The High Sierra Trail can be, as many have observed, the experience of a lifetime. For me, it definitely ranks as the #1 backpacking trip so far in terms of everything: distance, duration, difficulty, etc. Luckily, our group of experienced backpackers navigated all challenges with strength and determination, and as a result we were rewarded with memories for many years to come.
We took 8 days to complete the trail and we covered a total of 82 miles. On Day 4 we climbed Mt. Kaweah, hence the extra mileage. During the first three days, the remnants of a late summer storm were clearing out and we thus had a few clouds to contend with (and a few sprinkles to duck from at Big Arroyo), but after that it was absolutely perfect. There were one other group and a soloist going in the same direction as us, but otherwise we had the trail to ourselves. We crossed paths with a few people heading in the opposite direction, and we saw surprisingly few hikers once we connected with the JMT. Perfect time of the year to go.
This has been said many times over, however I must repeat it: the HST does live up to its reputation as the ultimate cross-Sierra hike. The variety of terrain, vegetation, micro-climates, ecosystems was astounding. Every day brought something new and different. It would be impossible to select any one day or thing as my favorite, but here are some highlights:
- Following the trail above the canyon of the Middle Fork Kaweah River
- Taking in the views of the Great Western Divide from Bearpaw Meadow
- Cooling off in and then watching the sunset at Hamilton Lake
- Trying to capture the colors of Precipice Lake on camera
- Descending into the Big Arroyo from Kaweah Gap
- Getting mind blown on the summit of Mt. Kaweah
- Alternating the scalding waters of Kern Hot Springs with the ice cold flow of the Kern River
- Meeting up at Guitar Lake with a friend who had come in from Horseshoe Meadow & getting a sore neck from looking at the night sky
- Powering to the summit of Whitney with the full pack (35+ lbs) & feeling invincible
- The cheeseburger at Whitney Portal
Our trip was done without resupplying. We carried all our food; some guys chose to bring bear canisters, but I went without. I planned our camps such that every night we were at a location with a bear box (except for the last night at Guitar Lake, but by then we had exhausted almost all our supplies). It worked out perfectly. I highly encourage anyone who is a first timer to do it as below.
Day 1: Crescent Meadow to Mehrten Creek, 6 mi (we started really late and had to haul ass to get there before dark)
Day 2: Mehrten Creek to Hamilton Lake, 10.3 mi
Day 3: Hamilton Lake to Big Arroyo Junction, 8.2 mi
Day 4: Big Arroyo Junction to Moraine Lake, 13.6 mi (includes the Mt. Kaweah climb ~6 mi)
Day 5: Moraine Lake to Kern Hot Springs, 8 mi
Day 6: Kern Hot Springs to Wallace Creek, 12.6 mi
Day 7: Wallace Creek to Guitar Lake, 7.7 mi
Day 8: Guitar Lake to Whitney Portal, 16 mi (the last day was really hard, however everyone was eager to finish and the packs were considerably lighter, so it worked out)
A few pictures:
Moro Rock and the canyon of Middle Fork Kern River
The canyon of Lone Pine Creek (east of Bearpaw Meadow, not the Whitney one)
Sunset at Hamilton Lake
Descending into Big Arroyo
View NW from the summit of Mt. Kaweah
Sunrise at Moraine Lake
Soaking in the pool at Kern Hot Springs
The classic shot: West face of Whitney and Timberline Lake
Highest point in the Continental U.S. Mission accomplished!
Looking back at the Whitney Crest from Bighorn Park, on the descent to the Portal
Please feel free to contact me for more photos (I took 500!) and any details about the trail.
Thanks again to my teammates and the High Sierra Topix community for a dream come true!