Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Sierra High Route discussion
Display Avatars Sort By:
Zack Karas
(iwillchopyou@hotmail.com) - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Sierra High Route discussion on 08/13/2009 12:24:29 MDT Print View

Hi,

I have yet to obtain Roper's book, so please bear with me while I ask what are sure to be newbie questions. I've read Skurka's website info and some threads here on BPL, Chris 'Suge' Willet's info, etc.

1. Is S-N easier year-round, or just for early season hikes where north facing snow fields are more easily down climbed?

2. With the inherent scrambling, are trekking poles more of a nuisance?

3. I think that I noticed that Klas and Dave both carried Ursacks instead of canisters--was this a calculated risk on your part in regard to being fined?

4. What was your water capacity?

5. For early season hikes, are traditional crampons necessary, or would something like micro-spikes work?

6. Are early season hikes considered the easiest, as crossing snow fields are easier and less time consuming than scree/talus fields?

7. Do early season hikers ever have to camp on snow?

8. Are late season hikes confronted with problems finding water due to being up so high?

9. Hiking solo, I average 35-40 mpd, what can I expect to cover on the SHR?

A little about my experiences that relate to the SHR:
--I have around 8,000 miles in my legs.
--I've extensive cross-country hiking and route-finding skills as I've thru hiked the CDT and Iceland (northern-most to southern-most tip).
--I have climbed around 1/3 of CO's 14ers in May and early June, so I think the conditions experienced will closely resemble those of the early season SHR.

Thanks for your help.

Zack Karas
(iwillchopyou@hotmail.com) - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Dave T? Klas? Bueller? on 08/15/2009 12:29:31 MDT Print View

Bumperooni

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Sierra High Route discussion on 08/16/2009 23:54:02 MDT Print View

Whoa jeez, that's a lot. I'll attempt. First, my history. I've also hiked a lot, and I've spent a lot of time in the Sierra. And I attempted the SHR solo and bailed because I wasn't comfortable with the risk, but more to the point I was sick of being scared. A video of my thoughts when I quit can be seen at outside365.com (direct link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9f6hbthClE) I will definitely finish it, when I get the time.


2. With the inherent scrambling, are trekking poles more of a nuisance?

I don't think so. I think that poles get in the way when the talus is steep enough to have to use your hands. That's rare. On less steep stuff it's like having hand holds all the time, without having to touch the rocks.

4. What was your water capacity?

two liters? water is plentiful but since cross country can be slow, it can take a long time to get to it.

5. For early season hikes, are traditional crampons necessary, or would something like micro-spikes work?

I don't think that I've ever seen a trip report by someone who went truly early season. As in a lot of snow. I hiked the PCT in 06, through a LOT of snow. If I was on the SHR in those conditions, I'd definitely want more than micro-spikes. Those don't do much on STEEP snow.

6. Are early season hikes considered the easiest, as crossing snow fields are easier and less time consuming than scree/talus fields?

I would think so. And it'd involve other risks. Falling on steep snow is VERY dangerous. Trying to get the snow levels correct would be a small shot in the dark if you didn't have time to do your own recon trips. I loved traveling in the sierra with a lot of snow and would love to be out there with more of it. I wonder about the stage where there is significant snow, but it's at a point where it just makes it more difficult.

7. Do early season hikers ever have to camp on snow?

How early? Typically it'd be optional, unless you're walking through so much snow that the valleys are also covered. In 06 the masses weren't camping on snow. Some of the stories from Scott Williamson and others passing through the sierra very early involved snow camping. Or you could just bring skis and really have some fun.

8. Are late season hikes confronted with problems finding water due to being up so high?

no.

9. Hiking solo, I average 35-40 mpd, what can I expect to cover on the SHR?

Those are some big miles. Is your intention to go as fast as possible on the SHR? If so, I can't answer. I had my fill at about 12 miles in the southern section. I'm fine with 25mpd typically.

I think The Onion did the SHR this summer at around 20mpd (http://garrettheonion.blogspot.com)

Zack Karas
(iwillchopyou@hotmail.com) - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
SHR stuff on 08/17/2009 10:00:19 MDT Print View

Jack, thanks for the reply. I've actually seen most of your videos on youtube--you look 'bigger' on your avatar, so I was surprised to see that it was your videos!

I've also hiked the PCT in '03, and snow levels were at 100% leaving Warner Springs (don't know how that compares to '06?). Of course, we had plenty of snow, but the PCT seems quite a bit lower in elevation on average. In looking at the "Dave T vs Klas SHR..." thread here on BPL, it seems that Dave had a lot of snow in '06.

