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SHR vs. JMT (opinions sought from those who have DONE BOTH).
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billy goat
(billygoat) - F

Locale: West.
SHR vs. JMT (opinions sought from those who have DONE BOTH). on 01/20/2013 20:10:42 MST Print View

I've done the JMT solo. I'm now considering either repeating it or doing the SHR instead with a friend who has done neither.

I'm fully aware of the unique challenges presented by the SHR and how much more difficult it is. What I'm looking for would be some thoughtful opinions on the quality of the experience, overall, as compared to a known benchmark (the JMT). I've spent a fair amount of time in the Sierras, both hiking and climbing, whereas my friend has never spent time there - she is physically capable of either route, but this would be her first time in the Sierras.


Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: SHR vs. JMT (opinions sought from those who have DONE BOTH). on 01/20/2013 21:10:39 MST Print View

deleted because the OP does not really want input, and apparently already knows everything.

Edited by asandh on 01/21/2013 08:46:48 MST.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: SHR vs. JMT (opinions sought from those who have DONE BOTH). on 01/20/2013 21:15:07 MST Print View


I have never done the SHR, but I have done the JMT in 2011.

Given the little bit of information that you have provided about your hiking partner, I would suggest the JMT.

She has never been in the Sierras before...1st impressions count for a lot and the JMT has a huge payoff in terms of the beauty along the trail and the social interactions with others along the trail and at the resupply points. (VVR is the standout in my mind).

The SHR would definitely be a challenge and adventure unlike any other, but there are a number of things that could make it a very negative experience for her and yourself.

Between the two, if I were taking someone into the Sierras for the very first time, I would definitely take them on the JMT.

The JMT is popular for good reason, which you are well aware of, and and is easier and safer than the SHR.

Take her on the JMT and if she want more of the Sierras, take her on the SHR.

Anyway, my few cents....hope it helps.

P.S. I would give you the same advice no matter what gender your hiking partner is.


billy goat
(billygoat) - F

Locale: West.
Just to clarify... on 01/20/2013 22:30:10 MST Print View

...and before this gets out of hand, I'm hoping to hear from people who have done BOTH. Also, I'm not asking for musings/advice/contemplations on all the "what if's". Thanks!!!

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
JMT or SHR on 01/21/2013 00:35:39 MST Print View

OK - Here we go... Last summer I have done both -- first the JMT from North to South and then the SHR from South to North.
Here is the trip report for the JMT and here is the trip report for the SHR.

As you can see I took my wife and my 9 and 10 year old daughters on the JMT, while I planned the SHR originally solo and eventually went with another BPLer.

Both, JMT and SHR, offer an incredible experience. Both pass through beautiful parts of the Sierra and both will be breathtaking -- no pun intended -- for someone who visits the High Sierra for the first time. The JMT offers the big advantage that you can just walk, let the mind wander and enjoy the scenery, while on the SHR you have to be very focussed on navigation and foot placement. The SHR offers more solitude, while the JMT is almost like a hiker highway. For a first timer completing either one will be a huge achievement. So you have to ask yourself what is the experience you are looking for yourself and your friend. The social interaction of the JMT vs. the solitude on the SHR. Following a trail vs. navigating a route. Having camp fires at night (under 10,000 ft) in the forest vs. watching the stars above treeline. The relative safety of knowing someone else will come by in roughly 30 minutes vs. the challenge of making it on your own. Easy walking on a trail vs. endless scambling across talus and scree fields. Taking easy switchbacks vs. climbing class 2 or 3 or even 3+ passes.

Find out what your friend would prefer and go from there. Depending on your friend's preferences you might plan a mixture of both. For example you can do the JMT in general but from LeConte Ranger Station to Lower Palisade Lake take the SHR instead. That way you experience Dusy Basin, Palisade Basin and Cirque Basin. Climbing over Knapsack Pass, Potluck Pass and Cirque Pass would give you some idea of how you and your friend work together and whether you want to experience more of that.

Whatever you final decision is, it is beautiful out there and will be fun -- just make sure it is fun for you and your friend.


Edited by Orienteering on 01/21/2013 08:12:19 MST.

billy goat
(billygoat) - F

Locale: West.
Thanks Manfred! on 01/21/2013 08:43:48 MST Print View

Thanks Manfred - that's exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for.

