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Advice for High Sierra Trail
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Ryan Klym
(breaks) - F

Locale: Flat Ohio
Advice for High Sierra Trail on 04/07/2009 10:34:01 MDT Print View

Hi all, a few pals and I are headed to the Sierras in late July to hike the High Sierra Trail. We've got most everything planned out, but I've had a few things nagging me that I am hoping to get some opinions on.

First is bear canister. They are required on the route if you do not plan on staying at campsites that have lockers (at least according to NPS office I called). I like the idea of freedom and being able to stop wherever to camp, but do not like the idea of a 2lb canister in my Conduit, nor the cost to buy it or do a mail-in rental. (Renting from NPS would be tough b/c we enter at Crescent Meadow via LAX and exit at Lone Pine, then bus to Reno airport)

We know in the least we are taking 1 canister as we'll need it for our last night, so could stuff our last day of food in one and either hang or sink anything leftover in OP sacks.

Are the campsites along the route decent, or should we expect them to be crowded, over-used, etc?

Second, I'm trying to zero in on clothing to take - assuming shorts and tshirt all day, then midweight baselayer pants, l/s midweight shirt, and down vest for evenings/mornings and taking a 15F bag (I sleep like a snowman). More worried about the nighttime temps obviously, so does that sound reasonable?

Appreciate any thoughts you may have on these! This is our first trip to the Sierras, so we're very excited!


Kent C.
(kent) - M

Locale: High Sierra
Temps on 04/08/2009 02:08:30 MDT Print View

Re clothing: Sounds very reasonable, especially if you're early to bed (in bag - for warmth). If you like to stay up late, might want to trade up from vest to jacket.

minor note - late July is the beginning of "monsoon". (Not sure if that's actually our local meteorologists' description, but it fits). Anyway, subtropical depressions begin to push up from Mexico, so be sure you're ready for some late-day/early evening rain. Usually ends with nightfall.

The High Sierra's are fantastic! Enjoy your trip!

Ryan Klym
(breaks) - F

Locale: Flat Ohio
RE: on 04/08/2009 08:35:51 MDT Print View

Thanks for the tip! I have been debating on the vest (feather friends helios) vs. a fleece pullover that weighs about the same. I'm taking a good rain jacket, so with your comments, i may bag the vest, take the fleece, and plan on wearing the rain jacket in the evenings as well.

We have been known to stay up around the fire, have a stogie and a nip of whiskey from time to time! ;)

(No, we're not "model" UL hikers haha)

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: RE: on 04/08/2009 08:57:00 MDT Print View

You might get by with a vest if you have heavy weight base layers. Keep in mind that those "monsoon" thundershowers can get pretty intense. The temp. will drop and you could recieve hail, heavy rain, and possibly a little snow, depending on the elevation that you are at. Keep an eye on clouds and how they are forming throughout the day. Passes can be an experience if you are not careful. Other than that, have a nice trip. Oh and the cannisters. Bring one. If you are caught camping without one in an area without those lockers....You will be fined and walked out. I have on a few occasions been asked if I had a cannister in the backcountry

Jeremy Pendrey
(Pendrey) - MLife

Locale: California
Re: Advice for High Sierra Trail on 04/08/2009 18:22:12 MDT Print View

I hiked it in Sept. 2007 and I ran into people hiking without a bear can and using only campsites that had boxes, but I don't know if they were supposed to do it that way. There are quite a few along the way. Off the top of my head, I know that in 2007 there were boxes at Bearpaw, Lake Hamilton, Moraine Lake, Kern Hot Springs, Junction Meadow, also near the junction with the JMT. I don't know if there were any at Crabtree because I didn't leave the trail to check it out, but I know there is NOT a bear box at Guitar Lake, and there aren't any on the east side of Whitney on the way down to the portal. Assuming you confirm with SEKI officials that it's ok to do it that way, your idea of taking less cans than you need and using bear boxes along the way until the last night or two could work. Just be sure that SEKI is okay with it and be prepared to stop where the boxes are, which means near other people.

Regarding campsites being crowded, I didn't stop at Bearpaw, so not sure. Hamilton Lake was crowded but absolutely beautiful and is a good place to stop before going over the Great Western Divide through Kaweah Gap. The Nine Lakes Basin on the other side of the gap at the top of Big Arroyo is awesome, but no bear boxes. The timing on whether to camp there depend on how far you go the first day. Moraine Lake would be good stopping point after that or on to Kern Hot Springs.

I spent the second night at Kern Hot Springs, which was empty of campers, and you need to at least stop there for a hot soak, which is amazing after hiking so long.

Guitar Lake was more crowded with JMTers, but still a great place to stop and is spread out enough to not feel crowded (unlike Lake Hamilton.)

Caveat to all this is that I went after labor day, so I would think you might run into more people.

Re clothing, even in September it was plenty warm. I used a long sleeve base layer and carried a micro puff insulating layer. I had a lighweight baselayer pant and was fine. I had a 15 degree bag and was generally too warm except at the higher altitude at Guitar Lake. If you go in July it could be colder at Guitar than in Sept.

BTW - You have picked an awesome trail for your first trip to the Sierra. You will love it.

If you want to get excited, here's the link to our photo essay from our trip, but don't look too closely if you want to have surprises instead.

Let me know if you need any other info, and enjoy your trip.


-I should clarify the pants I brought for night were Patagonia lighweight capline and then I had lightweight REI Sahara pants for hiking during the day.

Edited by Pendrey on 04/08/2009 18:25:24 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Advice for High Sierra Trail on 04/09/2009 20:40:19 MDT Print View

"There are quite a few along the way. Off the top of my head, I know that in 2007 there were boxes at Bearpaw, Lake Hamilton, Moraine Lake, Kern Hot Springs, Junction Meadow, also near the junction with the JMT."

There are also 2 at Upper Funston Meadow. They are supposed to be for horse packer use, but they were quite OK with me slipping my food into one back in 2005, the last time I was down that way. FWIW, if you go up a ways into the 9 Lakes Basin, I doubt you will have any problem with bears. That's what I did coming off Lion Rock Pass and was just fine. There was no sign of bears anywhere, even down by the trail. No scat, no prints, nada.

Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Re: Re: Advice for High Sierra Trail on 04/09/2009 20:59:07 MDT Print View

I've done the High Sierra Trail 6 years. There is a bear box at Crabtree as well as the other places mentioned. The only place you need a bear cannister (and one for the whole group is sufficient) is at Guitar Lake (or the twin ponds above Guitar Lake, where we stayed both times--You're 20 minutes closer to Mt. Whitney there). This presume that once you're over the pass at Whitney (trailcrest pass) that you're going to get out to Whitney Portal afterwards. I never inspected the camp sites between Whitney and Whitney Portal.

Be sure and enjoy Kern Hot Springs and Moraine Lake.

Ryan Klym
(breaks) - F

Locale: Flat Ohio
Thanks! on 04/15/2009 12:51:33 MDT Print View

Thanks all for the great advice. We decided to go ahead and rent Bearikade canisters for the trip.

Counting down the days...

Thanks again!