Gear List: Yosemite High Route + PCT/JMT in July

For several years my High Sierra guided trips have been in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park in September, when conditions are predictably comfortable (mild days, crisp nights, little precipitation, and no bugs or wildfire smoke) and when there is less backcountry traffic. But for a change in scenery, this year I scheduled them in Yosemite in early-summer, July 12-26.

The 3-day Fundamentals courses will play outside of Tuolumne Meadows, while the 5- and 7-day Adventure trips will undertake sections of the Yosemite High Route. All the itineraries utilize the John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, which are thoroughfares in this area.

For these trails and routes at this time of year, what clothing and equipment do I use and recommend? Here is my gear list:

Finger Peaks in upper Piute Creek, below Burro Pass

Environmental & route conditions

My gear reflects the likely conditions, and I make tweaks to it throughout the season. If you compare this gear list to my Yosemite High Route gear list for late-summer, you will notice major differences in my clothing, for example.

Temperatures & precipitation. Recently the NCEI website has not been fully operational, so I can’t link to exact historical weather data. At a later date, try Hetch Hetchy, Ellery Lake, and Gem Lake for relevant sources. Based on personal experience, I’m expecting daytime highs in the 60’s/70’s and nighttime lows in the 30’s. July is a dry month, with less than an inch of precipitation, usually during predictable and short-lived afternoon thunderstorms.

Daylight. Since we’re just three to five weeks beyond the summer solstice, the days will be long and the nights will be short. On July 12 in the nearby town of Bridgeport, civil twilight starts at 5:13 AM and ends at 8:52 PM, amounting to 15.5 hours of usable light; on July 26, there is still over 15 hours of daylight. In reality, we’ll have a little bit less due to the mountainous topography and occasional cloud cover. The full moon is July 16.

Footing. After a normal winter, the snowpack has mostly melted off by the solstice. The trails are on mineral sand (and not yet dusty) or granite slabs, and sometimes have extensive rock work. Off-trail travel is blissful: open forest, firm tundra and meadows (possibly water-logged), granite slabs, and sometimes talus. After an exceptionally wet winter like 2018-19, we’re expecting June-like conditions, with standing water, snow-covered passes, and perhaps lingering snowpack in high, shady, and leeward areas.

Vegetation. The subalpine forest consists of open lodgepole pine and hemlock, and transitions to alpine at about 10,000 feet. Knee-high willow may be found in wet alpine areas; usually, it’s easily penetrable.

Navigational aids. The trails are not blazed, but they are easy to follow; all junctions are marked. Clear skies, open views, and distinct topography are the norm in Yosemite, so terrain association is easy.

Sun exposure. We expect intense sunlight. The sun is high in the sky; we’re at high altitudes (8,000+ feet); clear skies are common; and lingering snowpack will reflect the sun from below, too.

Water availability. All mapped creeks and lakes will have ample high quality water. Many unmapped seasonal sources will probably be wet, too.

Problematic wildlife. Black bears are notoriously skilled food thieves. Per NPS regulations, all backcountry campers must carry a portable bear-resistant hard-sided canister.

Biting insects. Mosquito pressure will be heavy in the mornings and evenings, and lighter or non-existent during the day. In addition to proper clothing and shelter, this factor can be mitigated by deliberate campsite selection and by selecting routes that are relatively dry and breezy.

Remoteness. The Yosemite high country is vast, and it’s easy to get 20 to 30 miles away from the closest trailhead. In these remote pockets, traffic is light, especially when off-trail. Cell service is rare and unreliable.

Hazards. The spring runoff normally peaks in late-May and early-June, but will still be high in July after wet winters. Many creek crossings in the Yosemite backcountry are not bridged. Monsoon storms pose another hazard, specifically in the form of lightning, short-lived but torrential precipitation, and rapid decrease in ambient temperature.

Overlooking Roosevelt Lake, on the descent from Don’t Be A Smart Pass

Gear List: Yosemite High Route, Pacific Crest + John Muir Trails in July

Conditions along the Yosemite High Route and the PCT/JMT are mostly identical, so my gear list is mostly the same, too. On the Yosemite High Route, I might be more conservative with a marginal forecast, because the route is generally higher and more exposed.

Summary

When I was on the Yosemite High Route last August, my based weight was 14.7 pounds, or 2.6 pounds less. The difference is explained by one addition (ice axe, +14 oz) and several swaps (ULA Catalyst +10 oz, BV500 +8 oz, SD High Route +8 oz) since I’m in a guide capacity this time around.

The total cost is still completely inflated. Shop the holiday sales (usually 20 percent off a full-price item) and clearance; find less expensive substitutes; and eliminate pricey and extraneous items.


Full list

To make this list more viewing-friendly, open it in new window.

If you like the look and organization of my gear list, consider using my 3-season gear list template.


Questions about my selections, or what you should bring? Leave a comment.


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Posted in on July 8, 2019
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17 Comments

  1. Randall Allen on July 8, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    Hello Andrew, Curious about your decision to leave the traction aid/crampons at home. Headed out to a bit of the SEKI loop/JMT in a week and have been concerned. Mostly on Glen and Forester. Are we traveling over different terrain or do I worry to much?

