Trip Report
Walking the John Muir Trail, 2016
Monday September 5, 2016 9:23pm
Some of you met my daughter Stephanie last year at the Facelift and learned of our plan to hike the John Muir Trail (JMT) together this year... we had an aggressive plan to do it fast, but as with all adventures, the plan is a fiction we create to get us out there.

a start
a start
Credit: Ed Hartouni

I'm in the process of writing the whole trip up, 3 parts are written and can be read on the blog associated with my website...

(these takes you to the various pages, you can click on Archives to see the other two entries... in reverse order of course... blog style)

The website will eventually have all the stuff that was up on my old website, though a bit more... and include climbing trip reports that I've written up here, and some that were never published. But this will take some time...

...along with that, I'll put up a bunch of stuff on other topics.

But as I said, right now it's very much a work in progress.

  Trip Report Views: 5,028
Ed Hartouni
About the Author
Ed Hartouni is a trad climber from Livermore, CA.

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the last bivy
  Sep 5, 2016 - 09:31pm PT
I've been thinking of you and your daughter these past days on this trip and good to see you've returned! Looking forward to more on your blog.

Ice climber
  Sep 5, 2016 - 09:47pm PT
Thanks for answering that eternal question

What's up doc?
-Hubert L.

  Sep 5, 2016 - 09:52pm PT
Your JMT sounds like mine. In my failure I got over Whitney and down to guitar lake. There I discovered I was not the only one who could not eat hamburger helper sans hamburger. The marmots would not even sample it. I decided I would sooner or later need to eat something.

  Sep 5, 2016 - 10:04pm PT
Ed - this is great! I enjoy the JMT and life on the trail. I've done it three times - age 20 in 9 days, age 50 in 12 days, and age 60 (solo) in 14 days.

So far unsuccessful in getting either of my adult sons to join me on another hike and I feel I'm running out of summers. I look forward to your write-up.

SC seagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, Moab, Bozeman, the ocean, or ?
  Sep 5, 2016 - 10:17pm PT
This is so wonderful!
I so look forward to all the installments.
Very emotive, very adventuresome....what a great event to share with Steph. I hope she comes to Face Lift this year, too .

Stephen McCabe

Trad climber
near Santa Cruz, CA
  Sep 5, 2016 - 10:56pm PT
Ed, Looking forward to the next installment.

My daughter is so tired of hearing about my JMT trip when I was 17, that she and her husband might do it next year.

Probably the worst meal was when one of our party (not me) got separated and figured, just take out a meal, soak it in water and then boil for 20 minutes. Turned out it was grapenuts. Then again, even the bears wouldn't eat the dehydrated powdered eggs.

Trad climber
No. Tahoe
  Sep 6, 2016 - 06:29am PT
Nice story, Ed. Whatever your reason for exiting early I'm sure the trip was a success.


Social climber
Butterfly Town
  Sep 6, 2016 - 07:32am PT
Thanks so much for the posts, Ed. I look forward to reading more. Looking forward to seeing you at Facelift!

Trad climber
Twain Harte, California
  Sep 6, 2016 - 07:35am PT
Wow, long hikes in gorgeous country with your daughter? What's not to love?

I'm looking forward to more installments too.
ron gomez

Trad climber
  Sep 6, 2016 - 07:59am PT
I hope to enjoy a trip into the backcountry with my two children as wellmsomeday Ed. Treasured time, good or bad!

climber the midst of LA sprawl..
  Sep 6, 2016 - 09:47am PT
I look forward to reading your blogs.

I understand the walk of ... er.. discretion. This late April I was solo backpacking up the Taboose Pass Trail. Combination of lack of hiking fitness (only been bike riding this year), bad weather and late in the day = I was not having fun. I bailed...

One thought- try again in '17 or '18 but give yourself more time? Day 2 goal of 25 miles..? ... holy moly.

One thing that also helps.. if you don'y yet drink the ultra-light Kool Aid... start. Carrying only a 10 or 12 lb base weight helps..

