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MEAN DAYS ON THE TRAIL

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While I find backpacking to be a refreshing experience, it isn't always relaxing! Here are a few of the tougher days on the trail, both in mileage and feet of vertical change. A simple but not universally accepted formula converts both forms of exertion to a common reference point (500' gain equals 1 mile flat); these are in their proper order using that formula. In all cases, the pack began the trip weighing 40-50 pounds; the second and last ones on the list were the last day of their trip, so that had to help...

1989: over Forester Pass, Bighorn Plateau to Crabtree Meadow RS
+3850 -4350 8200' in 15.7 miles
1989: Crabtree RS to Whitney Portal excl. Mt. Whitney summit
+3400 -5700 9100' in 13.6 miles
1997: Pocket Meadow to Tully Lake via Silver Pass, Tully Hole
+4050 -2600 6650' in 11.6 miles
1998: Baptiste Creek to Cross Lake via Hailey Pass, Fremont Trail
+1750 -2050 3800' in ~15 miles
1997: Golden Creek to Pocket Meadow via Mono Creek
+1350 -2850 4200' in 11.0 miles
1996: Marie Lake over Selden Pass to Piute Creek, JMT
+1100 -3575 4675' in 10.4 miles
1996: Royce Falls camp over Pine Creek Pass to trailhead
+1450 -4350 5800' in 9.5 miles
Honorable mention - longest first day!
2001: Rancheria trailhead to Chimney Lake
+2000 -300 2300' in 11 miles?

Of course, for my absolutely meanest day ever on the trail, one must
go back to the 1993 Pine Creek Wipeout.


MEAN DAYS OFF THE TRAIL

While I know of no absolute formula for such matters, it's a fact that five miles without a trail are much more strenuous than the same number on a clear path. Not only is the physical exertion higher, but mental focus needs to be maintained to a higher degree. While traversing level ground doesn't entail much work, watching landmarks to determine the next half-hour's work is still necessary; when terrain turns ugly, every step must be placed carefully! With that in mind, the tough cross-country routes get their own place on the page. I applied a Personal Sweat Factor to each route to account for each one's difficulty, visibility (some are rough trails), and challenge to the skills I had at the time (e.g. Italy '96 has a higher PSF than Lamarck '99 because we had no path and I had less x-c experience). I discounted the weather I experienced, otherwise Lizard Head '98 would be much higher on this list!

1996: Upper Pine Lake to Hilgard Branch via Italy Pass (12400')
+2200 -1900 4100' in ~7 milesPSF 2.0
2000: Evolution Creek to North Lake via Lamarck Col (12900')
+3000 -3300 6300' in ~11 milesPSF 1.75
1999: Dumbbell Lakes to Middle Fork Kings via Cataract Pass (11500')
+700 -2600 3300' in ~6 milesPSF 1.75
1999: Darwin Bench to North Lake via Lamarck Col (12900')
+1500 -3300 4800' in ~8 milesPSF 1.50
1999: Lake Basin to Dumbbell Lakes via Dumbbell Pass (11700')
+1100 -900 2000' in ~5 milesPSF 2.0
1999: South Fork Kings to Lake Basin via Cartridge Pass (11700')
+2200 -1100 3300' in ~6 milesPSF 1.25
1997: Big McGee Lake to Lower Hopkins Lake via Hopkins Pass (11300')
+1000 -1000 2000' in ~5 milesPSF 1.50
1979 & 98: Lizard Head Meadow to Valentine Lake (11900')
+2000 -1400 3400' in ~8 milesPSF 1.25


Sierra values estimated using Mountain Images' Sierra Nevada CDs