Sep 2, 2013 at 10:53 pm #1307240
Trip report. John Muir Trail. 2013.
So ever since I saw Reinhold Metzger about 4 years ago when we were both out hiking the JMT at a normal pace of around 14 days, I have wanted to do a “fast pack” on the JMT. I met him as we were going up Silver pass I think and I remember talking to him for a moment about his record. I didn’t really understand how he had done it, but he then encouraged me to go and break his record.
I had been gone for two years serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints in the country of Panama where I learned the Spanish language (this information comes in handy) and hadn’t backpacked for 2 years until this summer, so I was excited to get some trips under my belt. Before going on this one, I did a couple trips with my family.
I didn’t set out to break any records, I just wanted to finish the trail in less than 6 days, that sounded fairly reasonable after seeing a trip report from Mark Davis who completed the trail in 5 days 5 hours and 18 minutes, according to his report.
So to say the least, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, and had never done a “fast pack,” I just wanted to push my limits and see how far I could go alone.
So I set out from Whitney Portal at 9 30 AM with my dad who had taken me and was planning on hiking with me some of the way up to portal. I was up at Whitney before 3, ate some snacks, and then ran down to trail crest and my goal was to summit Forester that night and stay in Vidette meadows. I ended up getting forester at 12 midnight and tried to make it down to Vidette but only made it to the tree line, pulled my sleeping bag out and slept quickly.
The next morning I got up at 6 30 am feeling lightheaded and nauseous I guess from not acclimating to the altitude and headed towards Glen Pass. It was overcast and drizzling which also affected my mood, and I felt pretty sick getting up and over that pass. I knew was moving slowly, so I tried to convince myself that all was good and that I was going to regain some time by booking it down glen pass to the suspension bridge. I somewhat managed to do so, and boost my spirits and was ready to charge up Pinchot pass. I climbed that pass quickly and was up and over by 6. Still feeling fast and fresh, I hurried down to the junction below Mather pass, and decided to pull out my stove and canister to cook dinner. This would be the first time I would cook dinner, and the last. I guess a stove and dehydrated meals will be going on the “not to bring next time” list. After trying to force down a dehydrated meal and almost finishing, I packed up and headed toward Mather pass. It was 9 pm when I left. I was still feeling good and got up and over Mather pass at 11 pm but was a little disorientated while going down when I didn’t see a sign that said “Mather Pass” and I didn’t really remember what the trail was like down to Palisade Lake, and couldn’t even see the lake until almost walking right into it. I went down a little and slept right above the Golden Staircase at 1 30 am.
I began a pattern of leaving camp at 6 30 am and made it to the Kings Creek Junction to start the climb up to Muir Pass at 9 am. I was very sore this morning and decided to stretch and eat breakfast at the junction. I struggled with sore feet and legs going up and felt exhausted when I got to the hut. At 3 pm. While I was there, a group of 4 guys came up, noticed I might be a “fast hiker” and started asking me questions and boosted my spirits. I flew down Muir Pass to Evolution Lake by 5 15 and got down to Franklin meadow at 8 15. I really enjoyed passing through Evolution Valley and hit McClure meadow just right with the perfect lighting. Beautiful. At 9 30 I was at the Paiute Junction Bridge and began to make my way up to my destination, which was Sallie Keys Lakes. I only made it to the junction before the switchbacks leading to Sallie Keys before Muir Trail Ranch due to left Achilles tendon that was acting up. Pulled out my sleeping bag, and went to bed around 11.
Woke up at 6 and got going at 6 30, today I was feeling well rested with 7 hours of sleep. I got up to the Sallie Keys Lakes at 9 30. Went over Selden Pass quickly, and headed down to Vermillion. I was tired on the climb that takes you up just to go down 4.5 miles into Vermillion, and was wondering why I had to climb so much if I was just going to drop so far. At this point I realized that when I was at my limit of exhaustion/ pain I would talk to myself out loud about whatever was in my mind and cheer myself up in Spanish. I decided that I wasn’t actually tired and my feet weren’t actually hurting and I ran down all of the switchbacks to the bridge before Vermillion. With my spirits high again, I began the ascent up to Silver Pass. On my way up I ran into the “2 Asians” that I had been hearing about the whole trip that were apparently “10 minutes” or a “mile” ahead of me for more than half a day, who people had claimed were Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese, but in the end they were Taiwanese. Jack and Johnny. Two ultra runners from Los Angeles, Jack is actually sponsored by “Run With Us” a local shoe store where I had gotten my shoes days earlier, and knew my cross-country coach from high school. I hiked with them for about 30 minutes or an hour and Jack said he needed to “let me go” so I could reach my goal that night. So I went up the rest of the pass and left from the summit at 6 45 with the goal in the back of my head to get to Reds. I had forgotten that there were some climbs to get up to the Tully Hole and Lake Virginia and that may have slowed me down so I ended up at Deer Creek for the night at 1 am, feeling beat.
