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High Sierra Trail Information?

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Re: High Sierra Trail Information?

Postby mbHale » Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:28 am

I can't thank you guys enough for all the info.

SPeackock, thanks for the lengthy reply. A lot of good information in there. I've been thinking about pushing to Bearpaw on the first day; it looks like it will be among the easier days on the trip as far as elevation profiles go.

I like the idea of being able to change our minds on where to camp during the trip, so long as we keep on schedule. I will obviously make myself very aware of all the options before we head out, with a loose plan on where we will stay each night.

Thanks for the info everyone, and I'm sure I will be checking back to look at these posts as I really start planing.

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Re: High Sierra Trail Information?

Postby sekihiker » Sat Apr 20, 2013 10:42 am

You might want to Google "high sierra trail trip report" and look at some of the information that folks have posted online.
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Re: High Sierra Trail Information?

Postby SPeacock » Tue Apr 23, 2013 2:12 pm

Some interesting things along the trail.

Be sure to take in Giant Forrest in Crescent Meadows. It is about a mile or so. It is the last time you will be close enough to touch a giant sequoia.

The scenery on your right across the valley the first day is a very much like a teaser for an action film and the scenery coming up. As you undulate up and down across the contours, you will pass little islands of flowers and butterflies in small isolated seeps and damps. Very much like their own little galaxy and very far from the next. Across to the south on your first half day, is Mineral King - a spectacular higher altitude hiking area. There is a trail from there to BearPaw, catching the HST for a short part then around and above the Kern Trench via 5 Lakes and back over Black Rock Pass to the car.

Mehrten Creek is a popular lunch spot with water and an occasional bear. Don't loose sight of your gear. Plan on eating all the heavy, bulky and perishable stuff the first day. The rules allow you to carry more than your canister will hold so long as you have safe storage at night...meaning you will have to camp near the large food storage 'bear boxes' until all your grub fits the canister. There is a list of bear boxes here. It would be a plus if your food bag is easily identifiable from the others that will be there. My wife said it reminded her of a litter of baby pigs having a meal on mom. All looked alike.


The bar at Bearpaw Meadow. More teasers for scenery to come if you turn around on your bar stool. The bar has hours. Check ahead of time if interested in a 'cold one'. This trail weans you away from civilization slowly.

The scenery really starts a few strides from BearPaw. The view up toward Elizabeth Pass and Tamarack Lakes from the trail en route to Hamilton Lakes. The crossing of the creek just before you get to Hamilton and the WOW! of Valhalla's vertical face.

The trail up from Hamilton which is probably considered the 'proper' jumping off spot for the High portion of the Sierra Trail. The engineering and construction that went into building the trail from here up to Precipice Lake. They left the drill tooling in place to help support the trail. Imagine the trail crew effort and the amount of dynamite it took let alone transporting it from Fresno. The short tunnel that spits you out on the trail that replaced a bridge that was destroyed by avalanche shortly after it was constructed. You can see bits and pieces of it waaay down there.

The quiet solitude only interrupted by your breathing and pounding heart as you top Kaweah Gap and look across at the Kaweah's, the lakes of the basin, and the expanse of the Big Arroyo below you that will provide the only down hill (BIG downhill) of your trip until you get to the top of Whitney. Little Five Lakes is a short excursion from the top of the Arroyo if you have the time. Coming up is a short stint along a weeping wall of light spray and beautiful flowers. Ok, so plan on one down hill day for the entire HST. Small price to pay for what you get.

Funston Meadows below you as you continue your descent to the Kern River. Imagine a football shaped ellipse on the cliff that you pass back and forth through on your way down. Inside the boundaries of the ellipse are probably the most blue bellied lizards you will ever see...in a few miles. What do they eat?

The trail from Funston to Junction Meadows up stream is a long, warm to hot, sandy trudge interspersed with a grand bridge, a view of the falls across the river and the Hot Springs. Its about here that you become aware that you are about as far from one end of this trail as you are from the other. If you had to hobble out, it would be a long hobble. Actually the hot springs are ok after 4 or 5 days on the trail. The immense tub has a stick as a plug in the front end that you remove to let the hot water in and then use it to plug the drain at the back. You can walk the few feet to the Kern to get some ice water to cool things off. One of the most interesting features here is the latrine up away from the river on a slight ridge. Surrounded on three sides and only offering any kind of privacy if sitting down (and a surprise if you don't put a hat on the pole to notify it is 'occupado'), it is absolutely the best view offered by ANY crapper in the Sierra. Grand view of the falls of Rock Creek driving down the face of the Kern Trench.

The sandy trail ends at Junction Meadows and Wallace Creek. If you have the time to explore, take some time up towards Colby pass and the bridge there. From here it is uphill for the next few days. You can extend your stay a bit by going up the west side of the river to where the trail meets Tyndall Creek rather than up Wallace (which is days quicker). You could spend a days in the Upper Kern Basin looking over the the western side of the basin down to Reflection Lake (another trail option some day over Harrison Pass) and looking across at the 'back bone of the Sierra' that includes Williamson, Tyndall, Whitney as close-in 14'rs. Then trip across to the eastern side going up toward Shepherd Pass on the trail along Tyndall Creek for a picture looking back at where you came. WOW! time again. The Kern River shows off the "poor man's Yosemite". You can only get to it on foot - or feet if riding.

Wallace Lakes are worthwhile to visit since you've spent this much time and energy. The trail along Sandy Meadow (a geological feature that is the top of a porous deep pile of sand) is interesting as you skirt its barren expanse caused by its inability to retain water. Being from Florida I'm sure you can appreciate lightning. Several Boy Scouts while camping, were killed in recent history in the trees bordering this meadow. Big thunderstorm!

The rest of the trip up Whitney is just plain grand! It needs your earliest start time on the trip. Its pretty much over once you hit the Ridge. It is just amazing and awesome details left to do. Plan to be off the top as soon after noon as you can make it. You are the closest thing to the sky in the lower 49. You want to be well down the hill before mid day especially if clouds show up that weren't there 30 minutes ago. A group of other hikers were killed inside the summit shelter by another thunderstorm several years ago. I was a dozen miles south at 11,000', near Mt Langley, being rattled by the same storm. It engulfed the eastern Sierra starting at 2PM and continued into the night. It was awesome and beautiful from our perch.

Yeah. Its not a 7 day trip even if you want to see a little bit more.
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Re: High Sierra Trail Information?

Postby hurricaniac » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:57 pm

This trip has killer views right out of the parking lot. The hike along the flanks of Alta Pk. and then out of Bearpaw are ne'er to be forgotten.

Be ready for the zoo going down the hill from Trailcrest to Whitney Portal, tho.

Looking east at the GWD from Crescent Mdw:
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