Thursday, 20 February 2014

The John Muir Trail 2014

I suppose it’s time to announce the big trip for 2014.  Whilst it’s hardly been a secret, I had nothing ‘official’ in place.  In September 2014 I will hopefully be walking (and completing) the John Muir Trail (JMT) in California, USA.

The start of the John Muir Trail.
The JMT is a 211 mile long trail through the wilderness with a total elevation gain of approximately 14,000m.  The trail starts in Yosemite Valley and ends on top of the highest point in the contiguous USA, Mount Whitney (4,421 m).  However, from the end of the trail it’s another 11 miles to Whitney Portal, where a café and burger awaits!

The trail runs through the High Sierra back country and wilderness, through a number of national parks and national forests.  After Tuolumne meadows (20 odd miles in) you do not cross/pass a road until Whitney Portal.  Apart from 5 ‘proper’ campsites (toilets, maybe showers), the campsites consist of a bare patch of ground with a lake or steam nearby for water.  No toilets, no shops, no pubs, no showers, no bus, and no ice cream vans!

The Yosemite Valley
Along the route there are 4 places on or near the trail that you can buy supplies or pick a resupply box that you have sent before the start of the trip.  All four are within the first half of the walk, so the last 100+ miles you either carry everything you need, or hike 10+ miles to a road and hope you can hitch a ride to the nearest town (another 15 miles). 

Compared to other long distance trails in the USA, it’s very popular, so it is regarded as a bit of a ‘highway’, however in comparison to most UK trails it will seem like true wilderness!  There are bears, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, marmots, chipmunks and squirrels to contend with, along with the weather, forest fires and the ubiquitous runner who will appear as you are climbing up a hill looking a sweaty mess.

Nevada Falls, Yosemite.
To restrict numbers the national parks use a permit system, no permit would mean a hefty fine from a ranger (some are armed!).  The notion of needing a permit seems very strange, however as there are no facilities (toilets, etc.), the restriction is there to reduce waste and damage of the environment.

Now it’s obvious that I may need a little training and preparation for this adventure.  The furthest I have walked on a multi-day trip (both 4 days) up to now is around 53 miles on the Peddars Way and 46 miles on the Norfolk Coast Path, and it’s fair to say I suffered with my feet, leg muscles, chaffing, endurance and fitness.  It short I was knackered and would of struggled to do another day.

My new campmate... picture not taken in Norfolk...
I managed the Norfolk Coast path better than the Peddars, but it has to be noted that neither is regarded as a mecca for climbing.  Both routes had numerous pubs, campsites with real toilets and showers. It did rain, so at least I am prepared for that!  No bears though, well none that we spotted…


  1. Great experience...hope you have a long enuf cord/or current bushes, so you can communicate w/the civilized world. Were the other trips so difficult or did you over state about your condition? A few years back I met a hiker on a 400 mile trek, may have started from Denver, I was impressed by the young woman...your journeys seems similiar. As far as dead always seemed a bit difficult.? I hiked above Lake Chelan, WA and I spotted a bear at afar and it was close enuf! The timber rattler I killed w/a 3' stick, I was told later they can stike their length...when I killed it I wasn't concerned...after the knowledge...a bit! Good timing.

  2. I found the other trips difficult, but I was in terrible shape. Better shape now but still far from my prime. Still A few months to improve that though.

  3. Awesome! I hiked the JMT last summer, was an excellent expierience. Here's my trail journal:

  4. Thanks Gert. Just started reading your blog. How did you find the food situation coming from Europe? Or did you have enough time to organise everything?