He did it!

1:14 p.m. on August 29, 2012 (EDT)
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Bheiser1 just summited Mt Whitney and completed the JMT!!!! Just got an InReach text from him! All the planning. All culminates in a successful trek the full length! He seds greetings from the top of the lower 48! He is in great spirits.

1:16 p.m. on August 29, 2012 (EDT)
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Good stuff. Looking forward to the tr. 

1:17 p.m. on August 29, 2012 (EDT)
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He has 10 miles to get down/out. Cannot wait to talk to him!!

1:27 p.m. on August 29, 2012 (EDT)
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I just sent him a congratulatory message through the link provided below:



2:37 p.m. on August 29, 2012 (EDT)
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You can get to the map showing his arrival on the summit via the link I posted in his Trip Planning thread -


3:53 p.m. on August 29, 2012 (EDT)
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Congrats to Bheiser1 thats great news.He did it...Awesome...


4:14 p.m. on August 29, 2012 (EDT)
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Yes! Very awesome. It has bee great fun following him on the map and getting messages along the way! but the real treat will be all the rehashing, the trip report and the pictures!

7:05 p.m. on August 29, 2012 (EDT)
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Message sent!

10:38 a.m. on August 30, 2012 (EDT)
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As I figured he would, Bill H pushed it all the way down the trail to Whitney Portal yesterday afternoon. It is all downhill from the summit, after all. So now he just awaits his room mates to pick him up at the trailhead/end of the road.

10:20 a.m. on August 31, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks everyone for the comments and for the congratulatory messages. I noticed I received inReach messages tht appeared to be from the same person, signed by names which seemed out of context so I didn't recognize them. Now I see why... The links posted here contain embedded email addresses, so if you use them the resulting message appears to e from whomever I sent the original inReach message to.

No worries, though, thanks again! I'll get a TR and pix posted ASAP :).

11:04 a.m. on August 31, 2012 (EDT)
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bheiser1 said:

I'll get a TR and pix posted ASAP :).

 I am most certainly looking forward to it. 

7:51 p.m. on September 10, 2012 (EDT)
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Preliminary Gear Comments from JMT trek

The real Trip Report and a series of formal gear reviews are still pending.  But seeing as this is a Gear Review site I figured I'd provide a very brief summary of what worked well, and where I had some issues.

Listed in no particular order:

Vasque Scree 2.0 (the low-cut version of the boot shown here):

For the first week to 10 days I had various foot soreness, toe pain, and even some minor blister issues.  From then on, these shoes were excellent overall.  I'd even venture to say they feel comfortable now.  The downside is that while they grip dry surfaces extremely well, they are downright treacherous on wet rocks.

Deuter ACT Lite 65+10 
I took this pack on a 3-night/4-day 40 mile trip carrying about 35 lbs before the JMT trip, and it was extremely comfortable.  I added just a few more pounds on the JMT trip, and in spite of trying most every possible combination of adjustments, my back ended up being in major pain for most of the trip.  In terms of durability, a couple of the fasteners came off early on.  But otherwise the pack seems well-constructed.  However I need to either keep my pack weight down, or replace this pack.

Sea to Summit Ultra Sil pack cover

This cover fit my pack perfectly, even with the z-lite pad strapped on the back. At no time did it leak.  I was very pleased with the performance of this cover.

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 1

When I reviewed this tent previously, I gave it very high marks.  And I was pleased on the JMT trip that the tent kept me dry even during some very heavy thunderstorms - not a drop inside.  However early in the trip the main door zipper malfunctioned.  At this point the tent had only been used for maybe 15-20 nights at the most ... so definitely a premature failure.  This issue is pending my contacting Big Agnes for a repair.

Gossamer Gear Polycryo ground sheet

This was a last-minute addition to my pack.  In fact, given how light & thin the material is, I had doubts it would be satisfactory, so I packed it along with my traditional regular plastic sheet.  It turned out the Polycryo performed perfectly, and I discarded the old plastic sheet at one of my resupply points.  The old plastic sheet had some small punctures from being used about a dozen nights last year.  The polycryo is still undamaged even after 32 nights of use on various types of surface conditions.  It did tend to hold onto dirt & moisture, but the regular plastic did too...

