environment he was in.
I liked that, thank you very much, well put.
FrancoSep 11, 2012 at 6:53 am #1911235
Earlier this year, I did a SOBO portion of the JMT during the 1st week of June. Since I was almost the only one out who wasn't doing the PCT, every PCTer I met going north was friendly & eager for a few words/news.
My guess is that Labor day is the traditional time for those attempting to set some kind of record, personal or otherwise. In other words, if there are 50-100 people with this kind of goal in mind, the odds are probably great they will all be on the trail during the same general time frame.
Give it a few weeks, and the Sierra will return to hibernation.Sep 11, 2012 at 7:15 am #1911239
Now, go check out the link to Manfred's thread, then come back and give us 25 photos in chrono. Ha ha!!Sep 11, 2012 at 8:45 am #1911264
" Fast is a four letter word. "
there is no excuse for rudeness on the trail, and if some fast hikers were rude and crude I apologize for them.
but aside from that … what's wrong with fast ???
people on this sight seem really fond of pulling out the HYOH card when someone questions their motives and methods.
how about some slack for those who like to go fast.Sep 11, 2012 at 10:07 am #1911281
@timdcyLocale: Gore Range
Interesting. I've been thinking about doing a thru of the JMT within the next couple of summers and this sounds a little disheartening. I also remember a thread started last year about all the trash and toilet paper found along the trail.
If I'm going to ask for 2 and a half weeks off of work to complete another big thru hike I'd rather not have this type of experience. While I understand the JMT has many people in addition to much beauty, I don't think I'd enjoy it being surrounded by this type of behavior.Sep 11, 2012 at 10:11 am #1911285
USA Duane HallParticipant
@hikerduaneLocale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Thank you Don.
As I get older, I like to mention my pack weight to some who seem to know it all or I feel might need a encouraging word that lighter can be better, but also hyoh. Then there is the how-many-fish-I-caught. If things go too long, I then gotta bring up the fact that I collect stoves, but try to not let that get carried away.:) I should mention I only go out for 6-8 days, thinking about a JMT trip sometime.
DuaneSep 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm #1911312
At MTR, a guy kept weighing his pack and loudly proclaiming it weighed 16 lbs, and he did this each time a new party came in.
in climbing there are people who need to loudly proclaim what grade their last climb was, etc …. both in person and online …
same thing ….
i think you found out that just because someone is UL, doesnt mean they are having the same type of fun as you, or even as much … nor does that make them pleasant peopleSep 11, 2012 at 12:16 pm #1911315
@servingkoLocale: Intermountain West
Thank you for reminding me why I left California (among many other reasons), and haven't been back.Sep 11, 2012 at 12:25 pm #1911317
"how about some slack for those who like to go fast."
I'm not sure what you are saying. Do you mean because someone is moving fast they should not meet the same general behavior rules we expect of others? I wont give slack to anyone that is rude and does not respect the trail/environment – whether they are hiking slow or fast or have light packs or heavy packs.
I could care less how fast or slow anyone goes – In my original post I said "We all hike for different reasons and have different goals, and they are all valid. But EVERYONE needs to respect their fellow hikers and respect the trail and environment or we will all suffer"Sep 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm #1911320
@harry-nLocale: Western US
I was at a stream crossing taking a break and a guy comes pounding down the trail and immediately starts screaming at me “where do I cross, where do I cross? I can’t lose time”.
Maybe tell him "through the water" in the best deadpan you can muster ; )
Some people become thoughtless, belligerent, etc.. especially when faced with a deadline to get to a shuttle (in which case maybe they need to plan an all-night hike if their planning was lacking). Worse if passive/aggressive, someone who starts off normal but becomes unhinged. Same with conventional load people I guess.
I've had the opposite, trad backpackers sneering at my trail runners as I left passed on the trail during hikes in the Southern Rockies (and those who've hiked with me know I don't have a fast pace). Traditional hikers aren't used to signals to move over from runners and bikers — something that will become a problem in the future as more areas become multi-use IMO.Sep 11, 2012 at 12:37 pm #1911324
@valsharLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Thanks for the great write up and sharing what happened out there.
Sad and disturbing that people were treating each other like that.
One of the best experiences I have on the trail is meeting other backpackers.
I have found that they are great, kind, fun, generous, and more than willing to share what they know and have…the best people.
Frankly, one reason why I enjoy backpacking is that it takes me away from the sort of people and rude behaviors that you ran into on your trip.
