Aug 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm #1277837
Well, here's the short post, with a very detailed and in depth report to follow a bit later.
Left July 30 from Idaho, flew to Reno, drove down and was dropped off at Onion Valley that late afternoon. Hiked over Kearsarge, (my first Sierra pass) and bivied below the pass a few miles down. The next morning, Sunday, hiked down Bubbs to Roads End to meet my hiking partner Royal.
Left for the SHR officially on Aug 1, and what a butt kicker that first day is!! Felt like a million miles of elevation gain up and over Copper Cr and thru Grouse lake. We camped at the upper States Lake on our first day. Already can see that this route is incredibly PHYSICAL!!
Day 2 saw us begin banging out the passes as we hiked over Windy Ridge, Grey Pass, White Pass, Red Pass, and finally Frozen Lake Pass before crashing at Upper Basin. Even with all of the training I've been doing, this route has me on the edge of being able to keep up only two days in.
Day 3 began with Mather Pass, and we begin to see a trend that will catch up to us the farther north we travel. Snow, and alpine ice, and lots of it… Mather is a bytch, and its not even that hard. Conditions make it suck. We continue on and go over Cirque Pass, Potluck Pass, the "inconspicuous" saddle, and Knapsack Pass before camping in Dusy Basin. We are absolutley hammered! We have seen 4 parties on the route, one coming south doing a section, and 3 others going north that started 2 days ahead of us. We have passed them all.
Day 4 sees us drop down and catch the JMT and head for Muir Pass. We are looking forward to a nice trail day, with some cool sightseeing! What a shock to have the trail kick our butts. Muir Pass is a disaster. The snow is solid for over 3 miles, maybe close to 4!, the sun cups are huge, the trail is everywhere, there are snow bridges waiting to drop and kill us over raging torrents of water. I want my mommmy! The sun is an oven, and our feet are soaked thru; I know that they are pruned up and blisters are about to happen. All the lakes up and down thru the pass are still frozen. We finally make it to Evolution Lake to crash for the night. We have some serious decisions now to make. We spoke at length with a ranger in LeConte and recieved news that we could kind of base snow levels and conditions on what we see at Muir Pass. All of the next 3 days are at those elevations, and higher. There is no way we are capable of fighting thru that.
We ultimatley decide to drop off the SHR and catch the JMT and take it to Reds where we will bail out and exit the route.
Bottom line is that with our timetable, our food supply, and our footwear, we would not be very successful if we kept on the route. Conditions are just really incredible this year. We ultimatley took the JMT, kept up the pace, avg'd a bit over 20 miles a day, hit Reds, and then Mammoth where we caught our shuttle ride and now I'm back in Idaho, feeling like the 52yr old man I am! Final tally is something like 60 miles on the SHR, then another 80-90 on the JMT and other trails…
I took meticulous notes and tracked our progress daily on my Sunnto watch, and I also took about 200 photos. I'll be putting together a really in depth report, with a summary of what was good, bad, and what ever at a later date. But wanted to get a short note out there to let others know of conditions.
As a summary with conditions when we left, the most dangerous things to be aware of would be the snow pack, specifically with gullies, and other areas where water is running under the snow, creating very dangerous objective hazards; ie snow bridges, thin snow over the water, and the scree/talus, and long miles with wet and sun heated and snow refelction/sunburn possibilities.
Let me know if there are any questions and I'll try to answer them asap!Aug 9, 2011 at 4:34 pm #1767596
Steve, I found your trip report interesting. Of course, I was not trying to do the Sierra High Route or anything like it. I was doing the Evolution Loop, so I was on a few pieces of the JMT from the San Joaquin to LeConte. Frankly, I found Muir Pass to be a piece of cake, and I think that was because I was going north to south. I had gradual uphills over a little snow (August 5), and then I had some fun boot skiing heading down the snow into LeConte Canyon. You guys must have been carrying heavy loads or something. That will do it.
