My first fall in the Sierras...

3:33 a.m. on October 6, 2004 (EDT)
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a.k.a. future atwalker

.... and I'm wondering what to bring. I'm doing a 4 day trip, starting at the northern end of the John Muir Trail.

My assumption is that I'll be hiking in shorts and a breathable shirt, and put on a polartec jacket when taking breaks.

I was going to bring a gore-tex jacket and pants, for wind and rain, as well as a fleece hat and gloves.

In camp, I have a warm long-sleeve shirt (powerdry? can't remember) and some convertible pants.

My bag is a 3 season Blue Kazoo, and I'm generally a warm sleeper. I have a one-man tent, and will be accompanied by a friend who will also have a one-man tent.

A stove is a question: I'm coming from overseas, and can't bring fuel. My preference is for this propane/butane stove that uses called a CampingGaz... are cartridges for these available in CA? Alternatively, I could bring a MSR liquid fuel type stove.

I'm still thinking about food. Is there anything to definitely stay away from when cooking in bear country?

I have a water-filter, pocket-knife, compass, map, and head-lamp for reading in the p.m.

Any advice or comments from the sage readers of this newsgroup would be much appreciated!

2:34 p.m. on October 6, 2004 (EDT)
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Well, first of all, Fall is definitely in the air in the Sierra. In the past month, I have been to the Sierra twice. The first trip, I got heavily snowed on during a day hike (roughly 8000 foot level). The second trip, I had frost on the car in the mornings (7000 ft level) and mid-day temperatures in the 50-60 range.

In October you can get temperatures along the northern part of the JMT that range from the 80s (what is called "Indian Summer") down to the 20s - errrr, that is deg F, so make that upper 20s C down to -10C, maybe even colder. The JMT starts in Yosemite Valley at the north end, at about 4000 ft, so it can be pretty hot. But in a 4 day trek, you can easily get up to 12,000 ft (or higher if you go up some of the peaks that are easy to reach just off the JMT). The weather can change rapidly at this time of year, and as you go into November, you can get significant snowfall. Some Sierra ski resorts open in mid-November in some years (but after New Year's in other years). Last year, several of the major resorts were in full operation by the end of November (then December was dry, so they all shut down again until Christmas, when another series of major storms moved in). Even when the days are warm in Oct-Nov, nights are often down to or below freezing.

In short, be prepared for anything in terms of clothing and sleeping gear. Better have long-johns.

Stove - Yes, Gaz cartridges are available (270, 470, and sometimes 206). You can pick them up at any REI (there are 8 in the San Francisco area, plus 1 or 2 in the Sacramento area - don't know if the second is open yet) or several other outdoor stores, as well as in the Mountain Shop in Yosemite Valley (Curry Village) and one of the shops in Yosemite Village. However, the industry standard (lindal) valve threaded canister is more available. Given the possibility of encountering sub-freezing weather, a liquid fuel stove might be a better choice. However, you should check with your airline to be sure they will allow you to carry a stove on board. Many airlines in the US do not allow even a brand-new stove in its original sealed packaging to be carried in either checked or carry-on baggage. Some do, with hand inspection, if it passes a "sniff" test.

Bear country - you will be required to carry a bear canister. This is a reinforced plastic cylinder that is bear-proof. They hold 5 to 7 man-days of food, and unfortunately add 1 to 3 kilograms to your load. But they are the only proven way to keep your food from the bears (other than the fixed metal bear boxes found at some designated campsites). You can rent these at the Wilderness Office in Yosemite Valley (where you will get your wilderness permit). I think the current cost is $5 for your trip (I own mine, so I haven't rented one). Yosemite bears are very clever (rumor has it that there is a Yosemite Bear University), and they are active all year around. The problem is not only within Yosemite National Park, but also in Inyo National Forest and Kings Canyon-Sequoia National Park - the whole JMT, in other words.

2:23 a.m. on October 7, 2004 (EDT)
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Bill - thanks very much for the up-to-date information. The Weather Channel.com forecast for Yosemite (sunny and temps in the 70'S) doesn't take elevation into account!

12:32 p.m. on October 7, 2004 (EDT)
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Rule of thumb for temperatures

A good rule of thumb for estimating temperatures at altitude is that the temperature drops roughly 3.5 to 5 deg F for every 1000 ft altitude. The floor of Yosemite Valley (where the weather report is taken) is about 4000 ft. The rim is about 7000 ft, so 10-15 deg cooler. Tuolumne (second day on the JMT from the Valley) and Lyell Canyon (3rd day) are about 8000-9000 ft, so 16-25 deg cooler. Look at the nightime low temperatures as well as the very pleasant daytime temps.

The temperature lapse rate in the troposphere is generally taken as the adiabatic rate of 3.5 deg per 1000 ft, but the actual depends on heating of the ground, night-time cooling, and that sort of thing. So the 3.5 to 5 deg rule works pretty well most of the time.

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