My wife is friends with Onion, I'll see what info she can get out of him about the SHR.

Anyone elses opinions and experiences are welcome (and needed!).

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
SHR. on 08/17/2009 12:41:05 MDT Print View

I almost hate to give out info about the SHR, since I kinda liked it when there wasn't too much info about it available on the internet. But Backpacker, Skurka, etc. have blown it up, so here goes.


1. Is S-N easier year-round, or just for early season hikes where north facing snow fields are more easily down climbed?

When I hiked it, there was snow on both sides of passes. South to north is standard probably mostly due to the directions given in the Roper guide. Either way it's not easy. Glissading is good.


2. With the inherent scrambling, are trekking poles more of a nuisance?

I'm used to trekking poles, and I used them constantly on the snow and rock. The only times I put them away where for some sketchy scrambling with hands, or when the ice axe was out (which was often).


3. I think that I noticed that Klas and Dave both carried Ursacks instead of canisters--was this a calculated risk on your part in regard to being fined?

The Ursack with aluminum liner was approved at that time. It isn't any longer. I'd use an approved canister if I did it today. Follow the rules (it's good for the bears).


4. What was your water capacity?

I was surrounded by snow and water most of the way. I had a couple 1L Aqua Fina bottles. But with no snow, there can be some slow stretches below water sources, since the overland travel can be very slow (i.e. crossing a steep pass).


5. For early season hikes, are traditional crampons necessary, or would something like micro-spikes work?

I used Camp aluminum crampons. Didn't use them very often, but a couple of early morning descents required them. The alternative would have been to wait until the snow softened (which it did fast in the June sun). If you are on snow with unsafe run-outs, you should have an ice axe and be experienced in using it.


6. Are early season hikes considered the easiest, as crossing snow fields are easier and less time consuming than scree/talus fields?

I have no idea. Not sure what "early season" means, but remember that instead of granite you have heavily sun-cupped snowfields that are slow to traverse. Sometimes the snow helps, sometimes the snow dramatically slows you down. When the snow covers unstable talus, yes; when the sun-cupped snow covers gentle grassy ramps and granite benches, no way.


7. Do early season hikers ever have to camp on snow?

Not sure what early season means to you again, but we only camped on snow one time, which was in the trees on the climb from Cedar Grove. After that, we could always find a clear granite bench or something to camp on.


8. Are late season hikes confronted with problems finding water due to being up so high?

There's lots of lakes along most of the route, so I would doubt it. Check the topos.


9. Hiking solo, I average 35-40 mpd, what can I expect to cover on the SHR?

A lot less. It took us 7 days to get from Roads End to a resupply over Piute Pass. Unless we were on the JMT, we didn't see any footprints and it was lots of slogging in wet snow and suncups. We could've gone faster and further perhaps, but those 7 days were the hardest hiking I've ever done. But amazingly beautiful.

Zack Karas
(iwillchopyou@hotmail.com) - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
shr on 08/17/2009 14:26:45 MDT Print View

Dave, thanks for your insight.

As far as what I meant by early season, to me early season is when there is still predominately snow.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
The Southern 100 miles on 08/17/2009 14:27:49 MDT Print View

Just completed the southern 100 miles of the SHR last week and here are very current conditions for this year.
1) I would do S to N for all the reasons that Roper lays out.
2) We took two trekking poles each and I would do it again. Two poles were nice on the north side of frozen lake and other areas especially skree. We generally used one pole on most of the climbs freeing up our second hand. Trail we used either none or two.
3) You don't need a canister legally until you hit Dusy Basin. We stashed two bear canisters on French Creek for use in the areas where canister were legally needed. we did this more as a resupply strategy vs. trying to avoid the weight. (I needed the two canisters to bury the resupply)
4) 1 liter of water. There was almost no issues getting very frequent water at least the southern half. This could change later in the season as there was almost no snow left.
5) Can't comment on early season snow but the little bit of snow we had was perfect to travel on, in fact much easier than the talus.
9) On tough trail with 1 mile + elevation gain I can criuse at 25+ miles a day. You will likely get nowhere near the mileage and it has nothing to do with physical issues. As you are crossing miles of talus, like the bottom of snow tongue pass you get mentally exhausted and very high mileage days just aren't fun on the high route. We did about 15 a day and it was too much. Also, we had our fill of treeless terrain after a few days.