Wait until you get old.
–B.G.–Aug 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm #1767605
no, our loads were very light. I think that going N to S had a lot to do with it. Also haveing done 50+ miles in the last 3 days had us worn down. The worst was just the constant soaked and battered feet. We just felt it to our cores. We started with 8 days of food and, trail weight was 28 for me and 30 for Royal when we hit copper creek trail. Going S to N we had to fight those "boot ski tracks", and with trail runners, it was hard to get secure purchase. We slipped and slided back a bit each time. Once we were over the pass, it was eaiser, but by then we were soaked thru and even more fatigued. Was an interesting experience for sure.Aug 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm #1767612
Hmmm. Yes, I had covered 55+ miles in four days, nearly all on trail, so it sounds like you were getting beaten up a little more. I had a total 30 pound load only at the start.
At first, the soaked and battered feet in trail runners wasn't too bad. Wet feet isn't too awful bad as long as they get a chance to dry out. After four days and I finished, I was changing into dry socks and shoes to drive home. That is when I noticed the purple color of my soles. Little by little, the sole ache entered. Now home, I find new pains showing up that weren't there at the finish. Maybe that is what getting old is all about.
–B.G.–Aug 15, 2011 at 8:39 pm #1769764
I've posted a detailed trip report on my web site; http://www.getlostoffroad.com, and also included a synopsis of my gear and what worked and what didn't. I'll have some pictures up in another few days.Aug 15, 2011 at 8:50 pm #1769767
looking forward to reading your report. SHR in lots of snow was a big project for me when i did it. and i sunburned the roof of my mouth, which i didn't think you could do. (watch that crazy albedo.) the first seven days were the hardest hiking i've ever done!Aug 15, 2011 at 10:00 pm #1769792
@braapLocale: Bay Area
Great trip report on your website! Looking forward to the pictures.
I scrapped my plans to do the SHR this year based on previous reports on the snow conditions, so I am glad that your report confirmed what I was thinking.
It was smart of you to play it safe and it really shows how different walking on trail vs. off-trail travel can be.Aug 16, 2011 at 8:19 pm #1770187
USA Duane HallBPL Member
@hikerduaneLocale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
I was back last Friday in Sequoia NP in CA, doing 80 miles in 8 days over Kearsarge, Forester, Colby, Avalanche passes then Kearsarge pass again on the morning of the 7th day. Sun cups were deep over Forester and a little tricky north side of Colby. I used trail runners, 30 lb. pack or there abouts, almost 58 now. Muir must have been pretty bad. Welcome to California.
DuaneAug 16, 2011 at 9:08 pm #1770196
Sun cups make for tricky footing.
On August 5, the north side of Muir Pass was very gradual, so the sun cups didn't get in the way too badly.
The south side was worse since the slope is steeper. All in all, it wasn't half as bad as I had expected.
I've walked among sun cups that were 15 feet high before, and that really makes you think.
–B.G.–Aug 16, 2011 at 9:09 pm #1770197
LOL!I'm almost thru with getting pics posted on my trip report, I'll make sure to post it when its done; yeah, the sun cups were pretty interresting! A couple of spots farther south, ie like frozen lake pass, they were hip deep. also in the high cirque at cirque pass/potluck pass, those thigs were serious! it was always a gamble on whether or not to try and step in them, or on the bridge of them… I was right about 50% of the time! like a drunken sailors walk!Aug 17, 2011 at 3:32 pm #1770481
I've finally been able to spend some time and download/re-size pictures from my SHR trip. I've polished up the trip report, summaries, and other info and have it all posted on my website at http://www.getlostoffroad.com Hope you enjoy it. I had a great time re-living the trip!
makes me feel like this when I think about it!Aug 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm #1770568
Mike MBPL Member
Thanks for the report. Every trip report I read on the SHR always borders on epic, yours is no exception! You picked an exceptionally tough year to do it the trip, that much snow had to be a real hinderance.
