Food Planning for the JMT

Backpacking food

I’m going to use the calculation as suggested by Mike Clelland in his book Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips of 1.4 pounds of food per person per day for the first ten days of the trip and then 1.75 pounds of food per person per day for the last ten days of the trip. Also, this assumes the selection of foods that average 125 cal/oz.

Days 1-3
2 lunches, 2 dinners, 2 breakfasts = 2 @1.4 ppppd [2800 Cal per day] = 2.8 ppp =
5.6 lbs total

Re-supply at Tuolumne Meadows. Eat lunch and dinner at Tuolumne Meadows on Day 3; Eat breakfast at Tuolomne Meadows on morning of Day 4

Day 4-6
3 lunches, 2 dinners, 2 breakfasts = 2.3@1.4 ppppd [2800 Cal per day] = 3.22 ppp =
6.5 lbs total

Eat dinner at Red’s Meadow. Take a zero day at Red’s Meadow eat at their grill. Eat breakfast at grill the morning leaving Reds Meadow.

Day 8-11
4 lunches, 3 dinners, 3 breakfasts = 3.2 @1.4 ppppd [2800 Cal per day] = 4.6 ppp =
9.2 lbs total

Re-supply at Muir Trail Ranch on Day 10. No meal service available at MTR.

Days 12-19
8 lunches, 8 dinners, 8 breakfasts = 8 @1.75 ppppd [3500 Cal per day] = 14 ppp =
28 lbs total

This assumes no resupply at Independence and one really long-mile day. I’m going to assume that we will need to send this ahead in two 5 gallon buckets. We might consider also having only one bear canister at the beginning of the trip and adding an additional bear canister for the last leg of the trip.

Lightweight backpacking food resources:

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Planning for the JMT SOBO thru-hike: Happy Isles to Whitney Portal

July 22, Day 0: Arrive in the Sierras

This will be a very long day indeed as we will have a 7.5 hour drive from Santa Rosa (North Bay) to Lone Pine. At Lone Pine we will then park my car at Whitney Portal so that we will have a vehicle for the drive back at the end of our hike.

My sister is coming down with us on the 22nd to help us with the first days of the trip. She will then drive us in her car back up to Yosemite Valley, stopping at Reds Meadow, and possibly Tuolumne Meadows along the way to drop off our re-supplies. This will be another 4.5 hours.

Once we arrive in Yosemite Valley, we will need to pick up our permit. Our permit allows us to sleep the night before our hike in the Backpackers Campground. It’s unclear if my sister can sleep there with us or if she will need to get another site.

MANTRA: Climb high, sleep low!

July 23, Day 1: Happy Isles to Cloud Rest Junction (7.2 + 4 miles)

Today we plan to begin our hike early to get a head start on the crowds (4:30AM would be my goal) and to make sure we are not hiking Half Dome during the heat of the day. We have a 5.9 mile hike with a 2940 ft gain in elevation to the Half Dome junction. We will need to chose whether we go up to the junction via the slightly longer John Muir Trail or via the Mist Trail which is shorter, more scenic, but more grueling.

We will leave our packs somewhere near the Half Dome Junction, and make the climb up Half Dome, a four mile round trip from the junction.

639859647_362819962a_mAm I a little apprehensive about the Half Dome climb? Sure, but I’m determined and I know I can do it. Reminder to self: pack a pair of gloves with really good grips for the cables. See this advice so that you won’t die up there.

We will then ascend a few miles further up the JMT past the Half Dome junction to our camp for the night somewhere between miles 7 and 8 along the JMT.

July 24, Day 2: Clouds Rest Junction to Cathedral Lakes (10 mi)

The next day we shouldn’t have to be as ambitious as the first. The trail levels off after Clouds Rest junction and then actually begins to descend towards Tuolumne Meadows. We have considered hiking all the way to Tuolumne Meadows spending the night in the backpacker’s camp there. This would add another 5 miles to the day. Fifteen miles might be a little too many miles to tackle during the first part of the trip when we are still adjusting to altitude and getting in shape while on the trail.

July 25, Day 3: Cathedral Lakes to Tuolumne Meadows (5 mi)

Here we will take a “nearo” day at Tuolumne Meadows. (A “nearo” day is a nearly zero day). We will hike in the early morning into Tuolumne Meadows, making sure to arrive before the post office closes at noon so that we can claim our re-supply.

