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  1. #1

    Default 2018 JMT thru-hike (Flip-flop out of Onion Valley/Kearsarge Pass Trail)

    JMT flip flop - Kearsarge Pass to Happy Isles/ Kearsarge Pass to Whitney Portal

    My girlfriend and I hiked the JMT in August of 2018. We did a flip-flop out of Kearsarge Pass because permits were relatively easy to obtain. It took us 14 hiking days plus 2 zero days (16 days total). We are making Youtube videos. They are walk by/follow videos without much narration. We tried to label as much as possible so you will know what you're looking at. Campsite gps coordinates are at the end of each video and in the description. Videos will be here (We will upload them as we finish them):

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtT...gOgkk2heBUXvTw

    TRANSPORTATION AND LOGISTICS:

    We flew Southwest Airlines to Reno, NV and drove a Hertz rental car into Mammoth Lakes and used Mammoth Lakes as a "home base". Mammoth was convenient because it had a permitting office in town and had good public transportation. We had obtained permits for Kearsarge to Happy Isles before our hike, but we still needed a permits for Kearsarge to Whitney Portal. We planned to get our other permits when we finished our first leg.From Mammoth we took an early morning ESTA bus to Independence, then a shuttle to the Kearsarge Pass trailhead. The guy at the gas station/deli where the bus drops off can put you in contact with shuttle drivers.

    We stayed at Flower Lakes the first night to try to adjust to the elevation (~10,500 ft). We did Kearsarge Pass the next day to get to the JMT, then headed north to Happy Isles in Yosemite. After reaching Happy Isles, we took a YARTS bus back to Mammoth Lakes and spent a day sorting our maildrop and getting permits to go south from Kearsarge Pass to Mount Whitney. We got lucky with permits and got an exit permit out of Whitney Portal.

    We took the same ESTA bus out of Mammoth as before to get to Independence, then shared a shuttle with another couple to get to the Kearsarge Pass Trailhead. We did Kearsarge Pass again to get to the JMT, then headed south to Mt. Whitney. After summiting Whitney, we hiked down Whitney Portal and hitched a ride to Lone Pine. Our total miles for the day including up and down Whitney was almost 25 miles (a pretty tough day). We stayed the night in Lone Pine, then took a morning ESTA bus to Lancaster, then caught the Antelope Valley Metrolink train to Los Angeles. We were dropped off at Union Station. We flew Southwest Airlines back to Raleigh, NC a few days later.

    There are some benefits to flip-flopping out of Kearsarge. It breaks up the long food carry rather than starting from Horseshoe Meadows. Kearsarge permits are pretty easy to get; they have 24 walk-up permits a day. There is public transportation (on the weekdays!) to get you close to the trailhead.

    There are some drawbacks to flip-flopping out of Kearsarge. You have to do a pretty big pass to get to the JMT (you actually have to do it twice). You have to apply for a permit for each leg of the flip-flop (this did not seem hard at all leaving from Kearsarge). You have added transportation time to get from Happy Isles back to Kearsarge (true with any flip-flop). These drawbacks seemed minor to both of us and we were happy with our decision to flip.

    MAIL DROPS:

    We only did 2 maildrops. We sent 6 days of food to VVR. We also sent 1 maildrop with 2 sections of food in it to Mammoth (6.5 days to make it from Kearsarge to VVR, then 4 days of food to make it from Kearsarge to Mt. Whitney). When we arrived in Mammoth we removed the first sections worth of food from our maildrop and packed it up. We stayed at a M Mammoth Motel so they agreed to hold our last section of food until we came back to town. M Mammoth Motel was a really good home base for us...nice people and centrally located.