The JMT was, of course, amazing. As you pointed out, it has a certain "feel" to it - created by a combination of the volume of people, how well-traveled the trails are and the touches with civilization (Yosemite, Devil's Postpile, MTR, etc), along with the mix of travel below and above tree line with the occasional dip up into the higher elevations (passes). Not that any of these things were negatives - it just had a certain feel.

The feel of SHR is something I haven't experienced, but you gave us some good points to consider in making our decision. In terms of the physical and navigational challenges, we are definitely capable. But yes, letting your mind zone out on a superhighway is very different from engaging it all day long through complex terrain.

I look forward to reading your TR's.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
My two cents on 01/21/2013 10:55:26 MST Print View

I have done both and some sections multiple times. My two cents.
1) who is the trip primarily suppose to suit? If you then pick the SHR, if it's your friend then she will likely get much more enjoyment from the JMT vs the High route. The high route is work, it was much less the type 1 fun of the JMT and absolutely full of Type 2 fun. If you don't know what that is then go to Skurkas site.
2) it doesn't have to be one or the other. Since the SHR shares trail with the JMt, you can chose your route as you go. You or your friend may find out real quick that doing three 12k passes in a day is less relaxing than a single graded pass. Pick and chose, there are highlights on the high route and there are sections that are just another talus filled pass.
3) I also would not recommend that most people do the high route in one shot. I think you start taking the beauty for granted.

finally, my favorite phase with respect to the SHR...... "If you have to ask then its probably not for you"

Edited by gg-man on 01/21/2013 10:57:55 MST.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: SHR vs. JMT (opinions sought from those who have DONE BOTH). on 01/21/2013 18:03:52 MST Print View

"I've spent a fair amount of time in the Sierras, both hiking and climbing, whereas my friend has never spent time there - she is physically capable of either route, but this would be her first time in the Sierras."

Your self assessment indicates you are fully capable of doing the SHR. IMO, the remaining question to be answered, if you are seriously considering taking your friend on the SHR, is whether she would be capable of handling an emergency situation in rugged terrain if something should happen to you. Even if you are carrying a PLB, getting you to a safe place, stabilizing you, and keeping herself together would pose a considerable challenge, especially if the weather was bad. If you are confident she is up to that kind of challenge, then your choice will be a little more difficult to make. Personally, I'd vote for the JMT and a guaranteed good time. It is a superb intorduction to the Sierra with very little risk of an unpleasant outcome. You can always come back for seconds you know.

billy goat
(billygoat) - F

Locale: West.
Great posts! on 01/22/2013 15:25:15 MST Print View

Thanks guys. I especially enjoyed reading your trip reports Manfred and the comments on them as well.

There are certain sections of the JMT that were my favorites...

Thousand Island LAke to the bridge at Garnet Lake
Devils Postpile
Lake Virginia
Squaw Lake to Silver Pass to Silver Lake
Seldon Pass to Sallie Keyes Lakes
Evolution Meadow to Miur Pass
Rae Lakes
Forester Pass through the Bighorn Plateau to Wright Creek
Guitar Lake to Whitney

...since reading your TR, and others, I've been trying to piece together some of the iconic sections of the SHR as well to see if a hybrid of the two as others have suggested might work for us.

Manfred, it would appear that you and Andrew made pretty respectable time despite the terrain, though Andrew alluded to several tumbles that you escaped from unscathed. I'd also be interested in hearing more about your tenkara set up :)

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Favorite sections of SHR on 01/22/2013 16:07:56 MST Print View

It may be helpful for folks to list their favorite sections of the high route. For example I would doing the south section prior to Mather, Marion lake was my absolute favorite place on high route. I would also do the high route north after reds to toluemne meadows. Additionally I would do the high route rather than do the JMT over bear ridge which was my least favorite section of JMT. I would also look at doing the JMT then the trail up to Piute Pass where you can pick up the SHR. that is a nice section of the JMT and the Piute Pass trail is nice as well. That would break up the high areas with a nice section of streams.

billy goat
(billygoat) - F

Locale: West.
Awesome stuff Greg! on 01/22/2013 16:53:41 MST Print View

Thanks for that post... suggestions like that, combined with finding some of those landmarks on my maps, gets me excited!