Social climber
  Sep 6, 2016 - 10:45am PT
What a great way to get in some good father daughter time. Great stuff!
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Sep 6, 2016 - 01:55pm PT
Family trips rule!
Thanks Ed,
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Sep 8, 2016 - 06:01pm PT
You're a lucky father, and you have a lucky daughter !!!
Thanks ED!!!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 9, 2016 - 01:13pm PT
I have posted Days 2 and 3

sorry for the slow pace, probably finish this up on the weekend...

Both Stephanie and I get the response about the great daughter-father trip, and while that is part of the fun of it, it is only just a part.

I'm very happy that I get to share this part of my life with her, having another partner to go out on adventures with is super, and especially the fact that this partner is my daughter.

It does fulfill a desire to find more time to be with one another, but anyone who's hiked major miles knows that most of the time you're hiking, and the need to get important things done, like eating, and the fatigue that comes with the day's labor, are not totally conducive to long conversation.

But short conversations can be good too.

Another part is getting in shape for other projects we have, her's are trail running, mine, well that's another story for the future. But nothing gets you in shape like backpacking for days at high altitude in the mountains.

I had the occasion recently to write a remembrance of someone who died, someone who had a great influence on my life. Yin Au was a mechanical engineer who worked at Columbia University's Nevis Labs when I was a graduate student there. His daughter had written an announcement to various people at the lab and stated that she would be delighted to hear any stories we had about Yin.

Her response to my email was at first surprising to me; while Yin had always told his family that he loved his work, that it was the best job in the world, he never talked about what it was he did. This is surprising because I interacted with Yin quite a bit over that time, and it never occurred to me that he didn't talk about it at home.

But then, I probably didn't talk a great deal about what I did at home either... as for the adventures, well there were the pictures to look at, and some stories told, but probably not enough to get an idea of what the trip was all about.

Sharing that with Stephanie was wonderful in that respect. Little things would come up that wouldn't otherwise... often comparing our adventure with others, that wouldn't have happened otherwise.

Anyway, hopefully Stephanie knows more about me, and I have gained a great partner who I am learning more about too!

Debbie holding a 2 year old Stephanie in front of a detector I was bui...
Debbie holding a 2 year old Stephanie in front of a detector I was building and testing during the early part of my graduate school. Yin Au was the engineer who did the mechanical design.
Credit: Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Twain Harte, California
  Sep 9, 2016 - 12:02pm PT
Sounds like a great trip so far. And I was glad to read these words from day three: " didn't really matter what the schedule was now, the trip had taken over the plan."

No problem with that in my book.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Sep 12, 2016 - 12:55am PT
It's a familiar sign of an epic when you don't take any photos (day 2)!
Fortunately Stephanie picked up the slack and started taking the photos.
Big adventure out there - it wouldn't turn out well if I tried it!

It's also very challenging for the ultrarunners.
[graphic removed - too wide - sorry about that! (thanks, QITNL)]

Boulder climber
Salt Lake, UT
  Sep 9, 2016 - 05:22pm PT
Thanks Ed. Well done TR, and brings back many good memories of my backpacking in the Sierra.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Sep 9, 2016 - 05:25pm PT
Good stuff Ed, can't wait to open the links on my laptop!
Mark Force

Trad climber
Ashland, Oregon
  Sep 9, 2016 - 05:33pm PT
Sweet report. thank you!

Ice climber
  Sep 9, 2016 - 05:36pm PT
Thanks again to Ed and to Clint (from CC's link).

I lay down on a rock in the sun to warm up for a bit and I dozed off. A nice middle aged woman sat down next to me and looked at all my gear. She said, ‘Looks like you have some decisions to make.’ I said yes, I am trying to finish this trail but I have a plane to catch that I really can’t miss and tons of work to get back to and I’m trying to decide if I can/should try to make it. She replied, “Why are you here?” I went into a long explanation of how I was running the 225 mile John Muir Trail and I was doing it unsupported and I was trying to set a record. She smiled and looked at me with warm penetrating eyes, “But why are you here”. And then she just got up and walked away...

Congrats to all the ultra-folks.

It would be interesting to see a graph of enjoyment index (defined however) vs. time to complete.

