Exclusive First Look At John Muir Trail Documentary

The John Muir Trail is the quintessential American hiking route. Located in California, the 211-mile-long trail runs from the summit of Mt. Whitney in the south to Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley in the north. Along the way it passes through some of the most pristine and spectacular wilderness in all of North America, including Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.

In July of last year, a group of five friends set out to hike the entire length of the trail, documenting the journey as they went. Their trek lasted 25 days and culminated on the 14,505-foot summit of Whitney, where they were joined by an interesting assortment of characters that they met along the way. That same group of backpackers is now preparing to release a documentary about the trail and their experiences on it. They call the 87-minute long film “Mile… Mile & A Half” and as you can tell from the trailer below it looks fantastic.

The filmmakers hope to put the finishing touches on the film in the weeks ahead and get it ready to be shown in adventure film festivals across the country. With that in mind the team has launched a Kickstarter page to help raise funds to complete their project. With a little over a month to go, they’re about halfway to their goal and could use a little help getting over the top.

Thanks to the entire Muir Project team for giving Gadling an exclusive first look at this trailer.

MILE… MILE & A HALF (trailer 2) from The Muir Project on Vimeo.

2012 Summit For Someone registration is now open

Big City Mountaineers, the non-profit organization that provides urban youth with opportunities to build life skills through wilderness mentoring experiences, has announced that registration is now open for their 2012 Summit For Someone program. SFS gives adventurous travelers the opportunity to climb some of the world’s most iconic peaks, while raising funds to support the Big City Mountaineers program.

The process is simple. First, you select a mountain that you’d like to climb, such as Mt. Hood in Oregon or Mt. Whitney in California. Each of the mountains has a pledge value assigned to it ranging from $2400 for alpine rock climbs up to $8500 for a full blown mountaineering expedition. By signing up to climb a particular peak, you agree to raise the pledge amount for Big City Mountaineers. Once you’ve reached that goal, you’ll join a Summit For Someone climb on that mountain.

The SMS website has a full list of 2012 climbs which can be viewed here. Some of the mountains available include Grand Teton in Wyoming, Mt. Rainier in Washington, and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Difficulty levels range from beginner, meaning no mountaineering experience at all, to advanced, which is reserved for those who already have a variety of technical climbing skills. There are a number of intermediate options as well, offering something for everyone.

The beauty of the Summit For Someone program is that it gives travelers an opportunity to take part in a true mountain climb and a real adventure, while also raising funds to support a fantastic youth program. If you’re considering options for travel in 2012, perhaps an SMS trip would be the perfect opportunity for you.

[Photo credit: Walter Siegmund via WikiMedia]

7-year old climbs Mt. Whitney

When he returns to school in a couple of weeks, 7-year old Tyler Armstrong of Yorba Linda, California will have plenty to say when he’s asked “What did you do this summer?”

Tyler recently became the youngest person to climb Mt. Whitney in a single day when he and his father Kevin hiked to the summit in just 7 hours and 50 minutes. Standing 14,505 feet in height, Mt. Whitney is the tallest mountain in the continental United States, and while it isn’t a technical climb, its height still makes it a considerable challenge for many.

The father-son climbing team set out from Base Camp, located at 8500 feet, at 2:05 AM and reached the summit around 9:55 AM. They both recorded their times in the summit log, and enjoyed the view, before turning back down the mountain. The descent wasn’t much easier than the climb however, as the return trip required more than nine hours to complete.

Kevin says Tyler first became interested in climbing Whitney after hearing him talk about how he had hiked the mountain with his father when he was 11 years old. While that was a memorable experience for Kevin, he adds that it was one of the proudest moments of his life to stand on the summit with his own son.

With a successful climb now under his belt, Tyler is hoping to turn his attention to other mountains in the future. For now, he’s content to stay close to home and hone his skills on other California peaks. But he says in the future he’d like to climb the highest mountain in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro, which stands 19,340 feet in height. Eventually, he’d like to turn his attention on Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world at 29,029 feet.