    • Andrew Skurka on July 8, 2019 at 1:59 pm

      To start, definitely read this, https://andrewskurka.com/recommeded-crampons-ice-axe-high-sierra-jmt-pct/.

      I expect my groups to encounter lingering (but decreasing) snow up high, and I’m most concerned about a few steep passes like Stanton, Matterhorn, and Don’t Be A Smart. These are off-trail passes, and there will not be a boot track on them. The lingering snow will be sun-cupped, consolidated, and soft. The crampons would be useful but not essential, whereas the ice axe could become essential if a client (or I) start sliding.

      In your case, you’ll be following a heavily traveled boot track, and the passes are not as consistently steep. Imagine, for example, having to go straight up the chute on Forester because there’s no trail that conveniently cuts across the vertical slope below it, exposing you for only tens of yards rather than several hundred vertical feet. If I were in your shoes, I think I’d probably be more inclined to go with traction over an axe, especially since I like to be hiking early, before the snow has possibly softened up and when yesterday’s boot track is icy.

  2. Lyle Gordon on July 8, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    Andrew, I noticed you’re also wearing the ExOfficio Sandfly pants, in my quest to find light weight, quick drying pants I’ve found these are quite good and have taken them out for a number of trips. However, the cut is pretty terrible (very boxy) and they seem to fit large. It looks like there might be a new version (stock of the “old” one seems extremely limited), I was wondering if you know which model you wear and how you find the fit/sizing? Thanks!

  3. Sean on July 8, 2019 at 4:43 pm

    While temps will be vastly different up where you’re going to be hiking, it looks like the 12th is the start of a heatwave down in the valley. Fresno will be seeing around 105 and then tapering off to around 100 degrees. Usually that results in higher than normal runoff.

    Should be a lovely trip. I envy you all!

    • Andrew Skurka on July 8, 2019 at 6:46 pm

      Fit and fabric is the most important thing with pants. These are definitely on the boxy side, though not as bad as the RailRiders Eco Mesh. My favorite pants still are some Salomons from 2013 — they fit perfectly in all the right places, and are long enough to still cover my ankle when my knee is at a 90-degree. They’re completely worn out though.

    • Andrew Skurka on July 8, 2019 at 6:47 pm

      I’m glad we’ll be up high and not in the Central Valley. Runoff would definitely tick upwards, but only if there’s still plenty of snow up high, which I think there might be still. Water levels have come way down since last month though, indicating the peak flows are behind us.

    • Cathy on July 9, 2019 at 6:29 pm

      Looks like the Sierra Designs Dridown Hoody in the gear list has been discontinued?

      • Andrew Skurka on July 9, 2019 at 8:51 pm

        Looks that way. It was discontinued several years ago, but even this spring it was on clearance on their site.

        The gold standard for this category is the West Mountaineering Hooded Flash. If you can find other options that rival the weight, warmth, and down quality, go for it.

        • Cathy on July 11, 2019 at 7:57 am

          Just checked the price on the WM Hooded Flash. Ouch!

          Looking over the whole Core 13 list, I’d say it’s not far wrong to say that the insulated jacket can easily cost as much as the other 12 combined, unless you find one on very deep discount. This is one category where there are few bargains.

          My own insulated jacket for backpacking cost about $30 on deep sale at JCPenney, but it’s really not adequate for hinge season conditions here in northern New England. I can’t afford to buy a better one at this time. (I have much warmer winter jackets, but they’re too heavy.)

  4. John on July 9, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    Sunscreen? I’m assuming I just missed it somehow as you’re taking sungloves.

    • Andrew Skurka on July 9, 2019 at 8:52 pm

      For sure. Row 138 under skin care.

  5. Spike on July 15, 2019 at 6:23 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    I’m planning on going out of Twin Lakes on August 5 and doing the Kerrick Meadows, Benson Lake, Matterhorn Canyon loop. I am anticipating that I won’t need my micro-spikes, but since you are up there, what do you think?

    Thanks,

    • Andrew Skurka on July 29, 2019 at 9:25 am

      We didn’t need spikes or crampons for these trails as of mid-July. You definitely will not.

  6. Chris on July 18, 2019 at 9:32 am

    You’ll have to let us know how the High Route G2 test went. I had both versions for a week and during windy, wet conditions I came to appreciate the small extras and additional space of the G1. For me the Velcro tabs to keep the wall attached to the pole made a huge difference in the wind. The more substantial clips and anchor points on the G1 were less fiddly when putting it up in less than ideal conditions. There isn’t a large difference in hardware size but I have a better understanding of the thought process when doing the initial design.

    • Andrew Skurka on July 29, 2019 at 9:17 am

      I used the G2 on a 7-day Yosemite trip earlier this month. Its weight makes it more practical as a full shelter (i.e. fly + inner), whereas with G1 I never really want to carry the full kit. But, as you pointed out, G2 does not have the same level of performance in crappy weather: everything is smaller, and it has only 1.5 doors.

      • Spike on July 29, 2019 at 5:36 pm

        Thank you for the info. I will happily leave the microspikes at home. — Spike

  7. Beau Fabry on July 19, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    I actually emailed simblissity about the gaiters never being in stock and they gave me a magic link to order them, got them within a week. YMMV.

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