JMT Day 13: Rain, Sun and a Monster!

Rainy LeConte Canyon
Rainy LeConte Canyon

The bad news of the day is that it is still raining when I wake up. The good news is that my tent seems to be pretty unimpressed by the elements, even though it was advertised as well-ventilated.

I am not really keen on hiking in the pouring rain, so I decide to wait for a while. At 7 am the rain stops and we get up quickly.

Campsite at Middle Lake in the morning
Campsite at Middle Lake in the morning

Kevin wants to start cooking breakfast immediately. But as I don’t trust the weather I want to reach lower elevation as soon as possible, just in case it starts raining again.

We hit the trail 45 minutes later – and it does. At first it’s just a drizzle but after some minutes I have to put on my rain jacket for the first time on the trail.

Hiking down LeConte Canyon in the rain
Hiking down LeConte Canyon in the rain

There is a long descent down, nobody seems to be on the trail on this rainy morning. However, suddenly I see a familiar face: The famous Rock Monster of LeConte Canyon!

It is a big rock split in a way that looks like a mouth, small rocks have been added to resemble teeth. Usually hikers climb into the monster’s mouth and have their pictures taken. But I’m alone today and don’t want to wait in the rain.

A familiar face: The rock monster
A familiar face: The rock monster
Blue patches appear in the sky
Blue patches appear in the sky

Getting further down the weather starts changing and the clouds give way to more and more blue patches in the sky. This is the moment when I can’t help but making the decision I wasn’t able to make yesterday evening. Speed up, hike faster and push over Mather Pass today.

Kevin is probably already an hour behind me, he usually is slow on the downhills and probably even more careful in the rain. It’s a pity that I probably won’t see him again and was not able to say goodbye properly. It was very nice hiking with him, but as they say you should hike your own hike.

At this moment it seems like the right thing to do and I feel very comfortable with the decision and relaxed about my food supply.

I tell other hikers (among them the bearded guy we talked to at camp yesterday) to tell Kevin that I will go over Mather today, but I guess he will figure that out by himself anyway.

LeConte Canyon
LeConte Canyon

Deep down in the valley at Grouse Meadows I finally stop for breakfast. I will now need a lot of energy on the long climb to Mather Pass which will bring me from 8000 to over 12000 feet.

At Grouse Meadows - time for breakfast
At Grouse Meadows – time for breakfast

At the intersection at the lowest point for today I chat for a while with a redhead whom I’ve seen a couple of times before – at VVR and hiking up Evolution Creek. Her name is Melissa and she is heading for Lower Palisade Lake today.

Deer on the trail
Deer on the trail
Along the John Muir Trail
Along the John Muir Trail
Hiking up Palisade Creek
Hiking up Palisade Creek
Palisade Creek
Palisade Creek
Forest
Forest

The path up Palisade Creek is a nicely graded hike for some miles until I reach Deer Meadow. Kevin mentioned that he’d like to camp there. So I (try to) leave a message for him on the trail. He should not be able to miss it – if it is still there when he passes the spot.

I’ve seen these little notes to other hikers for a couple of times on the trail, so I guess this should work. Well, unless it starts raining in the next hour or so…

"Sending" a message
„Sending“ a message

Now the tough part of the climb is ahead: The Golden Staircase, numerous – but quite scenic, I admit – switchbacks leading up to Palisade Lakes.

Golden Staircase - tough climb ahead!
Golden Staircase – tough climb ahead!
Looking back out Palisade Valley
Looking back out Palisade Valley
Switchbacks of the Golden Staircase
Switchbacks of the Golden Staircase

Speaking of rain: At the end of the switchbacks an afternoon thunderstorm catches up. Hence today is not only the first but also the second time I need the rain jacket. But this time it is over after a few minutes.

Thunderstorm catching up
Thunderstorm catching up
The trail taking a scenic turn
The trail taking a scenic turn
Arriving at Lower Palisade Lake
Arriving at Lower Palisade Lake
Lower Palisade Lake
Lower Palisade Lake
Lower Palisade Lake
Lower Palisade Lake
A typical "bridge" on this section of the trail
A typical „bridge“ on this section of the trail

At Upper Palisade Lake I spot a nice campsite very close to the trail and decide to tackle Mather Pass tomorrow morning. Today the pass looks rather uninviting with the cloudy sky. In addition I don’t know how far I’d have to walk for the next good campsite on the other side of the pass.

Upper Palisade Lake
Upper Palisade Lake

In the evening I spend some time studying the maps, it is only 61 more miles to Mount Whitney. This is the first time I realise that my JMT hike is slowly coming to an end. How many days will I need for that? Four? Five?

My first solo campsite - only feet away from the trail
My first solo campsite – only feet away from the trail

For dinner I have a Mountain House Chicken Teriyaki with Rice. Whatever that is, it tastes quite nicely! I was afraid to get sick of the freeze dried food soon, but so far I can still enjoy it.

According to my altimeter I camp at 10920 feet (3330 m) once again my highest campsite so far. And it is my first solo night. Still I sleep quite well and wake up to cosy 9°C (48°F) in the tent.

Distance hiked on JMT: 21.5 mi / 34.6 km
Elevation gained: 2700 feet / 900 m
Time spent hiking (including breaks): 10:00 h (estimated)

Maps of Day 13:

Middle Lake - LeConte Canyon - Golden Staircase - Upper Palisade Lake (part 1)
Middle Lake – LeConte Canyon – Golden Staircase – Upper Palisade Lake (part 1)
Middle Lake - LeConte Canyon - Golden Staircase - Upper Palisade Lake (part 2)
Middle Lake – LeConte Canyon – Golden Staircase – Upper Palisade Lake (part 2)
Middle Lake - LeConte Canyon - Golden Staircase - Upper Palisade Lake (part 3)
Middle Lake – LeConte Canyon – Golden Staircase – Upper Palisade Lake (part 3)
<<< Day 12: Muir Pass <<< Day 13 >>> Day 14: Mather Pass – Epic! >>>


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