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High Sierra Trail Information?

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High Sierra Trail Information?

Postby mbHale » Tue Apr 09, 2013 4:34 pm

This is my first post, so thanks in advance for any help!

A buddy and I are planning a High Sierra Trail trip for mid-August. We already have a permit for somewhere around August 11-17. We are planning on a 6 night, 7 day trip, starting at Crescent Meadow and ending at Mt. Whitney.

A few threshold questions (I'm sure I will be back for more!):

What are the campsites we absolutely must stay at (i.e., the best of the best--don't skip it!)?

How much rain should we expect? We did the Smokies last year and it rained and thunder stormed almost every day. What should we expect here?

We don't need to bother with ice/snow gear in mid-August, right?

And, (last for now) are there any great guidebooks and what are the best maps I should purchase? I bought Sierra South: Backcountry trips in California's Sierras. I am looking for something akin to the AT trailbooks, where it lays out water stops, peaks, and information mile-by-mile. Does something like this exist for the HST?

Thanks, and again any responses are much appreciated.

-Hale



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Re: High Sierra Trail Information?

Postby maverick » Tue Apr 09, 2013 5:24 pm

Hi Hale,

Welcome to HST!
Please read: http://www.highsierratopix.com/communit ... f=1&t=4205
Also will you be carrying a bear canister or plan to stay at campsites with bear boxes?
Bear canisters offer freedom to stay at non-organized sites, and to go off trail.
Weather can always be an issue, but we usually don't get big major storms in
August, possibly an afternoon thunderstorms is possible especially if the monsoonal
flow kicks in or if the pieces of a former hurricane get sucked up into the flow (which
doesn't happen very often). No snow gear.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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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Re: High Sierra Trail Information?

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:56 pm

I'd be surprised if there was a book that laid all the water stops etc out - it's the Sierra, and the topo maps show all the streams and lakes, so if you check it out you'll see there's not a lack of places to filter water.

Part of the adventure is the surprise encounters with the terrain - have a great time.
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Re: High Sierra Trail Information?

Postby mbHale » Wed Apr 10, 2013 11:32 am

Yes, I guess on the AT many of the water resources are tiny springs, so you need to know to look for them. Must not be the case out west.

Thanks Maverick. I declined to do the all-out trip advice post because, well, I know which trail I'm doing and when I'm doing it already. I just had a few minor questions.

I guess we are planning on bringing a bear canister for the freedom, even though I'd love to save the 2-point-something pounds. Thanks for the info about the weather. We will obviously bring rain gear, but I hope it doesn't rain all day every day like it did in the Smokies last year.

Does anyone have specific suggestions on the best campsites along the HST? I've hear Morraine Lake is worth the sidetrack. Anything else?

Thanks.
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Re: High Sierra Trail Information?

Postby maverick » Wed Apr 10, 2013 12:05 pm

Highlights are different for everyone, but a lot of folks here like Hamilton Lakes
which is pretty but can get quite crowded for my taste. Precipice Lake is pretty
and the views from Kaweah Gap are great. Nine Lakes Basin is one of the reasons to
carry a bear canister since it allows you the freedom to roam around in this pretty
basin and find some of its hidden treasures. Moraine Lake and Sky Parlor are nice
but does not hit my list of highlights along the HST. Some folks love the Kern Hot
Springs, for me it is no big deal, have only stop once in maybe the 8 times passing
by it. If your comfortable with crosscountry, which you have not indicated, then
Wallace Lakes Basin is the definitely at the top of the highlight reel, here again
hard to know if this is feasible since you have not indicated your average mileage nor
whether you wanted a layover day.
Guitar Lake is nice but way over crowded, Arctic Lake is a much better option.
Mosquitoes should not be a major issue, if at all, by mid August this year.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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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Re: High Sierra Trail Information?

Postby mbHale » Wed Apr 10, 2013 12:41 pm

Thanks a ton for sharing. We are not planning on any xcountry. I have done a little before, but my buddy and I are planning to stick with the trail. So I guess that puts us at a "2" on the difficulty level.

We are not planning a layover day, and the itinerary we have been looking at (http://www.everytrail.com/guide/the-high-sierra-trail) seems to average about 10 miles/day. We're both "young bucks" (age 25), so I'm confident we will manage 10/day. We have done more in the past.