The mountains are calling and I must go.
-John Muir

Scottish people have notoriously good ears.

Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  Sep 9, 2016 - 08:46pm PT
Awesome Ed thanks for the posting, I'm looking forward to reading all of your're a great dad.

The JMT has a special place in my heart, I hiked it with my 16 year old high school climbing buddies in 1968. It was a magical summer for me and back then the objective wasn't how fast you could do it but how slow you could in order to spend as much time as possible away from the machine and in the mountains.

We spent 28 days on the trail not including our hike out at Lake Edison for our second two weeks of food. Back then we carried no stove, cooking all our meals on open fires. We had simple tube tents if it rained and threw our jeans and sweatshirts under our bags to sleep under the stars. We fished every day to supplement our poorly planned meals, swam in the cold waters and laughed in the sun.

We were kids and shared camp fires with amazing people from Vietnam combat vets, the rare for the time female solo hiker, professional photographers, wranglers and many interesting contemporary travelers of those days. The world had gone crazy and the mountains were a refuge. We'd watch phantom jets in missing formations roar down the crest, a reminder for what awaited us boys becoming of age. It was an extraordinary time, a different era, no permits required.....we felt so free for those 4 short weeks.

I've had the opportunity to hike portions of it with my two sons, crashing in the same old camps laying awake remembering with both amusement and sadness our youthful and idealistic conversations about what awaited us in life. Reading your post got me thinking about Roy who is long gone and to reach out to Craig suggesting a 50 year anniversary hike in 2018, ha maybe we'll take the whole summer!!!

Thanks again Ed, keep them coming.

Charlie D.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 10, 2016 - 01:32am PT
Day 4 is up...
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Sep 10, 2016 - 04:26am PT
Damn, putting in a lot of miles every day
Looking forward to the pics

Escondido, CA
  Sep 10, 2016 - 10:37am PT
Ed, first off, thanks for this thread and the links to the blog posts detailing your JMT trip. It is timely for me as I am thinking about just such a trip in the very near future.

You may not remember, but we met briefly for a day of bouldering at Mt. Woodson a few years back. I had only just recovered from an Achilles tendon rupture/surgical repair, and it was one of my first forays back to the vertical. You and scruffy and some friends were at the Baby Robbins/Jaws boulder and kindly offered me a belay and some company.

Thru-hiking has never been on my radar. But in a perverse sort of "historical-replay", I find myself recovering from yet another ruptured tendon/surgical repair, this time of the Patellar tendon, torn in a bad stumble while fishing, of all things. (If ever there was a freak accident... By all accounts I shouldn't even have been at the lake that day, but my adult son had called and said he had the day off, and did I want to go fishing. Having lost my father too soon, of course I want to spend as much time with my son as possible, and so I said yes.)

Anyway, in both instances of healing, I've found that setting a goal has helped immensely in achieving a faster and more thorough recovery. With the Achilles, it was to get back to climbing, and back into the mountains to complete the 14ners in California (5 left to go!). This time, as luck would have it, my long time climbing partner and another good friend with years of back country experience have expressed an interest in hiking the JMT. As I mentioned, long days of hiking for an extended period just for the sake of going from point A to point B has never rung my bell. But for some reason, the thought of this as a goal to recovery of the Patellar repair has taken hold.

And although not quite as old and decrepit as you (a phrase made totally in jest, as quite obviously anyone who can still do that many miles with a pack is in no way decrepit!), all of us are over our best years by a few decades, and each of us (mostly me!) has some physical damage to drag along with us. And so I find this thread and your blog posts most apropos and inspiring.

So thanks once again for posting. I look forward to the rest of the story.
Timid TopRope

Social climber
the land of Pale Ale
  Sep 10, 2016 - 03:34pm PT
Enjoying your installments. I'm going to guess your body and cardiovascular got stronger day by day. Bringing back lots of memories in that northern section. Keep em coming.
SC seagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, Moab, Bozeman, the ocean, or ?
  Sep 10, 2016 - 04:06pm PT
Really enjoying!
I love the part about having a "nose breathing" back packing days! Makes me wonder what my proportion of gasping vs nose breathing I have on some trips....I have a rough idea....well it's all about getting air!
I, too, have a Neo Air. I find it as comfortable as any car camping pad. I'm very happy with mine...well worth the price.

