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Planning for the High Sierra Trail

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Planning for the High Sierra Trail

Postby maiathebee » Fri May 30, 2014 2:54 pm

Hi everyone! I'm taking a group on the High Sierra Trail in August and I'm working on planning the optimal route for us. I've done a lot (a LOT!!) of searching and trip report reading and I would love your feedback on my planned itinerary, but first, some more details about the group:

-I'm a Level 3 comfortable with Class 2 terrain, off-trail passes, and cross country navigation. I'm taking a group of six (including myself). Two are Level 3 and the rest are Level 2.
-I'm organizing the trip, so I get to style it to my taste (yay!). I love big mountain scenery, alpine lakes, sunsets / sunrises / alpenglow, and campsites with a view. I am really bored in long forested sections. I don't fish. I like to get up early, watch / photograph the sunrise, and move pretty quickly to the next spot, set up camp, and spend some time scrambling around seeing what I can see.
-I realize this is a very popular trail, but I'm hoping to select some camps that minimize crowds, so I've chosen Precipice and a layover / exploration day in the Nine Lakes Basin. We will be carrying bear canisters rather than relying on bear boxes for this reason.
-We already have the permit for entering "High Sierra Trail" (which I'm assuming is Crescent Meadow) on 8/6 and exiting Whitney Portal on 8/13.

Camp 0 - Lodgepole for acclimation / permit acquisition the day before we start.
Camp 1 - Buck Creek or Bearpaw or Lone Pine Creek (?)
Camp 2 - Precipice
Camp 3 - Nine Lakes Basin
Camp 4 - Kern Hot Spring
Camp 5 - Wallace Creek
Camp 6 - Tarn above Guitar Lake
Camp 7 - Outpost Camp

My main questions are:

1. I had originally planned to camp at Buck Creek or Bearpaw, but then I saw a couple TRs that mention camping at Lone Pine Creek with views (my jam!!). Is it really possible to camp near Lone Pine Creek? Is there water access or should I plan for a dry camp? If it's possible, I'd *love* to camp there for the sunset views on the Hamilton Domes.

2. Exploring the Nine Lakes Basin seems like a good way to give my less experienced backpackers a little taste of off-trail. Any favorite spots around there that we shouldn't miss? Is it ok to camp at one of the lower lakes and day hike up, or will we really regret missing some awe inspiring sunset / sunrise at the upper lakes?

3. The push from Kern Hot Spring to Wallace Creek seems pretty long, especially the climb out of Junction Meadow in the afternoon. Is it worth pushing to Wallace Creek that day? I heard that Junction Meadow is just a bummer of a campsite, but I'm not sure if Wallace Creek is better?

4. I'm still debating how exactly to do the transportation. We are coming from Oakland and I am considering taking Amtrak to Visalia and then taking the bus to Sequoia, and hopefully bribing one of my friends to come get us from Whitney Portal. This would mean we won't have a car in Sequoia when we start, so we'd have to rely on the shuttles to get from Lodgepole to Crescent Meadow, which would mean we probably wouldn't be hiking until 10am. Seems suboptimal for trying to make it all the way to Lone Pine Creek that day. Thoughts? Should we just suck it up and do a car shuttle?

Thanks in advance for all the great advice you're going to give me :)
Last edited by maiathebee on Tue Jul 08, 2014 4:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Planning for the High Sierra Trail

Postby sparky » Fri May 30, 2014 4:09 pm

Yup water & views at lone pine creek. You dont need to start at crescent meadow, I like starting at lodgepole better, go over panther gap. It just seems quiker and easier, but that might just be my subjective experience.
9 lakes basin is pretty, but i have only been therethere once and i didnt find it very interesting. Might have just been the vibe at the time though. The lake under pyra queen col was a nice spot.

Transportation is such a bummer, i havnt hiked it start to finish. Theres some really nice loops/out and backs you can do that give you more bang for youre buck.

If you just want to hike the HST youll have to figure it out
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Re: Planning for the High Sierra Trail

Postby maverick » Fri May 30, 2014 4:20 pm

Maiathebee wrote:
-I'm organizing the trip, so I get to style it to my taste (yay!)


As a good leader always get everyone's input, and plan your trip keeping your
slowest/weakest hikers at the forefront. You want everyone to be motivated
and come away loving you, and the trip you planned, not exhausted, wasted
each day, and at the end agree at you.

1-4. Even with any early start Bearpaw is 12.1 miles, so with your 10 am start
you might not make Bearpaw. Get an early start from Bearpaw or Buck the next
morning arriving to Lone Pine Creek when the quality of light is still optimal for
your photography.

