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Solo Backpacking Questions...

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Solo Backpacking Questions...

Postby taracheezem » Tue Mar 11, 2014 9:41 pm

Hello All!

I am planning a solo trip in early summer and I had a few questions. I am planning on starting in Kings Canyon and ending at Whitney Portal.

1) It looks like there are designated campsites with food storage lockers. How crowded do those get? Should I bring a bear canister anyway?

2) Do I need micro-spikes in June or will the snow/ice be pretty much gone?

3) Is shooting for doing the whole thing in 5 days too ambitious?

Thanks for any guidance anyone can offer!



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Re: Solo Backpacking Questions...

Postby maverick » Wed Mar 12, 2014 11:54 am

Hi Taracheezem,

Welcome to HST! Please read: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4205
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Solo Backpacking Questions...

Postby markskor » Wed Mar 12, 2014 12:12 pm

Even though bear boxes do exist along the route, certain areas you pass through - Bubbs Creek and Whiitney Zone for example, have strict requirements that mandate you carrying some recognized/approved food storage system.
In the Whitney Zone...an Ursack will probably work this year, but in SEKI, you could face a hefty fine if found without a can.
http://www.sierrawild.gov/bears/food-storage-map

Crampons or microspikes? Just depends. An ice ax might prove more helpful. Hiking poles definitely if no ax.

Too early...5 days?
Maybe...again, a lot depends on if it snows before and what you know...IMHO, a week would be better.
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Solo Backpacking Questions...

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Mar 12, 2014 2:11 pm

I think Whitney is inside the park...

There are not designated sites and the park will expect you to have the can because the boxes fill.

How long it takes depends on your level of fitness and preference. I could do it in five from Bubbs to Whitney but would take six. fishing is fun.
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Re: Solo Backpacking Questions...

Postby DavePloessel » Wed Mar 12, 2014 3:46 pm

5 days is doable.. I did something similar in 3 but it was pretty long days. Maybe consider planning a loop from either side, or you'll have to spend a whole day shuttling back as well. June this year may be fairly snow free, but you should stil be comfy/know how to handle snow/ice.

BRING A BEAR CAN! It benefits you in so many ways besides just food storage: you don't get tickets, you aren't forced to camp with crowds and can hit out of the way places, you can carry soft foods like avocados and they don't get squished.. it even makes a handy camp stool.
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Re: Solo Backpacking Questions...

Postby taracheezem » Wed Mar 12, 2014 3:52 pm

Thank you all so much for your advice! I really appreciate it.

After considering all of the advice offered, I will be taking a bear canister.

I have a few more questions...

Are there campsites that I can expect to get pretty busy? Or is June too early for that?

Thanks so much!

Tara
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Re: Solo Backpacking Questions...

Postby Mike M. » Wed Mar 12, 2014 5:35 pm

Kings Canyon is a big park. Where are you starting? If you start at Roads End, hike up Bubbs Creek and join the Muir Trail at Vidette Meadow, 5 days seems reasonable, 6 would be more enjoyable.

Bear canisters are required; you can rent them at the ranger station where you pick up your permit. For overflow food and smellies, there are bear boxes in key locations on the route. Here's a link that identifies where the bear boxes are located: http://www.climber.org/data/BearBoxes/AllBoxes.html

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Re: Solo Backpacking Questions...

Postby jimmeans » Wed Mar 12, 2014 9:30 pm

Last month I asked SEKI about the contradiction of bear boxes existing in areas where food storage containers are required in SEKI: Rae Lakes, Dusy Basin, and Rock Creek.

The response that I received from the SEKI Wilderness Office:

"Hello Jim Means.

"The container requirement for the Rae Lakes, Dusy Basin, and Rock Creek areas is in effect from the Friday before Memorial day through October 31. During that time frame, the boxes may only be used by long distance hikers (hiking 200+ miles on the Pacific Crest/John Muir trails).

"Thanks for your concern regarding proper food storage.

"Happy Trails
"

So within those areas the bear boxes are technically off-limits for short distance hikers during the summer. The irony is that the boxes at Kearsarge Lakes have been padlocked because the long distance hikers were leaving extra food and trash in them.

Personally I use a food storage container as standard practice to avoid regulatory issues and for the other benefits that others have mentioned here. I just wish somebody would come up with a design that was easier to pack.
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Re: Solo Backpacking Questions...

Postby Ska-T » Thu Mar 13, 2014 1:47 am

Tara, when a new person joins HST we don't know their level of experience. Even though they are called a "Topix Newbie" because of the low number of posts they've made, they may be a very experienced backpacker. On the other hand they may have next to no experience or at least no experience in the Sierra.