Your web/blog site is very lovely. I like the layout, your pictures and the font choice is very easy on the eyes. I almost feel like I'm in a big comfortable chair when I read your posts. Nice job!

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 11, 2016 - 01:38am PT
Day 5


thanks for all the comments!

Tami - we had a great time that day! so happy to have been able to help out!

DonC - I wonder if you were the first to give me the idea for doing the JMT, and quickly! Hope you get to do it with your sons someday.

mntyoung - you're PCT posts have been very enjoyable, even more because we see you daughters growing up to become amazing women.

Charlie D. - it would be awesome to reconnect and repeat the hike, and if it takes the whole summer so much the better!

bajaandy - sorry to hear about your injuries, I remember meeting you at the Woodson get together, at that time I was slowly recovering from my back injury. Here you are, 3/19/2010 on some bolder problem I forget the name of...

Credit: Ed Hartouni

...that trip I didn't know if I would ever be able to climb again.

Stephanie is planning on being at the Facelift on the weekend, so you can get the real story from her!

  Sep 11, 2016 - 06:54pm PT

This is most enjoyable! Thank you!

A few cool things of note, that I really like:
-the occasional (and valuable!) gear reviews;
-the capitalization of the "Sun;" and
-I can hear your voice as I'm reading! (When is the release for the audio version?!)


Social climber
CHC, en zed
  Sep 11, 2016 - 06:56pm PT
Loving the TR Ed. Keep 'em coming.

Cleo and I spent 4 days hiking through the Evolution Basin over Labor Day and it was great. We saw lots of JMT hikers nearing the end of their trip on our 3rd day.

  Sep 12, 2016 - 09:50am PT
Great stuff, Ed.

Social climber
  Sep 12, 2016 - 12:28am PT
THAT is Baby Robbins BajaAndy (I think that is who is on it) is on.

Nice stuff. I'm enjoying this trip vicariously. Hopefully I can get my daughter to do something like this one day.

  Sep 12, 2016 - 06:24am PT
Bump. Just because. Wish I had time to actually read it.

Social climber
Lida Junction
  Sep 12, 2016 - 07:58am PT
Nice report Ed. I remember that stretch of the JMT between Shadow Lake, and Reds Meadow as being dusty, and mosquito laden.
I can certainly relate to your lack of appetite. When ever I have physically exerted myself, the last thing I want to do is eat something.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Sep 12, 2016 - 12:46pm PT
Such a great trip, so well-planned. Gridwell would approve that.

"Positively Muir Trail," as Bob Dylan might say.

Looking forward to seeing you at Facelift, Ed.

Social climber
  Sep 12, 2016 - 01:51pm PT
Cool TR, luv the high country. I saw your JMT Day 3, August 9, 2016 and this photo at the Donohue Pass sign...
photo not found
Missing photo ID#470621

It sure changed from when I did it...
photo not found
Missing photo ID#470622
Note the Levi jacket!

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 14, 2016 - 12:00am PT
just posted Day 6 to the blog
Stephen McCabe

Trad climber
near Santa Cruz, CA
  Sep 14, 2016 - 02:11am PT
People have given me a bit of food when I was backpacking, but I never ran into a free taco truck. I guess that taco truck on every corner thing is going to come true. Cool. Thanks for the latest installment.

climber the midst of LA sprawl..
  Sep 14, 2016 - 06:43am PT
Ed- pretty funny you the Muir Taco Hut crew. My buddy is one of 'em, and I met up with her for some hiking the day or two after you saw them...

The taco truck's original goal earlier this year was to set up shop at Muir Pass hut. They ended up at Evolution Lake instead. Carrying the fixins over Lamarck Col was a chore. One of the crew is friends with the horse- packer, so they got the stuff for Purple Lake hauled in for free...
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Sep 14, 2016 - 04:05pm PT
Ed this is awesomeness!

