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What % of the Sierra is High Sierra?

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What % of the Sierra is High Sierra?

Postby limpingcrab » Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:08 pm

Talking with a friend of mine who prefers to exclusively hike and backpack in the high country, which led me to my usual comment that, "if you only go to the High Sierra you're missing over half of what it has to offer."

Now we're wondering about the accuracy of the guestimate?

I don't have access to GIS anymore but I know there are a lot of map addicts on here, any chance someone knows or could figure it out?

Guessing the parameters, maybe say anything above 500 ft is Sierra and anything above 9000' is High Sierra? But, on the east side the base of the mountains are a lot higher, and the High Sierra elevation varies with lattitude so that complicates it.

I'm bored at work and can't find the answer online, but it's another factoid that I think would be interesting to know.

Thanks!



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Re: What % of the Sierra is High Sierra?

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Feb 13, 2018 7:56 pm

My response runs along the lines of "how can you miss something you don't really enjoy that much?"

I will never miss the gnats down in the oaks... I like manzanita to look at, but not to walk through. Not going to miss all the sap caked around my pant cuffs and shoes from the mountain misery. Not going to miss the heat.

I know that you mean "miss" in a different sense of the word. But I've never been a conformist.
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Re: What % of the Sierra is High Sierra?

Postby wildhiker » Wed Feb 14, 2018 5:36 pm

Here's a rough estimate for you.

I used the "measure area" tool in Caltopo to measure a polygon that approximately outlines the entire Sierra Nevada, base on the Google satellite imagery. It totalled 14 million acres. You can see that polygon here: https://caltopo.com/m/NJ2G

Then I figured a rough proxy for the "High Sierra" would be the total of Wilderness Areas in the Sierra. I got the list and acreage of each from http://www.wilderness.net and added it up: 3,896,169 acres. That would be nearly 28% of the Sierra Nevada polygon that I measured.

It is a sad fact that almost all designated Wilderness is "on the rocks" due to competition from commercial utilization at the lower elevations. Still, the designated Wilderness includes some mid-elevation forest and even some foothills (for example,in Sequoia National Park). On the other hand, not all high country is in designated Wilderness. Based on my previous study of this, I'd estimate there is about 400,000 acres of additional roadless lands in the Sierra Nevada not designated as Wilderness, much of which is high country. So, we might adjust the proxy measurement (Wilderness areas to total) down a bit, but not too much.

My rough estimate is therefore that 25% of the entire Sierra Nevada is high country.

-Phil
Last edited by wildhiker on Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What % of the Sierra is High Sierra?

Postby dave54 » Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:58 pm

When does a hill become a mountain? When does a creek become a river?

'High' is a subjective term. Above timber line? When pine forests transition to true fir? White Fir versus Red Fir?
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Re: What % of the Sierra is High Sierra?

Postby TahoeJeff » Thu Feb 15, 2018 9:58 am

Here is an image I lifted from "High Sierra Fly Fishing" by Billy VanLoek depicting High Sierra vs. Sierra.

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Re: What % of the Sierra is High Sierra?

Postby limpingcrab » Thu Feb 15, 2018 6:03 pm

My response runs along the lines of "how can you miss something you don't really enjoy that much?"

You sound like my friend! To each their own. I'm a biodiversity nerd and the lower elevations have the high sierra beat by a long shot. Plus I like rivers and caves and such. It's all different and it's all great!

My rough estimate is therefore that 25% of the entire Sierra Nevada is high country.

Reasoning looks reasonable to me! I guess my friend is missing 75% of what the Sierra has to offer :D

When does a hill become a mountain? When does a creek become a river?

'High' is a subjective term. Above timber line? When pine forests transition to true fir? White Fir versus Red Fir?

She doesn't say it this way, but from her preferences I'd say krummholz tree land and up. She was not happy when one of our backpack trips followed part of the MF Kings. "I can see bushes and trees like this from my car"

Here is an image I lifted from "High Sierra Fly Fishing" by Billy VanLoek depicting High Sierra vs. Sierra.

Looks like a broad approximation with a lot of points to argue, but still seems like about 1/3 or less of the total area.
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