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SHR solo in a single thru-hike??
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Brent Mahan
(thenerb)

Locale: Southern New Hampshire
SHR solo in a single thru-hike?? on 03/19/2012 12:44:05 MDT Print View

I was planning on thru-hiking the JMT starting mid-June this year, but have learned that it will likely be fairly crowded and busy. Not what I was looking for.

If I could create a mission statement for my trip, it would be something like this:
"To have an epic backcountry experience filled with plenty of solidude while surrounded by the grandeur, power, and beauty of nature."

Looks like the SHR (Sierra High Route) as assembled by Roper might be just the ticket.

First a little background on me. I'm 29, very fit (elite level competitive road cycling racer), and if nothing else am determined and sincerely appreciate adventure. I've done several solo backpacking weekends, but never anything longer than a couple of nights. I'm comfortable with UL backpacking ideas and have my pack weight down to a good number. I did boyscouts as a kid and have always been comfortable in the outdoors and am fairly well read on the subject. I've got a window of around 14-17 days for the trip including travel to/from the airport.

Here are my questions/concerns since I have only just started researching this option:

* Am I crazy to consider doing this solo? If I carry a Personal Locator Beacon and GPS and use care should I more than likely be fine? I don't mind adventure, but also don't want to be stupid.
* I plan to take some navigation and first-aid courses (probably online) and practice route hiking in my area before I go. Should that suffice combined with my GPS plus a phone loaded with topo map files along with map printouts and Roper's book?
* 14 days should be fine, right? I would think 14-15 miles per day is more than reasonable. I know Skurka did it in 8 days at a "very comfortable" pace. I also know that I'm not Andrew Skurka.
* Are there any resupply opportunities at all? A smallish detour is fine?
* Would mid-June be crazy? I'd guess with the lack of snow so far this year, it would more than likely be fine if I carry an ice axe??
* Is there even a chance of ever getting cell service on the route?
* How on earth do I sell this idea to my wife?

Thanks!

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: SHR solo in a single thru-hike?? on 03/19/2012 12:55:50 MDT Print View

seems there was a very similar thread not too long ago where someone was asking if he was ready to do the SHR solo.
the general concensus seemed to be if you have to ask the answer is No.

This route is about much more than simply being really fit.
its about mountain skills, and the wisdom, gained thru experience, to stay out of trouble, especially if going solo.

p.s.
not sure what your personal definition of the word "epic" is.
in climbing it means having a harrowing experience where you escaped by the skin of your teeth.
you really don't want that kind of epic if you're going solo.

Edited by asandh on 03/19/2012 13:00:30 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: SHR solo in a single thru-hike?? on 03/19/2012 13:11:20 MDT Print View

Part of the problem is that you have nowhere to train around Nashville, at least for the kind of mountainous terrain that you would be on with the Sierra High Route. For example, where would you train with an ice axe? Carrying an ice axe and actually knowing how to properly use an ice axe are two different things.

--B.G.--

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: SHR solo in a single thru-hike?? on 03/19/2012 13:20:59 MDT Print View

I would suggest that from what you say it sounds like your off-trail high mountain navigation experience is pretty slim. If that is correct, then a solo thru-hike of the SHR in a tight time frame is pushing it. I say that because if you are not very experienced in off-trail route finding, you are going to take a lot longer to cover ground than you expect, due to spending a lot of time head-scratching rather than moving.
You might consider another couple of options: one would be do doing just part of the SHR, aiming to cover fewer miles and thus giving you a lot more margin; if it turns out that you do roll along at a a faster pace you'll have time for side trips, peak bagging or just enjoying the view.
Another option is simply planning your own route that takes in some off-trail travel with a conservative itinerary in terms of mileage. The Sierra is chock full of spectacular scenery, it's easy as pie to find places to go that are gorgeous but little visited.

You might at some point get cell signal at a pass or the top of a peak, but I would never count on it. No way from any of the valleys.

June is not crazy, but expect to go a little slower if there is snow, and expect to have to deal with some tricky stream crossings. The stream crossing are the thing that can really be dangerous in June, although this year should not be a bad one since the snowpack is almost certainly going to be below average. But notice I say "almost certain". Predicting the June conditions from here is a very uncertain business.

You're on your own when it comes to your wife

Brent Mahan
(thenerb)

Locale: Southern New Hampshire
More info on 03/19/2012 13:44:43 MDT Print View

Thanks for the replies so far.

I apologize for not searching for answers to some of my questions earlier.

