Before going back to school in the fall, I've decided to hike the Sierra High Route (or something similar). I plan on spending between 2 weeks and 20 days, generally taking it slow. I would start at the beginning of August.
I've been wanting to do an extended trip for a while now. I originally considered the John Muir Trail, but I am much more interested in cross country travel than trail travel.
Some background info, I am 20 years old and have been backpacking and hiking seriously for a few years. I grew up wandering around off trail at local state parks. I am an off trail hiking fanatic. I do a lot of very difficult off trail hiking in Big Sur in narrow, debris littered canyons and through very dense brush (1/4 mile per hour travel). All of my future hiking goals involve cross country expeditions. I just find on trail hiking to be a little boring at times.
However, I have very little experience in the High Sierras. I don't know anything about any of the locations I will be traveling through. It will all be new to me.
I am very comfortable with walking through challenging terrain and route finding. I understand how difficult, slow, and mentally exhausting this kind of travel can be. Honestly, I have probably been through much worse but not for such an extended period of time.
It's the navigation that is worrying me. I know that the high sierra is one of the easiest places for cross country travel, but this is a huge undertaking and the amount of information on routes is overwhelming. As I said earlier, I know very little about where I am going. Planning resupplies and ensuring that I can bail out is difficult as well. I don't mind getting a little off track and planning my own alternate routes.
I know that a few on here have hiked the trail and I'm looking for general information and advice:
How closely do I need to follow the route? I don't mind wandering in a northwesternly direction, but I don't want to run into terrain outside of the route that I can't handle (cliffs and such).
Should I go all out with maps? Super detailed maps, overview maps, maps of exit points, extended overview maps of surrounding areas, ect.? I will have a phone with gps and a baseplate compass and detailed maps.
I'm considering getting a ride into Bishop or Mammoth to resupply. Is this too much of a hassle?
What kind of weather can I expect at such high elevations?
Is a large flat tarp a good shelter choice?
If I get a permit in a national park or national forest, is it valid for every other national forest and national park that I enter? Is it only valid for the locations I specify on the permit which would end up being mostly inaccurate.
Bear canisters, is there any way around this? I would like to avoid them for most my hike. I don't mind sleeping right next to my food when above the treeline. I'm not scared of a curious bear. Is there any way to secure my food while above the treeline so that I can leave my pack for a quick peak bag or side exploration? Ursack?
I plan on taking this trip fairly slow. I'll do a lot of side exploration and plenty of fishing. I always have to climb every rock formation and check out every lake I see. This might mean that I will have to carry a lot of food, but I can also supplement with fishing (within safe reason).
I am going to rent a PLB for this trip. If I get hurt it's going to be a long time before anyone will start looking for me and it may take them a while to actually find me.
So far this is a solo trip. Am I going to go crazy wandering around a lifeless lunar landscape without any human contact? Will I even see any people at all out there?