Disclaimer: I don’t really think I’m going to die. Although, the conditions and terrain are dangerous, I believe that the use of skills and common sense will see us through the hike safely (it’s just going to be as scary as hell).
I knew hiking the John Muir Trail (JMT) would be difficult. I attempted the hike in 2015 and never even made it from our southerly entry point on the Pacific Crest Trail to the JMT. We had to turn around and abandon the hike due to a co-hiker getting Acute Mountain Sickness (the layman’s term is ‘altitude sickness’).
This time, I planned cautiously and decided we should stay in Mammoth Lakes to acclimate at an elevation of 7,880 feet for 5 days before heading out to Horseshoe Meadows (elevation 10,000 feet) for an additional night of acclimation. We also obtained a prescription for Diamox, a medication used to help prevent and treat AMS (as well as the more severe forms of sickness: HAPE and HACE).
We took some easy day ‘hikes’, which were more like strolls, sans packs, and felt like I was breathing through a straw (not one of those ones you use for soda, one of those skinny ones you use for cocktails). I have exercise-induced asthma so, I was really sucking wind (way more than usual). A more ‘vigorous hike’ that involved ascending a mere 400 feet over the course of .4 miles made my legs feel like I had just sprinted a mile. They just weren’t getting the oxygen they needed. The burning and almost spaghetti-like feeling of the legs ensued. (Although it did lessen the further we went along)
Well, crap! Add the 46 pounds of pack I’ll be carrying and I think it’s safe to say that this is going to suck…big time. Then add in the snow, which makes a hike all that much more difficult, and that’s a recipe for sheer misery. Who would have thought that we’d be dealing with this much snow at this time of year? Normally, it wouldn’t be much of an issue, but this past winter the Sierras got way above average snowfall. Oh joy.
Then there’s those things that are not critical to the hike itself, but just plain uncomfortable…like the dry, crusty, snot-bleeds that I have in my nose from the arid air. And the dry scaly lips I have if I don’t slather gobs of Aquaphor on them. I basically feel like a walking desiccant packet.
I’m just hoping that the scenery and the sense of accomplishment from completing something so intense will make it all worth it. (I think it will…fingers crossed…tomorrow we go)