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Sierra Prime: Off Trail in California's High Country
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Sierra Prime: Off Trail in California's High Country on 01/19/2010 12:23:54 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Sierra Prime: Off Trail in California's High Country

Casey Bowden
(clbowden) - MLife

Locale: Berkeley Hills
Re: Sierra Prime: Off Trail in California's High Country on 01/19/2010 14:15:24 MST Print View


Cubicle fever! Must escape to mountains! Best article ever?!

Brad Fisher

Locale: NC/TN/VA Mountains
Re: Re: Sierra Prime: Off Trail in California's High Country on 01/19/2010 15:28:36 MST Print View

I'm doing a trip in the same area this summer. I would love to see your gear list. Also, how did the Bearvault fit in the ULA Ohm pack?

Thanks and great trip report.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Woohoo! on 01/19/2010 15:38:05 MST Print View

Well done gents!

Don Wilson
(don) - MLife

Locale: Koyukuk River, Alaska
Re: Sierra Prime: Off Trail in California's High Country on 01/19/2010 16:40:41 MST Print View

Hi Brad -

The bearvault fits into the Ohm reasonably well. It takes up a lot of space, but there's still plenty of space for what I need. I have a 1/4 closed cell foam pad in my Ohm, and that helps to pad my back from the hard canister. I find that if I put the canister relatively high in my pack, it keeps the the small of my back from getting irritated by pressure from the canister.

If you send me a note (, I'll be happy to send you my detailed gear list. The simple version of the list is posted in the article.


Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Sierra Prime: Off trail in Ca. High Country on 01/19/2010 16:59:38 MST Print View

Nice stuff and a great read!! That area has alot of hiking potential I was there in early August and I am looking forward to going back again in July or August. EVOLUTION

Mt. Humphreys

Edited by Creachen on 01/19/2010 17:44:38 MST.

Daniel Benthal

Locale: Mid-Coast Maine
Nice! on 01/19/2010 17:15:41 MST Print View

I really enjoyed the combination of text, photos, and short video clips.

Great trip report.

Gordon Towne
(gordontowne) - MLife

Locale: New England
Trip report on 01/19/2010 17:25:25 MST Print View

I really enjoy these trip reports that BPL has been highlighting recently. I have to say, this one may be my favorite. The mix of text, pictures and video really helps you get a sense of the trip. Not to mention the fact that it appears to have been an amazing route and experience.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Sweet on 01/19/2010 18:29:43 MST Print View

That route goes through some of the finest the Sierra has to offer. Well done, indeed, gentlemen!

John Whynot

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: Sierra Prime: Off Trail in California's High Country on 01/19/2010 18:32:54 MST Print View

Wow -- what an inspiration. Great trip, and great report...

Ryan Linn

Locale: Maine!
Re: Re: Sierra Prime: Off Trail in California's High Country on 01/19/2010 18:59:18 MST Print View

Definitely inspiring! It's very cool to see that you were able to pack in 3000+ calories per day at a density of 140+ cal/oz like that. Gives me hope that I'll be able to carry more than just a few days' worth of food in one of those canisters.

And, oh man, I want to get out to the Sierras....

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Sierra Prime: Off Trail in California's High Country on 01/19/2010 20:02:42 MST Print View

Outstanding article and trip!!

I really appreciate you sharing the methodology of planning an off trail trip. It is my favorite kind of planning and hiking.

Again, great job gentlemen!

Alan Little
(AlanL) - F

Locale: Bavarian & Austrian Alps
great trip on 01/20/2010 04:15:14 MST Print View

Sounds like a great trip. I completely agree with your approach. I have a small son at home and no immediate prospect of getting a whole Ten Days for such a thing, but did something similar on a smaller scale for a three day solo trip in the Karwendel Alps last summer.

There's a trail that crosses the main Karwendel range, between two huts, that's generally done as one fairly long day with a possibility of taking in one or two summits along the way. I decided to take two days between the same two huts, sticking more or less to the crest of the ridge the whole way, with a bivouac around the point where the trail crosses. Had two superb days, did seven of the nine summits (bypassed two on the first day that otherwise would have involved climbing and tricky route finding in mist), saw only one other person for the first day and a half (last two summits are the highest in the range and heavily frequented). From the second hut, options are a boring trudge out down the valley on a gravel road, or a very nice trail over a pass in the next ridge. Did the latter.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Sierra Prime: Off Trail in California's High Country on 01/20/2010 06:11:19 MST Print View

very high quality trip report. Thanks guys!

