Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Roper's Sierra High Route - Solo
Display Avatars Sort By:
Klas Eklof
(klaseklof) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Roper's Sierra High Route - Solo on 05/28/2007 11:57:02 MDT Print View

Roper's High Route
12 days
South to North
1 resupply at Red's
Around the full moon in late July

I would really appreciate any information or advice. Thanks.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Sierra High Route advice column on 05/28/2007 12:23:01 MDT Print View

What do you specifically want to know?

Remember, that like the Pirate's Code, Roper's SHR and the guidebook is sort of guidelines (in my best Geoffrey Rush imitation).
There are many variations possible, snow conditions may warrant course deviation. Map and compass skills are paramount. You will get into some very lonely country and doing it alone, you must weigh the objective risks and have a plan B and C if things go south. The most difficult sections in terms of routefinding are in the North, in the Minarets vicinity and from the High Sierra Mine off and on until your final crossing of the crest above Twin Lakes. You should probably pack and know how to use an ice axe, there in all likelihood will be some unavoidable snowfields where it will come in handy in July.

This route is one of the most epic long distance backpacks in the country.

Edited by kdesign on 05/28/2007 12:47:53 MDT.

Tim Cheek
(hikerfan4sure) - MLife
Re: Roper's Sierra High Route - Solo on 05/28/2007 13:17:46 MDT Print View

Steve Howe did a solo hike of the Sierra High Route and a daily podcast of his trip in August and September of 2006. See,

I have done solo hikes of only small parts of it. It is challenging, although once you get a sense of the terrain and rock formations the going gets a bit easier.

You must be very careful traveling this route solo. Falling or getting pinned by loose boulders is a real risk, at least where I was.

Also, the route can be hard on equipment. Silnylon is fine in camp, but will not likely do well on the route. I used a Gregory pack with dyneema and it did fine.

Klas Eklof
(klaseklof) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Re: Roper's Sierra High Route on 05/28/2007 17:13:19 MDT Print View

Kevin and Tim, thanks for your comments.
I am approaching this attempt with as much caution as you both suggest.
Specifically, what I want to know is this:
What do you think I need to know? What are the things you would feel compelled to tell someone preparing for this?

Tim Cheek
(hikerfan4sure) - MLife
Roper's Sierra High Route on 05/28/2007 21:45:37 MDT Print View

The last couple of podcasts in Howe's series describes the equipment and route he took based on his experiences. Listen here to his post trip review for his recommendations:

I'd agree with what he says. I photocopied relevant portions of Roper's book for my trip. I was going north to south, so the description took some concentrated reading, I think his south to north description was more detailed.

A self supporting tent would be preferable because you are unavoidably camping on rock shelves, but I just used rocks as stakes and did fine. You are above timberline, so wind is an issue.

At times trekking poles were in the way. The terrain is so variable and you often use your hands (class III or IV). I'm not sure poles were as helpful to me as they apparently were to Steve Howe.

I completly agree with his comments on durability. Trekking shoes will take a beating and some ankle support among those boulders would be helpful. The trade off is that too much leather and shank could prevent you from being cat-like when you need to be. I'd look for a boot with a solid leather upper that remained flexible. The granite is like sandpaper and it tore the seams on a pair of Dunham mid terrastryders I was wearing.

The pack needs to be bushwack and granite rock resistant. More than once I was sliding on my butt on loose talus, etc. to avoid sliding off whatever I was trying to stay on. Also, squeezing between boulders can wreck havoc on the pack. Avoid hanging stuff off your pack, it'll get pulled off or torn up.

Much of the routefindng I did was by sight and much of this route is above timberline. However, Roper's description of the route can seem impassable because you can't see past all of the boulders and cliffs you are negotiating. You rarely walk in a straight line, you may go left, then right, then right again, and it is easy to lose track of the originally intended direction. A map and compass bearing based on the book is helpful. Kevin is right, you need to be capable of using those tools. If you go too far off the recommended route you can end up stuck on a rock shelf that was somehow easy to get to, but difficult to get off of.

I recall Steve Howe recommends a rope. I didn't have one. In retrospect I'd have brought at least a length of rope capable of hauling my pack down some of the steep sections. From some of Howe's podcasts I take it he encountered more exposure than I did. I'd listen to those podcasts relevant to your route. My personal preference is not to bring a rope on a solo trip because if I feel I need a rope I'm likely taking too many risks and should seek out another route.

I think he used a plb or sat phone. This is one trip in the lower 48 that would justify having one. You will be near the JMT and all of that traffic, but you will likely be too far away to be heard. Rent if you can't afford to buy.

