Today is a day to go over our gear and prepare for the adventure ahead. We meet at our headquarters in Bishop, do a gear check, collect resupply bags, and pick up last minute items before shuttling 90 miles south to Cottonwood Meadows. We'll camp at the Cottonwood Campground which is already at approximately 3000m (10,000 feet) in elevation - Giving us a chance to further acclimate before beginning our adventure. *Complimentary transfer from hotels in Mammoth and Bishop, upon request.
To further assist in acclimation, we start off slowly and ease into the hiking with a short first day of about 8km and 400m altitude gain taking us to camp at Chicken Springs Lake. From there, we lose some elevation, spending the next 2 nights between 2900m-3200m as we approach Mt. Whitney.
Daily distances are approx: 8, 16, and 13 km
We plan to make our base at Crabtree Meadows or Guitar Lake for 2 nights in order to reduce pack weight and focus on the big day ahead - The summit of the highest point of our journey, the stunning Mount Whitney (4418m). The hike is approximately 23km, round trip, with an elevation gain of approximately 1200m. We will be happy we only have to carry enough items for the day - And for the final summit push, we can even leave these at Trailcrest to be picked up on our way back down. Those who are not feeling up to the big day can easily stay in camp, soak up the scenery and relax.
This is a spectacular segment as it traverses high glacial bowls far above the main river drainage system and includes two of the highest passes on the trail - Forester Pass at 4025m and Glen Pass at 3650m, before descending to beautiful Rae Lakes where we pick up our food re-supply.
Daily distances of approx. 12 - 21km
From Rae, we head down to Woods Creek and climb up over Pinchot Pass (3690m) before dropping into the expanse of Upper Basin at the head of the South Fork of the Kings River. The crossing of Mather Pass (3670m) gives us a view of our route to the north before we descend the 'Golden Staircase' that takes us far down into Palisade Creek and the deeply incised Le Conte Canyon. Our next resupply comes in via mule and we pick that up at Big Pete Meadow.
Daily distances of approx. 13-19km
For many people, this is the most beautiful section of the JMT. We stay high through the Evolution Valley, pass by the stone shelter at Muir Pass (3645m), commence a large swing out to the western Sierra, and gradually lose elevation until we reach our lowest point of about 2390 meters at Muir Trail Ranch. Our resupply has been sent by post and awaits our arrival. Daily distances of approx. 13, 24, and 24km.
Here, we cross the Silver Divide with its small lakes and jagged peaks. Lots of smaller ups and downs characterize this section and the really big passes are now behind us. The terrain and vegetation changes as we near Mammoth Mountain and we hit our first 'civilization' and road at Red's Meadow. We pick up our resupply here and then we are set to tackle the final section.
Daily distances of approx. 14-23km
The days are now a lot easier with less elevation change and the miles will pass by easily. We traverse the Thousand Island Lake area that is well known for its serenity and wonderful rock colours.
Daily distances of approx. 16km
We top out on our last pass, Donohue Pass, and descend into the broad glacial carved Lyell Canyon. It is now all downhill to our pickup in Tuolumne, followed by our shuttle to Bishop, where our great adventure comes to an end but a lifetime of stories lies ahead.