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Trip report: JMT (Northern half) Sept 98

Trip report: JMT (Northern half): Edison Lake – Happy Isles

Thoughts this might be of interest to a few.

Saturday 5 September 1998 – Friday 11 September 1998


c. 85 miles in 7 days.

Started at Lake Edison/Vermilion Valley Resort.  Lucky enough to catch
the ferry across to the far end of the lake, although had banked on
having to walk the 4.5-5 miles anyway, so a nice treat to the start of
the hike.

Spent the first day hiking up to just below Silver Pass Lake.  Camped
just above the stream crossing.  Had a few drops of rain, but nothing
serious (except really bad mosquitoes!).  Subsequently discovered that
those who had camped above us at Silver Lake and Silver Lake Pass had
had really bad weather overnight (heavy rain, hail & semi-snow).


Hiked over Silver Pass Lake and the pass (our first great views!), down,
up past Tully Hole (some climb alleviated by switch-backs), and camped
down at Purple Lake.

Monday (Labour Day)

Woke to a beautiful morning across Purple Lake (wispy clouds and still
silent reflections on Purple Lake!); spent the day rolling down into
Red’s Meadows.  Bumped into Moxey Turtle and her partner just finishing
off the pieces of a PCT thru-hike at Witney Portal.  They looked very
tired but happy.  Moxey Turtle suggested that Dan Smith had been seen
out on the PCT this season as well.

Rolled down into Red’s Meadows; talked the people there into giving us a
cabin for the night, and had quite a good meal (their nightly special).
They told us that the bridge that blew away in the Jan 97 floods was
going to be flown in by helicopter on Wednesday (although we
subsequently heard that there were problems with the weight of the
bridge which was sitting waiting to be airlifted at Mammoth).  The
JMT/PCT bridge was fine, and totally unaffected by all the diversions
despite the notices everywhere suggesting the contrary.      


Had an excellent hike from Red’s Meadows to Thousand Island Lakes: what
a day.  All  those Lakes were so beautiful: it seemed as if we had them
to ourselves.   Pulled in to 1000 Island Lake tired by happy.  Had a few
problems finding a suitable campsite with water.  Very quite, errie
evening about 8pm.


Dreadful night.  It was as if a firehose had been on the tent all
night.  Woke at about 6pm and it’s bucketing down.  Decide to give it a
couple of hours to see if it lets up.  Sun is coming out at 8pm
sporadically.  At 10pm the weather has turned worse.  It is strongly
possible that as we have to climb about 2,000 feet to go over Donohue
Pass that the weather will only get worse and possibly snow which will
make things worse (which the next day proved was correct).  Decided that
staying put to wait out the storm was not an option especially as the
tent had already taken a battering in the last 12 hours and by the looks
of the pool gently gathering in one corner of the tent probably wouldn’t
take much more.  Also, waiting might bring worse weather.  Decided to
make a run for it down into the valley and seek civilisation (e.g. back
to Red’s Meadows) to dry out.  Made a run for it: packed up and hiked
out down into the valley.

By coincidence, just as we were leaving the lake, we spotted another
group of 3 people (whose tent we had spotted the evening before) also
doing the same thing.  We spoke with them and they were heading down to
Agnew Meadows where they had a vehicle and were then heading down into
Mammoth where they had accommodation.  Unfortunately, their vehicle did
not have room for all of us.

As we walked down the mountain with this equally drenched group of 3
(plus dog), we got to chatting.  Along the way, they very kindly offered
to put us up for the night in their condo (whic sleeps 12): the most
wonderful piece of Trail Magic: warm bed, good dinner, and (wait for
it!) hot tub! Wow!  A further stroke of luck was as were were getting
down to Agnew Meadows, we joined another couple also bailing off the
hill (there were more than a few people doing this): this couple offered
to ferry some of us down into Mammoth as there was clearly not enough
room in the one vehicle for 6 people.  As we had bailed off the
mountain, we were a day behind on our schedule (not very flexible) so
would have to get ahead to where we should be (Tuolomne) by thumb.  The
second couple said that they would probably be going that way the next
day and subsequently very kindly offered us a lift: what a magnificent
double piece of Trail Magic.  Many thanks (especially if they read
this!) to Catherine & Michael Buff, Josh Lake and equally Suzanne & Jay
Dark from Boise.