The SHR is a great trip, would reco with your experience to include snow tongue and frozen lake passes. There is a hesitation over doing those but frozen lake is very straightforward and snow tongue is a bit gnarly but if you take it slow then it beats the alternative of crossing miles of talus going across Alpine Col. Feel free to email me if you have more specific questions.

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
shr. on 08/17/2009 14:36:49 MDT Print View

Also, I'd recommend not trying to do the SHR too fast, unless you are trying to really push yourself or whatever. We did took 20+ days (along with some time off over Piute Pass and at Reds Measow) to do it. We hiked all day, but we weren't getting up at 5:15 am and hiking past dark. It's amazingly beautiful country, and it's nice to take your time a little bit (and probably much safer than pushing it hard every day). Be aware that there are potentially fatal situation including loose talus, steep snowfields, early season stream crossings (e.g Mono Creek), and all that. So remaining relatively mentally/physically fresh is a good idea.

Also, we used Alpine Col route as we went over Piute Pass to resupply. I know that Snowtongue Pass is a little sketchy.

Edited by DaveT on 08/17/2009 14:38:42 MDT.

Zack Karas
(iwillchopyou@hotmail.com) - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
SHR pace on 08/17/2009 15:13:15 MDT Print View

My view on pace is trying to balance taking the time to enjoy views/experience with limiting time between resupplies. I don't like to carry more than 6 days of food, but have also had to carry 10+ on some trips. Skurka suggests that most hikers will cover 50-70% of their normal mileage, which seems fair.

I know what you mean about being mentally and emotionally spent on really challenging hikes--luckily a good night's sleep is all I need to recharge. I'm surprised by the sailor-talk that can come out of my mouth when I'm struggling, usually directed at the author/creator whose route I'm following.

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
sierra bear/food map on 08/17/2009 15:45:38 MDT Print View

See updated info at:
http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/upload/SierraNevadaFoodStorage.pdf

Zack Karas
(iwillchopyou@hotmail.com) - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Bear on SHR on 08/17/2009 16:27:27 MDT Print View

While I'm not posting because bears frighten me (being from Tahoe, I treat black bears like a naughty dog), I'm just curious as to what kind of bear encounters anyone has had on the SHR. I would think that sightings might be minimal, as the bears might not see going up there as beneficial as going to an established campground/site/bear box, etc.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Bear on SHR on 08/17/2009 19:52:33 MDT Print View

I consider bears to be a problem in highly specific spots in the Sierra. I think that the govt agrees and bear canisters are required in fairly specific regions that have histories of problem bears. It'd be interesting to see a vague map of where the SHR passes through these areas.

Off the top of my head, I'd say most anywhere north of Blue Lake Pass (is that the name?) Perhaps in the Humphrey's Basin? Wanda Lake seems like a spot that might have bears visit.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
SHR-Bears on 08/17/2009 20:02:49 MDT Print View

248



257

>250

There is definitely bears on the SHR-- this is at Thousand Island Lake near Banner Peak--I saw a lot of Bear Scat around Humphreys Basin two weeks ago..

Edited by Creachen on 08/17/2009 20:04:18 MDT.

Tim Cheek
(hikerfan4sure) - MLife
Sierra High Route on 08/17/2009 20:26:36 MDT Print View

Steve Howe's trip is below:

http://www.backpacker.com/may_2008_feature_destinations_california_sierra_high_route/destinations/12396

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: SHR-Bears on 08/17/2009 21:29:38 MDT Print View

Damn, I'd love to see a swimming bear. Cool..

David Loome
(DavidLoome) - F

Locale: American Southwest
SHR input on 08/18/2009 16:02:38 MDT Print View

I did the SHR solo this year in mid July. For pictures and info on my trip, you can go to the page on my website below. I'll be adding more to this as time allows, as I just got back in town for the season and am still playing catch-up.

http://www.davidloome.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=102:sierra-high-route-2009-200-miles-july-2009&catid=46:hikes-and-photos&Itemid=67


Based on my SHR hike, as well as early season PCT and JMT hikes, here are my thoughts on your specific inquiries:

1: S>N is easier for a couple reasons. First, the pattern of the major forces that formed the Sierra (glaciation for example) tends to result in S>N oriented passes that are steeper on the North side, and W>E oriented passes that are steeper on the East. Hiking S>N tends to result in descending the steeper side of most of the passes. This is advantageuous because when down-climbing steep or technical terrain you have a greater line of sight and it becomes easier to pick out a good line. Further, I clearly recall (when looking back South) that several of the passes would be more difficult to identify vs. hiking North.