    GEAR:

    My baseweight was 12.5 lbs, My girlfriend's baseweight was 11.9 lbs. We both carried a BV450. We both used ULA Ohms that were stripped down, frames were removed, back padding removed...final weights on the packs were about 1.8 lbs. geargrams links are below:

    Hipbone: https://www.geargrams.com/list?id=46460

    MtnGoat: https://www.geargrams.com/list?id=49846

    FOOD AND MAILDROPS:

    We were pretty worried about fire bans; we heard more than once that stoves could be banned when we got out there. We decided to go no-cook so we didn't have to worry about stoves being banned. We ate dried fruit, jerky, high quality mixed nuts, meal bars, and assorted other snack food. We kept up with costs of food and the amount of food per day we consumed and kept it in a spreadsheet. Food is always hard for most people so this spreadsheet may be helpful. A link to our food planner is here:

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...it?usp=sharing

    CONDITIONS: SMOKE, WEATHER, WATER, MOSQUITOES

    Smoke was never an issue for us and we felt lucky. We passed other hikers that were coming from Reds Meadow and some of them were wearing facemasks, but in general I felt like the smoke was only a small inconvenience to most hikers. By the time we descended into Yosemite valley the smoke had cleared and we had blue skies. We only dealt with smoke for about 6 hours (early morning haze outside of Red's Meadow). Yosemite and Tuolumne Meadows were closed when we started our hike, but opened back up about a week into our hike. We got to hike every inch of the JMT and we got to do Kearsarge Pass twice. The trail seemed empty (perhaps because of the threat of smoke this year).

    Weather was really good for us. We had beautiful blue skies for about 2/3 of the trip. Lows were 35-45 F and highs were 75-85 F. Some locals mentioned that the humidity was unusually high, but I'm from the south so it was more than comfortable to me. We did deal with a "monsoon pattern" for 4-6 days. Every day around noon thunderstorms would begin to build. By 4:30 pm the sky would be blue again and everything was dry. We delayed going over Seldon Pass until the next morning because of thunder. This was the only time that weather influenced our hike.

    Water was plentiful. We only had 1 dry stretch in a burn area just south of Red's Meadow. Streams were full and flowing, but were low enough to rock hop over them. We only had to take our shoes off at two crossings.

    Mosquitoes were not an issue, even when we were camped around water. I was worried about them because I am a mosquito magnet. I carried a mosquito net and never wore it. I never carry bug spray. I was bitten less than 5 times the whole trip.

    If you have any specific questions just ask...

  2. #2

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    Thumbs up!

  3. #3

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    How hard was it to get a shuttle in Independence gas station? Did you do any sort of pre work or just show up and call for a shuttle? Looking for beta on getting from LP/Whitney Portal to Onion Valley.

  4. #4

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    It was not hard at all. The owner of the gas station/deli was SUPER helpful by making calls to get a shuttle for any hikers waiting.

    The first time we got to Independence we had 2 shuttles available to us. I think the main thing is being ready to pay for the shuttle. The rate seems to be somewhere between $10 and $20 to get to the trailhead depending on who shuttles you.

    The second time we got a shuttle someone else had a reservation for a shuttle and generously offered for us to join them and we only had to pay the extra per person fee to the shuttle driver which was $15 per person.

  5. #5
    Rain Man's Avatar
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    Just did Kearsarge Pass Trail from JMT to OV this morning. Staying two nights at Mt. Williamson Motel, then back to JMT SOBO to Whitney Portal finishing Friday.
    Last edited by Rain Man; 09-16-2018 at 07:45.
    ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: ... Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit..... Numbers 35

    www.MeetUp.com/NashvilleBackpacker

    .

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rain Man View Post
    Just did Kersarge Pass Trail from JMT to OV this morning. Staying two nights at Mt. Williamson Motel, then back to JMT SOBO to Whitney Portal finishing Friday.
    Wilderness permit becomes invalid if exit wilderness for more than 24 hrs. And only permissible reason for the 24 hrs is to resupply.

    Not trying to change youBut do not want others to think its ok

    Technically, you need a new permit

    This is why mt williamson motel has the hiker deal
    Where they pick up, resupply you maildrop, and get you back....next morning....less than 24 hrs

    Now if you went back to trailhead, entered where you left for a minute, exited again and went back to hotel for another 24 hrs, that would be legal
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 09-15-2018 at 21:10.