After a glorious night in that really comfortable condo (good comfort
levels seem even more comfortable than normal when you’ve endured
intense physical hardship to get there!), and a very kind ride from
Mammoth with Suzanne & Jay up to Tuolomne, we embarked on what turned
out to be the best stretch of the hike yet.

Easy climb out of Tuolomne Meadows up to Cathedral Pass: what a blissful
place: the lake and the views were a real gobsmackker: sat at the top of
Cathedral Pass and had lunch overlooking the lake and Cathedral Peak:
not a cloud in the sky, sky is deep blue, and unlimited views as far as
the eye could see.

In the afternoon, hiked down past Sunrise.  The profile in the Appendix
in the Guide suggests that it’s all downhill in one long slide from the
top of Cathedral Pass to Happy Isles: this is not true: there’s plenty
of flat stuff and downhill stuff, but there are some small climbs, so do
not be deceived – we reckon that the person who did the profile got fed
up, thought it was mainly downhill and just did one straight line from
the top of Cathedral Pass to the terminus at Happy Isles.  Pulled in
very late to the side trail up Half Dome.  Our plan is to pitch a tent a
little way up the Half Dome side trail, get up really early and see the
sun rise from the top of Half Dome.


Rose early and climbed up Half Dome. Fairly easy climb to the start of
the chain ladder, but thereafter very steep: don’t look down!  About 300
metres of near vertical.

Sun came over the ridge just as we were climbing to the top.  360 degree
views from the top – wild.  Great views over the Yosemite Valley.  Got a
great picture of Tom & Christen on the overhang with the steep drop
beneath them and the valley behind.  Loitered on top for a good while
with the chipmunks and squirrels getting very friendly.  Clear blue sky
without a cloud in sight and the first fresh light of the morning
dancing on the ridges and the sun gradually creeping into each of the
valleys.  Monumental!

Started on our way down.  It is much much better to come up the chain
ladder than to go down …..  Down was a real test of arm strength and
stamina.  OK once at the bottom of the chain ladder, but I wouldn’t want
to be using the chain ladder when there are crowds around: not much room
for passing!  As we were most of the way down, we saw the first people
coming up ……

Spent the rest of the day wandering down the rest of the valley past
Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls: still quite a lot of water in the falls
despite the lack of water in the hills.  Ended up at Happy Isles in
Yosemite: end of the John Muir Trail.  Managed to leave my Lekki hiking
stick by the Happy Isles Café: it had to happen some time!!!  End of
John Muir Trail: a very happy 80-odd miles.  Meandered round Yosemite
for a few hours (most of them in the AYCE cafeteria at the Lodge – well
worth a visit!) and picked up the shuttle back to Fresno at the Awahnee
Hotel.   Very tired by happy.

Bits of trivia

We drove to Fresno, left our car at the Super8 Motel (having spent the
night there) and used the following shuttle service (usual disclaimers):
Sierra Shuttle (based in Fresno): (209) 443 4930 rideonex@aol.com; they
were not cheap but very helpful, clean and efficient

We used the Thomas Winnet JMT Guidebook of which a new edition had just
been published (so nice and up to date which was an advantage over
similar publications at this point in time).  This was fine in the
main.  The only criticism I had was of the profile showing one straight
downhill line from the top of Cathedral Pass to Happy Isles.  There is a
lot of downhill, but there is also a lot of flat and some uphills.  I
get the feeling whoever drew the profile got tired by that stage and
just took the ruler to draw one line …..
We also used the relevant sections of the PCT data book.

Bears: we used a bear can and a foodhang in order that should our
foodhang (counter-balanced method) get nabbed, we would have at least
some food to get us out of trouble.  In the event, we believe that
neither the food hang nor the bear can were tampered with.  However, a
bear can is a must, and everyone seemed to be carrying a bearcan,
although some southbounders were dropping theirs off at Edison Lake.

(GA-ME 1993 et al)

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