I guess our tentative itinerary, following the Everytrails site, is as follows:
1. Crescent Meadow to 9-Mile Creek (8.4 mi.)
2. 9-Mile Creek to Precipice Lake (9.8 mi.)
3. Precipice Lake to Morraine Lake (9.8 mi.)
4. Morraine Lake to Kern Hot Spring (6.9 mi.)
5. Kern Hot Spring to Upper Kern Canyon (9.6 mi.)
6. Upper Kern Canyon to Guitar Lake (10.2 mi.)
7. Guitar Lake to Whitney Summit, then Portal (14.3 mi.)

This is basically all I had to go off of, so I will probably change some of our camping arrangements based on recommendations and research. Also I read that Precipice Lake may not be the best campsite.

I am pretty adept with map and compass, so we could manage going to a campsite a little off the trail if it is worth it. Again, much thanks for the advice. I hope I will have some to share after my trip!

Thanks,
Hale
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Re: High Sierra Trail Information?

Postby tim » Wed Apr 10, 2013 1:28 pm

See this topic for some alternatives: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8899

I would definitely suggest staying at the tarn above Guitar Lake on the last night. Depending on how good you feel on Day 2, it may be better to stop at Hamilton Lake (I usually find the second day to be the hardest, so personally I wouldn't enjoy the long climb up to Precipice Lake at the end of that day), but it does make Day 3 a long day if you want to go all the way to Moraine Lake.
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Re: High Sierra Trail Information?

Postby mbHale » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:18 pm

Thanks for the advice Tim.

Based on what y'all (yes, I'm from the South...) have told me, It looks like the tarn (I had to look that up) above Guitar Lake will be where we stay the night before Whitney. Also, I think we would really like to camp around the Nine Lake Basin. I am planning on taking a light fly rod, but I'm definitely not an experienced fly fisherman (and most of what I do is saltwater--I'm from Florida). Is there good fishing to be had at the Nine Lakes Basin? I'm not asking you to give away your hot spots! Could anyone suggest a route that allows us to camp at Nine Lakes Basin without having to push the 16 miles to Hamilton lake the first day? We've done long days like that, but for the first day I think that would be a bit audacious.

Also, I have had trouble locating an elevation profile for the trail. Is there one online someone could point me too, or direct me to a map I can purchase that has this? As I mentioned, I purchased Sierra South: Backcountry trips in California's Sierras--will this have an elevation profile in it? I'm trying to figure out what the most challenging days will be so I don't plan a short day on an easy stretch and a long day on a difficult stretch. Based on what I've seen, the climb up to Kaweah Gap will be tough, so maybe we could make that into a short day and camp at Nine Lakes Basin. I guess this would give us time to relax around Precipice Lake during that short day too, which looks amazing. Obviously Whitney will be challenging.

Thanks a ton.

Hale
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Re: High Sierra Trail Information?

Postby maverick » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:49 pm

Have read there are 6'' rainbows in lower lake of the Nine Lake Basin, near
Kaweah Gap, but none in the larger lake.
As an alternative plan you may consider staying at Buck Creek for the first
night, get an early start, and get to Nine Lakes Basin for the second night.
Use the elevation profile feature in Google Earth (which is free).
Don't have that book.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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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Re: High Sierra Trail Information?

Postby snowpatch » Wed Apr 10, 2013 7:27 pm

The book Sierra South by Kathy Morey and Mike White (which I think you mentioned) has the elevation profile for the HIgh Sierra Trail. It's hike #31 in my 8th edition. The book also gives a good day by day trail description.
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Re: High Sierra Trail Information?

Postby LMBSGV » Wed Apr 10, 2013 10:02 pm

Another vote for Buck Creek instead of 9 Mile Creek. The campsites at 9 Mile are in forest and right by the trail. The creek access is not that good. I thought it felt a bit claustrophobic. The 3 sites at Buck Creek are further off the trail The access to Buck Creek is excellent with a sense of openness with large granite slabs to sit or even lie on by the creek.

The best campsite at Precipice Lake is to the right of the trail on the other side of the outlet creek below a giant boulder. The view of Angel Wings and Mt. Stewart is beyond words. The sunset light on Precipice Lake and the cliff rising straight above can be magical. If you decide to stay in 9 Lakes Basin, you might want to avoid the Heart Shaped Lake since it is often overcrowded. I suggest either go left to the lake above it (easy walking even if cross country) or slightly further down the Big Arroyo.

