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High Sierra Trail OR Onion Valley-Mt. Whitney-Horseshoe Mead

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Re: High Sierra Trail OR Onion Valley-Mt. Whitney-Horseshoe Mead

Postby maverick » Tue May 07, 2013 5:33 pm

That may work Mike for some, though I would not feel comfortable leaving my
wife and kids for hours even at a busy place like Whitney Portal, and definitely
would not let my wife get in a car with a stranger alone, so I could stay with
the kids. There is just to much crazy stuff going on in the world today.
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Re: High Sierra Trail OR Onion Valley-Mt. Whitney-Horseshoe Mead

Postby tim » Tue May 07, 2013 5:37 pm

It partly depends on how much time/money you want to spend shuttling to the start of the hike. Also the mileage on the HST is a bit more than Onion Valley to Horseshoe Meadows. If I had unlimited time then I would probably choose the HST, but we didn't, so last summer I booked Onion Valley to Horseshoe Meadows for my trip with the kids (no Trail Crest exits available), then when we got to the permit office we found there were Whitney exit permits available, so we switched to that: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8265

We liked the series of increasing altitude passes, with a break between each, so that we were very acclimatized by the time we got to Whitney. I would consider exiting at Whitney Portal if you can (though changing things might complicate the shuttle slightly), and if that leaves an extra day spend it wandering up to one of the more remote lake basins in the Kern drainage (Wales, Wallace or Lake South America). Getting a burger at the end at Whitney Portal is a nice end to the hike. I would recommend camping there or at Onion Valley the night before you start hiking, to help acclimatize.
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Re: High Sierra Trail OR Onion Valley-Mt. Whitney-Horseshoe Mead

Postby Mike M. » Tue May 07, 2013 6:28 pm

That may work Mike for some, though I would not feel comfortable leaving my
wife and kids for hours even at a busy place like Whitney Portal, and definitely
would not let my wife get in a car with a stranger alone, so I could stay with
the kids. There is just to much crazy stuff going on in the world today.

I don't share that view, Maverick. I've done this many times at the trailhead. You don't have to stick your thumb out. I just approach people in the parking lot (I pick them, they don't pick me) and see if they might be heading in that direction. I'm the gnarly guy smelling to high heaven, it's me they should be afraid of. It is amazing how nice people can be -- they can see you've just finished a hike and they're interested in where you've been and what you've seen. It's actually pretty great and one of the things that makes the Sierra so special. I would not hesitate to leave my wife and kids at the trailhead for a few hours while I fetch the car.

Or, as another poster has suggested, you can leave your family and packs at a campground near the Kearsarge trailhead on Day 0, drive to the Horseshoe Meadow parking lot and leave your car there, then hitch back to Kearsarge.

Mike
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Re: High Sierra Trail OR Onion Valley-Mt. Whitney-Horseshoe Mead

Postby KathyW » Wed May 08, 2013 6:06 am

You might want to check East Side Shuttle if you are looking for a shuttle ride between trailheads:

http://eastsidesierrashuttle.com/

Paul gave me a lift from Sawmill Pass Trailhead to Onion Valley last year - nice guy.

More info on transportation around the Sierra:

http://climber.org/data/shuttles.html
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Re: High Sierra Trail OR Onion Valley-Mt. Whitney-Horseshoe Mead

Postby mwstowe » Wed May 08, 2013 12:11 pm

Thanks for the advice. Please continue to share your experiences. I think we are going to take the extra day -- and spend the money -- to drop a car at Whitney Portal, pay for a shuttle to Crescent Meadow and complete the entire HST. We will be able to exit at Whitney Portal and have a car waiting for us. We are also hoping to do a day hike from Onion Valley up to Kersarge Pass the day before we drop our car at Whitney Portal to get the shuttle. That will at least allow us to see a tiny part of that hike and get in a little hiking at altitude.
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Re: High Sierra Trail OR Onion Valley-Mt. Whitney-Horseshoe Mead

Postby SPeacock » Thu May 09, 2013 1:04 pm

HST first choice (major shuttle management). 2nd Onion, Whitney, Shepherd Pass and out (no shuttle. 3rd Onion to Horseshoe (mainly because of shuttle)

If you have two cars, then 3rd choice moves (grudgingly) up to 2nd.

From Onion Valley you have a 13,200' Forester Pass the third day or so (Kearsarge Lakes, Upper Viddette Meadows) or the second day if you push to lower altitude in Vidette Meadows the first day (uhg) and then push to Tyndall Creek. That's crazy.