Marmot Helium 15F bag

I previously reviewed this bag with a high score.  It worked out well early in the JMT trip, but partway through I started feeling cold at night.  In fact at temperatures around freezing (some ice in water bottle left outside) I had to wear two pairs of socks, Capilene 3 bottoms, synthetic briefs, synthetic t-shirt, Patagonia R1 hoodie (with the hood up), and a very warm beanie ... plus had the sleeping bag hood tied tightened up & fastened to block inward cold air.  Dressed this way I was "not too cool, but not really comfortable either".  Given that this bag has kept me warm, less heavily clad, in temperatures at least this cold in the past, I suspect the real issue was my body's energy level due to an insufficient food supply.  I won't know until I try the bag again on another trip in similar conditions.  However for now it is suspect.

Thermarest Z-Lite pad

I bought this pad at the end of last season, using it for just 2 nights out last year.  I bought it to replace my Thermarest Prolite 3 (I didn't like the lack of cushion).  At first the Z-Lite felt great.  However  after about a week on the JMT, I started noticing the "eggshell" style foam was getting compressed.  While I expected some compression around the edges due to how I was strapping it onto my pack, the compression was actually occuring in the center (mostly where impacted by my hips).  This progressed throughout the trip, and by the end of the trip wasn't all that comfortable (and probably also played a part in my lack of warmth).  This issue is pending my contacting Thermarest (unfortunately this requires packing it up & shipping it in for a warranty claim).  Or maybe I'll just return it to REI since I consider this to be a premature failure.

DeLorme inReach

I have real mixed feelings about this, partly due to philosophical issues, and partly due to technical issues.  

On the philosophical side, while it was good in a way to be able to maintain 2-way communications with people while I was solo on the trail, I found myself wondering how different the trip experience would have been if I hadn't had this ability (e.g. more of a "wilderness" experience).  However it was very useful (as planned) for coordinating my re-supply with speacock & with my other friends picking me up at the end of the trail, as well as to ask question & receive into along the trail (e.g. weather reports, technical help, etc).  Still, a part of me wishes I hadn't had it along, so I could truly feel like I was "off the grid".

On the technical side, I had various issues, and will withhold further comment pending additional research.  A local guru has offered to help diagnose the issues, but this hasn't bubbled up yet on my priority list.  I'd like to better understand what actually happened before doing into details, so I can be accurate in my explanation.

Gaia GPS (iphone app)

I used my iPhone 4 in conjunction with the DeLorme inReach.  DeLorme provides an app called Earthmate for satellite messaging and some very basic mapping.  But when I wanted to see detailed trail maps, I turned to Gaia GPS. I was very pleased with it and have no complaints.  Actually I wish I could have used its realtime tracking feature ... but (due to device battery life concerns) I couldn't do this on such a length trip (it would have required re-charging every day).

Brunton Solaris 26 solar panel

I used this to charge my Nikon DSLR and iPhone 4 batteries.  It worked flawlessly throughout the trip.  Given the rain on a third of the trip days, I learned to charge whenever I had a break - e.g. during extended lunch breaks, or sun in the morning before a late start on the trail.  Using this panel I never had an out-of-power situation with either device.

MSR Simmerlite

I've used this stove off and on for 5-6 years.  As some will recall, I did an overhaul, cleaning & spare parts replacement prior to the JMT trip.  The stove worked flawlessly for the first half or so of the trip.  Then I started experiencing rapid depressurization of the fuel can.  This wasn't the old "pump it periodically while in use for extended periods, especially as the fuel level gets low" thing we're used to from using gas-pump stoves over the years.  Rather, this happened very quickly.  I'd pump it, light it, and have to re-pump it several times to boil a half liter of water (or the burner would fizzle out).  I even tried pumping up some pressure, and letting the can sit without even having the burner attached.  A few minutes later I opened the cap & there was no pressure.  I tried pump cup oil and thought that solved the problem, but it returned.  I also tried replacing the pump cup itself.  No dice.  Finally I replaced the little plastic/spring part at the bottom of the pump.  The old one had a flat piece of rubber on the inner end.  The replacement had a more rounded one.  The stove worked OK after that.  This was a Really Big Deal because a complete failure would have ended my trip (or necessitated a difficult exit to a town where I might or might not find a replacement).

