JMT Backpacking Days 10 -12 Palisade Lakes to Forester Pass

Our JMT thru-hike was an amazing experience. We are glad to share the experience here on the Social Hub. You can begin with Day 1, visit our Muir Miles Page for more information or just follow the adventure in this post. Please feel free to comment below letting us know what you think of this JMT experience.

Day 10: Palisade Lakes to Twin Lakes

After a nasty rain storm the night before, we woke up slowly to find many of our items soaked. It was a cool and cloudy morning unlike any other morning we had seen on the trail. We got a slow start but after breakfast we headed towards Mather Pass. It was nothing but long rocky switchbacks to climb from Palisade Lakes to the top of Mather Pass. We slowly made the climb and we once again were rewarded with amazing views.

Palisade Lakes from Mather Pass
Palisade Lakes from Mather Pass

Coming down the south side of Mather Pass was tough on my sore feet since the trail was covered with large rocks but we pushed on with the hopes of climbing Pinchot Pass too. By climbing these two passes (only 10 miles apart) in one day we would set ourselves up for an easy final few days on the trail.

JMT Day 10

While climbing up near the Bench Lake Ranger Station we saw an emergency helicopter circling the area. Someone was being rescued but we could tell what was going on. We continued on to Marjorie Lake where we had planned to swim. Like the day before, the clouds were rolling in and it was too cold to swim.

Day 10 on the JMT

I was worried about getting caught on the pass in a storm so we skipped the swimming and headed straight for Pinchot Pass. We heard one crash of thunder but climbed the pass before any rain fell. At the rocky summit of the pass we relaxed for a while. It felt good to have climbed two passes in one day but there was little time for celebration. We continued into the large valley south of the pass.

JMT views

The area south of Pinchot Pass was drier than the other valleys we’ve been in and the few lakes we did see were far off of the trail. We continued on till we were below tree line then found a nice campsite just off the trail.

We had traveled 17 miles which puts us at 148 miles for the trip.

That evening we had a terrible rainstorm. It rained all night long. We heard from other hikers that a ranger warned them that we were going to get a huge storm with monsoon winds. It rained for 7.5 hours and it rained really hard.

I stayed dry in my Sierra Designs tent but at one point I could feel more than an inch of water running under my tent. Chris’ tent stakes pulled out of the saturated ground and his tent collapsed. It was a less than ideal night to say the very least.

Day 11: Twin Lakes to Rae Lakes

The alarm went off at 5 am. About 30 minutes after I finally fell asleep. We all checke- in to make sure everyone made it through the night then we went back to bed. At about 7:30 I was awoken by Paul talking to some other nearby campers. We were all pretty shocked by the rain and shared stories of what we had to do to get through the night.

JMT Tent
Look at the mud on the side of the tent

We took all of our gear and laid it out in the sunshine. Most of my stuff was fine. My down sleeping bag was damp and the outside of my tent was muddy and soaked.  Chris unfortunately was not as lucky, pretty much everything he had was wet. There was even water inside our bear canisters, how it got there I have no idea.

Drying Off
Drying Off

Luckily the sun came out and our stuff dried while we laughed and made jokes about our terrible night. We finally packed everything up and hit the trail with our latest start of the trip. This late start was not good for packing in miles and we were tired from a bad night of sleep so it was nice that we had covered so many miles the day before.

JMT Waterfalls

The area was dominated by jagged mountain peaks. The heavy storm had filled the rivers and streams with tons of water and we struggled to cross some of the creek crossings with dry feet. We arrived at Rea Lakes in the afternoon. We had covered 11 miles. We were only 2 miles from the top of Glen Pass but we decided to save it for the morning and enjoy a comfortable night at Rea Lakes.

JMT Peaks

We spent a little more time picking out our campsite and carefully examined the places we pitched our tents after such a big storm the night before. But we had a spot right on the lake and we were happy to go to bed early for tomorrow is a new day.

Rea Lakes
Rea Lakes

We had reached a total mileage of 159 miles and were only 36 miles from Mount Whitney.

Day 12: Rea Lakes to Forester Pass

We woke up on the banks of Rae Lakes to clear skies and the full moon setting over the mountain. It was a beautiful morning with crystal clear reflections on the still water. We moved through our morning routine a little slower than usual but got on our way by 7:30 am.

Rea Lakes
Rea Lakes

From Rae Lakes the summit of Glen Pass is just under two miles. We powered up the switchbacks and made good time clearing the pass. Then we dropped down into the next valley and followed a river with many beautiful waterfalls.

Glen Pass
Rea Lakes from Glen Pass

At the mouth of the valley, the trail turned and went up the next valley. We started to gain all of the elevation we had just lost climbing back up for Forester Pass. We had heard from other hikers that Forester Pass at an elevation of nearly 13,200 was really difficult. Our original plan was to camp at a lake near the top of the pass so we could climb it in the morning with fresh legs, but we were feeling good and wanted to put ourselves in the best position to finish the trail on time so we pushed on over the pass.

Backpacking the JMT

The trail was well built and maintained in this area and we easily climbed over the pass and headed for Mount Whitney. Climbing our last pass with two trail days to go put us in a great position and improved our moods. We let out a few screams and yells once we reached the pass as the end of this trail now seems so close.

We followed the trail down the South side of Forester Pass for about 3 miles to camp near a lake. We ended the day with 17 miles giving us 176 miles for the trip and less than 20 miles from the summit of Mount Whitney.

We now felt like we were so close to finishing this trip. I was beginning to worry about missing the trail. I was excited to see my family but after 12 days on the trail there was a piece of me who wanted to continue this lifestyle as long as possible.

Coming Soon: Finishing the Trail Days 13 and 14

Don’t miss the beginning of this adventure:

Days 1-3 Tuolumne Meadows to Crater Creek

Days 4-6 Crater Creek to Muir Trail Ranch

Days 7-9 Muir Trail Ranch to Palisade Lakes

For more information on this JMT adventure check out our Muir Miles Page.

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Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains, burning marshmallows or scratching his dog behind the ear, he shares his experiences here on the Sierra Trading Post Blog.

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