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TR: Trans-Sierra Day Hike - Roads End to Onion Valley

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TR: Trans-Sierra Day Hike - Roads End to Onion Valley

Postby shan1203 » Tue Oct 28, 2014 3:42 pm

At 12:44 PM we were standing on Kearsarge Pass in disbelief…how had we gotten here so quickly, it defied all of our carefully laid plans.

We have had quite the appetite for Sierra Nevada hiking this year. It coincides nicely with the fact that we moved to California from the Mid-West in January. After a season’s worth of exploring one of our favorite places, we got the itch to attempt a Trans-Sierra day hike from Roads End to Onion Valley.

The real trick was figuring out the logistics of this adventure. Jeremy and I wanted to hike together, of course and so needed to find another person or two that would hike in the opposite direction to do a car swap with. Our favorite hiking companion of all of our Grand Canyon travels was interested when we pitched the idea during our recent Gardiner Basin trip. He would hike in the westward direction from Onion Valley to Roads End while Jeremy and I would hike eastward.
21 miles and an almost 7,000 foot elevation gain was something that we took pretty seriously. We’d never attempted to hike that many miles in a day before although we’d done several hikes in the 13-17 mile range. We are physically strong from the hiking, climbing and other adventuring we’ve done since moving west, but we still meticulously planned for the hike. We hydrated for a week leading up to the trip, carb loaded the night before, calculated calorie intake and plotted expected break spots with estimate times and what we planned to consume there (bars, water, Gatorade, etc…)

We spent the night before at Cedar Lodge near Roads End, coincidentally on the last weekend of their season and got a very early morning start hitting the trail at 3:53 AM.


34 minutes later, we crossed Bubbs Creek and began the climb to Sphinx Junction. It was dark and mysterious on the trail and we surprised a group of deer that were shortcutting the switchbacks. Much, much too soon the trail eased and we were winding back into the canyon towards Sphinx Junction – I thought for sure it was a trick and we’d be back to climbing switchbacks soon. Alas, the sign appeared and we celebrated the fact that at 5:19, we were already 41 minutes ahead of schedule.


After a short break, we continued up the steady and pleasant grade towards Charlotte creek, the sun appeared during this section of hiking and we turned off our headlamps. We admired the view of towering walls of the canyon growing larger and gazed longingly at Charlotte Dome, which we hope to climb someday soon. At 6:45 we reached the Charlotte Creek crossing and took a slightly longer break, refilling our water bottles and feeling pleased with our progress so far.

From Charlotte Creek to Junction Meadow beautiful fall colors appeared. The canyon was awash in golden yellow and it was gorgeous. Prior to 2014, we’d only ever been to the Sierras in August – experiencing spring, summer and fall here this year has been such a treat! At 8:20 we reached Junction Meadow which was also our next break spot. Here we toasted with Turkey Bagel sandwiches and were visited by several more deer who were less surprised to see us.


Junction Meadow to Vidette Meadow was a bit steeper than I thought it would be, lots of steps on this section. It could also be that by the time we reached Vidette Meadow, we would have done a hike comparable to exiting the South Rim of the Grand Canyon from the river. I love the waterfalls along this stretch of Bubbs and appreciated all of the beautiful scenery to distract me. We’d decided not to carry any cameras or other devices which we would typically stop frequently for along the trail. I only had my cell phone with which I took the few photos that I’ve posted here. We thought this would help us be more efficient on the trail and we were right! It was nice to admire the scenery without feeling obliged to take photos, it was a different experience. I always tell myself that I’m going to take an electronics free trip sometime – this experience made me want to even more. We reached Vidette Meadow at 9:36 and were now hours ahead of schedule – we had completely underestimated our abilities, which felt great but also strange. We sat right alongside the trail as we expected to cross paths with our hiking partners soon.


We made it up to the next Junction where we would turn off to approach Bullfrog Lake before taking another rest at 10:33. A few minutes after sitting down, we heard the voices of Chris and Mike, our hiking partners, and once they realized that we were there they exclaimed in disbelief! How did we get here so soon? They were certain they wouldn’t come across us until Junction Meadow!


It was awesome to cross paths with them and we took the longest break of the day exchanging the stories of our morning and making plans for the evening celebration.
Soon enough, we felt the call to finish the last climb of the day up to Kearsarge Pass. I wasn’t nearly as wiped out as I thought I’d be at this point. We were still happily chatting and my feet/legs were giving me zero issues. I felt so lucky, then I reasoned I wasn’t lucky – I was prepared. We *had* put a lot of thought, training and planning into this hike, after all. I guess it was really paying off :)

We did take one break on the way from Bullfrog to Kearsarge Pass, stopping to rest on an inviting boulder just before the final switchbacks to the top. I love this section of the trail. I love Kearsarge Pass. This would be the 5th time we’d been to the pass in 2014 and I was once again feeling thankful for our recent move. At 12:44 we hooted and hollered as we approached the pass. The people up top asked what the celebration was for and when we told them they commented that we weren’t nearly as out of breath as they thought we should be! We traded stories with them, snacked and hydrated, and also began the ritual of discussing what our next trip should be now that we were just about to finish this one.


At 2:30 we reached the Onion Valley trailhead. We laughed, we hugged, we celebrated and we enjoyed a long moment of appreciation: for our accomplishment, for each other, for the Sierra Nevadas themselves. We turned back to admire one last fall color view of the mountains. This was an awesome hike.


Happy Hiking,
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Re: TR: Trans-Sierra Day Hike - Roads End to Onion Valley

Postby seanr » Wed Oct 29, 2014 8:32 am

Fun! Much of my introduction to the Sierra was from the west side of SEKI. I finally arranged some hikes from Onion Valley this July and even though I had studied my map, I clearly recall feeling somewhat amazed when I found myself at a trail junction that could lead me to Kings Canyon Road's End in a handful of hours or less. Of course, logistics dictated otherwise. Good for you for arranging and executing the successful exchange.
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Re: TR: Trans-Sierra Day Hike - Roads End to Onion Valley

Postby Cross Country » Wed Oct 29, 2014 9:44 am

You 2 are in exelent condition. I was in great hiking condition when I was 38-42 and could have done this hike but I´m almost sure it would have taken me 11-13 hours.
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Re: TR: Trans-Sierra Day Hike - Roads End to Onion Valley

Postby shan1203 » Fri Oct 31, 2014 9:22 am

Thanks, seanr and Cross Country!

While planning, it seemed like much more of a logistical and physical challenge than it ended up being. Cross Country, we had estimated 14-16 hours for the trek and ended up coming in at 10.5. If you gave it a shot, you might surprise yourself :)

I love the Sierra Nevadas \:D/
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Re: TR: Trans-Sierra Day Hike - Roads End to Onion Valley

Postby Fishon » Wed Nov 05, 2014 12:53 pm

Nice TR, I've done that from East to West in one day. Fun day hike.
It has always been my private conviction that any man who pits his intelligence against a fish and loses has it coming. -John Steinbeck
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