You have asked about campsites twice, and I'm not sure you mean campgrounds near the trailhead or if you are asking about sleeping spots on the trail. I assume you mean the latter.

There are some highly popular areas in the Sierra where you have to camp in a designated site, like Paradise Valley on the Woods Creek trail in Kings Canyon, but in general you can bed down wherever is reasonable, as long as you are not in a meadow and you are 100 ft from water. Rangers want you to choose a spot on bare ground (not on vegetation) that many people have used before where the ground is flat and rocks have been picked out (i.e., an established site). Don't dig trenches or rearrange large rocks or make a fire ring. Practice leave no trace. There aren't any huts like on the Appalachian Trail or in Europe and no picnic tables. Your bear canister makes a nice sitting stool.

The Bubbs Creek trail out of King's Canyon and the John Muir Trail are very popular trails with fairly heavy foot traffic. However, a solo hiker should have no problem finding a spot to bed down even if you leave your decision to about an hour or less before you have to stop for the day. I'm not recommending that you wait that long, just that you can do it.

You are not allowed to camp on the Bubbs Creek trail until you have hiked about 4 mi from the trailhead. Within 6 mi or so of the trailhead camping can be a little crowded for my tastes, but things thin out after that, especially after you pass the trail to East Lake. As you get close to Mt Whitney the camping spots will get more populated again, but the solo hiker should have no problem finding a spot. I hope that answers your question about camping sites.
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Re: Solo Backpacking Questions...

Postby taracheezem » Thu Mar 13, 2014 7:44 am

Again... Thanks so much for the input! I am an experienced backpacker but this will be my first solo trip. I have always wanted to do the high sierra trail and I am moving back to the East Coast this summer so I am doing it on my way across country. I am asking about the popularity of the trails and campsites because I just want to make sure there will be other people around in case something happens... Seeing as this is my first solo trip!

Thanks again :)
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Re: Solo Backpacking Questions...

Postby maverick » Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:00 am

Tara wrote:
Again... Thanks so much for the input! I am an experienced backpacker but this will
be my first solo trip. I have always wanted to do the high sierra trail and I am moving
back to the East Coast this summer so I am doing it on my way across country. I am
asking about the popularity of the trails and campsites because I just want to make sure
there will be other people around in case something happens... Seeing as this is my
first solo trip!


You have been asked twice to give more information about you experience level and
a link to a thread here on High Sierra Topix has been given for you to go by from
which we can give you information accordingly. We still do not know how many miles
a day you can do, whether you have a full 5 days or this includes driving to the trailhead.
Fellow members assumed your starting from Bubbs, don't know why :\ , since all
you indicated is that you were starting from Kings Canyon, which by the way does not
sound like someone with a lot of experience. Only now after several post do you say
you are an experienced backpacker, but still only now mention wanting to use the HST
which starts from Crescent Meadow by the way, not Bubbs, which everyone have been
giving you advice on as if you were starting from Bubbs because your only giving us
crumbs of information. Not trying to get on your case here, we take backpacking very
seriously here, and would not want to put you or anyone into harms way which is why
we attempt to qualify folk with are requesting info thread. We have had our share
of people come on board asking info about a route only to find out several posts
in that they did not have any experience at all.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Solo Backpacking Questions...

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:14 am

If I were doing part of the JMT I would simply get a permit for the entire trail to be able to use the bear boxes. You still need a bear can, but I regularly need a few days "overflow" capacity for the first few nights. It irks me a bit that the bear boxes are "reserved" for the thru-hikers and that they manage to get a free pass on using bear cans.

There are plenty of bear boxes on the HST. If you were only to use bear boxes you would be quite restricted to where you can camp - not something that I like to do. You can rent bear cans. I know that at Road's End they rent the Bearikade Weekender - which is the lightest. The fee for the Bearikade is more than the other bear cans. The Garcia is the heaviest with the least capacity- the Bear Vault is high capacity but a bit heavier. I believe that if you rent a bear can you have to return it, either by mail or in person to get back your deposit (which is a lot of $$).

Given this years low snow I cannot imagine that you would need microspikes. But it helps to have a very aggressive tread on your shoe. The trail is heavily used and if there are lingering snow patches there should be a well worn path over the snow. If it is freezing at night, then you want to avoid snow early in the morning when it is icy. If you run into snow, I suspect post-holing will be more of a problem than the need of micro spikes. I may have missed it, but what are the dates you are considering? The trail should be snow-free by mid-July.

The HST is a good trail to do your first solo. It is used enough that you will run across people so will not be totally alone. Have a great time.
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