N>S hiking has the advantage of shorter resupply distances for the first half of the route, but personally, I would unquestionably consider S>N a 'better' way to hike the route.

2. I carried fixed length poles (BPL Stix) and they were never a nuisance. I would consider poles TOTALLY essential on the SHR. I can't count the number of times they saved my butt from slipping, they were great to have on snow, the countless STEEP climbs, for vaulting streams, for stability on steep, unstable scree, and for big talus- since I could use them to sort of "vault" gaps I would otherwise have to scramble down and up. If I didn't have poles I would have trashed my knees. The SHR is steep almost all the time and the talus sometimes requires taking big up/down steps (like thigh-high) all the time which is hard on knees.

3. I dunno. I carried a bear can and hated it with a passion. Next time I might risk the fine. I think the NPS policies are skewed towards people who don't know how to behave in bear country, and assume most high use occurs in bear habitat... which is fair. Still, it's frustrating. I hate bear cans, and if you know what you are doing, I don't think they are necessary, particularly on the SHR which is generally in very low use areas or not in bear habitat. Just my $0.02.

4. I carried a one liter soda bottle. I didn't treat any water, and on 90% of the route I just grabbed a sip or two at a time. Water is EVERYWHERE. There is one @10 mile dry stretch on Mammoth Crest South of Red's Meadow, but this is the standout dry section, nothing else was nearly as long.

5. 'Early season' (in the way you mean it) can be a pretty flexible term: In early season in a dry year, there can be less snow than late season in a wet one... I didn't carry crampons, and even on steeper snow I never would have used them. If you run into hard snow you could always wait a few hours for it to soften up, which the snowpack does pretty reliably in the Sierra. I did carry an ice axe and probably would again.

6. I think it would depend on the terrain you are most comfortable on. There were definitely occasions where I was wishing for snow because the talus SUCKED... there is a LOT of talus on the SHR. But while faster, snow can be just as, or more treacherous, particularly if it is rotten with air pockets and undercut edges. I would guess that if you hiked early in the season, what time you would gain by walking on snow over the talus would mostly be offset by having to be more careful on the steeper snowfields.

7. I would doubt it, unless you were very early in the season or if it was a very wet year. The SHR has a lot of high terrain, but lower stuff is never that far away and the high elevation/North facing sections susceptible to heavier snowpack are not sustained. You might pull a long day or two, but I would be surprised if you ever HAD to camp on snow.

8. I seriously doubt it. I've been in the Sierra in August in dry years, and there's still little snow patches and springs all over the darn place. You might carry a liter instead of a few sips like earlier in the season, but provided you keep moving, I seriously doubt you would encounter any real water issues.

9. Hiking solo I usually hike in the high 20's to low 30's.
Solo on the SHR I averaged in the high teens/low 20's. SHR miles can be VERY slow and there are tons of steep steep climbs, lots of talus, bouldering, etc. Even if you are comfortable on technical terrain, I would almost certainly anticipate your mileage dropping by a third or more.

Zack Karas
(iwillchopyou@hotmail.com) - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
SHR on 08/18/2009 16:11:01 MDT Print View

Great info--thanks.

Well, the SHR is definitely out for me this year, as I just broke my ankle this morning training for an upcoming local trail race (also out for me). Bummer. There's always next year!

I guess this kind of thing can happen anywhere and anytime, not just while hiking solo on the SHR...

David Loome
(DavidLoome) - F

Locale: American Southwest
ouch on 08/18/2009 16:27:28 MDT Print View

Sorry to hear about your ankle. Injuries suck, hope you recover fully and soon. Funny you mention this, in the last @ 200 yards of the SHR I was hurrying down the smooth, manicured switchbacks towards Twin Lakes, wasn't paying attention, tripped over one of my poles and did this elaborate stumbling, sprawling fall where I skidded in the dirt like a baseball player diving for a base. My only stumble of the trip. Pathetic.

Zack Karas
(iwillchopyou@hotmail.com) - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
ouch on 08/18/2009 16:38:59 MDT Print View

That's funny--and I bet you quickly picked yourself up and looked around to see if anyone saw?

I was running up to Lake Aloha here in Tahoe and was traveling over very rocky terrain (thinking 'I hope I don't hurt myself'), then in a rare smooth section of trail I must have let my guard down and BAM! Makes me want to take up knitting.

Klas Eklof
(klaseklof) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
SHR Q&A on 08/18/2009 17:51:22 MDT Print View

Found the thead here, thanks.
I'm heading off to the mountains now and will throw in my 2-cents when I return at the beginning of September. Until then...