SHR/SoSHR/KCHBR Advice/Safety

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PostJMT
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SHR/SoSHR/KCHBR Advice/Safety

Post by PostJMT » Sun Jan 28, 2018 1:04 pm

Hello,

Please note I have found some posts about sections of the routes that are difficult using the search, but have not found a unified answer.

Background:
I am looking to thru-hike the Sierra High Route & Southern Sierra High Route (and possibly the Kings Canyon High Basin Trail) this summer, but have a few questions. The most important question is the first one centered around safety, which will help me decide between doing this and some other possibilities like the Colorado portion of the CDT, Northern Cascades, etc.

About Me:
I a seasoned on trail hiker, I have thru-hiked the AT & JMT. I have some experience hiking off trail, mostly on day hikes. I know what it is like to have turn back due to cliff-ing out, etc. however I have not been on an extended off trail hike though. This would be my first foray into this domain.

Questions:
  • 1. Is it possible to avoid the class 3 (and 4) sections on these routes (SHR, SoSHR, KCHBR)? Sections that are known to me are: Snow Tongue Pass, Frozen Lake, Cirque Pass, Russel Carillon Col, the "Final 400" on the Mountaineers Route on Mt. Whitney, etc. Basically I'm not an experienced climber, and I don't want to put my life at risk on top of that I have a slight fear of heights. If I was to do a section like the "Final 400" I'd prefer to be roped in case of an accident, at least from the videos that I've seen that make it look like falls could easily be fatal. Also on top of that I'm also weary of very loose scree/talus on Class 2 sections, that sometimes get overlooked.
    2. Combining the three routes, is it possible to get one permit? I'm from NYC, and it would be difficult for me to keep having to go to a rangers station at the end of each route to get a new permit? Any information you have on people who have combined routes in the past permit-wise would be really useful.
Thanks,
PostJMT








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maverick
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Re: SHR/SoSHR/KCHBR Advice/Safety

Post by maverick » Sun Jan 28, 2018 1:42 pm

I a seasoned on trail hiker, I have thru-hiked the AT & JMT. I have some experience hiking off trail, mostly on day hikes. I know what it is like to have turn back due to cliff-ing out, etc. however I have not been on an extended off trail hike though.
Basically I'm not an experienced climber, and I don't want to put my life at risk on top of that I have a slight fear of heights.
Also on top of that I'm also weary of very loose scree/talus on Class 2 sections, that sometimes get overlooked.
You should concentrate on getting a good amount of navagational and crosscountry experience under your belt before you even considering embarking on such a trip, especially solo!
Crosscountry travel is dangerous, serious injury or death is right around the corner, even for the most experienced backpackers. Trail hiking is a completely different animal, physically and emotionally, one needs to work up to doing a class 2 pass, being able to find the correct/optimal route, or surviving in the wilderness due to being lost or injured.
Professional Sierra Landscape Photographer

I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

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: SHR/SoSHR/KCHBR Advice/Safety

Post by CAMERONM » Sun Jan 28, 2018 4:43 pm

A note about safety: Events can turn seriously bad in the off-trail wilderness very fast. The majority of people die because of uniformed decisions. The many hazards include river crossings, bad falls and hypothermia. At a minimum, you should carry printed maps and know how to use them; have extensive knowledge of backcountry safety, first aid and best practices; and leave a trip plan with others in case you go missing. I also think that a personal locator beacon is important. Read, take classes, gain experience with small practice trips first. BE SAFE !!!

Given what you wrote, going solo is not advisable.

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Re: SHR/SoSHR/KCHBR Advice/Safety

Post by PostJMT » Sun Jan 28, 2018 8:01 pm

maverick wrote: You should concentrate on getting a good amount of navagational and crosscountry experience under your belt before you even considering embarking on such a trip, especially solo!
Curious if other people feel the same way? To be clear, this trip would be in the summer and I was planning on going some practice off trail hikes in the Whites and Adirondacks beforehand.

Do you think those practice trips would not be enough?

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Re: SHR/SoSHR/KCHBR Advice/Safety

Post by Gazelle » Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:43 pm

My 2 cents if not comfortable on loose class 2 scree (sky pilot col comes to mind) the SHR might not be what you want to do. As for class 3 Russell/Carillion col and the final 400 if I hadn’t done that type of Class 3 with just a day pack and been very comfortable I sure wouldn’t want to do it with a loaded multi day pack. If you do it I would definitely take a PLB and paper maps, plan on ALOT less mileage a day off trail, and have backup plans to exit or go around some passes, or just get on the trail. I would try and take some off trail trips to practice. Personally I love solo off trail adventures but some say I am a different breed than most, it can be very taxing/tiring to make all navigation descions by your self and you BETTER know when to turn around or not go that way before you are in big trouble!
Kristine
The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before. Albert Einstein

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Re: SHR/SoSHR/KCHBR Advice/Safety

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Jan 28, 2018 10:30 pm

Do not do it! Two primary reasons- lack of off-trail navigation experience and the "fear of heights". Even class 2 passes can feel exposed. As a climber, Frozen Lake pass did not seem bad to me, but if intimidated by exposure and with a full pack, you can seriously get freaked out. Do a few shorter sections of the SHR and see how you do. Just for your information, many of the "class 2 passes" in the Sierra are sandbagged (particularly for those with little off-trail experience). Most of the classifications were determined by climbers, not backpackers.

One way to do our planned route safely is to find a partner or two with much more experience at this kind of travel. I know an all-trail PCT (triple crown) hiker who did the SHR, but in a group of three, with two others who had off-trail and mountaineering experience. You really cannot make good safe route decisions without that experience.