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
Tumbles and Tenkara on 01/22/2013 16:58:59 MST Print View

Both topics are of course unrelated :)


Yes, we had several tumbles on the SHR that could have been way worse. The SHR requires constant attention. A wandering mind or a tired mind can lead to severe consequences. We got away with scrapes, broken trekking pole, ripped backpack, ripped pants, ripped shirt and twisted ankle. Every time it happened, we knew it could have been a serious emergency. Most of the time it happend towards the end of the day when we got mentally tired, sometimes it was caused by looking at the beautiful scenery instead of watching our step. Talus and scree require special attention and foresight. I stepped on a talus rock that moved a little and caused another rock to roll on my foot. It was small enough to be rolled of my foot, but seeing all the other talus blocks around, it could have been worse. Andrew and I worked well together. We took turns in navigating the terrain. That allowed one of us to rest his mind and just walk without the burden of always knowing where we are and where to go. That person would take over when he noticed the other one got tired and started to make mistakes. Taking turns allowed to maintain a good pace throughout the day, because we would get rest periods for our mind.


Here is an old post that mentions my Tenkara setup. I use a 1.3 oz Clarkii for myself that makes use of my GG LT 4 as a handle. Usually I also bring a 2.7 oz Hane for others.

Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
creative combination on 01/26/2013 11:59:45 MST Print View


I've done the JMT and over half of the SHR.

I like the idea of doing a creative combination of the JMT and the SHR. In fact, if you have plenty of time, I would add some layover days/side trips to your itinerary. People hike in for days JUST to see places like Darwin Basin, Sixty Lakes Basin, Bench Lake. The JMT routes right past those places, so why not get off the trail to explore them while you're there?

This way you can see some things that are new and exciting for you; without overwhelming your hiking partner in case she finds she prefers the JMT experience to the more hard-core off-trail. You can "bail" from the SHR or from a side-trip back to the JMT at any time.

Something like the following could be extraordinary,

Happy Isles to Thousand Island Lake via JMT. Possible short side trips to Half Dome, Lyell Glacier, Marie or Davis Lakes basins. Lyell Glacier is expected to disappear by end of century, it is right off the JMT and we are idiots not to stop and see it (I include myself in this).

At TI Lake, leave the JMT. Walk along the northern side of the lake to its far southwest side, and there, hook up with the SHR southbound. Much as you loved the JMT from TI to Garnet Lake, the SHR through here is much more spectacular IMO, with fewer people! Continue on SHR till Minaret Lake. At Minaret Lake, bail out via the Minaret Lakes trail back to Devils Postpile.

Take the shuttle back to Mammoth and then take the Lakes Basin shuttle to Lake George. From the Lake George trailhead, take the official trail that gains the Mammoth Crest and there, rejoin the SHR. (By starting from Lake George, you are avoiding the very WORST section of both the JMT & the SHR: The hot slog through dead forest immediately southbound out of Reds.) Follow the SHR to below Duck Lake, where the SHR and JMT become one southbound.

At Tully Hole, you'll have to decide between taking the JMT or the SHR. Both are gorgeous, the Silver Divide never disappoints. Either way, try to build in a layover day, if on the SHR you could spend it exploring Grinnel Lake, and if on the JMT spend it exploring some of the lakes near Silver Pass. If you are inclined to show you friend the VVR, which is what I would do, the JMT will get you there faster.

South from Mono Creek or the VVR, I agree with someone here that I hate that ascent up Bear Ridge on the JMT, but I also haven't done this section of the SHR yet so I have no beta for you. Heard the SHR is both gorgeous and high/challenging through there. If you decide on SHR, you might want to walk straight through from Mammoth to Piute Pass and resupply in Bishop. If you decide on the JMT, maybe a layover day to explore the lake basins east and northeast of Marie Lakes.

From Piute Creek to Leconte Canyon the JMT and SHR are mostly one. IMO you have 3 choices: JMT; SHR over Snow Tongue Pass; or SHR variant over Alpine Col instead of Snow Tongue Pass. See High Sierra Topix forum for more beta on why most sane people avoid Snow Tongue. Snow Tongue & Alpine Col are quite far east from the JMT, so which route you choose might depend on where you most recently resupplied: VVR/MTR to the west or Piute Pass/Bishop to the east.

Either way, take some time for a layover-day side trip from Evolution Basin: Darwin Bench, Davis Lakes, or Ionian Basin.

Once into Leconte, definitely take the SHR from Dusy Basin to Palisade Lakes! - unless your friend has freaked out at the x-country. Really amazing through there. SHR and JMT rejoin southbound from Palisade Lakes.

