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Sierra High Route 2012
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Andy Duncan
(bluewater) - M

Locale: SoCal
Sierra High Route 2012 on 05/17/2013 16:36:11 MDT Print View

Last summer my hiking buddy Dan (aka Bogey ) and I hiked the first section of the Sierra High Route. By chance Dan and I met on BPL last year while we were planning our trips. It turns out both of us spent the winter reading Ropers guidebook, studying Skurkas maps and dialing in our gear.

Although I usually hike solo my wife was a lot more comfortable knowing that I would have a partner while negotiating the miles of boulders, talus and cross country passes. We had never met in person but I knew everything would be fine when I saw Dan wearing a black Steelers cap at the trailhead. My wife grew up in Pittsburgh and much of my family is from the 'Burgh.

The first day was spent on logistics. After leaving our cars at the North Lake and South Lake trailheads we shuttled with local driver Don Sheldon to the Onion Valley trail. By the time we finally got started it was 10:00 am so we made it an easy first day and camped near the Bubbs Creek/Sphinx Creek junction.


View from the top of Kearsarge Pass.

By 12:00 noon the next day we were at the bottom of the Copper Creek trail. Along the way we met an older ranger who noticed our lightweight gear as we passed by. He went into a lengthy rant about the dangers of lightweight backpacking and something about the good old days.

After we laughed it up with the group of young hikers waiting for their permits it was time to move on. It was strange enough to receive negative feedback from a ranger but it seemed outright crazy to be scolded for hiking smart. I was carrying 20 lbs and I think Dan was near 28 lbs for our 9 day trek.


Heading down to Kings Canyon.

The following morning we finally set out cross country to Grouse Lake.


And later walked along the sandy shoreline of Glacier Lake.


We chilled out watching the alpenglow while camping between the two Horseshoe Lakes that night.


Next day we contoured along Windy Ridge and over Gray, White and Red passes to Marion Lake.


View from Windy Ridge.


Dan on the way down from Red Pass to Marion Lake.


Marion Lake.

After touring Lake Basin we made it over Frozen Lake pass and into Upper Basin for the night.


Heading toward Frozen Lake Pass from Lake Basin.


Steep west side of Frozen Lake Pass.


West side route down from Frozen Lake Pass.


Split Mountain from our camp in Upper Basin.

It was strange to be back on the trail the following day. We met several people on the short hike over Mather Pass and to the Palisades Lakes.


Sandy beach along Lower Palisade Lake.


Dan leaving the trail on the way to Cirque Pass.

Once over Cirque Pass we camped on a sandy beach below the Palisade Crest.


Camping below Palisade Crest.


Sunset on the Palisades.

Potluck Pass was our first goal the following morning. After that the route across Palisade Basin was a breeze.


Dan on top of Potluck Pass.

After crossing Knapsack Pass Dan headed out over Bishop Pass and eventually back home.


Dusy Basin from Knapsack Pass.

While he was enjoying a much deserved cheese burger I continued on and camped in upper LeConte Canyon.


Familiar camp in upper LeConte Canyon.

I left the SHR and crossed the Sierra Crest at Echo Col.

echo col

The photo above of the route to Echo Col from the JMT was taken from the summit of Black Giant (photo courtesy Rogue Photonic aka Chris Ryerson).

I found debris from a plane crash in the melted out snow/ice field below Echo Col. The plane crashed in a winter storm in 1980. It is usually covered by the ice field but was visible due to the low snow year and late season conditions.


I followed the cliffs above the western shore to the outlet of Echo Lake and into Sabrina Basin.


And camped at Sailor Lake in Sabrina Basin.


The next day I made my way back to the South Lake hikers parking lot.


Looking back toward Sabrina Basin on the way home.

This was a fun trip through some of the most remote and beautiful areas of the High Sierra. Although we didn't move as quickly as some of the very impressive hikers here on BPL we had a great time and have already planned on getting back on the SHR next summer.

For the whole story including route details, maps, gear list and photos check out:

Sierra High Route 2012

Thanks for reading.


Edited by bluewater on 05/17/2013 16:44:43 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
SHR TR on 05/17/2013 17:06:58 MDT Print View

Very nice, Andy. I really enjoyed your write up, and look forward to the next chapter.

Beautiful country, ain't it?

Andy Duncan
(bluewater) - M

Locale: SoCal
SHR TR on 05/17/2013 17:22:49 MDT Print View

Thanks Tom. Beautiful country! I can't wait to get back.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Sierra High Route 2012 on 05/17/2013 17:24:33 MDT Print View

"I found debris from a plane crash in the melted out snow/ice field below Echo Col."

Fascinating find. I've been over there twice since 1980 and never saw such a thing. Is that west of Echo Col, or east of it?


Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: SHR on 05/17/2013 17:25:01 MDT Print View

Bravo Andy. I was hoping you'd post a TR at some point. Really enjoyed the fantastic photos. I think my sleeping bag was in the exact same spot as yours below Palisade Crest.

Edited by andrew.f on 05/17/2013 17:27:25 MDT.