I enjoy going fast not to the point where I am freaking about "losing" time on the trail. I simply go fast because I want to and I have limited vacation time. Faster means that I see and experience more with the limited time off that I have from work.
I guess you have to take the good with the bad….the lighter loads get, the more people have access to the backcountry, which is a great thing. Unfortunately, it also means you have access to a larger variety of personalities on the trail….some that you might want to wack in the back of the head with your hiking pole.
To those people I say, "Death by Rabit Marmot!!!"
-TonySep 11, 2012 at 12:47 pm #1911328
"I'm not sure what you are saying. Do you mean because someone is moving fast they should not meet the same general behavior rules we expect of others?"
Sometimes I think we're out here just trying to misunderstand each other so we can argue. What's going on with BPL these days?
Art was specifically responding to the comment from someone else that fast was 'a four letter word.' He was simply espousing the same thing you are – we all hike for different reasons. When we take emotion out of it, I think it was clear that that's what he was saying (especially since he quoted the previous poster's line).
Folks, we all used to be friends here. Not that we all agreed all the time, not at all. But we didn't look for reasons to disagree, I don't think. Benefit of the doubt is a wonderful thing.Sep 11, 2012 at 12:51 pm #1911330
Don – I am not all implying fast trail people don't have to show proper manners.
did you not read my apology for the bad behavior of a few.
what I am saying is that many people on this site who like to go slow (not you), the very same people who often trot out that famous HYOH baloney when it suites them, seem to be much less tolerant of fast hikers than the fast hikers are of them "in general".Sep 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm #1911331
Great write up. Thanks for sharing! The JMT is on my bucket list. Hopefully next year. I like carrying a light pack no matter what pace I go. For a trip like this, I would throw in a fishing rod, some books, and plan several weeks to enjoy the wonderful scenery! It's a shame some people are impolite and down right rude on the trail.Sep 11, 2012 at 1:01 pm #1911332
USA Duane HallParticipant
@hikerduaneLocale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Another note, for years I always wondered why folks would only hike on one trail and miss all the lakes and side trips. Maybe one day I'll find out the "trail" aka John Muir Highway experience. My car is left at the TH, I gotta get back to it, so a loop trip.
DuaneSep 11, 2012 at 6:31 pm #1911410
"Thank you for reminding me why I left California (among many other reasons), and haven't been back."
I found most people on the trail that I met were from out of state. Only meet a few other hikers form California. I met a lot of people on the trail too.Sep 12, 2012 at 2:09 am #1911500
Sorry you had such a negative experience this year. I finished the JMT 3 weeks ago and didn't experience any of the behavior you spoke of by other thruhikers – no matter what their pack weight was. We mainly had to hurry due to weather and not "record-seeking" motivations. I also didn't see an excessive asmount of trash or debris on the trail.
The nastiest encounter I had with anybody was with a male day hiker who was trundling up from Tuolomne towards Cathedral lakes. I came across him bent over, huffing and wheezing on the side of the trail. Thinking he was in distress, I asked him if he needed help and he responded by screaming at me and calling me – among other things – a "feminist bi tch."
I proudly resisted the urge to knock him on his ass – after I recovered from my shock of course, which was all the more difficult since some other folks who were within ear shot offered to hold him down so I could clean up the trail with him. Oh well. It became a fun story and it also got me a few sympathy beers at Tuolomne and Reds. Not a bad outcome.Sep 12, 2012 at 4:50 pm #1911741
@scottbentzLocale: Southern California
"Fast is a four letter word." Jim Ledbetter
Work (or time off from work) can also be a four letter word. Me
I often think about the pace I choose. Since I began backpacking again I have been striving for a set up that gives me the safety and comfort I need on the trail with the least weight possible. Since time off work is limited, hiking lighter has let me do miles I may not have wanted to do with traditional pack weights.
When I hiked the JMT with my son, brother and nephew I knew I only had 2 weeks to play with. So, we did it in 2 weeks. If I only had 10 days could I have done it? I really don't know. I did have 2 weeks so we did it in 2 weeks. For some this is fast, for others this is not fast. So, as I pick my trips, which are usually 4-5 days, I pick trips where I can see a lot and do about 15-20 miles a day. I'm not a fast hiker, just a steady hiker and going light has made that possible.
I find it a bummer that the original poster found other lightweight hikers to be such jerks. I do not deny they were. What a bummer to be on the trail and not have time to chat a bit with those you cross paths with. That's probably one of the things I love the most about backpacking: talking to others on the trail and finding out what they have done, seen and heard along the trail.
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