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Re: SHR/SoSHR/KCHBR Advice/Safety

Post by Mike M. » Sun Jan 28, 2018 11:24 pm

PostJMT,

Given your extensive trail hiking experience and your understanding of what it means to hike long days for weeks on end, I would not hesitate to take the plunge. Don't get hung up on sticking to an "official" route, like the Sierra High Route. Buy a set of detailed maps and craft your own route. The Secor and Roper climber's guides, as well as High Sierra Topix, are full of information about passes and possible routes. If you are comfortable with class 2 scrambling, you can always choose to alter routes that look too forbidding to you. Snow Tongue Pass, for instance, is one I know I would feel uncomfortable going down on the north side. Avoid it; go around, find an alternative, trailed or otherwise. With more off-trail experience, your skills will improve and your comfort level with certain passes will come into better focus. I'm generally comfortable with class 2 passes and avoid class 3. But experience has taught me that I'm OK with some passes described as class 3. I like a route finding challenge but don't like exposure. I've avoided Harrison Pass because it's too loose for me. Russell-Carillon Pass, no problem. Cirque Pass seemed like class 2 to me; a route-finding challenge but no exposure, unless you get off route.

How many days do you plan to be out total? Will you resupply weekly, every 10 days, or every two weeks? How will you resupply? Do you plan to jump off trail every so often and go to town to resupply, clean up and pig out? (I prefer to stay in the backcountry and resupply by having someone meet me at the trailhead with my food. Others prefer the weekly bailout to civilization and real food.) I don't know for sure, but strictly speaking, if you leave the trail you would probably need to get a fresh permit for re-entry. Members on this forum can chime in with their experience.

Bottom line, pick out some areas in the Sierra you want to explore and create your own route. Be flexible in the field and don't be afraid to turn around and improvise when the reality of your planned route seems beyond your comfort level.

Mike
Last edited by Mike M. on Tue Feb 06, 2018 4:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: SHR/SoSHR/KCHBR Advice/Safety

Post by Lumbergh21 » Mon Jan 29, 2018 10:58 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:Do not do it! Two primary reasons- lack of off-trail navigation experience and the "fear of heights". Even class 2 passes can feel exposed. As a climber, Frozen Lake pass did not seem bad to me, but if intimidated by exposure and with a full pack, you can seriously get freaked out. Do a few shorter sections of the SHR and see how you do. Just for your information, many of the "class 2 passes" in the Sierra are sandbagged (particularly for those with little off-trail experience). Most of the classifications were determined by climbers, not backpackers.

One way to do our planned route safely is to find a partner or two with much more experience at this kind of travel. I know an all-trail PCT (triple crown) hiker who did the SHR, but in a group of three, with two others who had off-trail and mountaineering experience. You really cannot make good safe route decisions without that experience.
Good clarification about the pass ratings and the best, safest way to get off-trail experience.
Would that triple crowner be Wired? I certainly enjoyed her description of the SHR. It was a good illustration of how to gain off-trail experience safely.

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Re: SHR/SoSHR/KCHBR Advice/Safety

Post by Bluewater » Mon Feb 05, 2018 4:31 am

I agree with the good advice from people with a lot of experience so far. I can't say what's best for you, but I have done almost all sections of the routes you mentioned in a single trip, and the lack of experience with class 2/3 climbing, very loose class 2 scrambling and fear of heights seem to indicate that it would be a good idea to hold off on doing all three of these routes (SHR/SoSHR/KCHBR) and start with a more manageable short section of just one route and gain some experience first.

I made the transition from being a thru-hiker to doing extended (2-3 week) cross country solo Sierra trips by slowly trying longer and longer trips with more and more complex terrain. At first I tried a simple 3 day weekend trip in a familiar area with one class II pass. Then the first section of the SHR with a buddy. Slowly I added to the length and difficulty. After years I was finally comfortable doing a combined SHR/SoSHR/KCHBR trip.

Snow Tongue Pass, Sky Pilot Col, Frozen Lake Pass and King Col all have long, steep, unstable and loose north/northeast chutes that can get dangerous without proper route finding. After the initial class 3 move at the bottom of the Final 400 I was able to pick through the ledges on the right without much problem, but if you're considering using a rope on that route in the summer then I would definitely hold off on stitching together the SHR/SoSHR/KCHBR into a single solo trip.

Regarding the permit I was able to secure a single permit for all three (starting southbound from Twin Lakes, ending via Whitney).

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Re: SHR/SoSHR/KCHBR Advice/Safety

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Feb 05, 2018 8:26 am

Yes, the triple crown hiker was "Wired". One of her hiking partners for the trip, "Why Not" bought my Wind River guide, because they were also doing the Skurka Wind River High Route. Why Not, who amazingly lives less than a mile from me, came to my house and we went over the route in detail. Then I told her I had done the SHR so we discussed that too. I met the group at Bishop Pass while I was going in on a fishing trip to Dusy Basin and they were going out to resupply. It was great to meet the other two. The third of the trio lives near SEKI west side and has a lot of off-trail mountaineering experience. Wired was the one with nearly no off-trail experience. All three are amazing women and work together well as a team. Wired is a natural, and caught on quickly to off-trail travel, but she was pretty amazed at the difference from trail travel. Going from 25-30 miles a day on trails to brutal 7-8 mile days off-trail was a real eye opener. The micro-route finding of off-trail travel, especially on the passes, is critical, and a skill that you need to learn by experience. No amount of electronic gadgets, Google Earth views or thru-hiking can make up for boots-on-the-ground experience. One problem is that much of what is written about off-trail routes is by the more experienced, and they tend to play down the difficulties that can be a real issue for first-time off-trail hikers. I thought Wired's blog did a good job of describing what it was like for a person's first big off-trail route. Her writing is very honest.

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