To clarify, I do not have much mountaineering experience and I've never used an ice axe. Though since I wouldn't be using it for ice climbing and just for safety, I would expect to be fine with reading some articles and watching some instructional videos online before the trip, especially since using it should hopefully be minimal with the snow we've received this year.

I've hiked above the tree line several times in New England and hiked some of the exposed Southwest mountains in Tasmania (Australia) which look incredibly similar to the High Sierra (and hence my drive to go to the High Sierra). I feel comfortable in that environment and honestly don't suspect that route finding would slow me down too excessively. I can pack additional food and add another day or two cushion on the back end just in case the pace is slower than anticipated.

I have rock climbed a handful of times, but never anything overly technical.

In my area, I can train in the Smokies. Not nearly the same landscape as the High Sierra, but it's the best I've got.

From reading other posts and trail journals, it doesn't seem like taking a GPS is neccessary at all. A compass would suffice, I think. I would definitely take a PLB, just in case something bad were to happen. Just seems stupid not to, really.

Looks like I could resupply about halfway at Red's and then a final resupply at Tuolumme. Sound about right?

I'm starting to think more and more that this may be the right route for me.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
SHR on 03/19/2012 14:43:47 MDT Print View

The Smokies and the Sierra are completely different, other than overall fitness it will help you little.

Here is a simple way to see if you are in the ballpark to be able to do the mileage you are suggesting. I would expect that most people would do 50% of normal (tough) mileage on a trail such as the AT. Could you go up on the AT and do 28-30 miles per day on multiple consecutive days? If so then you have the first hurdle crossed.

Second, I will be the first to admit that the SHR flat kick my butt. Not physically but mentally. At the pace you're talking you will need to cross multiple 12k passes in a day. Some of these will have talus fields that will exhaust you. Maybe you will find it fun, my son was tired of it on about day 5.

As others have said route finding will test you even with a GPS. The other aspect of navigation is that it takes time which is one reason that your mileage will get cut.

As far as going solo, I have done several sections solo and wouldn't hesitate to do it again. I actually would not recommend to most people to do the route in one shot. There are many combinations of JMT/SHR route that get the best of both worlds.

Edited by gg-man on 03/19/2012 16:21:31 MDT.

Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
Re: SHR solo in a single thru-hike?? on 03/19/2012 18:18:00 MDT Print View

Brent,
after getting my butt hammered for eight days last season on the SHR, and the JMT, I can only tell you that what you think you are capable of doing on the east coast, and what you are probably goint to do in the Sierra's, is probably two very very different things. I lived and climbed extensivley in the East for a few years, and I can compare the west and east easily. I trained very hard, have a lifetime of off trail skills, am an experienced and accomplished mountaineer, and was barely able to make the 14 miles a day avg needed to do the route in 14 days; and was mentally exhausted from the unending routefinding stress. There are NO breaks on the route. It just continues to hit you hour after hour, day after day, and its all at 9-12,000 feet! The route is fantastic, but it is not a two week thru hike except for a truly elite band of individuals. With that said, there is no reason not to take your two weeks, and go do the route and see how far you can go... I'm going back to enjoy the adventure, not to race thru it.
If you want to read my trip report, its at http://www.getlostoffroad.com/uploads/SHR_Trip_Report.pdf

be happy to answer any other questions!

gunther kirsch
(goonch92) - F

Locale: Northern California
respect the saw on 03/19/2012 19:55:51 MDT Print View

Don't underestimate the sierras, I've done that and regreted it deeply, and i'm in great physical condition. most of it has to do with route finding, never done the SHR but i did half of the jmt last year, I say half for a good reason. I went into it with the mentality that i can do anything (good but it has its catches) and also a 60lbs pack (bad bad idea). this year I'm going into it with one a 30-35lbs pack including heavy camera gear with the mentality that I can do anything I put my mind to... but also the knowledge that my A$$ will be severely whooped and that i will want to stop about halfway through. but i won't. if you go into things with the idea that your a badass and can do it all, when you face real difficulty and confusion for the first time you will (and you most certainly will with the elevation miles and route finding) become panicked, cranky and wanting to be in your bed. just go into it with the understanding that you will be worked beyond all belief. being that you've done nothing than a few night trip i recommend you do at least a 5 dyer at 20 miles a day (especially if you plan on doing more that 14 miles per day) 25 would be more adequate especially since your dealing with no elevation and some wimpy mountains. I don't doubt you can do it... but being physically tuff is about 5% of it... I saw a 65 year old man (skranny to say the least) doing the PCT at 25 Miles/day and the reason he was succeeding was because he was probably the most cheerful happy optimistic person id ever met.

good luck sir,
Gunther

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: SHR solo in a single thru-hike?? on 03/19/2012 22:18:18 MDT Print View

I started a ~16 day solo thruhike of the SHR and quit due to accumulated exhaustion, both physical and mental. I had previously thruhiked the PCT and done lots of other trips.

Darren Bagnall
(dbagnall)

Locale: El Portal, CA
My .02 cents on 03/19/2012 23:55:13 MDT Print View

Most of your logistical questions can be answered via a little online research. To help you with the "Am I crazy" part of your question all I can do is tell you about my personal experience.

In 2010 I hiked 1500 miles of the PCT SOBO including the JMT and all of Washington (most of it in the snow). In 2011 I decided to make up some missed miles in the southern sierra then hike the High Route. After hiking about 100 miles of PCT including Forrester pass I took a few days off in Cedar Grove (HR southern terminus) then started the High Route. I was in shape and well conditioned. Long story short - the High Route kicked my A$$. A normal day on the PCT was 20 miles but on the HR we made 10 per day and navigation wasn't much of an issue. Between constant the heat and the constant (being at) elevation the sun pretty much kicked my butt every day. I had planned to do the entire HR but bailed after a week. Maybe next time!

Don't under estimate the HR. If you have not yet done the JMT I would recommend that for an Epic Sierra adventure. The JMT wil not disappoint.

Brent Mahan
(thenerb)

Locale: Southern New Hampshire
Thanks on 03/20/2012 05:51:45 MDT Print View

Thanks everyone for all the insight. Clearly the SHR is even more intense and unrelenting than I thought. I am looking for an epic adventure that pushes me to the limits and forces me to work through pain and mental stress. I really do love that stuff. Sounds like the SHR will surely do that, but perhaps more than I am ready for at this point if I am being honest with myself.

I'll continue to train hard as much as I can around here and maybe do something more along the lines of an SHR/JMT hybrid trip where I can get the best of both worlds and perhaps do something more reasonable. I guess I could also always start the SHR and hope to finish, but realistically plan to go as far as about halfway on the SHR with the knowledge that I can always bail onto the JMT at that point to finish off the trip should I get too tired or run low on time/energy.

I appreciate all the comments and stories. Sounds like the SHR is in a league unto itself in many ways.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Thanks on 03/20/2012 15:21:39 MDT Print View

Brent - here's a suggested route for you that is logistically easy - starts and ends at the same point and has a resupply (MTR) reasonably midway - and has lots of options for on and off trail depending on how you feel once you're out there.

North Lake trailhead - Piute pass - Desolation lake - steelhead col or carol col over to French Canyon/L Lake - Royce Lakes – Granite Park – Italy Pass – Brown Bear Pass – Bear Lakes – Vee Lake – Seven Gables Lakes – Seven Gables Pass – Medley Lake – Marie Lake and meet JMT – Selden Pass – Resupply at MTR – soth on JMT – goddard canyon – Martha Lake – Lake Confusion – Blackcap Basin ( blackcap mtn easy walkup) – Crown Basin – Humingbird Lake – upper Blue Canyon (while in the area might want to bag Tumemah Peak, considered by many the most remote Sierra peak, as in furthest from a road) – over Blue Canyon Pass & drop to Goddard Creek (or stay high on west side of canyon to above Lake 10232) – Ionian Basin – Black Giant Pass (Black Giant an nice scramble from the pass) - Muir Pass and JMT – North JMT to just past Evolution lake, then Darwin Bench – Darwin Canyon – Lamarck Col and back to North Lake.

Variations – From Piute pass, before going to Desolation go dwon to Golden Trout Lake and over to Packsaddle Lake – a very nice spot.

Spend some time wandering the lakes in French canyon – well worth it.

from Seven Gables Pass, go to Turret Lakes and then work around the corner by way of the little saddle on the ridge coming down from Turret Peak, just north of Point 10882 and over to the JMT before it starts the serious drop into the canyon of the San Joaquin.

Instead of going to Martha, you could go over Hell For Sure Pass, drop into the Devils Punchbowl, then go east into bench Valley and get into Blackcap Basin from there.
Mt Goddard can be climbed from Martha or from the Ionian Basin.


I'd put the first section at 4-5 days of travel and the second about 6, but if you plan 6 & 8 days you'd have lots of time for exploration and peak bagging without the pack, just looking at the view, and any variations you might come up with enroute. Definitely you won't be disappointed with the scenery; you'll find plenty of solitude on the off-trail sections, and see some folks on the trail. It would be a very nice introduction to the High Sierra.