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"Beginner" Sierra Cross Country route
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James Block
(jsblock11) - F

Locale: Southern California
"Beginner" Sierra Cross Country route on 04/07/2013 19:00:45 MDT Print View

I've been getting more and more interested in tackling some Sierra cross country hiking this summer, specifically the SHR section starting near Italy Pass. I have not previously done any cross country hiking beyond some desert boulder hopping, and I'm hoping to find some "beginner" type routes to get my feet wet, maybe a 3-6 day loop or out and back in the Eastern Sierra that would give me a couple of days of trail hiking with a cross country section or two thrown in.

I frequently hike in the San Jacinto and San Bernardino mountains of SoCal as well and would love to hear about any cross country routes to work on more advanced navigation and route finding skills there as well. Any tips for that region other than just studying the maps and exploring on my own?

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: "Beginner" Sierra Cross Country route on 04/07/2013 19:21:05 MDT Print View

"Any tips for that region other than just studying the maps and exploring on my own?"

First of all, look over a lot of topo maps, and if you see some large areas with no roads or trails, then start to focus in. It helps if you have a good mapping program on your computer.

Once you start to see some areas, but you don't know much more about them, try to figure out what the name is for some cross-country pass. Gabbot Pass comes to mind (near Mono Pass out of Rock Creek). I had heard of another pass, Harrison Pass, which is near Forester Pass, so I went there last summer. Internet searches can turn up all sorts of things, either in text or in images. If you have a place name but nothing else, then search at Climber.Org

There may be trip reports, either recent or historic. If there are no recent trip reports at all, then that may be a bad sign that nobody goes there at all, or else nobody goes there who survives.

Before you go dashing off into the wilderness, maybe recruit a few friends to go along. That would make it safer.

--B.G.--

James Castleberry
(Winterland76)
Skurka map set on 04/07/2013 19:29:32 MDT Print View

Consider getting a copy of Andrew Skurka's Sierra High Route map set at andrewskurka.com. It's reasonably priced and very good.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: "Beginner" Sierra Cross Country route on 04/07/2013 19:38:01 MDT Print View

"There may be trip reports, either recent or historic. If there are no recent trip reports at all, then that may be a bad sign that nobody goes there at all, or else nobody goes there who survives."

... Or a few people go there, it is a great place, and they don't write about it so it will remain a great place.

I agree with Bob that the SHR might not be a good place to learn solo land navigation.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: "Beginner" Sierra Cross Country route on 04/07/2013 19:49:50 MDT Print View

For summer routes, three people is a good group. If one person gets hurt, one person can stay to help and the other person can go for help.

For winter routes, four or five people is a good group. It takes more manpower to care for an injured person in winter, and two people is a safer team for going for help.

If you don't know much detail information about the area, then you have to play it safe. OTOH, before I went over Harrison Pass I had researched it fairly well. I had studied the angles and got old first-hand reports at Climber.Org

Even then, I managed to get some surprises. Next time I will be quicker at jumping out of the way of a 300-pound rock sliding down the scree toward me.

--B.G.--

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: "Beginner" Sierra Cross Country route on 04/08/2013 20:10:34 MDT Print View

"I'm hoping to find some "beginner" type routes to get my feet wet, maybe a 3-6 day loop or out and back in the Eastern Sierra that would give me a couple of days of trail hiking with a cross country section or two thrown in."

If the idea of slogging up over Shepherd Pass doesn't turn you off, here are two possible routes that combine a mix of mellow cross country with trail hiking in some very beautiful country: 1) After crossing Shepherd Pass, head for the saddle just east of Tawny Point. You will pick up a use trail that takes you south into Wright Lakes Basin. While there, you can explore upper Wright Lakes Basin, then head on over the low ridge into Wallace Lake Basin and explore it. From there, head west down Wallace Creek to the JMT and return to TH over Shepherd Pass; 2) After crossing Shepherd Pass, head west and pick up the trail to Lake South America. Take that trail north over an unnamed pass to Lake South America. From there contour along the Kings-Kern Divide and on down along the Great Western Divide to the connector trail back to the JMT, just north of where the trail descends into Kern Canyon. If you have time take a day to poke around in Milestone Basin. From there, follow the connector trail back to the trail up to Shepherd Pass and return over Shepherd Pass to TH. Both of these routes involve easy cross country and will take you thru some of the best the Sierra has to offer, and both fit well into a 5-6 day trip, assuming you are in reasonably good shape.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: "Beginner" Sierra Cross Country route on 04/08/2013 21:02:47 MDT Print View

Writing for Amy:

You should get a copy of RJ Secor's The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes and Trails. In each chapter he has a section entitled Cross-Country Routes. There he describes and class rates a wide variety of established and not so established off trail options. Some people may nit-pick Secor, but our experience over the years is that he is reliable source of very useful information. So, pick an area you want to visit and check out Secor's options in the appropriate chapter. And as an added kicker, at the end of the chapter he has a little section called Wrinkles which often offers even more possibilites.

Once you gain a bit of experience traveling cross country in the Sierra, which by the way is most often terrific backpacking with very few to no other people, you will be able to create your own options using the USGS topos and Secor to link up various interesting opportunities.

James Yurchenco

James Block
(jsblock11) - F

Locale: Southern California
Thanks! on 04/09/2013 15:02:37 MDT Print View

Thanks to all for the feedback and advice. I realize that by definition off trail hiking isn't a "beginner" activity to jump into solo, I usually only hike solo because my friends are too busy with life or into different hobbies. Normally I hike on busier trails to somewhat lower the risk factor of hiking solo, but love solitude as well.

I picked up Secor's book from the library and it looks reasonable to perhaps pick out some "easy" Class 2 peaks/passes to try and work into the trips to get my feet wet without exposing myself to too much unnecessary risk. If all goes well I'll search for a someone to tag along with for a SHR section hike or something similar this year or next.

stephan q
(khumbukat) - F
Another resource for Beginner Sierra Cross Country route on 04/09/2013 15:15:57 MDT Print View

I have found this to be one of the most helpful trip planning resources out there.

http://www.highsierratopix.com/high-sierra-map/map.php

stephan