After going over Mather Pass, you can

1. End your trip by going south(west)bound on the SHR and finishing at Roads End.

2. Continue southbound on JMT over Glen Pass and from there, bail east over Kearsarge or west to Roads End. Be sure to take layover days to see Bench Lake, Sixty Lakes Basin and Dragon Lake.

3. Continue on JMT to end at Whitney. More possible side trips down there between Forester and Whitney, including Wrights Lakes Basin, Wallace Lake, Arctic Lake.

How much time do you have? What I find is that people really rush their trip to make it to Whitney, as if Whitney is the Holy Grail. And the result is that they spend every second on the JMT dust highway and miss ALL the truly spectacular side trips along the way that are just a mile or two off the JMT. Unless your friend is dead-set on Whitney, consider choosing one of the slower-moving options ending at Roads End or Kearsarge/Onion Valley. Another way to save time is to skip the Happy Isles - Tuolumne section of the JMT, as this is kind of a boring section of the JMT if she is not dead-set on doing Half Dome.

- Elizabeth

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Alpine vs Snow Tongue on 01/26/2013 14:55:23 MST Print View

Agree with taking Alpine Col instead of snow Tongue. Alpine is much easier but it has a HUGE advantage, you go through Darwin Bench which is a very cool area. The talus just north of Snow Tongue was not much fun.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Alpine vs Snow Tongue on 01/26/2013 18:04:36 MST Print View

"Agree with taking Alpine Col instead of snow Tongue. Alpine is much easier but it has a HUGE advantage, you go through Darwin Bench which is a very cool area. The talus just north of Snow Tongue was not much fun."

+1 The northern approach to Snow Tongue is exactly as Roper describes it: "Rugged but straightforward". With a bit more emphasis on the rugged, IMO. Alpine Col, OTOH is short, straight, and to the point, with an easy approach via Muriel Lake from the north.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: creative combination on 01/26/2013 18:17:14 MST Print View

"After going over Mather Pass, you can

1. End your trip by going south(west)bound on the SHR and finishing at Roads End.

2. Continue southbound on JMT over Glen Pass and from there, bail east over Kearsarge or west to Roads End. Be sure to take layover days to see Bench Lake, Sixty Lakes Basin and Dragon Lake."

Another option, if you want to exit on the East Side and enjoy a little more of the SHR, is to continue on the SHR over Frozen Lake Pass into Lakes Basin, exit via Cartridge Pass, and pick up the JMT where it crosses the South Fork Kings River just north of the Taboose Pass trail. Lakes Basin is well worth a visit, and once over Cartridge Pass and on the JMT, you have 3 additional exit points on the East Side before Rae Lakes: Taboose, Sawmill, and Baxter Passes. It is easy to preposition a car at any of them and take a shuttle north to wherever you want to start, thus avoiding a long and costly swing around the south end of the Sierra to get to Roads End if you exit there. Always good to have options.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Couple more on 01/27/2013 06:02:40 MST Print View

I haven't taken catridge pass but that sounds like a great alternative but only if you head to Mrion Lake on the high route. That was IMHO a must see part of the SHR

The op hasn't indicated how long the trip will be. So here is another catridge pass alternative. After heading over Cartridge Pass, continue on the JMT over Forester. Then loop back to Center Basin by crossing Shepherds Pass, then Junction Pass back into Center Basin. Finallly complete the trip (if SoBo) by heading back to Roads End. I view the area around Center Basin and especially south of Forester to be much different than areas further north.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Couple more on 01/27/2013 17:37:46 MST Print View

"I view the area around Center Basin and especially south of Forester to be much different than areas further north."

+1 If OP has some slack in his schedule, once on the south side of Forester it would be well worth his while to take a 1-2 day detour over to Lake South America, then down to the Kern-JMT connector trail and back over to the JMT. It would take him thru the heart of the Upper Kern Basin, some of the finest country in the Sierra, IMO. Pretty easy hiking, too.

billy goat
(billygoat) - F

Locale: West.
Our route... on 02/18/2013 02:16:48 MST Print View

I've taken many of these suggestions to heart and have put together a route for the summer. I'd love to share it if someone here can explain how to take something from Google Earth and post it up here on the discussion board (probably in link format?)...

stephen jennings
(obi96) - F

Locale: Deep in the Green Mountains
Re: JMT or SHR on 02/18/2013 06:32:18 MST Print View

Sent PM

Edited by obi96 on 02/18/2013 06:35:34 MST.