We’ve talked about my sister meeting us there as well. She’d spend some time in Yosemite Valley with friends and then spend her last night and day at Tuolumne with us before returning back home. If she did this, we wouldn’t have to rely on the re-supply pick up at the post office.

Here at Tuolumne, we will resupply, eat heartily at the Tuolumne Meadows Grill, shower, wash clothing, contact home, and take care of any other business.

July 26, Day 4: Tuolumne Meadows to Rush Creek Junction (15 mi)

An ambitious day which would end just after going over Donahue pass. We may need to rethink this one and instead camp at Lyell Forks bridge five miles back. This would mean we’d climb Donahue pass the next morning rather than in the afternoon. This might need to be a wait-and-see kind of decision based on our conditioning at this point, the weather, and other factors that might affect our choice.

July 26, Day 5: Rush Creek Junction to Lake Ediza Junction (10 mi)

This should be reasonable if we hike the longer day on Day 4. Decisions will need to be made.

July 27, Day 6: Lake Ediza Junction to Reds Meadow (10 mi)

Again, another reasonable mileage day. At Reds Meadow, we will pick up our re-supply, shower, gorge ourselves on a dinner at their cafe, and sleep at their campgrounds.

July 28, Day 7: Zero day at Reds Meadow

July 29, Day 8: Reds Meadow to Purple Lake (13.5 mi)

July 30, Day 9: Purple Lake to Pocket Meadows/Mott Lake Junction (12.5 mi)

July 31, Day 10: Pocket Meadows to Marie Lake (or Bear Creek)

The mileage on this day will all depend on whether or not we choose to stop at VVR. I hear it’s very nice, but with Lake Edison being so low, and the ferry running only certain times a day, it may not be worth it. We will not be re-supplying here. Rather we will re-supply at Muir Trail Ranch. We need to send our 5-gal bucket resupply 3 weeks before we will be picking it up. That means sending it on July 10th.

Aug 1, Day 11: Marie Lake to MTR  to Piute Creek Junction (10 mi)

We will definitely be re-supplying at Muir Trail Ranch. I will need to put together the re-supply bucket and send it about three weeks before our intended arrival date. We need to make some serious decision making about whether or not we will try and re-supply in Independence (and get off the trail at Kearsage pass) or if we will try and carry eight days worth of food from MTR for the rest of the trip.

If we don’t re-supply at Independence, which seems like our current decision, then we will need to up the daily mileage in order to decrease the number of days of food we need to carry.

Aug 2, Day 12: Piute Creek Junction to Evolution Basin (12-13 mi)

Aug 3, Day 13: Evolution Basin to Grouse Meadows (14 mi)

Aug 4, Day 14: Grouse Meadows to Lake Marjorie (19.1 miles)

Aug 5, Day 15: Lake Marjorie to Rae Lakes (15 mi)

Aug 6, Day 16: Rae Lakes to Center Basin Creek (12 mi)

Aug 7, Day 17: Center Basin Creek to High Sierra Trail Junction (12-13 mi)

Aug 8, Day 18: High Sierra Junction to Guitar Lake (Arctic Lake outlet) (7 mi)

Add 1-2 days if we choose to get off the trail at Kearsage Pass and re-supply in Independence.

Aug 9, Day 19: Guitar Lake to Whitney Portal via Mt. Whitney Summit (11.3 mi + 3.8 mi)

I would suggest a few days out when we know exactly when we plan to arrive at Whitney Portal that we make a reservation for a place in Lone Pine like the Dow Villa or the Whitney Portal Hostel.

Resources for hiking 15-20 mile days:

Winning the Lottery–JMT Permit is confirmed for late July

glacier point half dome

On February 5, I got some great news: my application for a permit to begin hiking the JMT at Happy Isles through to Whitney portal was accepted. I won the permit lottery! Apparently, you have something around a 10-20% chance of winning the permit lottery, so I felt very lucky indeed.

I had spent a good 30 minutes between 9:00 and 9:20AM EST trying to fax in my application. The fax machine in the school will try the number once more if it is busy. After 20 minutes of trying, I had nearly given up, when low and behold on the second -try of a fax after about the 10th busy signal, my faxed permit application went through at about 9:20 EST. Now, all I could do was cross my fingers and wait.

Around 2pm that day, I got an email confirming that I had won a permit through the lottery including the hike up Half Dome. Yes! I was ecstatic. It made the trip this summer even closer to reality.

John Muir

Information on obtaining your permit can be found: