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re: route advice

Posted: Sun Jul 02, 2006 1:08 am
by estulin
Hi everyone –

My first post on this board.

Unlike most of you here on this board, I am not from California. I'm a long ways off on the east side of the continent. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. So what am I doing on this discussion board? I visited Yosemite 2 summers ago and fell in love with the park and landscape. So now I want something a little more challenging and off the beaten path.

I want to do some hiking in the High Sierra. Got myself the Steve Roper "Sierra High Route" book. I have been reading the book and scouting for routes. The one that sounds interesting to me is the Dusty Basin to Lake Italy. Any advise? Is this an appropriate route for a 7-8 day route.

I've got a lot of questions to ask about the logistics of this trip. I'll be flying in to Reno or San Fran and renting a car to drive to Bishop. And I figured the close proximity to Bishop would be helpful with the car shuttling.

Would love to get some advice or better yet MSN me or EMAIL me. I could also call on the phone so you're not typing away for hours on end.

Thanks guys!

Posted: Sun Jul 02, 2006 8:03 pm
by hikerduane
You'll love most of it. Do you have good route finding abilities? Lake Italy isn't much to camp at or good camping but it can be done, just the few tent sites are rocky. If you are going xc, Bear Basin has lots of lakes and a few campsites from what I saw when thru parts of it. Lots of nice country to see along the way, of course I went on the trail. Get an approved bear resistant canister for your grub if you don't get beyond Bishop Pass the first night. That is the only area requiring one. SEKI may require one but check with the Park. However, a couple years ago when I did 2/3 of the area you want to do, one camper had a bear injure itself or it was injured already, leave blood on his canister. I saw the blood on the trail like he said. Once again, I only followed the JMT.

You may want to contact Steve Armstrong on the Backpacker Magazine site. He has done the whole trail a couple times and his son once, who is doing it again this August I think. I haven't been in contact since Dec. You can do a search over there and come up with his trip report. Worth reading.

If you need a contact in the Carson City/Reno area, I work in Carson City during the week. I have a trip planned out of Mammoth starting the end of July for about a week or 8 days.

Posted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 9:30 am
by mountainLight
Well i don't have specific advice on the High Route, but have done a bit of cross country hiking. Bear Basin is beautiful. A couple of suggestions or things to keep in mind. If you already know these then ignore :). Realize that hiking off trail usually means you will cover less distance than you normally would in a day. I usually can cover comfortably about 12 miles on a trail a day if I am not feeling lazy. If I go xc then I would never plan over 8 miles in a given day, unless i had taken the route previously.

As mentioned a bear canister, while a pain, is a must, you can usually rent them at the ranger station where you get your permits. What time of year ar e you planning on going. If you haven't done so already, i would map out Steve's route, while he doesn't give exact locations, it would be a good exercise to attempt to map it out on a topo. This will also give you a good estimate on what the harder, snow bound passes might be, if leaving relatively soon.

Others can probably give you more info on the exact route, but it sounds like a lot of fun. I wouldn't love to do the route, but at this stage of life, young kids, it is hard to get away for long enough to do the full hike.

high route

Posted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 3:20 pm
by sierra cyd
Hi estulin,
My husband and I through hiked the entire high route in one push two summers ago and really loved it. That segment has a nice mix of scenery, too, some of my favorite from the entire route. I'm assuming you're an experienced backpacker. You also definitely need to have a good understanding of topo maps and an eye for the corresponding terrain, bring all of the USGS maps for the route and a good compass, and I recommend that you even pre-mark the route on the maps as best you can before you go, and bring a copy of that chapter of the book.

I'm not sure what your timing is, but late summer is best, late August/early Sept. If your planning on going this season, be aware that the snow level in the high country is significant this year. The year I did it was a low snow year, and all the passes were nearly snow free. You will have to cross "Snow Tongue Pass" (if I remember the name correctly) which is between Evolution Valley and Humphrey's Basin. The north side of this pass can be quite sketchy due to the steepness and the loose talus (some the size of a volkswagon) and scree, but your experience there could be quite different than mine because of the snow. Also the descent between White Bear Lake and Brown Bear Lake is pretty tiring with the talus hopping. As an alternative to that one, you can take "Dancing Bear Pass" which runs north-east of White Lake and then contour around above Jumble lake to Italy Pass which also requires a lot of scrambling around. This is a short cut, if you're running short on time. I've done it both ways. The bummer is that you'd miss camping along the Hilgard Branch which is beautiful, and you'd miss Lake Italy.

I'll reiterate what someone else said about off-trail mileage, the off-trail hiking does take a lot longer than on-trail. I think Roper discusses that in his book if I remember correctly, but 7-8 days sounds good (8 or 9 would be best considering you have the hike up to Dusy Basin and they hike down from Italy Pass too. If you can make it all the way to Dusy Basin (or at least over Bishop Pass) on the 1st day, that would be good- be prepared for the altitude change! I'm assuming you'll be in good hiking shape...

