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Re: [John Muir Trail] Yet more mistakes

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  • Stuart Dodson
    I keep my key ring Led light on a piece of elastic around my wrist at night so I can sort anything out and find my headlight if needed. ... From: John Ladd
    Message 1 of 15 , Jul 3, 2009
      I keep my key ring Led light on a piece of elastic around my wrist at night so I can sort anything out and find my headlight if needed.

      --- On Thu, 6/25/09, John Ladd <johnladd@...> wrote:

      From: John Ladd <johnladd@...>
      Subject: [John Muir Trail] Yet more mistakes
      To: johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Thursday, June 25, 2009, 6:29 AM

      Every trip seems to include some mistakes, and my recently-completed 9-day in the Selden Pass area was no exception. I thought I'd write them up in hopes that it would make me remember better not to repeat them, and for whatever help it gives others in the group.

      1) I lost my first aid kit and pee bottle due to poor attachment to my backpack. As I was leaving for the morning I realized (late) that it would not fit it inside the pack. I had already packed all the little velcro straps and extra mini-beeners and I didn't want to fish them out. So I just hung it on a strap, telling myself that the plastic would make noise if it dropped. Unfortunately it dropped as I was crossing a side-slope that led on a 45 degree angle down to Heart Lake. I heard it drop, all right, but I then watched it slide down the icy slope and then out onto the thin ice of heart Lake. A goner.

      Lesson: always attach anything to the pack with something that can't come loose. No exceptions.

      2) Which brings me to the bigger mistake. As I was watching the bottle skid onto the ice, I realized that it could have been me sliding down the side-slope. I was following just 2 prior sets of not-too-deep tracks across a very icy slope, walking on the contour, but with a terrible slide down into the lake if I had missed my footing on icy hardpack. I was not carrying an ice ax. I had convinced myself that trekking poles with snow baskets, plus the tracks I was following made it OK, but is retrospect it was a stupid risk. If I had waited an hour or two, the icy snow would have softened up and I could have crossed safely. By the time I realizzed my mistake I was half way across and it would have been more dangerous to turn around than to continue.

      Lesson: Don't do something dangerous just because you want to cover a given distance on a given day.

      3) I planned an over-ambitious day 1 and paid the price the entire trip. The mileage did not look bad, but I failed to consider: 1) I was not starting until early afternoon, 2) I had no altitude adaptation (I went form San Francisco to 9000 feet in the one day, the fact that I was carrying more weight than usual, and 3) the elevation gain was substantial. And by the time I realized I was overtaxed, I was on a long steep section of the JMT that had no camping spots for several miles (not even dry ones and not even for my small bivy). As a result, I had over-use problems with a knee, which turned nasty a few days later when I twisted it coming down in the snow from Selden Pass. I think if I had planned my first day more sensibly, I would have avoided the problem.

      Lesson: look at more than distance - consider whether other factors will make my "usual" mileage unrealistic.

      4) Total embarassment. One night I failed to locate my flashlight before dark and was reduced to borrowing a flashlight from a neighboring hiker in order to find my flashlight (no moon due to late moonrise and clouds).

      Lesson: always keep the flashlight in the same place or make sure you locate it before it gets dark.

      John Ladd

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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