Did you ever feel the need for crampons/microspikes/ice axe? The SHR is definitely on my to do list, I have a fair amount of experience dealing w/ rock, much less experience dealing w/ snow/ice up high.
Sounds like you were very happy w/ your gear choices, that's always a good feeling- too bad on the trekking pole :(
MikeAug 18, 2011 at 9:05 am #1770691
If I had more experience in Sierra's, ie lived down there, and gone ahead with the trip knowing the snow depths, I would have changed two things. First I would have gone with a more technical approach boot/shoe, something pretty weather proof, and wore real gaiters with them, and second, I would have probably brought an ice axe, one of the short super light models that are out there now.
In the Bugaboos I used a pair of lightweight Garmont boots that accepted crampons, and then an "Air Racing" axe. The boots would have been enough for support and grip and sweet for boot skiing, and the axe would have been more than enough for protection both going down, and up…. I didn't see any place where crampons would have been needed. The axe and boots would have handled everything.Aug 18, 2011 at 10:13 am #1770710
@jainsworth123Locale: Greater LA area
Well after seeing this, I passed on the shr. I'm just going to yoyo the jmt. Maybe I'll try again next year, though from what I understand it's going to be an even bigger snow year.Aug 18, 2011 at 12:33 pm #1770766
Mike MBPL Member
thanks- my hope is when I do the SHR that there is a little less snow :) it does sound like it would be prudent however to get a little experience under my belt on ice/snow w/ an axeAug 22, 2011 at 4:57 pm #1772007
@dbagnallLocale: El Portal, CA
I just got back from doing the southern section of the SHR. We left Cedar Grove on Aug 12th. All I can say is I loved being off trail but man, did it kick my butt. My hiking partner and I sre strong hikers (thru'd the PCT last year – did 18 – 20 miles per day on the JMT) but we just could not make the miles on the SHR. It took us 5.5 days to make Dusy Basin. I don't think we ever got lost but we definitely felt the effects of the altitude and the sun. It sounds like we had less snow that the original poster. We used the ice axes for a couple of traverses and some glissading but the snow did not feel like a major factor in our slow travels.
Great route. Great experience. I can't wait to to do more. Next time I will be ready for slow days.
DarrenAug 22, 2011 at 6:03 pm #1772041
Chris MorganBPL Member
@chrismorganLocale: Southern Oregon
I did Muir Pass on 8/10. By then, the snow was just a mile or so of actual on-snow travel, and there were no real snow bridges or issues to worry about.
My initial plan was to do some off trail, here and there, from the JMT, but all the snow and some illness kept me on the trail. I'd think the SHR would be easier in a better snow year, but then all that talus…Aug 23, 2011 at 3:15 pm #1772262
way to go on doing the southern section! I know that the route is extremely physical. I was actually surprised at that. I do a lot of off trail hiking, and I was amazed at the scope of the terrain the SHR goes thru. Even the "easy" stuff is difficult when compared to most trail sections. The added mental strain of being on guard for navigating all the time adds an additional burden. Finally the sheer mileage is also something not to underestimate. Its a big, and long route for sure!
I am looking forward to giving it another go one day in the future.Aug 23, 2011 at 7:25 pm #1772329
Yeah, it's a little tough out there when the route looks like this (in 2006, heading to Frozen Lake Pass, looking back to Red Pass). Slow, tough going. It took a while to convince the ranger at Cedar Grove to give us a permit to hike to Bridgeport!Sep 3, 2011 at 4:13 pm #1775771
I am sorry to hear you couldn't get through the harsh conditions. On the other hand, I gather you still had an exciting and worthwhile trip. I recently returned (to Santa Barbara, will fly home in a couple of days) from my own venture on the SHR. I think, I was really lucky to start what was probably the decisive two weeks later this year, and made it though in 17 days. I posted a brief reoprt here: http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=52801.
Well, I wish you all the best for your next attempts on this awesome route! Best regards
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