The Sierra High Route

The Sierra High Route is a roughly 200 mile (depending on how you hike it 195-210 miles are quoted) route in the Sierra Nevada of California. The route loosely parallels the John Muir Trail. It begins at roads end in Kings Canyon National Park, and ends in Yosemite National Park (at Mono Village, Twin Lakes, near Bridgeport). 28 miles of the distance is done on the Muir Trail itself. The bulk of it is cross country travel at a nominal 10,000 foot elevation, aiming to stay above the forest, and below the talus. More than half the route is trailless.

Common estimates are that about 10 people each year hike the route.

Here are some related pages on the web: that I have discovered:

Some extracts from the GORP article

Our campsite were, even by Sierra standards, spectacular.
The camps seem serene, but the days are usually strenuous.
... the high route trekker is always climbing toward a pass or descendidng from one, In fact, three dozen such obstacles are encountered on the whole route.

Roper calls the entire trip a "month long journey". Andrew Skurka managed it in 9 days (thus averaging over 20 miles per day). Roper advises that 6 high route miles be considered as equivalent to about 10 trail miles. He thus suggests 6 days to hike from Kings Canyon to Dusy Basin (35 high route miles, equivalent to 60 trail miles). He says Dusy Basin to the trail head at South Lake is a five hour jaunt.

Roper calls LeConte Canyon "the high country equivalent of Yosemite Valley". He calls the second recess "lush". the summit of Red Slate Mountain provides a sterling view of virtually the entire High Sierra. The High Route traveller can expect to meet more people in the Ritter Range than along any other part of the route.

Roper calls Snow Tongue Pass "perhaps the most demanding section of the entire High Route. I passed over it in early October of 2006, and found it entirely reasonable, but earlier in the season, or in a heavy snow year, it just might be a serious proposition requiring an ice axe.

Roper says, "To my pleasure, but not to my surprise, the timberline country hasn't changed much since I first visited it in 1954". More camping, less damage and less trash. "Backpackers who make the effort to penetrate deep into this realm are likely to respect its purity."

Roper suggests a 50 mile stretch as his favorite, mainly because it does not have too many stretches of talus. Enter via the Pine Creek Pass Trail and descend into French Canyon. Leave the path, pass Merriam Lake to Feather Pass, work through Bear Lakes Basin to Lake Italy, cross Gabbot Pass, descend the second recess to Mono Creek. Up north past Laurel Lake, over the Silver Divide, join the Muir trail at Tully Hole, follow to the Duck Lake turnoff, then cross the crest and descent to the Mammoth Lakes area.

Summer in the High Sierra arrives around July 20. Snow can be a big problem any earlier. (Call a ranger around April 1, and ask about the snowpack). October 20 is a good date to plan on being out of the Sierra.

Hazards

Think about how you will deal with bears, mosquitos, and snow. Early season (June and July) you can expect snow, depending on the year, and maybe an ice axe will be handy. Late season (August and September) expect less snow and more mosquitos. October will be dry, cool, and with few bugs (maybe optimal). There is only one notable river crossing, and an easy one. Then there is the issue of bear canisters, wherein the issue is more about a confrontation with a ranger than one with a bear. The Ursack is a much more sensible option, along with stealth camping and not sleeping where you cook, but it remains to be seen whether they get approved. You must have a canister in the north end of the SHR around Yosemite Park.

Resupply at Reds Meadow if you are doing the whole thing. They have a good system in place for handling resupply packages shipped by people doing the John Muir trail. They are 118 miles north of roads end, and 77 miles south of Mono Village. They charge $25.00 per box.


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Tom's hiking pages / tom@mmto.org