I hiked the entire Sierra High Route between August 15th and 31st. I have to say it was a very special hike for me - the longest, wildest, most challenging I have ever done. And I would like to thank everyone on this forum who helped me prepare for it.
Having looked into Steve's trip report (http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=51727), I think I was lucky to start a bit later. I still encountered sections where Roeper's route descriptions didn't apply due to the snow pack, but it sure got a lot better during those two weeks.
My itinery was:
1. day: Road's End - Grouse Lake
2: Grouse Lake - Horsehsoe Lake
3: Horseshoe Lake - Marion Lake
4: Marion Lake - Palisade Lakes
5: Palisade Lakes - Dusy Basin
6: Dusy Basin - Evolution Lake
7: Evolution Lake - Mesa Lake
8: Mesa Lake - Brown Bear Lake
9: Brown Bear Lake - Laurel Lake
10: Laurel Lake - Ruby Lake
11: Ruby Lake - Red's Meadow
12: Red's Meadow - Iceberg Lake
13: Iceberg Lake - Twin Island Lakes
14: Twin Island Lakes - Coney Crags
15: Coney Crags - High Sierra Mine
16: High Sierra Mine - Soldier Lake
17: Soldier Lake - Twin Lakes, Mono Village
First some general notes on the route and my approach:
- I didn't really go very light. My base weight was 11 kg (ca. 24 pounds), including a pair of 6-spike aluminium crampons. I also wore solid boots, though rather light ones.
- I only really used the crampons on three days when crossing icy snowfields in the morning. But in all those three occasions I was extremely glad I had brought them along.
- I had clearly underestimated the sheer physical strain of the route. I had hoped to find the time to climb some mountains en route but, in the end, was just glad to be able to get through with it within 17 days. At least I made the 10 minute diversion to the top of Mammoth crest which sports a truly spectacular view.
- I had also underestimated the mental strain of routefinding and walking in complex terrain all day. Some section were especially tiresome in this respect, for instance crossing Cirque, Potluck and Knapsack passes all in one day.
- On the other hand, I had somewhat overestimated the technical challenges. Here I was more withing my comfort zone than I had anticipated. Somehow, I got a good feeling for the prior unfamiliar granite slabs right from the beginning. The only type of terrain I really struggled with was the suncupped snow and I landed on my bottom more often than I cared for.
- The bugs were pretty bad in some places (topped by Marion Lake). A headnet was the very last item I added to my gear list and it turned out to be essential.
- Stream crossings were generally okay. I didn't encounter particularly high water levels anywehere.
Some remarks on particular places:
- I really struggled during the first three days because of the heavy load (food for twelfe days) and the lack of acclimisation. I started up to Grouse Lake around noon. I can only recommed to travel to Road's End the day before and then start the long ascent eary next day when you can do the lower altitudes before it is getting hot.
- Crossing Muir pass was surprisingly tiring. I had hoped for a relaxed on-trail day but the snow and some diversions of the trail turned it into a tough day.
- Snow Tongue pass was a major pain, increased by some routefinding mistakes I did on the approach which led me through talus already on the southern side. On the Northern side, it was horrible talus, heavily suncupped snow, horrible talus, heavily suncu... and so forth.
- Decending Feather pass, Roeper's description was especially unapplicable. It was just all snow up there.
- I concur that the the path from Lower Mills Creek Lake to the Second Recess is hard to follow. But not because of "downed trees" but because I often just couldn't find it!
- On the map, the trail down Second Recess crosses Mono creek upstream of Mills creek. This has changed. The trail now leads to the creek downstream. I waded through it (kneedeep, strong current), as I did see a log but couldn't find a way to it. I later met someone who actaully crossed th elog. So keep bushwacking and don't wade! ;-)
- The chute up to Cecile Lake, in my mind, is class 4, not class 3 (short, though). However, I can't rule out that there is an easier option than the obvious chute you see from below.
- The traverse after crossing Mine Shaft pass was quite unpleasant. The rock is not completely solid and steep, hard snowfields (used the crampons for one them) were lingering in between.
- Crossing the east ridge of Mount Conness was huge fun and lifted my mood after abovementioned unpleasant traverse.
- The descent down from Horse Creek pass proved to be one of the least enjoyable parts of the entire High Route. I believe the talus has been specifically designed to keep the hiker from becoming sad to leave the route behind.
A general summary of my experience: It was tough and challenging. I twisted my ankle, hurt my shoulder and my behind, ripped my pants, pretty much destroyed my boots, left my cutlery behind (man, did I get mad at myself over this) but still managed to enjoy it most the way.
I will post a link to pictures in a few weeks, it will take a while to sort them all out.