Stay on Track with Galileo

Hiking the John Muir Trail in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains with a Galileo-enabled phone

The John Muir Trail is considered to be one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world. From its start in Yosemite Valley to its end point at an elevation of 4,421 metres on the summit of Mount Whitney, the trail winds through 338.6 km of alpine and rugged high-mountain landscapes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Lying almost entirely in designated wilderness, the trail is a challenge even for experienced hikers, so a GNSS-enabled device is a big help in terms of safety. In this blog you can follow my progress as I hike along the trail, using a Galileo-enabled phone to keep on track. I will also compare the positioning provided by the Galileo phone with that of a similar GPS device, to showcase the benefits that Galileo offers in terms of accuracy.

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Sense of an ending

This will be my final post. Today I crossed Glen Pass (a demanding series of switchbacks rewarded by a stunning view over the Sierras) and am currently camped by the Bullfrog Lake trailhead. This is the trail I will take to hike out to Onion Valley, from where I will hitch a ride to Independence, CA, marking the end of an exhausting but exhilarating journey. Thank you for following as I stayed ‘On Track with Galileo’. I will tweet photos to #OnTrackWithGalileo as soon as I can. Happy trails!

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A creature of habit

Life on the trail has developed its own rhythm – the quick dash to pack up and be off in the icy mornings, the long walks in the sun, choosing a spot to camp in the evening, cooking dinner on a camp stove (getting sick of mashed potatoes), then bed at 20:00. I get up at 6:00 and repeat. This rhythm is somehow cathartic. I feel like I have been out here for much longer than 2 weeks. I realise that the end is looming and am ambivalent about this. I am looking forward to getting back to civilization (and a hot shower) but will miss the slow pace of life on the trail. Today. I walked through a patch of Jeffrey pine – they smell like caramel. Tomorrow I am heading up to Glen Pass.

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A tough day

Mather Pass turned out to be anything but easy. It was a tough slog up to the pass, with a number of tricky snow bridges and icy slopes. I had to get out my microspikes for the first time. Eventually made it to the top – an amazing view back over the valley I had just hiked and forward over the valley ahead. There followed a long walk along the valley floor and a final climb, to be ready for Pinchot Pass in the morning. The sun is blazing, so I have been taking water from almost every stream I pass. Am currently camped om a rocky plateau waiting for the sun to set, so I can get to sleep.

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A little experiment

I had planned to conduct a little experiment while on the trail – to see if I could show the accuracy gain of a multi-constellation system (Galileo + GPS) versus a single constellation (GPS alone). But it wasn't easy to find a reliable reference point in the wilderness. However, I have repeatedly found that the multi system is quicker to find a signal, and is able to find a signal when the single system is not. This has proved to be very useful. Tonight I am perched above Palisade Lakes, ready to tackle Mather Pass in the morning. Reports from hikers coming the other way range from ‘easy’ to ‘treacherous’. I will let you know.

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La vie gourmande

Food plays a key role in the organization of a trip like this. I had a resupply a couple of days ago. This was basically a bucket of food that I ordered online and had mailed to a collection point on the trail (it was brought in by boat). Food accounts for most of the weight in my pack and is the main restrictive element on a trek – at some point the calories spent carrying the food will exceed its calorific content. I started with 8 days' worth and the resupply was for the same, so my pack is again heavy. I felt this today – a tough hike over Muir Pass and down 3000 feet to Grouse Meadow. Found a good (but really cold) swimming hole in the meadow – a perfect end to a sweltering day

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