Hiking the John Muir Trail: Snagging Permits

Hiking the John Muir Trail: Getting Permits

It’s February, and you’re planning a John Muir Trail through-hike in August. Did you know you should have already applied for your permits?

Hi, I’m Tracy, and I’m panicking a bit.

Okay, that might be a bit hyperbolic, but I’ve told myself (for the last few years) that I needed to do the John Muir Trail, and preferably before I turn 30, which makes this year the last year before my arbitrary deadline rolls around. I’m rather busy (working on my company, WeddingLovely), and just now remembered permits. I have March 1st on my calendar for when the Half Dome permits are issued, but you can get Half Dome permits along with your Wilderness permits, which opens earlier in the year.

Here’s the deal if you’re doing JMT too this year, and starting in Yosemite:

If you’re going to leave through Yosemite, you’ll need Yosemite Wilderness permits. 60% of the permits are available 24 weeks (168 days) in advance of the day you’ll start your trip (and if math isn’t your strong point, here’s a table to help you pick which day to apply.) 40% are available first-come, first-served the day before your hike. I got a permit for my Half Dome hike a few years ago the day before and had no trouble, other than standing in line for awhile (30 min+).

Which means, if you’re planning on hiking the JMT starting in early August, you should have already applied for your Wilderness Permit or plan on doing so ASAP. Apply here.

Starting the JMT from another trailhead? Find out where to get your permit here.

Another tip: The Yosemite Wilderness Permit website allows you to fill out the form on the website, but it crashed two separate times for me, so I had to go back and fill in the form over and over. Download the form instead and use HelloFax.com to fill in the form and fax it in — so much easier.

Anything I’m forgetting or should know about the JMT? Let me know in the comments!

Edit: Well, just got the notification that my initial permit request was denied for all three dates I requested. Trying the next three dates, here’s hoping it works!

Edit 2: The people at the Wilderness Permit office must hate me — I’ve sent in request after request for later and later dates, and I keep getting email after email of denials. At this point, looks like I can get the August 12th start date (which opens tomorrow at 7:30am), or I can come the day before my ideal start date (July 30th) and try to get one of the first-come, first-served passes. The problem here is the additional Half Dome permit, which I could get if I got an early permit for JMT, but not if I get the day before. So I’ll have to add myself to the lottery on March 1st and hope I get one of those too. UGH. All of this would have been avoided had I realized when the 168 days began! I think at this point, the first-come, first-served pass works best. Oh fun.

 

 

Climbing Mt. Shasta: Review of my 2009 Attempt

Climbing Mt. Shasta: Review of my 2009 Attempt (41)

In 2009, I attempted a summit of Mt. Shasta. While it’s one of the easier mountaineering experiences with minimal technical parts, we didn’t top out. I’m planning on attempting the climb again this Spring, and thought it would be great to publish my experiences and photos from the last attempt as a review!

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Goal for 2014: Summit Mt. Shasta

Mount Shasta

In 2009 (so long ago!) I attempted to summit Mt. Shasta, one of California’s tallest mountains and a fourteener at 14,180 feet. Unfortunately, we didn’t top out — several things didn’t go as planned (more on that in a future post), and I ended up turning around after making it over Red Banks.

Goal is to reattempt climbing Shasta this year between late May and early June. This is the best time of year since it’s ideal to have a good amount of snow. Once it melts, you’re hiking up loose scree, which is a lot more dangerous and a lot more annoying than climbing on snow and ice with crampons.

There are no paths — it’s literally just a straight climb up the mountain (of course, going from one landmark to another.)

The biggest issue I have at this moment is not having a definite partner for the climb. This isn’t something I’d want to do alone due to the small amount of potential danger. It’s honestly a little tough finding others who are mountaineering minded (since it’s not the most comfortable experience, sleeping on the snow and all.

Potential issues and problems

In terms of danger, it’s more than the average hike, but not much more. The route I plan to take is Avalanche Gulch, which has almost technical pieces.

  • Climbing with crampons is potentially dangerous if you lose your footing and aren’t able to self-arrest using the ice-axe. If you fall and end up going head over feet, there is a real possibility of major injury (you know, sharp blades on your feet and all that can catch on ice in bad positions, or worse, on yourself). When we were at Helen Lake last time, some other climber decided to glissade, didn’t take his crampons off, and we watched him go head over feet about 100 feet into camp. Rangers, were astonished he escaped injury.
  • There is a very small potential for ice climbing without harnesses if the Thumb Rock pass is closed. If it warms up too much, the crevasse opens up and it’s recommended to avoid that route and go up one of the climneys at the top of Red Banks. Last time we went up the first climney, so we had to climb (without ropes or harnesses) about seven feet of ice using our ice-axes and crampons. The ice also wasn’t vertical, but still a little scary — if you lost your footing, you could fall backwards off the mountain. I honestly didn’t find it that bad at the time, but my partner had some issues.
  • Not danger, but uncomfortableness: being in the snow is no picnic. Last time, the snow getting to camp #1 (Horse Camp) was deep so we post-holed our way there, which takes a ton of energy. We ended up post-holing on the way back down the mountain as well (pro-tip: avoid hiking in the afternoon in snow!) Not to mention how uncomfortable sleeping in the snow is. I personally sleep very cold normally when hiking, and night #1 I didn’t sleep at all. I think I slept the night before summiting just because I was so exhausted.
  • TMI alert. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. My bowels hate pooping anywhere there isn’t a toilet, and there are definitely no toilets on the mountain. There were issues. More on this on my recap (oh joy, right?)
  • Altitude sickness (HAPE and HACE) can definitely happen. I’m hoping to mitigate these risks by taking Diamox, arriving in Shasta City early, and using both Base Camps (whereas most go straight to Helen Lake and only spend one night on the mountain.)

Potential awesomeness

  • Summiting a mountain!
  • A very physical effort. I love it.
  • Some of the most amazing and beautiful views I have ever seen in my life.

And yes, those potential awesomeness reasons definitely make it worth it.

First 2014 Goal: Finally summit Mount Shasta.

Photo credit: Jeremy Gillick