2. Pick the lake closest to the trail or Lake 10725, and then go day hike up to
Lake 11682 after setting up camp.

3. Your proposed hike from Nine Lakes Basin to Kern Hot Springs is approx 17 miles,
can everyone in your group do that? That is a long day for the three Level 2 hikers
in your group. Kern Hot Spring to Wallace Creek is 11.9 miles, not that long with
an early morning start. Yes Junction Meadow is not appealing, but neither is Kern
Hot Spring, but some folks enjoy it, camping near it is not something I would ever do.
There is not much to do/see since you are in the Kern Canyon, coming down from
Chagoopa Plateau early in the morning can be magical and great for a photographer
looking south bound as the morning sun rays hit the western walls.
Personally I would add one more day, if you can, and stay near the trail along Red
Spur Creek somewhat before the trail starts descending into Kern Canyon, get an
early start the next morning, take some photo's at sunrise of the canyon, stop
at Kern Hot Springs for a break, and continue to Junction Meadow for the night.
Then next morning go up to the Wallace Creek Junction, set up camp, or go up a
ways into Wallace Basin (will be one of the highlights of you trip, I promise).
If you cannot get an extra day then would recommend Buck or Bearpaw>Precipice
Lake>Chapooga>Junction Meadow (Kern Hot Springs lunch break)>Wallace Basin>
Guitar>Outpost
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: Planning for the High Sierra Trail

Postby maiathebee » Fri May 30, 2014 4:51 pm

maverick wrote: As a good leader always get everyone's input, and plan your trip keeping your
slowest/weakest hikers at the forefront. You want everyone to be motivated
and come away loving you, and the trip you planned, not exhausted, wasted
each day, and at the end agree at you.


You're totally right. I really meant this more in terms of where we linger and where we move more quickly. I won't plan anything I don't think the group can do comfortably.

maverick wrote: 1-4. Even with any early start Bearpaw is 12.1 miles, so with your 10 am start
you might not make Bearpaw. Get an early start from Bearpaw or Buck the next
morning arriving to Lone Pine Creek when the quality of light is still optimal for
your photography.


I'd like to have at least part of the trail from Bearpaw to Hamilton in the afternoon because otherwise we're staring straight into the sun as we look in the direction of the best views (east towards Hamilton and the Great Western Divide). From Bearpaw to Lone Pine Creek is only 1.5 miles flat and descending a bit (according to Tom Harrison), so I think if we can make it to Bearpaw, Lone Pine Creek won't be a problem. I think we'll just have to deal with the cars so we can make sure to get an early start that day.

maverick wrote: 3. Your proposed hike from Nine Lakes Basin to Kern Hot Springs is approx 17 miles,
can everyone in your group do that? That is a long day for the three Level 2 hikers
in your group. Kern Hot Spring to Wallace Creek is 11.9 miles, not that long with
an early morning start. Yes Junction Meadow is not appealing, but neither is Kern
Hot Spring, but some folks enjoy it, camping near it is not something I would ever do.
There is not much to do/see since you are in the Kern Canyon, coming down from
Chagoopa Plateau early in the morning can be magical and great for a photographer
looking south bound as the morning sun rays hit the western walls.
Personally I would add one more day, if you can, and stay near the trail along Red
Spur Creek somewhat before the trail starts descending into Kern Canyon, get an
early start the next morning, take some photo's at sunrise of the canyon, stop
at Kern Hot Springs for a break, and continue to Junction Meadow for the night.
Then next morning go up to the Wallace Creek Junction, set up camp, or go up a
ways into Wallace Basin (will be one of the highlights of you trip, I promise).
If you cannot get an extra day then would recommend Buck or Bearpaw>Precipice
Lake>Chapooga>Junction Meadow (Kern Hot Springs lunch break)>Wallace Basin>
Guitar>Outpost


Tom Harisson has 13.4 from Kaweah Gap to Upper Funston and Kern Hot Spring doesn't look like it's more than two miles beyond Upper Funston, but I've never hiked that trail, so I can't know for sure how accurate this mileage is. Looking at the map, it seems like it's a push in the morning to climb out of Big Arroyo and then the rest of the day is down to Kern Canyon, so I think longer mileage is doable this way. Kern Hot Spring doesn't really appeal that much to me as a campsite either, but neither does any spot in Kern Canyon, so...

We can't add the extra day, so maybe it's not worth the short layover day in Nine Lakes Basin. I just wanted one more night amidst peaks before we get stuck down in the trees. Hrmmm...
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Re: Planning for the High Sierra Trail

Postby maverick » Fri May 30, 2014 6:30 pm

Tom Harisson has 13.4 from Kaweah Gap to Upper Funston and Kern Hot Spring
doesn't look like it's more than two miles beyond Upper Funston, but I've never
hiked that trail, so I can't know for sure how accurate this mileage is.


You forgot to add in the distance from and back to the trail, from where ever you decide
to camp in Nine Lakes Basin.
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: Planning for the High Sierra Trail

Postby maiathebee » Sat May 31, 2014 12:54 am

maverick wrote:
Tom Harisson has 13.4 from Kaweah Gap to Upper Funston and Kern Hot Spring
doesn't look like it's more than two miles beyond Upper Funston, but I've never
hiked that trail, so I can't know for sure how accurate this mileage is.


You forgot to add in the distance from and back to the trail, from where ever you decide
to camp in Nine Lakes Basin.


I guess I figured it was roughly the same from the lowest of the Nine Lakes to the trail as it is from Kaweah Gap to the trail? I will talk it over with my group and get a feel for their desires. Thanks!
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