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Early Season High Sierra Trail Advice Needed

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Early Season High Sierra Trail Advice Needed

Postby jcmurphy » Sun May 18, 2014 8:50 am

I am heading up to the Sierra Wednesday May 21 for a few weeks of solo hiking. . In the past I usually head up in September and in recent years I have walked the JMT and the Sierra High Route Trail. I am 60 and in average shape for a backpacker my age. I usually spend May on the AT but this year I am located in San Diego.

I thought I might start in Mineral King, car camp for a day or two to acclimate and then take the High Sierra Route to the PCT then head south towards Kennedy Meadow until my ten days are up and its time to loop back.

Are there some difficult stream crossings that I need to avoid? IS the Kern River a crossing problem?
Should I bring my snow shoes? ice ax? ( I do not have crampons)
I am comfortable crossing stable snow. I am not so comfortable climbing where a slip and a fall would result in injury and death. I just like to wander around the high country and enjoy the peace
Finally, what are the passes like early in the season? Can they be safely crossed or do they tend to be steep, slippery hazards where a slip/fall have serious consequences.

Thank you for taking the time to weigh in on current early spring conditions



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Re: Early Season High Sierra Trail Advice Needed

Postby DavePloessel » Sun May 18, 2014 10:53 am

From your self description, i think you might be a little uncomfortable with the passes out of min king.

Maybe walk north from Kennedy meadows instead? That way you could acclimate on the trail during the first few days. With as many days as you have you coukd make it pretty far north on the pct/jmt before heading back.
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Re: Early Season High Sierra Trail Advice Needed

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sun May 18, 2014 12:22 pm

If your taking the High Sierra Trail that early your primary concern with snow will be after Hamilton Lake when you pass through the tunnel. There can be a steep snow slope in this chute. Back in mid June of 2008 I had to spend 2 hours digging a pathway in it to cross. A slip and fall on it could certainly be fatal.

The Kern has a bridge so it's not a problem to cross. You likely will only have a hand full of creeks that you need to ford.
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Re: Early Season High Sierra Trail Advice Needed

Postby cgundersen » Sun May 18, 2014 12:46 pm

Hi JC,
From your description, it's not 100% clear what route you are planning: do you intend to enter via Mineral King to connect with the High Sierra Trail? Or, are you aiming to enter via Crescent Meadow or Wolverton (the traditional start points)? On the former, you will hit snow on Franklin or Sawtooth passes, but if you time it right (midday), the snow should be soft enough not to be a problem. Getting across the creek in the Big Arroyo will require care, but it should not be bad in this low snow year. Ditto for going over Kaweah gap, but as Rogue pointed out, there is that one obstacle on the trail out of Hamilton Lake that could be a major impediment. However, once you get past those first humps, the rest of your trip should only be as weird as the weather makes it: latest reports I've read have decent snow showers occurring for much of next week. Thus, the longer you acclimate, the more time you give for the weather to abate.
I'll be very keen to hear your report of the conditions!
cg
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Re: Early Season High Sierra Trail Advice Needed

Postby Sierra Miguel » Sun May 18, 2014 11:44 pm

cgundersen wrote:On the former, you will hit snow on Franklin or Sawtooth passes


Or he goes over Timber Gap.
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Re: Early Season High Sierra Trail Advice Needed

Postby Rockchucker » Mon May 19, 2014 6:48 am

The day your starting is going to be stormy with a pretty good chance of snow.
I'm no suture for my future.
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Re: Early Season High Sierra Trail Advice Needed

Postby maverick » Mon May 19, 2014 1:31 pm

Hi JC Murphy,

Welcome to HST! Snow will be an issue on the passes out of Mineral King, but a bigger
issue is the weather coming in Tue-Thur (Winter Advisory). Thunder & snow shower
predicted (%50) and temps 40's/20's. You may want to delay your departure till the
weekend or wait a few more weeks until the passes are more manageable.
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Re: Early Season High Sierra Trail Advice Needed

Postby jcmurphy » Mon May 19, 2014 6:17 pm

Thanks for the advice. Driving up Wed. and hit the backcountry Friday. Weather looks pretty darn good then so waiting is smart. I called ranger but have not got a human yet. I wanted to check on that tunnel near Hamilton. From other trip reports about rotten snow I am considering bringing snowshoes - four or five pounds but beats postpoling. I always use poles these days - I see no need for Ice ace. Do you think the snow shoes are too belt and suspenders? The weather does look nice....

Thanks for all the helpful comments and unrelated TRs - they help too~!
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Re: Early Season High Sierra Trail Advice Needed

Postby cgundersen » Tue May 20, 2014 9:08 am

Hi JC,
From the look of the Kaweah cam this morning, clouds are ~4,000 ft and it's probably snowing above 10K. But, on the early season trip over Kaweah gap I did 5 years ago, we got about 6 inches of snow at Hamilton Lake (gorgeous) which melted very quickly. We hit solid snow about a half mile past the tunnel on the way to Kaweah gap, but it was solid enough to walk on with minimal breakthrough (and we were loaded for a 12 night trip). Thus, personally, I'd pass on the snowshoes, because that's the only stretch where you'll potentially need them. Have fun!
cg
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