Andy Duncan
(bluewater) - M

Locale: SoCal
Re: SHR on 05/17/2013 18:23:29 MDT Print View

Thank you Bob & Andrew. You guys are some Sierra veterans and I really appreciate it.

Bob, I found the crash debris at the bottom of the cirque on the northwest side. Most of it was very well preserved including seat cushions, wings, doors etc. I researched the tail number (N231EY). According to this site it was a Mooney that crashed on Feb. 18th, 1980. I found an obituary from the August issue of Physics Today, "Robert V. Pole. The physics community lost one of its most creative thinkers and one of its finest people when Robert Pole's private plane crashed in a snow storm in the Sierra Nevada mountains on 16 February 1980". The dates aren't an exact match, but I think there may have been some delay in the report on the locator database. There is more information online confirming that there was just one person on the plane. It must have been a bad storm because I remember reading about one or two other crashes from the same time period along the Sierra crest. There is a photo of the debris somewhere on summitpost. If you are interested I took a few videos. I can post them on youtube.

Andrew, I think I saw your photo from that same camp spot below the Sierra Crest! We were surprised to see a comfortable sandy beach to sleep on.

Edited by bluewater on 05/17/2013 18:25:08 MDT.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: SHR on 05/17/2013 21:46:40 MDT Print View

Andy, I guess you mean the side of Echo Col that faces toward the JMT. Directions are kind of sketchy up there since the Sierra Crest is not a straight line.

"At the bottom of the cirque."

Roughly how far away from the actual notch of Echo Col is that?

Like I stated, I've been through there a couple of times and never saw anything. This is the side of the crest that faces the afternoon sun, so I would expect the snow to melt off every year.

However, each of those two times I was more concerned about not breaking my leg or something. It's kind of rough up near the notch.

There are some other dandy aircraft crash sites along the crest, even if most of the good debris is already gone.


Andy Duncan
(bluewater) - M

Locale: SoCal
Crash Site on 05/18/2013 13:48:37 MDT Print View

Bob, the debris is located on the north side at the bottom of the cirque where the snow field usually covers the bottom and some of the north facing wall. I called it the northwest side before but it's more like the north/northeast side. Like you said the crest winds around this area. The blue arrow is the col and the red arrow is the crash site in this map:

crash site

I took a short video at the site. I didn't touch anything and although the debris appeared to be well preserved there were no signs of anything but the plane. I respectfully reported the site to the local ranger (who had no knowledge of it).

crash site video

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Crash Site on 05/18/2013 15:59:09 MDT Print View

Excellent. Now I know exactly where you mean. I had been trying to think on the other side of the crest.

There was another crash site next to Kearsarge Pass. Then another one in Darwin Canyon. Another one was an old WWII bomber next to Koip Peak. Then there are more and more. The real aircraft crash geeks try to look for serial numbers on engine pieces and stuff like that, especially in the case of a military aircraft.

I know how you feel. You are passing through a spot like that, and you feel like it is deep in the wilderness... then all of a sudden you come across something like this. You feel compelled to shoot some video or take some stills, but you really don't have the time to fool around with it all day. You still had miles and miles to go with a pack on your back.


Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Sierra High Route 2012 on 05/25/2013 18:59:29 MDT Print View

The SHR always provides great photos, and your trip report doesn't disappoint. Thanks for sharing.

Andy Duncan
(bluewater) - M

Locale: SoCal
Re: Sierra High Route 2012 on 05/27/2013 12:10:22 MDT Print View

Thanks Tom. Next summer can't come soon enough!

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
Nice Trip Report on 05/27/2013 12:26:23 MDT Print View


Thanks for the nice trip report. Sabrina Basin looks like something I would like to explore. It is always great to read reports here and get ideas for new trips.

Best Regards,


Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
old silly ranger on 05/27/2013 13:59:50 MDT Print View


If you ever get caught with that light gear in a big Sierra Storm that old silly ranger's words that you laughed at may start to ring in your ears :)

I go light too, but am old enough to remember several deaths in the Sierra due to backpackers not being prepared. So it is with some trepidation that I go light with words similar to the ranger's rattling around my brain.


Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Sierra High Route 2012 on 05/27/2013 14:03:48 MDT Print View

Wonderful photos, beautiful area. Thanks for sharing Andy!

Andy Duncan
(bluewater) - M

Locale: SoCal
Re: old silly ranger on the Sierra High Route 2012 on 05/29/2013 18:53:34 MDT Print View

Thanks for your comments Manfred, Bill & Just Me.

Bill, that old silly ranger gave me something to think about on the 5,000+ ft. of switchbacks that afternoon:)

The thing that bothered me about the ranger is that his comments seemed to reflect the misconception that going lightweight or ultralight requires a hiker to be unsafe. I realize this topic has been widely discussed here on BPL.

I have heard about some of those deaths in the Sierra. I am joining an organized search and recovery for Larry Conn this summer. He was the experienced hiker that went missing around Taboose Pass last October. He hiked solo and didn't carry a locator beacon.

David T
(DaveT) - F
SHR on 05/29/2013 19:00:56 MDT Print View

Thanks for the TR and great pictures. Sure looks different without any snow on the route! Great trip!