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High Sierra Cabin Trips...are guides worth the cost?

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High Sierra Cabin Trips...are guides worth the cost?

Postby bokun » Tue Jan 06, 2009 1:55 pm

Hello..first, I'm a newbie and tried searching for answers to this but couldn't find anything..forgive me if I've overlooked previous posts or if I'm posting this in the wrong forum!

I have a group of six people with the opportunity to go on a 7 day guided hike through the High Sierra camp system. With the guide, the trip is $400 per person in addition to the usual cabin/meal fees. So our group of six would be paying $2400 just for the guide's services...my question is has anybody used one of these guides for the trip vs. going it alone, and do you think the extra cost is worth it? Although we'd be more than capable of doing the navigation/packing/etc. ourselves, we're relatively new to Yosemite and would certainly be interested in the extra information I assume a guide would offer, but it does seem a bit steep since there are six of us...don't even know if we'd be getting a private guide for our group?

Anyhow, I'd love comments from anybody with any comments or experience on the quality of the guided experience....many thanks!



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Re: High Sierra Cabin Trips...are guides worth the cost?

Postby markskor » Tue Jan 06, 2009 3:16 pm

Having been through all the HSC's indeed the cabins (though a bit crowded but clean) and meals (which are first rate) are a great way to see the Yosemite backcountry. While I myself have never stayed in one of the 4-person cabins, I have seen them aplenty...moreover, I always do try and eat there whenever possible when I am passing through. My sister-in-law swears by them, having gone on the same trip you mentioned (without guide) for the past 3 summers.
That being said, you do not need a $$$ guide for this trip...trails are well marked and not hard/almost impossible to get lost on.
Maybe for a nominal fee for the group, it may be worth it - ~$400, but what you quote, at a total of $2,400 on top of the cabin and meal fees is a bit outlandish. I would just get a trail map, maybe ask some pertinent questions here, and do it sans guide.
You do have to walk 6-7 miles per day on the trail...all you have to carry is personal gear - clothes, the mules carry the rest of the load.

I would recommend paying a few extra bucks (from the extra saved not using a guide) on a few bottles of wine for each dinner (or perhaps some single malt scotch) (sent ahead on the mules - $3 /pound mule fee)...many do this and the HSC encourages this practice as it does not supply any alcoholic beverages.

In fact, if you really need a guide, I would volunteer myself for the $400...and would camp close each night and give you all the Yosemite data you need if wanted...lol.
FYI, I would require sampling the wines/single malt with dinner at the HSC's too.
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Re: High Sierra Cabin Trips...are guides worth the cost?

Postby gdurkee » Tue Jan 06, 2009 4:55 pm

Markskor's right. That's a lot for a guide. Still, depending on who you get (and I suspect they're all good), you would indeed learn a lot and they're usually pretty entertaining (though my direct knowledge of the guides ended many years ago, I suspect not much has changed in who they get).

So the questions is if it's worth $2,400 (collectively) or $400 (individually). If you look at it per person, it's close to justified. I would think you'd get $400 of knowledge and enjoyment out of the deal, though it's close. Markskor's offer of a 'shadow' guide is also good -- illegal, I think, but if you could find a "family friend," it could be an alternative. (I say illegal because a guide would have to have a commercial use permit; be insured; and allowed to operate in Yosemite. Then you'd have to show that the service they're providing is not in competition with the guides that Delaware North provides. It's actually possible, I think, but may be more trouble than it's worth).

I like the idea of spending the money saved on wine instead, though.

So I dunno, really. The High Sierra Camps are a great way to see Yosemite. If it's a once in a lifetime trip, then I'd have a slight tendency to go with the guide service. But you'll have a great time either way and I don't think you'll come to regret either decision, once home.

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Re: High Sierra Cabin Trips...are guides worth the cost?

Postby The Other Tom » Tue Jan 06, 2009 5:51 pm

The guides are rangers who are well versed in the flora and fauna of the region (geology, too). I've never taken the guided hikes, but have been at the camps when they arrived and benefited from the campfire talks ( or, at Vogelsang where fires are prohibited, star talks) because they invite everyone in the camp to join in. As far as a "private guide", my experience is that some in the trip will be faster hikers than others, so the ranger will have to double back many times to give the information to the stragglers. Of course, the ranger will answer any questions from anyone on the trail. The others are right, you can certainly find the trail easily enough, but the guides provide other information. If this is important to you, then go for it.
I usually take Markskor's approach and stay in the bp campground in my own tent and eat in the HSC camps. I've stayed in the cabins a few times and they're ok, but you're forever botherd by people getting up in the middle of the night an letting the screen door to the cabin slam shut and waking everybody up. Also, the beds are squeaky and tend to awaken your cabin mates when someone rolls over in the middle of the night. Some cabins sleep 6 but most sleep 4, so your group will be split up on some nights.
Just out of curiosity, did you get the lottery ? I didn't think they sent out the announcements this soon.
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Re: High Sierra Cabin Trips...are guides worth the cost?

Postby balzaccom » Tue Jan 06, 2009 6:44 pm

One more vote along the same lines. You won't need a guide to keep you from getting lost--the trails are clearly marked, and there are enough people on them that you can ask any time you really are confused.