If you are worried about shuttle on the east side you could go K Lakes, Vidette Meadosw, Tyndall Creek, above Crab Apple, Whitney, return to Crab Apple, then Back to Tyndal (it is amazingly different trail going north), then over Shepherd Pass. At bottom of trail near Symmes Creek hike to road (3 miles) and it is an easy hitch for one up to Onion Valley parking lot. Onion Valley is much easier to catch rides in and out of and Shepherd Pass and makes it 'loop'. BIG down hill day if going via Shepherd. Shepherd is spectacular (and relatively easy from the west) with two 14r's that you pass on your right (Williamson - 2nd tallest, and Tyndall). Tyndall is a good cross country adventure if you have the energy and the time. Route up starts from the trail you are on. Mt Langley is another 14r of opportunity (easiest high peak in the Sierra) before you leave Army Pass on the way out. For those super achievers in your group to meet you below later in the day.

If you have a way to shuttle cars between Crescent Meadows and Whitney Portal that is by far the more generally spectacular trip. It takes one full day to drop a car at the Portal and drive to Crescent, then another full day to retrieve your car at the portal unless you have somebody driving you up and dropping you at Crescent.

Getting rides in and out of Horseshoe Meadows is a bit difficult at times. Easier to get a ride for one person without a pack who will come back for the rest of the crew. I like to stash my shuttle car at the exit. I'm ready for a bath by then and not a day getting to my other car. You would be more likely to get a ride down in the after noons and up in the mornings.

The eastern Sierra starts high and stays high. Cottonwood Lakes trail head starts at 10,500 and you sleep over 11,000 that night if you stay at Cottonwood Lake 4/5. Old Army Pass is lower and still usable even though it has been abandoned and no longer maintained. Figure one day over New/Old Army Pass to bottom of Rock Creek where it crosses the PCT. Next night is as high above Crab Tree Meadows as you can make it. then over and out on 4th or 5th day.

I'd be tempted to go in from Kearsarge Pass AND use the portal exit from the HST trip...if you don't do the HST. Forrester Pass is a special place in my heart. At bit more effort but worth every labored breath for the view.

It is a 6-7 day trip Onion to Horseshoe Meadows (K lakes, V meadows, Tydall Creek, Crab Tree Meadows, Crab Tree Meadows, Soldier Lakes, Cottonwood lakes) with a rest day at 10 miles a day. You will find people along any of the trails. It might be a bit crowded at the more popular camping places. You can find solitude by camping short or long if you come across crowds. You will need to plan on food storage bins (bear boxes) along the way.

By mid July this year you will not have any significant snow problems on the passes. You have some streams to cross (below Hamilton lakes, top of Arroyo, Rock Creek near the hot springs). Onion Valley route has no significant water crossings.

Plan on 10 mile days and decide to push it if you have the steam later on in the day. You can camp pretty much where you want - if you can protect your food. I suspect you will find 10/day will make you tired enough - at 10,000'.

Have a Polar 200 (equivalent fleece) near top of pack for when you make rest stops. Light weight hooded rain top (Marmot Precip), small bottle of DEET (a drop will do ya), sunglasses, brimmed hat and UV for lip and skin protection. Days could be very hot (90F's) and nights very cool (20F's). Long pants for sun and skeeter protection. shorts and T's for day. Heavy above ankle socks and hood for evening and morning bugs. Not a LOT of them, but one or two can still be a nuisance. One early august was nearly 100F in same place a few years earlier it was 22F over night (back side of Whitney).

It is a strenuous trip that needs you on the trail before 7:30AM no matter which way you go. Get an efficient start to beat the thunderclouds mid day. Waaay early start for Whitney. You should be well on your way above timberline when the sun comes up.

If going for a day hike to Kearsarge Pass, plan on leaving earlier and having lunch at K lakes another couple of miles down and back.

We preferred making Bear Paw Meadows the first night. It is a long day but not a lot of 'map' altitude gain. That first part does undulate a lot tho. If you make it to BP Meadows early enough they have a bar there. Plan on taking a bit of a short hike that evening to move the muscles around from the first day's effort. Some GRAND scenery just starting from the bar stool on for a mile...which you will see the next day. Hamilton could be an over night if there is space, otherwise once over Kaweah gap you have lots of options. That does make two big days. BUT the rest of the trip is mostly down hill (Ha!). Spend time in 9 Lakes and if you stop early at the Arroyo, and have the time, Little 5 lakes is a nice day trip. I like the high route above the lake to the high plateau before plunging into the Kern 'Trench'. Funston Meadows by the river is a good place to take long break. Real chairs and a table there too - from packers. The hot spring tub is huge. Hot water comes in the hole in the front and drains in the back. Plug the back up to fill up the tub, bring water from the Kern to cool it off. If you have the time and energy there is a nice trail up the western side of the Kern (instead of up Wallace Creek) that takes you up to Tyndall Creek and then back on the JMT to Wallace Creek again and then up the 'hill'. Stay above Guitar if you can. Fewer people and cat holes.