6 30 left camp and was above Reds at Johnston creek at 10 30. A call to the family and a couple friends at Reds was refreshing and I got moving to Shadow Lake. I had to stop here for a while to fix some blisters at the shore of the lake where a water snake came creeping up and we both seemed to scare each other away. It took me until 8 pm to get to Donahue pass due to the blisters with a lot of shale that didn’t help. I also met Camille and Eddy; two south bound hikers with no set itinerary. I was really jealous that they could just hang out at Thousand Island Lake for the night, and I still had many miles to hike. We talked for about 30 minutes, mainly about Camille’s fear of mountain lions. I dropped down to the junction that is 27 miles away from Happy Isles at 11 and figured 27 miles sounded like a nice easy day, so I rolled out my bag and slept at that junction.
I was really motivated this morning and got moving a whole 30 minutes earlier than normal… at 6. For some reason I had a distinct craving for Jack in the Box, even though it had been more than 3 years since I had eaten from that place. So I figured one step more was one step closer to that burger my mind was craving. I rolled on through and arrived at Happy Isles at 5 pm. Took a picture in front of the sign, soaked my feet under the bus stop, then drove home with my friend that waited for me at the finish. Overall time 5 days 2 hours. I couldn’t say the exact minute. Monday 3 pm at Whitney- Saturday 5 pm Happy Isles.
I learned a lot about “fast packing” this trip, being this the first “fast pack” I have done. And like I said, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, and the mental and physical battles I would be fighting in these next few days. Highs and lows. But overall I loved every bit of it; the challenge, the beauty, the people, and am definitely going to do trips like this again.
Here are some things that I would do differently: the worst part of it was my shoes. I decided to take the New Balance “minimus” shoes and it was just a bad idea. I had hiked 20-mile days in a shoe like that, but I guess I just didn’t know what it would be like to hike 40 miles in a day. My feet hurt, my Achilles tendon was acting up a lot, bad blisters, and they are now very swollen.
Also, I would leave behind the stove. Cooking was too much of a hassle and extra weight. And my body wasn’t able to finish a full meal.
Everything else seemed to be good. I will put up a full gear list soon.
Very fun experience.Sep 3, 2013 at 10:27 am #2021320
Great job Andrew.
thanks for the write up.Sep 3, 2013 at 10:35 pm #2021595
@awsorensenLocale: South of Forester Pass
This is crazy to read as when I went to break the unsupported record in 2009 I was in the exact same spots at the exact same times.
By the end of day 2 I had black bruises under the front pads of my feet.
I pushed a little more into the night each day but as I slowed the locations from where you were remained the same.
Slept about a mile and a half past you going down the golden staircase.
If you would have kept going to Sallie Keys Lake, we would have gone through at the same time.
I kept going and was flipping out of my mind that night from the lack of sleep.
This just brings back memories and now I can't wait to head up there this weekend.
You were really pushing a good pace with the 5 hours of (off trail) / sleep you got each night.
Good job!Sep 4, 2013 at 7:16 pm #2021881
Nice job. It's always fun pushing yourself.Sep 7, 2013 at 12:17 pm #2022714
@tomclarkLocale: East Coast
While that's not my idea of fun, it's great to hear what you did and how you (and Aaron) felt. Thanks for sharing.
TomSep 7, 2013 at 1:47 pm #2022730
Way to go Andy! I was skeptical when you flew by my camp at Lake Marjorie about making Mather Pass before that evening, a whole day's walk for me the next day. Did you catch up with Jack and Johnny, the two who had a similar goal?Sep 7, 2013 at 1:55 pm #2022732
@rosyfinchLocale: the mountains
I think we should give an award to the person(s) who can clock the slowest JMT time :)
Er, perhaps that's the award in itself… to have seen and experienced the most along the way, eh?
BillSep 8, 2013 at 2:25 pm #2023022
@scottbentzLocale: Southern California
I guess i should time in too. Nice job son! When we did the JMT a few years ago in 13 hiking days I felt that was fine for me but we all knew you were on a different speed level and we were holding you back. Thanks for slowing your pace down to still hike with mom, the girls and me. I still like to hike 20+ mile days but it takes me a bit longer.
Now get back to the books!!!Sep 8, 2013 at 3:44 pm #2023043
Well done Andrew. I don't think that I'll ever catch up to you but it's nice to read reports like this as inspiration. I lived in Panama back in '96 but from what I hear, I wouldn't recognize it now.