Off subject, this reference to Steve Howe reminds me of a story. I was in the Wind River Range in early August of 2006. While getting bear spray and alcohol that I couldn't fly with at a popular outfitter who shuttles hikers or their cars to and from the trails, they told me they had been unable to park a hiker's car at the destination he had requested because a local tribe wouldn't give them permission. He was hiking south on the CDT and I was hiking north on the CDT, so they gave me a piece of paper with the hiker's name on it and asked me to let him know his car would have to be parked two days away from his intended destination. As a joke, I asked them if there was a cold beer in this for me. They laughed, and I forgot about the beer, but remembered the instructions. Well, the hiker was Steve Howe! Sure enough about three or four days later I ran into him and had a Dr. Livingston moment. When I was picked up four days later by the outfitter (I made sure they could pick me up there before I left!), I told him I found Howe and let him know the car would not be waiting, but they would park it at Big Sandy Opening. Without skipping a beat, the outfitter produced a cold beer from an ice chest as a thanks. They feared Steve Howe, who they knew worked for Backpacker, would write a bad review of their services if he'd arrived at his destination without his car. They weren't sure their communications with the magazine's home office were communicated to him, though they got the impression he had a sat phone. Until they picked me up, they were sweating the consequences. I think Howe was scheduled to get out a day or two after me, so I assume his car was waiting for him.

You should have a trip of a lifetime, just take it slowly and carefully. If you are going too slow for your cache, then plan on an alternate route out for provisions as Kevin recommends. In my view, the greatest risk is moving too fast on this route. There is a lot of great scenery out there anyway, so why rush it through the boulders and risk a mishap.

Edited by hikerfan4sure on 05/28/2007 21:55:18 MDT.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Advice Column (cont.) on 05/28/2007 22:58:05 MDT Print View

It is quite possible to do the High Route in UL style. I have done the Northern half in this fashion (alone) as well as the whole route with somewhat more trad gear. But I hesitate to recommend that you try it in this fashion unless you have a lot of experience in that department. Furthermore, the bear canister requirements in force for much of the route create certain pack volume issues. Still, it should be quite possible with consideration (and possible gear purchases) to keep your base weight below 12 lbs. or so.

Shelter---I used a tarp and bivy combo on the solo endeavor. A tarp generally means taking trekking poles---make sure they're of the telescoping variety for storage as the trekking poles will very often only get in the way as Tim suggests. You could look into a freestanding bivy or something like the BD epic tents (Firstlight, etc.)---both lend themselves well for Sierra excusions.

Footwear on the order of Lowa Tempest Lows would be adequate for the SHR---mine were worn w/ Superfeet insoles which created more torsional rigidity. Something like the Montrail Namche would offer mid-high support and superb rubber. These shoes are what I will be using this Summer. A Dyneema fabric pack like those of ULA or Golite will hold up with reasonable care.

On the question of communications equipment, well, that's a matter of personal and philosophical choice. I won't counsel you on this point.

I think a rope is optional and could prove more dangerous than not without previous experience in use. Good routefinding should keep you from needing a rope, anyway.

I think doing the Route in 12 days is reasonable for someone in good shape and if weather and snow conditions permit. If you get caught up in one of the Sierra's rare multi-day storms (usually burned out tropical storms emanating from the South) consider bailing out onto the JMT and/or safer ground.

Howe presents a pretty conservative approach (by my lights) to a trip of this type. If you have any doubts about the commitment and skills needed for a trip of this nature, maybe his approach should be considered more strongly.

Hope this helps and bon voyage.

P.S. Abstract Expressionism still rocks.

Edited by kdesign on 05/28/2007 23:02:28 MDT.

Klas Eklof
(klaseklof) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Re: Roper's Sierra High Route Advice on 05/29/2007 21:32:02 MDT Print View

Thanks again to you both for your excellent comments, definately got me to take yet another look at a lot of my choices.

The last two gear items I'm still contemplating are shelter and shoes.

For shelter, my current choices are:
- GG spinsolo tarp + MLD bivy 15.5oz (currently own)
- Tarptent Virga original 24oz (currently own)
- BD Oneshot 37oz (would need to buy)
No matter which shelter, I won't bring treking poles.

For shoes, I wasn't even giving this a second thought until you both mentioned shoes. I was assuming I'd be fine in my inov8 310's. These got me through the Hardrock 100 easily.

Any further thoughts on these issues?

I'll post my gearlist in that forum when I get a little closer.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Re: Roper's Sierra High Route Advice on 05/29/2007 23:18:48 MDT Print View

Hey Klas,
The recommended free standing tent is the best idea, however it may be harder to find a good location that the tent will acquire???

At least with the tarptent and tarp you have more options.
You would need 20* bag rather than a 30* with the tarps due to the drafts you will have.

Every pound above 12,000' feet feels like two, so I would just worry about bringing the right gear that can take on more than one task, (a good tough layering system).
Be aware that it is so remote that when the day heats up, it can get hot! Maybe an umbrella could be beneficial.

I recently picked up a pair of Golite Sun Dragon shoes.
I got the Trail Fly's first, but they just didn't fit my foot.
The Sun Dragons with a better insert are excellent shoes.
They are a boot in disguise of a hiking shoe with the weight of a running shoe.
The traction on all of the Golite's are the best I've ever seen and will do you justice on the trail.