[Photo credit: Geographer via WikiMedia]

The world’s best hikes

With so much challenging terrain, magnificent vistas, and unique cultural opportunities on the planet, shining a spotlight on the world’s best hikes is a difficult task. After all, there are various styles of hiking fitting different skill levels: some people enjoy long treks, while others like to get in and out in a single day. Some folks enjoy challenging, technical climbs, while others simply like to stroll through nature and appreciate her beauty. What follows is a list of ten of the top hikes in the world, offering a blend of styles that has something for everyone.

Mt Whitney, California

A fortress of peaks stands to the west of the small California town of Lone Pine. Driving north from Los Angeles, the Sierra Nevada range slowly begins to rise from the Mojave Desert and tops out at 14,505 feet on Mt. Whitney‘s summit. As the highest peak in the lower 48, Mt Whitney gets quite a bit of traffic.

This overnight — or very long day hike — requires a permit. Permits are obtained through the forest service and are dolled out by lottery. If you are one of the lucky few to be granted access, you’ll enjoy some of the best high desert views in the states… and perhaps the world.

Salkantay Trek, Peru
The ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu have been stirring spirituality and emotion in visitors since Hiram Bingham rediscovered them in 1911. Most hikers take the standard Inca Trail to reach this stone fortress in the clouds. However, alternate routes are also an option and the Salkantay Trek tops the list.This version of the Inca Trail takes hikers over a 15,000 foot pass and through rural valleys where farming practices are conducted much the same way they were during the time of the Inca empire. The hike ends in the hamlet oft Aguas Calientes known for it’s hot springs. The final day is spent touring Machu Picchu.

Bonus: Huayna Pichhu is the peak seen in the typical tourist photo of Machu Picchu. It can be climbed within a few hours from the main archaeological site.


Timberline Trail, Oregon
When three old college buddies wanted to meet up in Portland and hike the 41 miles circumnavigating Mount Hood, I did not hesitate. Starting out at the Timberline Lodge (the exterior was used in the classic film The Shining), the hike meanders through cool dark forests, across rushing rivers fed by snow melt, and over frozen snow patches.

Several other trails connect to get hikers onto the Timberline Trail. This makes section-hiking from Portland a perfect option for those who don’t want to overnight on the mountains slopes.

Everest Base Camp, Nepal
The expense for the flight and a guided trek in the Everest region may send many hikers into cardiac arrest. But world-class views of massive glaciers, yaks carrying equipment to Everest Base Camp, and quaint villages perched in an ancient landscape quickly make the money factor fade.

The dynamite photo opportunities are enough to keep a trekker’s mind spinning, but many return raving even more about their cultural experiences in this fascinating corner of the world.

Appalachian Trail, North Carolina
The Appalachian Trail is well-worn and easy to follow no matter where you hop on. But on the North Carolina section, good trail conditions aren’t the only thing hikers are treated to.

Beautiful grassy balds and rocking exposed summits provide spectacular views of the Smokies. Easy access from the East coast makes this area a prime day hike or overnight opportunity for many weekend warriors.

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
A few years back, I set out to tackle the Umbwe Route up the western slopes of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. With proper conditioning, this is one of the seven summits that can be notched into the belt of most hikers — if altitude doesn’t wreak havoc on you first.

Trekking through five distinct climate zones is something truly special, as hikers watch their surroundings change each day from lush jungle all the way to glaciated summit.

Zion Narrows, Utah
Slot canyons are narrow gorges carved into the earth by thousands of years of erosion. They are also an awe inspiring place to walk and connect with one’s inner self. Utah’s Zion Narrows has over 16 miles of these slot canyons. The narrows is a perfect place to escape from the bustle of daily life, take in the breathtaking power of nature, and melt into a world of smooth sandstone and intriguing shadow.

Pro tip: Going when dry weather is in the forecast is a must. Many areas are inescapable if a flash flood were to show up.