Have you applied a surgical weight reduction plan to your gear, ultralight sleeping bag and tent etc????

It might help you hiker farther with less effort!
Light is right!

Trad climber
Tracy, CA
  Sep 14, 2016 - 05:02pm PT
Enjoying the trip report.

Wish I'd have had tacos on our trip last year.

I had the good fortune to be able to hike this, along with the High Sierra Trail, last year. I wrote a very brief report at

Haven't seen you around work since I saw this thread, though it'd be interesting to swap stories. Maybe at FaceLift?
Mur of Opotrepus

  Sep 14, 2016 - 06:11pm PT
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 15, 2016 - 12:20am PT
I'll be at the Facelift next week...

The discussion at the end of Day 6

and Day 7
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 15, 2016 - 10:26pm PT
Day 8

and some statistics and observations

Mountain climber
Portland, OR
  Sep 16, 2016 - 10:14am PT
I really enjoyed this TR! I do a big backpack trip each summer with my daughter Jamie every year. Over the past three summers we have explored the Titcomb Basin in the Winds, done the Evolution Loop from North Lake to South Lake, and this summer spent 8 days in the 6o Lakes Basin and Gardiner Basin.

I am 68, with bad knees and back from years of heavy construction and heavy expedition packs, so we plan our trips accordingly. We limit the daily miles, embrace the ultralight ethic, and plan our off-trail travel to avoid killer rock-hopping descents.

This summer we did a great off-trail approach into the 60 Lakes Basin, set up a basecamp, and spent three days exploring the tarns, lakes and ridges around Mt. Cotter and Mt. Clarence King. Long thru-hikes are out for me... my knees wont go there. But I can still do 50 - 60 miles over a weeks time, and spend quality time with my little girl in amazing places.


60 Lakes TR:

  Sep 16, 2016 - 09:20pm PT
We used one provision stop at Vermillian Resort and our packs were around 15 and 30 pounds (including two black bear cans) after cutting away eveything that was not needed. We took no stove or dishes thereby cutting time in camp. and ate hummus on crackers the whole way. I still like it but PT won't touch it even to this day, 16 years later. But then I still like rolled oats after eating that nearly every day for 70 years. The days when I can do this are over. Makes a great memory tho.

I still like Blake Woods' account of his fastpack trip. When too tired to run he lay down on a rock. And when too cold to sleep he ran. Is it possible to live more simply?

Gym climber
It's not rocket surgery
  Sep 16, 2016 - 09:53pm PT
So Fine Ed, Thanks!

Social climber
joshua tree
  Sep 16, 2016 - 10:30pm PT
Great read, Ed! Thanks for the insight. my daughter is only 10. so i'm gettin prepared.
SC seagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, Moab, Bozeman, the ocean, or ?
  Oct 12, 2016 - 04:30pm PT
Spending some adventurous times recently with my niece, nephew and son made me go back and read these reports again in a single setting.

It prompted me to think about the special connections that take place doing something adventurous with our adult children.

Not just the adventure but the connections and relationships and how those connections have grown into another wonderful "stage". Very treasured as time and body robustness wind down.


  Oct 12, 2016 - 04:44pm PT
Thanks for the bump, missed this.

Nice work getting out there, Ed. Especially with family. Thanks for posting the pics and prose. Good fodder for pushing the curious toward actually doing it one day.


Dazed, Confused
  Oct 12, 2016 - 06:19pm PT
Credit: Nick
One of my fondest memories is doing the JMT with my daughter. Glad you had a great experience...We climbed with you one day up in the Meadows a few years ago.

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
  Oct 12, 2016 - 07:55pm PT
Well done, the both of you. Beautiful bright images.
Stone Cowboy

Trad climber
Livermore, CA.
  May 5, 2018 - 09:29am PT

Just livin' the dream
  May 5, 2018 - 07:24pm PT
Thanks for the bump, Stone Cowboy.

Inspiring TR, Ed. Great story and even better photos.

Glad you didn't get kicked by that mule. :-)
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