Check out Zappos for the reviews of the different styles. I would only recommend the Sun Dragons or the Set Wings. The others have a different forefoot on the bottom that do more bad than good.
The weight of your 310's are 10.9 ounces which are the same as the Sun Dragons as well.

I'm willing to bet the Golites would hold up better. There is also a lot of cushioning for the weight.

Can't wait to see the Gearlist.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
The last SHR column on 05/29/2007 23:53:48 MDT Print View

Look forward to the gearlist. On my profile, I have one posted that I used for a trip that involved a long section of the SHR.

I'm partial to tarp/bivy combos and that is what I generally use these days for solo travel. If you don't bring trekking poles, I suggest that you order 1 or 2 120cm tent poles from Gossamer Gear ( that would also work with the Virga). These would help immensely for a tight tarp pitch above timberline.

The BD Oneshot would certainly be the strongest of your shelter selections---you will find little problem in finding sites to pitch it en route. But the extra weight...

The Inov8's seem to have a rep for wearing out somewhat quickly--- but since it sounds you are happy w/ them and used them on the Hardrock... The Golites, I'm personally not sold on---yet. I have real questions on their suitability for off-trail travel. It's a radical concept for sole construction----perhaps I'll wait for version "B". I'm concerned about the potential of lug delamination.

I really like the approach/trailrunner hybrid Montrail CTC's that are on my gearlist---those Gryptonite soles help make short work of class 3 rock. The toughest you'll face en route if things are going right.

Edited by kdesign on 05/30/2007 00:01:37 MDT.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: The last SHR column on 05/30/2007 12:12:30 MDT Print View

I don't think there is any problem with delaminating of the Golites.
My 2 outermost front lugs are very beat up from it being at the foot strike area after 75 very hard miles on them.

The real problem will be trying to get more than 300 miles out of the shoes before the lugs are just wasted away from being so exposed.

Yes, this is a big down fall, but the traction you get with these is well worth it. Maybe not for a full time training shoe, but for something like this trip they would be a must on my list.

Tim Cheek
(hikerfan4sure) - MLife
Re: Re: The last SHR column on 05/30/2007 13:34:38 MDT Print View

Aaron, have you used the Golites in mud? Seems the lugs would carry a lot of mud with them.

Kevin, have you used the Namche?

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Namches on 05/30/2007 13:41:22 MDT Print View

Actually, I'm using the Namche's now. They've been on some day hikes, some scrambles in my local mtns. and an overnight. They are overkill for those applications ---I prefer to use light trailrunners for those--I'm on my last pair of Masais :-( --- but a necessary shakedown for more ambitious forays later in the season. I like them a lot---good support, excellant breathability, great rubber and in many respects they feel like Hardrocks with a higher cut. I will be using them a lot on longer distance UL fastpacks and I expect them to do very well off trail. Kind of tough choosing using the Namches or the CTC's. Really can't go wrong either way. One of the rare instances in which I agree with the conclusions of Backpacker and Outside magazines----I somehow feel sullied ;-)>

Of course, the fit won't please everyone and that is ultimately what will determine how great they will be, personally.

I do value breathability over waterproofness for the Sierra, late Spring through fall and as Summer Cascade footwear and that's exactly the bias of this shoe.

Edited by kdesign on 05/30/2007 21:28:05 MDT.

Klas Eklof
(klaseklof) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Re: The last SHR column on 05/30/2007 21:20:32 MDT Print View

I'm leaning towards the tarp. Since I don't use poles I do have the carbon sticks for it.
If ryan finds your shoe debate in this forum you guys are in trouble. I'm also a Masai lover. Ran a bunch of ultras in them. Went to the inov8 250's, but found they only work for me on short distances (30 miles or less). Moved up to the 310's for running >30 and love them.
Must say I hadn't noticed the CTC's and they look extremely appropriate. Will go try some on...
Why is this SHR column the "last" one?

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
the laster SHR column on 05/30/2007 21:25:17 MDT Print View

It sounded good. :-)>

Yes, try the CTC's--the low cut ones, not the mid-cut with XCR GT liner (too hot). let me know what you think.

Aaron Wallace
(basilbop) - F
Hiking Poles on the SHR on 05/31/2007 12:33:02 MDT Print View

Depending on water level, hiking poles may be useful for balance when crossing the San Joaquin River below lower Twin Island Lake--there can be a fairly strong current, waist-deep water, and obligatory river-polished, slippery rocks. That said, this "crux" crossing will probably be more of a rock-hop late season this year due to the relatively dry winter...

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Crossing the S.J. below Twin Island on 05/31/2007 12:41:41 MDT Print View

I crossed this dry footed last Sept. It does seem that water/snow conditions in the Sierra are acting like it's 2-3 weeks later, this year.