Haute Route, France/Switzerland
Spending two weeks backpacking Europe after college, the High Alps was by far my favorite stop. The Alps are known for their snow-covered peaks and bright green pastured valleys. This part of Europe evokes visions of fine cheese and expensive watches for the average visitor.

But to hikers, the Haute Route is a life goal. This alpine hike can be done with a light pack by utilizing the hut system dotting the trail. Fine food and fantastic views combine to easily put this trail near the top of any list.

John Muir Trail, California
The John Muir Trail comprises a 223 mile section of the much longer Pacific Crest Trail. Scrambling over Half Dome in Yosemite and ending on the Mt Whitney trail (see above), an ambitious trekker with several weeks off work can bag two of these top 10 hikes in one session.

Camping alongside crystal clear alpine lakes while staring up at the Milky Way makes for the quintessential night in the mountains.

Cinque Terre, Italy
Hiking through vineyards and along sheer granite cliffs the Cinque Terre or “Five Lands” is a foodie’s dream.

Connected by a trail system along the northwest coast of Italy, these five quaint fishing villages allow hikers to walk the trails during the day and indulge with exquisite seafood and fabulous wine after dark. A train from Milan passes each hamlet and can drop visitors off to allow for a one-way hike.

Whether staying state-side or venturing out into the international hiking world, these destinations are a sure-fire way to rejuvenate any work-worn desk jockey, or get them pondering how to make hiking a career path.

Need more inspiration to get outside? Keep reading!

Classic Treks: The John Muir Trail

The U.S. offers plenty of great options for long distance hikers looking for amazing trails to explore. Of course, there are the three epic hikes, The Appalachian Trail, The Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail, all of which extend for at least 2000 miles in length. But for those who don’t have months on end to spend on an extended trek, there are some excellent alternatives that may be shorter in length, but no less scenic and challenging.

Take for example the John Muir Trail, a 211 mile long route that runs in parallel to a section of the PCT from Yosemite Valley to Mt. Whitney in California. Named for the first president of the Sierra Club, the trail passes through some of the most scenic backcountry in the U.S., as it winds its way through the Ansel Adams and John Muir wilderness areas, and across Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park.

One of the great challenges of the JMT is altitude. It passes through a stretch of the Sierra Nevada mountains, rarely dropping below 8000 feet and crosses through six passes, each of which exceed 11,000 feet in in height. It that wasn’t enough, more than 90% of the hikers who cover the route travel north to south, which means they end on the summit of the 14,505 foot tall Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower 48 states. Those same trekkers will also have to deal with another 11 mile hike, dropping 6000 feet in altitude, just to get to the Whitney Portal, and a ride home.

The best time of the year to make the trek is between July and September. In the high passes, snow is a consideration late into the summer, and the weather can be an obstacle at any time. During those months, it tends to be warm on the JMT, but cold weather clothes are needed as a contingency none the less. There are also plenty of bears to be found along the route, and while they are rarely a threat, bear proof storage for your food is a necessity.Speaking of food, unlike the Appalachian Trail or PCT, there are very few places along the John Muir where you can resupply. Road access is at a minimum once you leave one of the trail heads, so be prepared to carry your food with you at all times. Water is generally not a concern however, as it is plentiful in the mountains, although a good water filter is highly recommended.

All told, it will require approximately two to three weeks to hike the JMT from end to end, depending on your pace and if you make any side trips to places such as Half Dome or Vermillion Resort. The hike down to the Whitney Portal will extend your hike as well, even though it is not an official part of the trail. The fact that the trail can be completed in a relatively short time is part of what makes it so popular with backpackers.

A permit is required to make the trek, and they can be obtained from the Federal Recreation Reservation Service. Those hoping to hit the trail are encouraged to get their permits early however, as the wait list can be more than six months in length. But once the permit is obtained, the hikers are good to go, and enjoy one of the best, and most beautiful, trail experiences in the U.S., if not the world.