Frogg Toggs Ultra Light 2

This is another of those items where I have mixed feelings.  On one hand it is very light (12 oz for size Medium pant AND jacket).  And it's relatively compact for packing.  However, depending on your intended usage, it may or may not be satisfactory in terms of keeping you dry.  I found if I stood still in the rain, didn't touch anything (e.g. don't sit down), and don't wear a pack, and face away from the rain, I'd stay dry.    However what I found is that anyplace where the material makes contact under pressure (sitting down, wearing a pack), moisture accumulates.  This isn't just from sweat - the back of my pants got wet when I sat still on a wet log wearing the Toggs (and I'm pretty sure my buns weren't sweating:).   But when moving, sweat is a real issue too.   Also I found (and tested definitively) that the jacket zipper leaks (my garments underneath got wet behind the zipper while sitting out a storm in camp).  Lastly, one needs to be super careful putting on or taking off a pack while wearing these - otherwise rips & holes will result.  The material has a 'sticky' finish, so it catches on the pack straps & stretches.

I'd consider these to be good "emergency rain gear".  If you want to stop each time it rains, and stand (not sit), it's helpful.  Of for use during typical Sierra summer weather (mostly hot & dry with just an occasional shower at most) it would be fine too.  But I wanted to keep going during extended and persistent showers (otherwise I'd have stood still for 10 of 30 days).  While I was glad to have this along, given my usage I might have benefited from something more durable and waterproof (and breathable).

Gaiters (Salomon S-Lab & Dirty Girl)

I started with the Salomon S-Lab gaiters.   They worked reasonably well, at least for large debris.  Dust still accumulated underneath.  Also they are very low cut, so worn with low-cut socks I felt abrasion on my legs (they actually wore sores in my ankles).  They might have been better with higher-cut socks.  But in any case, they weren't durable to last for the whole trip.  I tried several repairs along the way, but new rips kept appearing.  Finally I noticed Dirty Girl gaiters for sale at the store at Muir Trail Ranch (at about the halfway point).  I bought a pair of totally outrageously patterned Dirty Girls :).  Not only did they generate conversation on almost every day after that, lol, but they actually worked really well.  No dust inside.  No chafing.  No rips.  The only issue was one of the little front-lace hooks came off.  I tried my best sewing skills (haha) using a needle and thread speacock brought to my final resupply, and they were fine after that.  I guess my only other comment is that the outrageous colors were ok on the JMT (if there's a place to stretch one's limits, that's it) ... but for other hikes I think I want to either dye the gaiters black, or if that won't work, then buy a new pair in a more "ordinary" color.  I'm just not much of a pink/yellow/purple kind of guy :).

Platypus Big Zip 2.0L bladder

This worked very well for the most part.  The zip top makes it easier to clean than my old MSR bladder with the screw cap.  And the snap attachment for the drinking hose is ingenious ... making it very easy to remove the bladder from the pack.  However the bladder is very difficult to fill, especially when using a filtration system that requires both hands to operate...  a way to hang the bladder bag would go a long way toward solving this issue.

Sawyer Squeeze filtration system

This whole system, including 3 bags + backflush syrings + filter + storage bag weighs about 7 oz ... less than half the weight of my old pump system, and more compact to boot.  Overall I am very happy with it and plan to continue to use it.  The one questionable area is the durability of the bags.  On my 30 day trip I cycled through 6 or 7 bags (I discarded & replaced older ones at resupply points, using new ones I had shipped with my supplies).  On one of the last few days of the trip I noticed a pinhole in one of the bags where it had gotten crinkled.  Knock on wood(!) I never had a bag just burst/break like I'd read about in some reviews (that would be bad, e.g. if the bladder got contaminated while filling it).  Also it's unknown to me how the bags will perform if used in cold weather.  I used them down to right around freezing with no issues.   The bags are also difficult to fill in situations with shallow (or even still) water, like in a lake.  My workaround was to carry a Smartwater 1L bottle which I used to fill the bags - this worked out great.

