Back to top
All Humans Are Welcome Here!

Little Package Archive : Sierra High Route

The Sierra High Route (SHR) is an alternate route — not a trail — through the high Sierra Nevada suggested by Steve Roper in his 1990 book Sierra High Route: Traversing Timberline County. It somewhat parallels the John Muir Trail (JMT) for most its length, and briefly uses the JMT to move from one crest to another. Steve Roper agonized over whether to share the route in a book; he feared its pristine nature would be damaged by overuse.


Between the months of June and October 2015, I had the privilege to take on every mile of the SHR, solo. I attacked it in a south to north fashion; however, I started with a chunk at the north, and hiked subsequent chunks moving south by a chunk from that. I had the luxury to be able to take chunks over the course of several months, when I felt up to them. However, as I approached the southernmost chunk, smoke from the expansive (80,000 acres and only 25% at the time of writing in early September) Rough Fire filled the Kings Canyon and closed the southern terminus at Cedar Grove. It’s uncertain when I will be able to hike the remaining 30 miles from Land’s End to Taboose Pass (the SHR near the southern foot of Mathers Pass).

I kept my camper van in Lone Pine, a wild frontier town in the Eastern Sierra, and resupplied from there. All trail access was done by hitchhiking and the Eastern Sierra Transit bus. As I already had the gear from my PCT thru-hike, this hike cost me very little money (mostly just food expense).


June 13-15th: Tuolumne Meadows to Twin Lakes
July 15-19th: Reds Meadow to Tuolumne Meadows
July 24-27th: Piute Pass to Reds Meadow
August 16-20th: Taboose Pass to Piute Pass
October 18-22nd: Kearsarge Pass to Taboose Pass

Total trail miles: ~195 of 195 (Roper’s main suggested route almost completed; two “major” alternates used: Alpine Col and Cartridge Pass)
Total miles hiked (access trails included): 233
Total days on trail: 21
Today days on the SHR: 19

talus

SHR Talus Report

I wouldn’t say I had too many surprises this summer on the Sierra High Route (SHR). I was fairly lucky with weather, I had warm gear, almost enough food, and navigation worked out well. I only had two death-defying falls. One thing stands out about this hike and that thing is exceptional amounts of talus. Now that I think about it, talus caused both of my falls (1, 2).

Talus, Talus, Talus

So much talus. Talus fields. More talus than you can shake a stick at. Talus coming out your ears. Talus rainbows. Talus, talus, talus.

What is talus?

ta·lus: a sloping mass of rock fragments at the foot of a cliff.

Pics of SHR talus will give you the idea:

Talus is tricky. Over time, as one hikes over miles and miles of talus field, one might become a TALUS MASTER. One will know in… continue reading

More Sierra High Route “Bonus Miles”

Abram – the mysterious fellow I met on my L2H hike in October – introduced me to the concept of “bonus miles.”

We’re lucky enough as it is to be hiking, thus, any extra miles hiked to get here or there that aren’t on the itinerary are “bonus miles.”

Bonus Miles – Pics

These are shots from the bonus miles tagged to the end of my Sierra High Route trek.

I was done with this epic route at around 1pm October 21st, but I was still deep in the Sierra. A matter of note – the old Taboose Pass trail is very cool. It’s marked on topo maps but little-traveled, a tiny bit hard to find in spots, and quite steep, but I loved it. I took it on the way out for variety.

It wasn’t until about 1pm on the 22nd that I set foot back in Lone Pine…. continue reading

Sierra High Route Part 1: Roads End to Taboose Pass

October 19 – Road’s End to Granite Basin

This 35-mile bit of the SHR took me 5 days (an extra day to hike 20 miles to the trailhead, and an extra day to hike 10+ miles out). On the afternoon of October 19th, I made it to Road’s End. I had already covered ten miles in the morning; here are the next ten.

Going up Copper Creek Trail made for one of the more difficult days I’ve had on trail. It was a gorgeous, groomed trail, even after angry storms blew through the week before. But this trail is straight up. From 5036 feet at the trailhead to of something like that to the 10,347 feet at the Granite Basin lip – that’s 5312 feet in under 7 miles. Even having just completed one of the world’s steepest climbs the week prior (Telescope Peak [11,000ft] from Badwater [-280ft]),… continue reading

A Walk from Onion Valley to Road’s End

In the middle of October, after having finished an amazing L2H hike with two great guys (Bulldozer and Abram), I was looking at wrapping up my season and heading back to Portland to spend the holidays with my mother.

But it was driving me crazy that I hadn’t finished my Sierra High Route hike. I walked around Mt. Williamson, summiting two 14ers to compensate, and I made some excuses, but still it was driving me crazy when I wasn’t trying to put it out of my mind. I’m not sure I’d ever feel right if I didn’t complete the SHR in one season as I intended.

