Spring Patrol on the John Muir Trail

By Ranger Haley Bercot

On March 19th, Ranger Jed Friedman and I set out to hike the John Muir Trail from Happy Isles to Nevada Fall. We began our hike at 8am and brought the following supplies:

  • traction devices for shoes and an ice axe
  • shovel and hand saw (for minor trail maintenance)
  • water, snacks
  • trash bags (for our trash and trash found along the way)
  • first aid kit, radio, map, headlamps

The first two miles of trail, from Happy Isles to the lower switchbacks below Clark Point, were entirely snow free; however, snow and ice covered the shaded upper switchbacks. In the morning, the snow was hard packed and slick. We passed this section by kicking in steps, thankful for our traction devices and ice axe. Both of these tools came in handy for the descent as well. We highly recommend visitors prepare themselves for these conditions with waterproof boots, traction devices for shoes, and trekking poles as a bare minimum of required equipment.

Halfway through the snowy traverse, we came across human feces in the middle of the trail. Ranger Jed carried the waste to a snowfree patch of dirt a good distance from trail. Then, he buried it in a hole 10 inches deep. Please follow Leave No Trace principles, even in winter, when you must dig through the snow and down into the soil to deposit your excrement.

From Clark Point, Ranger Jed and I hiked up toward Nevada Fall on the closed segment of trail. Every winter, the "Ice Cut" section of the John Muir Trail is closed due to the high risk of avalanche both above and below the trail and the risk of fatal falls off the sheer cliff.

Images of steep, avalance terrain
The "Ice Cut" has a risk of avalanche (left) and fatal falls (right).
Ranger standing next to steep avalanche chute
Even after several weeks of warm weather in the Valley below, all three hazards were still very present in the Ice Cut. Thus, we decided to turn around and save that final section of trail leading to Nevada Fall for another day.
Map showing route of hike
Yellow line shows the route of the hike.

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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