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What's the earliest time for High Sierra Trail?

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What's the earliest time for High Sierra Trail?

Postby balance » Sun Apr 24, 2016 12:34 pm

Greetings

Thanks to the good people on HST. Great way to share our experiences. Here's my questions:

What do you estimate would be the earliest time this year to hike the HST from Crescent Meadow to Whitney Portal? I understand that I'm requesting your best guesstimate, and won't be be foolhardy if conditions are tougher than anticipated. Too icy or too slushy means wait for better footing.

I would like to do the trip using ice ax and lug sole boots, but no crampons. I have mid-winter snowshoe and some mountaineering experience and could use crampons, but prefer to travel light so I'm willing to wait. I'm figuring nine days total, allowing a rest day and not overtaxing my sea level lungs and creaky bones. Mt. Whitney is optional but not important.

At what points would I expect to encounter snow at the time you suggest, and are there places that present any unusual problems? I use trekking poles, which help to ford streams.

Is there a reasonably priced shuttle, or another option to travel to and from San Clemente, CA? I might even head back from Whitney Portal to Crescent Meadow. Inspired by the number of days some HST people log, nine out and seven back would be a nice time in the high country. Wouldn't mind seeing it again from a different direction. It's all pretty good, right?



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Re: What's the earliest time for High Sierra Trail?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Apr 24, 2016 2:09 pm

You may get better answers about conditions around Whitney on the Whitney Portal Message Board.

http://www.whitneyportalstore.com/forum ... d=1&page=1

For what it is worth, this is Nine Lakes Basin May 27, 2001, a 70% snowpack year. No snow until Precipice Lake, then solid snow.

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Re: What's the earliest time for High Sierra Trail?

Postby AlmostThere » Sun Apr 24, 2016 2:10 pm

Do you know how to use an ice axe? Have practice with self arrest? It's not something that is learned from a youtube video or reading a book.

At the moment, there is a foot or more of snow (depending on location and elevation) added to the pack that was not there last week. What happens over the next few weeks will influence the presence of ice at high elevation. Not yet a good idea -- possibly not for another month. Snow melt swelling the streams to extremely dangerous states will be the problem after the icy conditions and the snow pack diminishes. Ice axes don't help you cross rivers.

We are all watching NOAA, but none of us are using crystal balls. Personally, I'm waiting til the melt is ebbing to manageable levels for routes with dangerous stream crossings -- that includes the HST.
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Re: What's the earliest time for High Sierra Trail?

Postby balance » Sun Apr 24, 2016 2:31 pm

Greetings

That's a relevant question.

Do you know how to use an ice axe? Have practice with self arrest? It's not something that is learned from a youtube video or reading a book.


I learned mountain travel and self arrest from Denali veterans. Fall in different directions, orient quickly, self-arrest. Not always easy if icy or slushy, or wearing a pack. Best is to use the ice ax properly, place steps securely (whether cutting a step in ice or stomping a platform in slush), and not fall.

I'm not in a hurry. Just trying to schedule the time off work. Maybe stream crossings are more of a factor than snow? Any specific information (like learning about the Whitney Portal message board from Wandering Daisy) is appreciated.

Peace
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Re: What's the earliest time for High Sierra Trail?

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sun Apr 24, 2016 3:19 pm

I did the HST starting like June 15th 2008. The first and the most major issue the entire way is what normally is referred to as the tunnel as you climb the Kaweah Gap. It's a steep chute and a hard packed snow slope was completely across the trail. I spent 2 hours digging a flat path across it and even then many people might get afraid here. A slip would probably be fatal and if not you would probably rather you had died.

I lost the trail further up the gap and also higher on the Big Arroyo. Other than that the trouble is minimal. Just have more flooded areas where you will have to ford creeks.

My personal opinion is it's great to do the HST early in these types of conditions. For one I saw like 1 person until I got close to Whitney. And places like Hamilton Lake can have 4 different cascades coming down into the lake making it even nicer.

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Re: What's the earliest time for High Sierra Trail?

Postby balance » Sun Apr 24, 2016 4:36 pm

Greetings RoguePhotonic

That's very interesting. I'll bet you were glad to look back and take that picture. You certainly don't let a minor obstacle, like two hours of chopping and chipping while standing on the edge of oblivion, stop you.

In that situation, I would like to have crampons. Or some Spectra cord for a belay. Or Ed Viesturs for a guide. Or an anti-gravity machine.

I actually wouldn't want do that with just ice ax and boots. Now I'm going to take at least my light-weight, four spike, strap on crampons. I would not want to get that far and have to bail. Thank you for the information.
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Re: What's the earliest time for High Sierra Trail?

Postby alpinemike » Sun Apr 24, 2016 5:45 pm

My personal experience tells me that if you're going into high elevations where you know you will encounter snow at anything that is remotely considered steep slopes (to you) then an ice ax and microspikes are mandatory. And any areas like the one on the HST that Rogue present where runout is dangerous are also candidates for ice ax and microspikes.

Just as a general guideline I travel with an ice ax and usually microspikes regardless of the snow season into Mid June. The reason for this is high North facing slopes will often carry snow well in June regardless of the season. A stronger better season will just mean more snow. A bad season doesn't mean no snow..It just means you won't see very much of it. But it's likely that where you do you may want to carry something for it.
Never put off a backpacking trip for tomorrow, if you can do it today...
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http://mikhailkorotkinphotography.com/
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Re: What's the earliest time for High Sierra Trail?

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sun Apr 24, 2016 8:00 pm

I actually did not even have an ice axe. Back then I had one of the crappy Garcia bear barrels and I used the lid to dig in the snow. I then threw some rocks onto the snow for footing.

Even when it comes to river crossings. There are only two major ones you will come across. The Big Arroyo which is not difficult and then the crossing of Wright Creek which I do not recall having to take my boots off.
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Re: What's the earliest time for High Sierra Trail?

Postby balance » Sun Apr 24, 2016 9:03 pm

RoguePhotonic

Holy smokes! You're a very resourceful man of the mountains. That took courage and determination. It's like something John Muir or Norman Clyde would do.
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