LoveNote showed up in Lone Pine and planted the seed again, a few days later. When I told her my excuses, she (and her dog) gave me this look:

And that did it. Next thing I knew I… continue reading

Making Steve Roper Proud

The Sierra High Route is a 195-mile long route charted through the backcountry — and along some existing trails — of the High Sierra Nevada. It was devised by noted Sierra climber and historian Steve Roper, and originally, discreetly, published in book form in 1982. I first learned about it in 2013 during my thru-hike when the wonderfully thought-full hiker “Manchurian.” Manchurian hiked a section of the Sierra High Route between Reds Meadow and Tuolumne, I’m not sure how much of it he conquered but I remember him telling me it wasn’t too hard, and that the only sign of humanity he found out there was a deflated helium balloon.

When the Pacific Crest Trail and it’s burgeoning “culture” totally disenfranchised me earlier this year, I made a rather knee-jerk decision to ditch the PCT and instead tackle that remote and “not too hard” Sierra High Route.

The only… continue reading

SHR me and the muir hut

Sierra High Route Part 2: Taboose Pass to Piute Pass

Day 1: Taboose Pass to Taboose Pass

August 16th. I started the day having leftover apple pie, cinnamon rolls, and fresh hot coffee with LoveNote and Burly White’s wedding party near South Lake. This was a beautiful wedding, a marriage of two great people who met while hiking the Continental Divide trail and fell in love. They crowned their hike and sealed the deal by adopting a puppy together, and this great dog, “Huckleberry,” dug holes between the two as they voiced their oaths. Behind them the backdrop of the Inconsolable Range and Bishop Pass Mountains Mt. Goode, Mt. Johnson, and Mt. Thompson seemed only painted on canvas — it was that perfect. I was watching them get married and looking at familiar High Sierra at the same time.

I was something of the “wedding crasher,” having not only just met the couple weeks before, but also under the circumstance… continue reading

Sierra High Route Part 3: Piute Pass to Reds Meadow

Day 1: Piute Pass Trailhead to French Canyon

July 24th. This hike was kicked off with a pleasant hitch in a big truck from a fellow named Kelly. Kelly had just dropped his niece “Sierra” off at Mt. Whitney so that she could summit, and was headed back to Bishop where he was visiting family. Kelly and his niece had just finished the John Muir Trail (JMT) and had themselves hitch hiked, so he was eager to “pay it forward.” He was not only super fun to chat with, but he stopped by Great Basin bakery in Bishop (so much better than Schatz FWIW) and bought me a coffee, a muffin, and a baguette to pack out, AND he drove me all the way to the Puite Pass trailhead. With such luck and grace in the morning, it was inconceivable anything could go wrong.

Well, a couple things could go… continue reading

Sierra High Route Part 4: Reds Meadow to Tuolumne Meadows

This ~50-mile stretch of the Sierra High Route took me four days. I left from Reds Meadows near Mammoth Lakes on a Wednesday afternoon at 12:30pm and came out in Tuolumne Meadows on a Sunday at 11:00am with heels on fire – I wanted to make breakfast at the diner!

Day 1: Devil’s Postpile to Superior Lake

July 15th. It began with a pleasant enough jaunt along the PCT/JMT towards Devil’s Postpile, a mind-bogglingly geometric statue sculpted by no other force than Mother Nature. Mostly hexagonal (44.5%) and pentagonal (37.5%) rock posts — some of them near perfect — arise out of the ground up a couple hundred feet. They cracked into this shape when a mass of volcanic lava cooled slowly gazillions of years ago, and then were smoothed off by glacier movement at the top to show their angles. It was great to take this short side-trip loop… continue reading

Sierra High Route Part 5: Tuolumne Meadows to Twin Lakes

This 23-mile stretch of the Sierra High Route took me almost three days. I left Tuolumne Meadows Saturday June 13th at 7am and came out at Twin Lakes on Monday the 15th at 4:30pm. Granted, I’m usually able to hike 23 miles in one day, that’s when there’s a trail and I don’t have three unusually steep mountain passes to get over. Over three days I had my ass handed to me by this route and once finished, tentatively decided to not continue hiking it.

Day 1: Tuolumne Meadows to Cascade Lake

June 13th. I was originally set to leave on June 5, and was posted up in Tuolumne acclimating to the elevation, but rain came in and wasn’t letting up so I postponed. I’m actually glad it worked out this way, because I not only avoided rain but snow, too. I spent a week waiting it out in Mariposa… continue reading

How to Do Trail Magic Right

This is a post about trail angeling and trail magic on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and why perhaps it has become detrimental to the trail and trail culture.

Between 2013 and 2015, whether because of the “Wild” movie effect or due to an influx of Appalachian Trail (AT) hikers wanting more trail time or even triple crowns, the population of thru-hikers on the PCT doubled. The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA), a governing body of sorts in charge of maintaining access to the trail, again issued permits arbitrarily and for free — several thousand of them.

Between April 6 and May 1 this year, I camped out at mile 42 of the trail, doing backpack shake-outs at Mt. Laguna Sports and washing dishes at the Pine House Café. Between May 1 and May 15, I worked with trail angels Ziggy and the Bear in their home at mile 210…. continue reading

A Little Menu
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!