Again, great effort!Sep 11, 2013 at 3:28 pm #2024055
Aaron: thats funny how we ended up in the same spots. We should go for that record some time.
John Kays: Yes i did catch up to Jack and Johnny. We hiked for about an hour together and they gave me some helpful tips. You are the one i saw that had just recently discovered a small tear in your tent?
Bill: i think you are right, at times i was definitely jealous of some people that were doing it way slower than me, but also i only had one week to do it before school and i enjoy pushing myself. might as well do it while i'm still young and fast! but someday i would love to go out with my friends and just take a real long time to finish the JMT.Sep 12, 2013 at 9:13 am #2024292
@scottbentzLocale: Southern California
This morning I decided to weigh the canister with all of the leftover food you did not eat.
The canister with food weighed in at 6.06 lbs. The Bearicade Weekender weighed in at 2 lbs. So, you had 4 lbs. of food left over when you finished the hike!
I always find it funny how I think I will be eating so much when I hike for example 20+ mile days. Lots of miles should = lots of hunger. However, I always have a hard time eating on the trail after long days, let alone 41 mile days like you did. I don't think you have ever gotten tired of Snickers but there were a bunch of them left over as well as peanut M&M's.
Daddy-oSep 12, 2013 at 9:16 pm #2024461
"left over peanut M&M's.
I didn't think such a thing existed….. you were doing something wrong ;)
I haven't done such a strenuous hike but on my multiday hikes I always found that i'm not that hungry for the first few days then it kicks in. so I try to pack less for the first few days. I can definitely see not eating as much if you are trying to minimize stopping to get more miles in.Sep 24, 2013 at 12:25 pm #2027748
@barrypLocale: Eastern Idaho (moved from Midwest)
Wow. This is an amazing journal. And I like hearing from Daddy-o. Cool dad.
“…a local shoe store where I had gotten my shoes days earlier,…” How did you adjust so fast to your shoes on these high-mileage days?
Never mind, I saw your answer later “My feet hurt, my Achilles tendon was acting up a lot, bad blisters, and they are now very swollen.” I’m impressed how you kept on moving.
So did you just eat cold freeze dried food for 5 days? Or did you have enough snacks to munch on? Maybe I missed it, but how much weight were you carrying?
I wonder if I’ll see you this weekend? I’m coming down for a ‘parent’s week’ at BYU Provo. Our son is going there. I love those BYU football games. They know how to get the adrenaline flowing; and so we’ll hit the Tennessee game also.
-The mountains were made for Teva’sSep 24, 2013 at 1:12 pm #2027768
@amrowincLocale: Southern California
Congratulations Andrew. I've been trying to remember exactly where I saw you. I was heading south (at a much slower pace). We chatted briefly. Nice to hear you made it safely and apparently exceeding your original goal.Sep 27, 2013 at 9:22 am #2028865
barry, i was carrying 27 pounds, and yeah i basically had enough snacks to not eat my freeze dried meals. granted i did lose a little weight. i might be running mount timpanogos this saturday morning, so if you hike that maybe i will see you there. utah is beautiful.Sep 27, 2013 at 4:02 pm #2028987
@awsorensenLocale: South of Forester Pass
What was in your pack to weigh 27 pounds?
I could have brought a 5 pound tent, 3 pound sleeping bag, and 4 pound pack and still have less weight than what you had.
I honestly couldn't imagine moving that fast with 27 pounds. I'll have to admit that I felt spoiled out there with an average of about 12 pounds during the trip. The pack carried it really well and I forgot about what weight I had on most of the time. I wouldn't take off the pack on most breaks and nothing ever hurt from the pack being on the entire time.
That's pretty remarkable.
I wonder what you think you could do with out carrying an extra gallon of water (in weight) the whole time?Sep 27, 2013 at 4:32 pm #2028994
@bigmitchLocale: Minneapolis-St. Paul
This would be very impressive with a 10 lb pack, an order of magnitude more impressive with a 27 lb pack.Sep 28, 2013 at 5:43 am #2029066
@barrypLocale: Eastern Idaho (moved from Midwest)
I see snow on mt Timp.Good luck running. My wife is with me so we will hike to the y this morning.
My brother and I backpacked timponogas 4 weeks ago. We stayed at lake emerald. And we explored the b25 crash sight. Beautiful.Oct 14, 2013 at 4:22 pm #2034101
aaron, i made a mistake, it was actually 25 pounds. i am making gear list chart and will post itOct 14, 2013 at 5:34 pm #2034122
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