You will love any of the routes you pick getting there. I personally would spend more time on the Bighorn Plateau and/or 9 Lakes basin for exploring to the riming passes.
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Re: High Sierra Trail OR Onion Valley-Mt. Whitney-Horseshoe Mead

Postby Hobbes » Fri May 10, 2013 8:34 am

SPeacock wrote:I'd be tempted to go in from Kearsarge Pass AND use the portal exit from the HST trip.


Exactly. I'm not sure why anyone would want to make their trip(s) more complicated - especially with family/kids. The logistics involved in the HST are a major PITA. If it's being considered merely to exit @ Whitney, walk-up exit permits for Portal are easily obtainable in conjunction with (inbound) east side THs like Horseshoe or Onion, or tack on the existing HST permit.

Kathy & others have provided links to a couple of commercial shuttles that run between Portal, Horseshoe & Onion practically every day. I mean, it's almost like an airport shuttle. You merely leave your vehicle at Portal, and everyone piles into the van to be dropped off @ your TH. Nothing could be simpler - people from Japan & Europe make long distance arrangements months in advance. If they can do it (and do, they're the bread & butter for shuttles), then it should be trivial for Calif residents.

IMO, the Onion to Portal hike is up there with Evolution & Minarets for the biggest scenery bang for the buck. It's easy, it's convenient, it's spectacular, and during peak season, you get to share it with 100s of others all thinking/doing the same thing.

There's a guy whose group does Whitney every year or so, and he's gone from every major TH. He prefers Onion, and has a nice write up here:

http://webpages.charter.net/mtwhitneyhi ... _to_wp.htm
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Re: High Sierra Trail OR Onion Valley-Mt. Whitney-Horseshoe Mead

Postby SPeacock » Sun May 12, 2013 7:04 pm

For maps I like Tom Harrison maps (.com) of:
MT WHITNEY HIGH COUNTRY TRAIL MAP start at top and exit at bottom.
Needs one more inch to the north
TRAIL MAP OF THE KINGS CANYON HIGH COUNTRY gives you that inch you are missing

Tom's maps give you mileage that is close enough OR I use a .09mm Pentil pen (or equivalent) and lay it on the map. Its about a day's travel (10 miles +-)

Onion Valley start and suggested overnight locations: (all had bear boxes - check recent)
Kearsarge Lakes (altitude acclimatization check in the morning - you can still bail if a problem)
Upper Vidette Meadows
Over Forester at 13,200' best be fresh for this
Tyndall Creek (you could return here from Whitney and exit over Shepherd Pass to Onion Valley)
Guitar Lake (or above it)
Whitney (you could exit here if you use your HST from Crescent Meadow permit)
Guitar Lake
up Rock Creek
Solder Lakes (Mitre) 3.5 miles up Rock creek
Over Army Pass
Cottonwood Lakes ( you could push to Horseshoe Meadows. it will be a big day)
Horseshoe Meadows (and car)

7/8 nights. (6/7) if exit over Shepherd Pass)

If you push it to Vidette Meadows first day, then Tyndall Creek, two nights at Guitar and return to Tyndall then over Shepherd it is 6 very hard days.

High Sierra Trail (from Crescent Meadows on Tom's Mt Whitney High Country Map.)
Bearpaw Meadow (long first day 14 miles)
9 Lakes Basin or top of Arroyo (killer two days) (better if 3 days with stop at Hamilton Lake)
Upper Funston Meadow (hard day down hill miss Moraine Lake)
Junction Meadows or top of Wallace Creek
Above Guitar Lake
Whitney Summit
Some where down the hill for the last over night
out to Portal

6 hard nights (Better if 8 nights - lots of food weight)

Both trips are all on trails.
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Re: High Sierra Trail OR Onion Valley-Mt. Whitney-Horseshoe Mead

Postby ManOfTooManySports » Thu May 16, 2013 5:44 pm

I think it wise to avoid the route starting from Onion Valley. We did OV to WP some years ago with a side-trip to Lake South America. The really hard thing about this route is, as folks have noted, you wind up on 13,000' Forester Pass early in the trip. But then you stay at very high elevations for most of the rest of the trip, too. On this route you spend more time closer to 11,000' than under 10,000'. This can really slow you down and wear you out. It's only for those who know what to expect over 11,000'.
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