I was the only person at Moraine Lake the one night I stayed there, so I thought it was wonderful. However, if there had been a lot of other parties there, I'd probably feel differently. I'm with Maverick on Kern Hot Springs. My mindset while I'm in the backcountry is not on a hot bath and especially not on camping in an overused and overcrowded spot.

Depending on how windy it is, the little lake to the right of the trail on Bighorn Plateau can be an incredible place to camp. A little further on before the crossing of Wrights Creek when the trail does a big turn to the right, if you head off the trail down to the creek and cross over to the other side, there are lots places where you can pitch a tent and appreciate a sense of solitude while taking in the views.
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Re: High Sierra Trail Information?

Postby SPeacock » Sun Apr 14, 2013 12:43 pm

We came from the east doing Whitney from the west as a day trip. Our nights would be planned differently if coming from Crescent. However I've gone from the Crescent several times over Elizabeth Pass and Lion Heads Lake and with 'tourist' who wanted a WOW! overnight.

We've always pushed to BearPaw Meadow. It has its good/bad points: It is a longer first day; there is a bar there so you can get a cold one with your first awesome view of what is to come. It is a bed and breakfast for the adventuresome. There was a major down fall of large trees some decades ago. There is wood already split and it would be the last open fire allowed (if they still do) of your trip. The trail there has little altitude gain (on the map). The trail does undulate up and down quite a bit. An early start should get you to the Meadow late afternoon. The next day up will be one of the bigger days of the trip and you should just plan on lots of 'wow look at that stops'. A significant part of what the Sierra is known for happens in the few miles it takes from Bearpaw to the top of Kaweah Gap.

Instead of staying lower at Moraine Lake and Funston Creek before going down to the Kern River we stayed near the top of Chagoopa Creek . Better view. We also took a nice nap in Funston Meadows. Spectacular laying on your back seeing where you came from (or going up).

If you have anytime to spend on Bighorn Plateau it will be worth all of the effort you have expended to get there (or will have to the next time). An alternate trail would be to take the west side of the upper Kern Basin from Junction Meadows and then cut over to the JMT going up Tyndal Creek. You get a good look at Mt Tyndall at 14k feet plus to get back to Wallace.

Wallace and Wright Lakes are a nice diversion.

I've always been depressed looking at trail profiles. Just looking at the contours is bad enough. Plan on having to walk up hill most of a day and down (or up) most of the next day almost wherever you go in the Sierra. This is a sometimes shocking adjustment many from the east have to put up with. At least we have switchbacks on the trails. A 10 mile day is a pretty good pace unless you are more fit than many who show up with a larger than necessary pack. I like Tom Harrison Maps (.com). The mileage on the trails is generally accurate enough. Just leave your options open on where you might camp for the night. You can generally camp anyplace you want so long as you can protect your food without hanging it.

The only bad day with no available water will be up from the lakes on the west side of Whitney until much later in the day coming down to the first lakes on the east side. A long day!. Otherwise water is generally available often during the day.

Plan on hot days, perhaps well into the 90's. The temperature drops to 20F's above 10,000' any month of the year. I keep a 200 (Polarguard or equivalent) fleece near the top of my pack. When we stop it goes on immediately. Low humidity, breeze and sweat can be a chill. I've gotten along well with a Tshirt, long sleeve shirt (to keep from being a crispy critter), med weight shirt, fleece and a Marmot Precip for August at high altitude in the Sierra. You need a brim hat and high UV rated sun screen and lip protection along with dark glasses to keep the UV at bay. You can cook quickly up there.

And of course try to be as fit as you can by the trail day. Bring lots of photo supplies. I now hike with a small recorder. Makes the write up easier at the end. Leave your cell phone behind. They don't work except on the top of Whitney. There will be plenty in use up there to borrow one.

I'd suggest that you leave the fishing gear behind. You won't really have the time and you will be lugging the kit with for the rest of the trip. If you get done and are kicking yourself you didn't bring a pole, plan to come back and fish instead of sight see.

If you are doing a car shuttle, plan on a day from the portal to Crescent and another day back to collect your car.

You are going to absolutely going to love this trip.
Last edited by SPeacock on Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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