REI Sahara Convertible Pants

These seem to be the go-to pants for many JMT hikers going during a normal dry & warm Sierra summer.  They worked well in some respects:  light weight, flexibility to wear either long pants or shorts, quick-drying (when the sun is out).  Unfortunately, given the frequency of the rain I encountered, I often wished I had a second pair of dry warm pants to put on.  When these got wet, they were all I had, so I was stuck with them as they were (cold & wet).  Putting on my Capilene 3 bottoms helped but wasn' a total solution.  

Additionally, while the pant material seems fine, the workmanship is "not as good as one might like".  During my trip the following happened:

- both rear pockets ripped completely open.  I had been carrying my wallet (zip lock) there, containing my drivers license, cash, and various other important items. Fortunately I caught it before it got lost.  I didn't want it in my pack, since it seemed prudent to have at least my ID on my person at all times.  Fortunately the front pockets turned out to be more durable, although I had to obsessively check my pockets to make sure things hadn't fallen out, since the velcro fasteners ripped off.

- the velcro fasteners on both cargo pockets ripped off

- Most of the seam in the "seat" area ripped open.  Lots of other hikers probably got a good view of my underwear from behind until I was able to perform makeshift repairs once I got needle & thread at my last resupply.  But in the interest of "going light" I only had this one pair of pants to wear (I hadn't expected them to disintegrate during normal trail use).  When I pay $65 for a pair of pants I expect better construction quality.  In all of these cases, the failures were due to the stitching coming apart.

I could go on ... my gear list includes some 70 or 80 items.  But I think this covers the most notable of them.


11:55 p.m. on September 19, 2012 (EDT)
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I'm very pleased to report closure on my issue with the Therm-a-rest Z-Lite pad as reported in my previous post.  I contacted Cascade Designs, and they let me send them photos of the worn sections as opposed to having to ship the pad back to them.  They agreed the premature compression wasn't normal, and sent me a new one.  As a bonus, the replacement pad is the newer  "Z-Lite SOL" which has the aluminized surface, advertised to provided 20% more warmth due to heat reflection.  And an even further bonus is that they were very responsive to web/email interaction.  They made the whole process very easy.

I'm very pleased with Cascade Designs support.  I sure hope the premature flattening of the previous pad was an aberration & the new one lasts longer.  I hope to test out the new one Real Soon Now ...

Customer Support (or in many cases, lack thereof) has a very significant impact on my purchase decisions...

9:33 p.m. on September 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Another customer support success story!  I used the Capture Clip to carry my DSLR on the JMT trip.  I had some issues with the clip mechanism binding when inserting & removing the camera.  I sent it to Peak Design to check out, and a couple days later there was a package on my doorstep (hand delivered... they're in San Francisco too).  They replaced some parts with versions that appear to be upgrades from my original model.

Kudos to Peak Design!

Meanwhile, my Nikon DSLR, which I sent in due to an issue where images were "slanted", is at the repair depot in a "parts hold" status (meaning they are waiting for required parts).  On the upside, at least they apparently found the issue.  Plus this is (just barely) a warranty repair (the issue has occurred since I bought the camera almost a year ago, but I didn't get to send it in til now, just weeks before the warranty expires... but the issue seems to be getting worse, plus a friend spurred me on to send it in).  On the downside, forum posts indicate it could be as long as "several months" before I get my camera back.  Waiting with baited breath to see how this one turns out ...

On the satellite messenger front ... (the DeLorme inReach) ... I had issues with it during the trip, and then after the trip I had numerous issues with the GPX file it produced.  I've subsequently done a device firmware update, and an update of the corresponding iPhone app ... so the jury's still out on that one.  I'm hopeful that it'll work better now as I really like the device aside from the issues I experienced.


4:02 p.m. on September 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Hey Bheiser1, This came in while I was up in the Adirondaks. Congratulations. Nice trophy to put on the shelf. Looking forward to reading about the trip.

4:19 p.m. on September 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks JWD.  And it's a good reminder I need to devote some time to the Trip Report... :)

p.s. I made several trips to the Adirondacks before I moved out to CA.  Never backpacked there, but did some car camping and a little bit of hiking.  It's a great area!

June 19, 2018
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