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High Sierra Trail - too advanced for us?

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High Sierra Trail - too advanced for us?

Postby rapunzel » Fri Jul 26, 2013 7:55 am

Hello all,

I've been reading these forums (and everything else I can find) in preparation for a trip to SEKI this summer. My husband and I have been planning for a High Sierra Trail trip since March, but now that it's almost here, I'm getting cold feet.

We have been dayhiking for years, but we've only been backpacking for about two years now (I'd say "Level 2," some backpacking trips using trails). Because of our work schedules, we've never taken anything longer than a weekend trip. This concerns me, as we are planning to spend 7 days hiking the HST. (We plan to spend a day in Sequoia and camp at Lodgepole to see the trees/acclimate a little before we start.) We are only comfortable with Class 1 terrain and do not do any cross-country. We are both in very good physical shape, and we don't have any problem doing 10-12 miles per day with loaded packs and elevation gain. However, we've never attempted a trip of this duration, and because we're from the East Coast, we've never experienced high-altitude hiking. We've both done what we can outside of hiking to increase our skill set (reading, taking a wilderness first-aid course, hiking with more-experienced friends). I'm just worried that we don't have enough experience for what we've learned to kick in automatically if we wind up in a bad situation.

So ... are we crazy to try the HST? We were really excited when we first got the permit, and my husband is kind of frustrated that I'm having second thoughts (he thinks we'll be fine). If you think this is too much for us, do you have recommendations for other trips in that area that would be better for our experience level? We're looking for mountain scenery and photography opportunities, primarily. We already have a hotel in Visalia two nights before we start and a reservation at Lodgepole campground the night before; we then planned to spend 7 days hiking and 1 day traveling back to LA, where we'll visit friends before flying home.

Thanks!



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Re: High Sierra Trail - too advanced for us?

Postby BigMan » Fri Jul 26, 2013 10:48 am

Just based on what you've written, I'd venture to say that you're going to be fine.

It sounds like you have a healthy amount of caution and concern. You can always head back to Lodgepole if you encounter problems. Just take it slow and easy. Lots of breaks, lots of water.

(When I begin a hike at high elevation, I purposely hike slow. Almost uncomfortably slow. I have to remind myself to slow down. Otherwise, I'll suffer a few mini-crashes - brief episodes of dizziness and increased heartrate.)

Consider giving yourself 8 days instead of 7.

Have fun!
In wilderness lies the hope of the world.
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Re: High Sierra Trail - too advanced for us?

Postby maverick » Fri Jul 26, 2013 11:53 am

Hi Rapunzel,

Welcome to HST! Sounds like you are well prepared (more than many others before you
who have done the HST), and will have a great trip, the only thing that may be a slight
issue is the smoke but hopefully this will not be an issue that far south. Please write
up and post a TR of your adventure after you get back. :)
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 - too advanced for us?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Jul 26, 2013 12:09 pm

If you are in shape the issue seems to be just the new experience of being out for an entire week. The SHR is a big trail. Do not see how you could have problems. Any other "Route" for a week is still being out a week. I find longer trips more enjoyable. Be careful the first few days to keep an eye on your feet. Often on weekend trips we push hard and then have sore feet, but what the xx, we are home. On a week long trip you have to keep all parts of you healthy. I just met a fellow doing the JMT, who is very fit and in great shape, but overdid the first few days (did 25 miles the first day!!) and was sitting at Muir Trail Ranch with his toes looking like hamburger. The waters in the Sierra are now quite warm - no reason to feel grubby - take a dip at the end of each day and you will feel great.

Altitude is a hard one to predict. Most people do fine, especially if you go from Lodgepole eastward. You have plenty of time to acclimate. I have been with people who get altitude sick at 8,000 feet no matter what. It just is their physiology. With altitude, like feet, keep a slow steady pace and do not push to the point of being excessively out of breath. Given a slow start most people adjust quite well. Most of us here live near sea level so you are not much different. The only issue I see is jet-lag. Good to rest at Lodgepole before starting out.
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Re: High Sierra Trail - too advanced for us?

Postby tim » Fri Jul 26, 2013 12:35 pm

I'm sure you'll be fine physically - its a relatively moderate elevation for the first two days, so plenty of time to become acclimatized.

Have you thought about taking a satellite tracking device or satellite phone, so if you are concerned for any reason, you can get/stay in touch with people? Just a simple SPOT can give reassurance that you can press a button if help is needed, or an inReach allows two-way texting and a satellite phone can enable you to call for help/advice. You said you had more experienced friends, so you could ask them for advice if needed.

I know that a SPOT made me feel much more comfortable that I was covered if anything went wrong, the first time I went backpacking with my kids (even though I was only 5 miles or so from the trailhead). Last summer the inReach was great for two-way texting when I wanted to get a weather forecast after an overnight hailstorm - my wife was able to reassure me that the weather was going to clear by the afternoon, and the thunder clouds and light snow (in mid August!) were only temporary.

You can rent any of these devices for a one-off trip if you don't want to buy them.
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Re: High Sierra Trail - too advanced for us?

Postby rapunzel » Fri Jul 26, 2013 1:27 pm

Thanks so much, everyone! I think we will go for it after all. We don't leave for a couple of weeks, so I'm hoping the fires will clear up (and that no new ones start in the interim). We'll take it easy, especially the first few days, and stay hydrated/fed to try to stave off altitude problems.

Tim, that's a great idea about renting a SPOT. I've thought about using one, but just hesitated because I've heard they're not that reliable. It sounds like you had a good experience with a similar device, though.
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Re: High Sierra Trail - too advanced for us?

Postby tim » Fri Jul 26, 2013 1:41 pm

This is the latest inReach SE (allowing either standalone two-way texting or paired with your smartphone): http://www.rei.com/product/857610/delor ... mmunicator

Its a bit more expensive than the SPOT, but you know your message has got through and you can get a reply. It really depends if you think you will want to actually use it. If you only want a device for letting people know of a true emergency then renting a SPOT or satphone is probably the way to go - the SPOT is one way, while the satphone calls are expensive enough not to use on a whim. My kids loved staying in touch with the two-way texting, but many other people go hiking precisely to be out of touch.

I've tested the SPOT quite extensively and its mostly about knowing the limitations - signals don't get through in a thick forest, but in an open area you are pretty much OK unless the satellite happens to go behind a mountain at the wrong moment. Sending an OK signal you need to find an open spot and leave it there for 20 mins to send the message - of course you don't know until you get home whether it worked or not. In an emergency the device sends the emergency alert repeatedly so its going to get through unless you're sitting in the depths of a forest (unlikely to be a problem on most of the HST).
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