Why no porters/"sherpas" in the Sierra?

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Wandering Daisy
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Why no porters/"sherpas" in the Sierra?

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Apr 29, 2018 7:35 pm

The post on horse packing makes me wonder, why are there no porters (or sherpa equivelants) in the Sierra? You would think someone would make a business of having big strong guys lug your food into a back-country resupply. Day hiking gear and 20 or less pounds of food/fuel, is not a very heavy pack. I have never seen this. Say 12 miles in (at 2 mph) and out at 3 mph, 10 hours total at $20/hr or $200 for a resupply. A lot of good resupply points are even closer and a lot of athletic people can go faster than that. Just think, a great summer job. A packer resupply would be at least $500.

The only legal option I see is to hire a guide from one of the climbing guide services. Illegal to pay someone "under the table" to do this. Or if a family member or friend would do it without pay.








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Re: Why no porters/"sherpas" in the Sierra?

Post by AlmostThere » Sun Apr 29, 2018 8:13 pm

I hauled 10 lbs of food up to Junction Meadow (Bubbs trailhead) for a friend who was leisurely walking the JMT. He took me out to dinner as a thank you when he came back to town.

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Re: Why no porters/"sherpas" in the Sierra?

Post by rightstar76 » Mon Apr 30, 2018 6:09 am

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Last edited by rightstar76 on Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why no porters/"sherpas" in the Sierra?

Post by balzaccom » Mon Apr 30, 2018 7:19 am

I don't believe there are any regulations to prevent you from hiring someone to carry your pack or supplies. But frankly, the economics do not pencil out very well. A single Porter might carry 20 extra pounds for you...for $200? A mule can take 150 pounds for double that...
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Re: Why no porters/"sherpas" in the Sierra?

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Apr 30, 2018 8:40 am

It does not matter that a mule can carry 150 pounds, IF all you want is 20 pounds. You do not get a price cut just because you only want 20 pounds delivered. Even if a wrangler would carry that 20 pounds on his horse (not likely because add that to HIS weight and that may exceed the limit for the horse's back), you still pay for a person + horse. That horse has to eat and be cared for 365 days a year. If you put that load on a pack mule, then you are paying for wrangler + 2 horses. Of course, if you can manage to coordinate resupply with 3 or more others, then it may pay off. The $500 is a one-day turn-around for horse resupply in Wyoming - could be more here in California.

People who would carry in a drop supply would be permitted just as commercial packers are permitted. Anyone charging OR deriving money from a wilderness access requires a special permit (see Inyo Forest web site). If more than 50 hours, then you have to be considered an outfitter and comply with those regulations. Anyway, it is all there on the website. Also, once you pay someone, there is liability. Of course, can be done "under the table" and probably is.

As far as the trails being over-run by people packing in a resupply, I doubt that. First, not that many people do long trips that require resupply. Second, at $200 a day you are not going to have a "Sherpa" carry your pack on your entire trip. Cheaper to rent a goat!

I would think that businesses who already provide shuttle services already have the liability insurance and commercial status, and it would be easy to just add supply drops by people. The only hitch is getting the back-country permit.

Possibly the commercial packers (horse and mule) are strong enough lobby to pressure the FS into not allowing paid people resupply.

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Re: Why no porters/"sherpas" in the Sierra?

Post by bobby49 » Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:20 pm

I've had various friends and acquaintances who were traveling south on the JMT and wanted a small resupply near Charlotte Lake. Small=20-25 pounds. I knew that I could dayhike in from Onion Valley with that, hand it over, and head back out that day without needed a permit, so a deal was struck. I use the revenue from that to help fund my own trip to the East Side. BTW, it is convenient if both parties have a satellite communicator to help get the timing right for the transfer. For example, if the backpacker is going to be a day late, he must tell me. A satellite communicator is about the only practical means of communication there.

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Re: Why no porters/"sherpas" in the Sierra?

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Apr 30, 2018 3:21 pm

Money exchanged between friends is impossible to track. Just be sure your friend does not ask for a receipt! :paranoid: Although technically illegal, it is one of those things that is really hard to enforce.

Back to another forum topic, what if stopped by a ranger, and you have no permit, say you are day-hiking, then have a pack full of food? Since it does not leave your back, do you have to have a bear can? I wonder if you said you ware taking food to friends (the truth) if that would be a problem. I can see that it may get a bit sticky here.

Nevertheless, anyone who can pull this off is very lucky, or has some very good friends (ideally living in Bishop or Mammoth Lakes). How far did you have to drive to help them?

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Re: Why no porters/"sherpas" in the Sierra?

Post by bobby49 » Tue May 01, 2018 12:15 am

Wandering Daisy wrote: How far did you have to drive to help them?
300 miles one way. Then I would go do my own trip and return home.

One stranger wanted me to do this also. I laid out my conditions and the amount of a retainer necessary by a certain date in order to reserve it. Then the stranger went silent. The certain date came and passed, so I started to forget about the whole thing. Later the stranger came alive again and wanted to know details. I had to explain that the certain date was passed without any retainer, so they can go jump in the lake. The stranger was irate.

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Re: Why no porters/"sherpas" in the Sierra?

Post by rightstar76 » Tue May 01, 2018 6:01 am

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Last edited by rightstar76 on Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why no porters/"sherpas" in the Sierra?

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue May 01, 2018 8:12 am

Wow bobby- I know this sounds paranoid, but would not someone giving you a "retainer" want a written receipt of some sort? And you piss off this guy for any reason, if he were vindictive, he could make trouble. Even five years ago I would have said, impossible. But vindictive bullies are coming out of the woodwork nowadays. I think I would limit my "services" to people I knew well and trusted.

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