Also be prepared for weather, it can vary from pure sun the entire time, to continuously cloudy with periods of thundershowers of freezing rain and hail the entire time.

We carried bear canisters on the entire route. At the elevations you'll be at, bears don't naturally hang out, but because people are up there, the bears have it figured out, especially where there are trails. There will be very few areas that have trees big enough to hang food on. Dusy Basin had a notorious "people food eating" bear for a while, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if the bears also figured out that people frequent Evolution Lake area too since it is a popular on-trail route.

Speaking of, if you decide you'd rather do an on-trail route this time, the "south lake to north lake" loop is excellent, that's going over Bishop Pass down to LeConte Canyon, down Evolution Valley, then up thru Humphrey's Basin over Piute Pass (or vice versa). That's a great loop and it can be done in about the same timeframe. If you never actually backpacked while you visited Yosemite before, this might be a better 1st trip in the Sierra.

I don't have much advice on car shuttling or transporation, some of the more local folks might know about that.

Happy Planning! Let us know what you decide to do!

Posted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 6:44 pm
by estulin

Thank you everyone for all your suggestions and replies.

I've been thinking a lot about the route that I have chosen from South lake to Lake Italy and I'm beginning to think I have bitten off more than I can chew. The combination of terrain, altitude and unfamiliarity with the area has made me chose an easier route. The winner is south lake to North Lake with day trips to surrounding peaks.

We are planning on hiking in early September, which would help with the snow situation. But I think this goes back to what we're all use to. I mainly canoe up here in Ontario, Canada which also requires a lot of map reading knowledge but I think reading hiking maps is quite different. I do know how to use a compass and understand topo maps but still, not my element.

Has anymore hiked the reverse? North lake to South lake?

Posted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 11:05 pm
by quentinc
North Lake to South Lake is the way to go, in my opinion. Better yet, is to go over Lamarck Col (rather than Piute Pass), so as to avoid the dreadful rocky up-and-down stretch of trail below Hutchinson Meadows and the relatively boring "low country," as well as the hordes of people. The hike up to Lamarck is steep but really nice. Darwin Canyon is quite beautiful, and you'll avoid most of the traffic this way, until you get to Evolution Lake. There's a "use trail" from lower Darwin Canyon down to the JMT, just below Evolution Lake.

Depending on your fitness, 7-8 days will allow you several days of side trips. You can take a short detour to see McClure Meadows (not as divine as it's made out to be, in my view, but worth a few miles of a detour to see). A sublime side trip is into the Ionian Basin. My favorite trip involves a trek through the Ionian Basin (Scylla's a nice Class 2 peak to climb), and cross-countrying around to the south and southeast of Muir Pass, along the Black Divide. All the passes are Class 2. That will take you right by Black Giant, which is a gravel climb, but has a great view.

The climb up the Dusy Branch to Bishop Pass is a bit tough, but there are nice camping spots in Lower Dusy Basin (which also features trees, if you are going to counter-balance -- personally, I could never fit 8 days of food into a canister). Although it's probably illegal, what I always do in upper Dusy Basin is to stash my food into a rock crevice that's too narrow for bear paws. That's only good if you've used up most of your food already.

Posted: Thu Jul 06, 2006 2:56 am
by Snow Nymph
You can rent the Bearikade Expedition from

The Expedition should hold 8 days of food, and is bigger and lighter than any of the other canisters.

I will have to read this later (routes). I've done the South lake to North Lake loop on the Sierra High Route, and also the section of the JMT north to south. Both are on my webpage

Posted: Thu Jul 06, 2006 11:01 am
by sierra cyd
Yeah, North Lake to South Lake is actually the way we did the on-trail trip (I just said it the other way since you'd be starting at the same trailhead that you were originally thinking of). It is probably better going from North to South so you don't have to hike up Bishop Pass. Piute Pass isn't quite as bad, if I remember correctly.

To be specific, we actually started at South Lake and took the "Tyee Lakes Trail" to Lake Sabrina, then hitchhiked up the road to North Lake and hiked in over Piute pass, all so we wouldn't have to do a car shuttle between North Lake and South Lake.

Snow Nymph is right, the Bearikade Expedition can hold 8 days of food. It is tight the first night, but you can make it work as long as you don't want to bring a loaf of fluffy bread or something ;-) It is really light, and holds more than any other canister. My husband and I both own one, and we've each carried 8 days of food it it at least 6 times. I'm thinking that you'll probably be required to carry canisters but you can find out more about this requirement when you call to reserve your permit. They are definitely required in Dusy Basin, so if a ranger happens to see you hanging your food or putting it in the rocks you would get a citation.

That loop is really fun and you'll pass through a number of different environments which is nice to see, and side trips to peak bag and get some views will be very rewarding too!