High Sierra Trail - July 4

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wbenge86
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High Sierra Trail - July 4

Post by wbenge86 » Thu May 30, 2019 10:16 pm

Long time lurker, first time poster.

I have a permit for 6/29-7/7 for HST for myself and my two brothers. We are all seasoned 3 season backpackers (level 3) and in very good shape but would be new to long walking in snow.

I know the snowmelt is hard to predict for the next month but wanted to get some vets perspective on viability of hiking the trail and up Whitney.

I plan to come watch all the conditions reports and stream crossing reports as it gets closer but I’m Particularly nervous about crossing the Hamilton gorge and various river crossings on the route and was hoping to get realistic feedback on if we should look at alternative routes considering the snow this year, based on your previous experience in high snow years. Ive looked at previous (2017) high snow year reports and it looks dicey just trying to be realistic about expectations








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kpeter
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Re: High Sierra Trail - July 4

Post by kpeter » Thu May 30, 2019 11:02 pm

It will take crampons most probably on July 4. The snow was very similar in 2017 and I went exactly one month later. One truly dangerous place is in the notch between Hamilton and Precipice Lakes where an ice flow crosses the path at a spot where the trail is very cliffy. Many turned back until the last week of July. A few wriggled under it when it started melting out. A few with nerves of steel went over it with crampons. It was gone by the first week of August, but it won't be gone by the first week of July.

Then there is Kaweah Gap. Here is what the trail looked like there on August 5:
DSC02305.jpg
You can imagine how much worse it would be a month earlier.
Here is Precipice Lake that year:
DSC02312.jpg
I was on Whitney last year which was drier so don't have a good sense of what it would have been like in a heavy snow year, but based on the Kaweah Gap which is only 10,600 you would be walking across a lot of snow. I bet there are many people here who did Whitney in 2017 and can give you an idea.

In short, to do the HST on July 4 you will be walking on lots of snow in exposed places.

Stream crossings could be very challenging too. The crossing at 7600 below Hamilton goes immediately above a cliff. Here it is in a relatively placid state. When it has a lot of water people turn back. I don't have a sense of what date that crossing became safe in 2017 but it was no problem for me on August 6. However, the crossing of the Middle Fork of the Kaweah lower down at 6200 (a crossing which is NOT on your route) was the most challenging of my life.
DSC02414.jpg
You will have to cross the Big Arroyo at 9800. This was knee deep, wide, and cold when I did it. Not sure what it would be like a month earlier, but I wouldn't have liked it to be a whole lot more challenging than when I crossed it in August.

I haven't had to cross the Kern but have been told it can be a major challenge. Wallace Creek would be your other big challenge getting over to Crabtree.
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dustybottoms21
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Re: High Sierra Trail - July 4

Post by dustybottoms21 » Fri May 31, 2019 4:44 am

I’ve got an upcoming trip to Kings Canyon on 6/20 - 6/24.

We were planning on Rowell Meadow TH and heading towards Crescent Lake, maybe take it over Skillman Pass for a loop depending on snow. But your message has be wondering if there’s a chance in hell we can pull this off so early in the season following the snowy season.

Plan B was going to be Crabtree TH in emigrant heading east for a loop. Slightly lower elevation so I’m hoping this is a good fall back plan.

We currently do not have a plan C....which makes me a lil nervous.

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Teri
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Re: High Sierra Trail - July 4

Post by Teri » Fri May 31, 2019 5:20 am

We did Whitney on Aug 14, 2017 so a good 6 weeks after you would be, similar snow year. There was a good amount of snow on Whitney, the trail was covered so everyone was just following cairns and climbing up over boulders rather than taking the trail. Hard work but not dangerous. Wallace Creek was definitely fast and tricky but okay. Again...6 weeks later than you. I imagine it would have been quite difficult just a few weeks earlier.

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maverick
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Re: High Sierra Trail - July 4

Post by maverick » Fri May 31, 2019 6:40 am

Wbenge86,

Welcome to HST!😀
Would highly recommend you consider pushing back your trip or do an alternative trip this year, at lower elevation.
Without proper snow traveling experience, including proper usage of crampons, and the numerous difficult water crossings involved, this definitely isn't the year or the time of year to attempt this trip.
Professional Sierra Landscape Photographer

I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

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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wbenge86
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Re: High Sierra Trail - July 4

Post by wbenge86 » Fri May 31, 2019 7:27 am

Thanks to everyone for your responses.

Our original alternate trip plan was Evolution Valley (North Lake to South Lake) during the same time. I'm assuming we would obviously encounter some of the same issues in the high elevation areas of that route as well, particularly at Bishop and Piute Pass. Although I have never been over those two passes, so maybe they would be snowy but less dangerous? Also, thinking that the JMT/PCT portion of that route might be pretty well trodden by that time so might be better as well. Then I'm sure of course the stream crossings would have the same issues.

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bobby49
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Re: High Sierra Trail - July 4

Post by bobby49 » Fri May 31, 2019 9:27 am

I started out on the High Sierra Trail in July 2017. The Hamilton Lake outflow was deep and almost impassable unless you had a strong team to pull cords across. The snow from Hamilton Lake to Kaweah Gap looked very gnarly. So, I bailed out right there and returned to Crescent Meadow. I returned one month later with another permit and went at it again. I figured out the Hamilton Lake outflow stream crossing problem and continued. Some of the other stream crossings like Wright Creek were troublesome, but not awful. The hike from Crabtree Camp to the Whitney summit was not bad at all, and there wasn't too much snow. Hikers had created a side trail to avoid the last main snow field near the summit.

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