At the same time, if you really are newbies, and have never done much hiking before, then the guide will not only give you peace of mind, but also a ton of information. I suspect that when you finish the trip, you will be grateful for the guide---and you will also decide that you will never need one again.

And while I love a nice bottle of wine, I do urge caution with the single malt. Don't forget that alcohol packs a double punch ( or more ) at altitude!
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Re: High Sierra Cabin Trips...are guides worth the cost?

Postby JMat » Tue Jan 06, 2009 10:05 pm

I have to agree with everyone else...
I have spent just about my whole life hiking and backpacking in Yosemite. While having someone with you to point out the flora, fauna and geology of the park would be great, $2400 is steep.
I have been to all the HSC's on multiple occasions and they are very convenient and a great way to see the park but I don't think a guide is necessary.
I know Markskor has already offered but... "I will guide/work for single malt or wine in the backcountry." :D Especially if I don't have to carry it.

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Re: High Sierra Cabin Trips...are guides worth the cost?

Postby Cloudy » Wed Jan 07, 2009 9:37 am

I am fortunate enough to have a well-off friend who paid for her entire family plus me. We did the guided tour and even with my generally anti-tourist attitude, I enjoyed it immensely. I had many discussions with "Ranger Doug" who was quite knowledgeble in flora and fauna and he actually gave me hope again for Yosemite which was really beginning to turn me off with the crowds. He didn't much care for the law enforcement type ranger attitudes that unfortunately happen in Yosemite front-country. I guess that it really depends on how tight $$$ are. I could not afford the trip by itself - let alone with a guide but if you can cough up the $$$ without too much of a problem, the guided trip (if it's still the same) was truly worth it. If your co-parts are newbies, it's doubly worth it because the ranger (YMMV) is a walking encyclopedia... And Ranger Doug if by some chance you read this, be advised that you made a difference in my attitude and I eternally thank you for it!

Alan
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Re: High Sierra Cabin Trips...are guides worth the cost?

Postby Ozark Flip » Wed Jan 07, 2009 1:59 pm

Well, I think $400 is way too much to pay for a Yosemite guide for reasons already mentioned.
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Re: High Sierra Cabin Trips...are guides worth the cost?

Postby maverick » Wed Jan 07, 2009 2:30 pm

I would not even think about paying a guide that much, even if I was totally new to
hiking or had the money!
As others have mentioned you'll be traveling on well marked trails and have plenty
of people to keep you company.
Half the experience is tackling the unknown.
As long as your group is in good to great hiking condition you'll have a great time.
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Re: High Sierra Cabin Trips...are guides worth the cost?

Postby Cloudy » Wed Jan 07, 2009 4:54 pm

I have heard the meals are superb
. They were good but definitely not "superb" although that's somewhat subjective :-) In my case, the trip dropped in my lap and I did not look a gift horse in the mouth - er at least not too much at any rate. It is indeed a luxury to be able to hike with a nearly empty pack through scenery like the Vogelsang area and have a hot meal and a bed waiting for you. I am a solitary backpacker and the trip gave me a bit of culture shock but it did at least open my eyes. There may be a day coming where I can no longer carry a pack and perhaps I could afford such a trip by that time. To be sure, such an expensive trip can be regarded as "how the other half lives" but a well-versed guide is icing on the cake. I am somewhat knowledgeable in the generalities such as "what is glacial polish?" or "what is a hanging valley?" etc. but I can never retain the broad spectrum of useful information that someone has that lives the life and uses the information on a daily basis.

I might reiterate that if you have non-backpacking folks aboard, they will probably get much more from such a trip if there is a guide giving naturalist talks along the way. Otherwise, it's just a walk through the scenery which -believe it or not- some younger folks could care less about (at least in my group)! The benefit from such an approach is that at some point down the road, they'll remember and realize that yes, it was fun and perhaps spark a future interest in the backcountry. This is from personal experience of my friend's daughter who was at the "doesn't care" age and moped most of the way when deprived of her cell phone. A few years down the road and she looks back upon the trip as fun and has acquired an interest in Yosemite. So IMHO, there is definitely scope for a good guide. The only problem I can see other than the cost of course is getting a crap guide for the trip but I would hope that they are weeded out at the "flagship" park of the NPS who has standards to maintain. Our guide indicated to me what he had to do and the proficiency tests that he had to take to hold his position and I was impressed.

It all boils down to if you can afford it and if you really think that anyone will benefit from the knowledge. You can always tell the guide to shut their yap if they're crappy and biotch about it to the NPS afterwards. I believe that they will take it very seriously. The bottom line is that even though I enjoy hiking the most when i am alone on a long trip in the scenery, I enjoyed my time on the guided trip also... :)

Alan
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Re: High Sierra Cabin Trips...are guides worth the cost?

Postby freestone » Wed Jan 07, 2009 8:38 pm

I think it might be worth it if the guide has references, and a valid first aid certificate. With a paid designated leader, the group could totally relax and not worry about logistics and individual issues that almost always happen in group dynamics. A contract would be a must at those prices.
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Re: High Sierra Cabin Trips...are guides worth the cost?

Postby markskor » Wed Jan 07, 2009 9:21 pm

"With a paid designated leader, the group could totally relax and not worry about logistics and individual issues that almost always happen in group dynamics."

Pardon me, but what does that mean?
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