Andrew Skurka
(askurka) - F
Sierra High Route on 01/20/2010 09:13:41 MST Print View

You guys seem to have your planning system dialed, not shocking given your cumulative experience and analytical thinking. Surprised to not see a reference to a Microsoft Excel file, though, in order to help plan the route, logistics, schedule, etc. By far, NG TOPO! and Excel are the two most important programs I use when planning a long trip. Google Maps/Earth is probably third -- the landsat images are critical in determining vegetation and in updating the USGS maps if the landscape has changed since the maps were made (often the case in AK, where some of the USGS maps haven't been updated since they were first published in the 50's and 60's, and where glaciers have been receding, flood plains have changed course, and beaches have eroded).

I'm also going to offer a shameless plug here. A good chunk of Don and Alan's route appears to be part of the Sierra High Route. For those interested in this route, I'd recommend you start by picking up Roper's guidebook. I've posted a lot of additional info about the route and my SHR hike on my website, and I also developed a complete mapset using TOPO!.

David Neumann
(idahomtman) - M

Locale: Northern Idaho
Sierra Prime... Ionian Basin on 01/20/2010 11:46:28 MST Print View

Great article. Thanks.

Ionian Basin is one of my favorite (apparently not so) secret spots in the Sierra. A great day hike from Chasm Lake is to drop down the Enchanted Gorge and then climb back up Goddard Creek. No trail, very steep descent down the Gorge, could be lots of snow bridges and then it opens up into spectacular lower Goddard Creek canyon. The climb up Goddard Creek canyon is spectacular with some remote lakes (with trees) and then head back east over a col into Ionian Basin. About 15 trail-less miles with lots of talus, snow, river crossings, stinging nettles. Simply awesome. Just don't linger too long at lower Goddard playing on the smooth granite slides in the creek or you might not get back to camp before dark!

Edited by idahomtman on 01/21/2010 08:29:14 MST.

Thomas Trebisky

Locale: Southern Arizona
Great Article on 01/20/2010 12:57:17 MST Print View

This one gets 5 stars, this is exactly the kind of article I love to read on BPL, thanks!!

I was going to ask: what about the Ursack? Now I know that it (currently) is not an allowed substitute for a canister in the mandatory areas, but not as much of the Sierra is mandatory (don't you love that word) as folks think. And the official wording outside the mandatory area is that "some means must be used to prevent bears from getting your food". They don't make this crystal clear because (IMHO) they would really rather you use a canister everywhere.

After two trips of mine when I hauled a Garcia canister, I took a look at the Sierra Wild Bear site (which has a link to a nice map of canister mandatory areas) and was dismayed to discover that the entirety of both trips were NOT in canister mandatory areas. A study of this map with your trip in mind does indicate that it would be very hard to enter at Kearsarge pass and get out of the canister mandatory area that surrounds that trailhead. Then another smaller zone surrounds the Bishop pass (and Palisade Area). Nonetheless, lots of trips can be planned south of Yosemite that avoid these areas. My last trip was like this, and I used an Ursack and had no troubles, with bears or rangers!

Edited by trebisky on 01/20/2010 13:09:21 MST.

Kevin Sawchuk
(ksawchuk) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Sierra Prime: Off Trail in California's High Country on 01/20/2010 13:37:31 MST Print View

Thanks for an excellent article. It brings back a lot of memories--fortunately many not older than last year! There is a lot of great and little used XC in the Sierra--you probably didn't see anyone while off trail.

I'd love to know how you got Iridium messages to automatically post. I'll be skiing the JMT this winter and will be bringing my 9555 along. It would be nice to have my posts available for family and friends interested in my progress. As my new little SPOT tracker was recalled I'm not sure if I'll have that as a communication option by the end of March.

William Glazer
(UkuleleBill) - F

Locale: Northeast Ohio
Awesome!!!! on 01/20/2010 14:48:21 MST Print View

Thanks for the great article. You two a definitely an inspiration. I really liked the video clips. I want to start shooting some of my own after watching your clips. What a fantastic trip!!

Happy Trails--
Ukulele Bill

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Excellent on 01/20/2010 16:39:56 MST Print View

Excellent report!