  7. #7
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    Hypothetical question:
    Does someone check a hiker out of the Wilderness and back into the Wilderness?
    Wayne

  8. #8

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    What about a shuttle from Lone Pine to Onion Valley Campground?

    Also rock on Rain Man

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by chknfngrs View Post
    What about a shuttle from Lone Pine to Onion Valley Campground?

    Also rock on Rain Man
    https://www.eastsidesierrashuttle.com Used then 3 times on my PCT section hike. Prices are high but they were always on time (or early) and very knowledgeable about anything I alked.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by pafarmboy1 View Post
    https://www.eastsidesierrashuttle.com Used then 3 times on my PCT section hike. Prices are high but they were always on time (or early) and very knowledgeable about anything I alked.
    I saw them and thought their prices were high but I have nothing else to compare them to. If you weee happy with them what else matters tho when it comes to time! Thanks for the endorsement it makes it easier for sure

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by pafarmboy1 View Post
    https://www.eastsidesierrashuttle.com Used then 3 times on my PCT section hike. Prices are high but they were always on time (or early) and very knowledgeable about anything I alked.
    This is the shuttle service that we shared on our second time back to Onion Valley/Kearsarge Pass trailhead. We didnít get the reservation ourselves and the people who shared the shuttle with us insisted we only pay the additional rider fee which was $15 per person. With that said though, the driver was a few minutes early for the pick up from the gas station/deli and they seemed very reliable.

    The ESTA bus does go North on 395 (on weekdays) and stops in Lone Pine so you could get to Independence then get a shuttle to the trailhead. We found the bus was easy to use. This page pretty much has all the info you need for ride planning along 395:

    https://www.estransit.com/connections-for-thru-hikers/



    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

  12. #12

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    Great report, thank you. In regards to the minimal bug conditions and the low temps of 35-45, what were your actual dates? Early or late August?

    It sounds like you flew out with no food but had it waiting for you in Mammoth. Was this the case? Did you not want to check luggage? Just curious.

    How did those dinners you list in your spreadsheet taste cold soaked? Would you go again stove-less?

    Would you choose to Flip/Flop out of Onion Valley again or would Red's Meadow be an option for you as it's closer to your base at Mammoth?

    Appreciate your help. I've really been considering a Flip/Flop and it's great to have your input.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by ADK Walker View Post
    Great report, thank you. In regards to the minimal bug conditions and the low temps of 35-45, what were your actual dates? Early or late August?

    It sounds like you flew out with no food but had it waiting for you in Mammoth. Was this the case? Did you not want to check luggage? Just curious.

    How did those dinners you list in your spreadsheet taste cold soaked? Would you go again stove-less?

    Would you choose to Flip/Flop out of Onion Valley again or would Red's Meadow be an option for you as it's closer to your base at Mammoth?

    Appreciate your help. I've really been considering a Flip/Flop and it's great to have your input.
    We started the hike on August 6th. By the time we got closer to the end of our hike we did notice cooler day and night temps overall. It was in the last few days that my thermometer read 35 degrees while I was walking first thing in the morning, so I think it was probably a few degrees colder even.

    Correct...we shipped our food and the items we could not carry on our flight to our hotel in Mammoth. Generally I want to get in and out of the airport as fast as possible, so we always ship that stuff in advance (with tracking and also confirm with hotel that it arrives before we ever leave home). Then we only need to carry on soft goods in our packs.

    We went no cook so none of those dinners were carried for this hike. I think that dinners sheet just always sits in that food planner spreadsheet. sorry for the confusion there. The food purchase and food per day tabs are actually what we carried for no cook.

    I think for this trail we would go stove-less again, however we would probably change some food items up a little bit, but overall no cook worked out for the JMT.

    I think the flip flop out of Onion Valley did work nicely and I would certainly use that again if I was planning to climb Whitney. It breaks up that long food carry going north toward VVR and it lets you still finish on Whitney if thatís how you want to end your hike.

    We were happy with the decision too because we didnít get permits way in advance. By chance, we got our NOBO permit just 2 weeks before we flew to CA. We had originally thought we would do walk up for both parts of the flip flop.


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  14. #14

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    Thanks! Really appreciate your help.

    Regarding flights - Did you have your return flight already booked out of LAX before you started the hike? Or did you change it from a Reno return flight?

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by ADK Walker View Post
    Thanks! Really appreciate your help.

    Regarding flights - Did you have your return flight already booked out of LAX before you started the hike? Or did you change it from a Reno return flight?
    We went one way to Reno...No return flight when we went out there. We were planning to fly home from Las Vegas actually but by the time we finished:

    a) the flights from Las Vegas were way pricey for some strange reason... like $500 even a week in advance when they were $150-200 all day long just a few days prior

    b) there were no rental cars available when we finished. We finished on a Thursday and there were no cars in Bishop or anywhere else until the following Tuesday and they were $$$$.

    c)LA had cheap flight and we could get there via public transport.

    A word about this though, cautionary tale if you will...you can get to LA using the info in our trip report, this is true. In hindsight we could have done well with a day or two between finishing and making the trip.

    There are A LOT of people and noise associated with that method of getting to LA. At times it was quite stressful for me. This may not be the case for everyone but for me arriving at LA Union station (as well as the train from Lancaster, CA) was probably a too much stimuli after a peaceful stretch in the woods.

    Just be prepared for a dramatic difference in your surroundings and re-entry to non-trail life especially if you make the trip the day after you finish your hike.



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  16. #16
    GSMNP 900 Miler
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    Quote Originally Posted by Venchka View Post
    Hypothetical question:
    Does someone check a hiker out of the Wilderness and back into the Wilderness?
    Wayne
    The question seems to imply that if there isn't anyone policing the rules, then it's OK to break them.

  17. #17
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    The question seems to imply that if there isn't anyone policing the rules, then it's OK to break them.
    Iím not implying anything.
    Itís a simple question.
    Perhaps a better question would be:
    If the rules arenít enforced, why do they exist?
    But seriously. Never mind. We donít need to go down another rabbit hole.
    Wayne

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    Quote Originally Posted by Venchka View Post
    If the rules arenít enforced, why do they exist?
    Don't know if I have a good answer for that question.

    The question that is easy to answer is "Why are the rules not enforced?"... and the obvious answer is money.
    The other question that is easy to answer is "What is going to happen if people keep breaking the [unenforced] rules?"... and plenty of people will warn you that the answer is "more rules".
    Last edited by HooKooDooKu; 09-17-2018 at 17:33.

  19. #19

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    Many rules in the spirit of conservation and overcrowding make sense but don't have the resources to enforce or it's entirely impractical to do so. For example, when I camp in the middle of the woods on my own, no one is there to tell me not bury all my garbage under a pile of leaves, but I pack it out.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by mtngoat01 View Post
    We went one way to Reno...No return flight when we went out there. We were planning to fly home from Las Vegas actually but by the time we finished:

    a) the flights from Las Vegas were way pricey for some strange reason... like $500 even a week in advance when they were $150-200 all day long just a few days prior

    b) there were no rental cars available when we finished. We finished on a Thursday and there were no cars in Bishop or anywhere else until the following Tuesday and they were $$$$.

    c)LA had cheap flight and we could get there via public transport.

    A word about this though, cautionary tale if you will...you can get to LA using the info in our trip report, this is true. In hindsight we could have done well with a day or two between finishing and making the trip.

    There are A LOT of people and noise associated with that method of getting to LA. At times it was quite stressful for me. This may not be the case for everyone but for me arriving at LA Union station (as well as the train from Lancaster, CA) was probably a too much stimuli after a peaceful stretch in the woods.

    Just be prepared for a dramatic difference in your surroundings and re-entry to non-trail life especially if you make the trip the day after you finish your hike.



    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    Thanks for this. These are the bits of valuable information that are really hard to find just surfing the web and watching YT videos.

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