2009 – Sierra High Rte, Bishop-Mammoth

After having done several trips in the Canadian High Arctic we decided it was a time for a change and we planned a trip in the High Sierra.  In 1984 Manrico did a week long solo hike south of Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, California.  He always wanted to go back and do another trip in the area.  2009 was the year to do it.

We bought a copy of Steve Roper’s book: Sierra High Route, Traversing Timberline Country and read it cover-to-cover.  The Sierra High Route is Steve’s 195 mile (315 km) visionary route from Kings Canyon to Twin Lakes north of Yosemite National Park.  The famous John Muir Trail travels the same general route.  However Steve points out that the John Muir Trail spends most of its time deep in the forest rising above tree line only occasionally.  Steve’s Sierra High Route combines off-trail, cross country travel with the most scenic parts of the John Muir and other trails.

We planned to do less than half of the High Route.  We started at South Lake near Bishop and followed the Bishop Pass Trail to the junction with the John Muir Trail in LeConte Canyon.  From there we followed the Sierra High Route as described in Steve’s book to our end point at Mammoth Lakes.

We allowed ourselves 15 days to do the 82 mile (130 km) trip.  We thought that would be plenty of time and that we would be able to do a few day trips.  However the route was more challenging than we expected.  We only had one day off for a day trip to the summit of Mt. Goode.  Every other day was a travel day.  To be fair, we probably travelled an average of 5-6 hours per day and were never particularly tired at the end of the day.

What made the trip challenging was the numerous boulder fields, most which are on the north sides of the high passes.  Walking over boulders is slow and stressful since a false step could easily lead to a twisted or broken ankle.  Having ski/trekking poles helps a lot.  (Take two each.)  We did the trip in August.  Early July would be a lot better since the boulder fields would mostly be covered in firm snow.

Six of us started the trip: Patrick, Linda, their son Leyland, Doug , Liz, and Manrico.  The first part of the trip was all trail.  Just after Evolution Lake the High Route leaves the trail for a long cross country section.  At that point Linda, who was still recovering from a knee injury, said she didn’t feel confident about travelling off-trail.  So we parted company with Patrick, Linda, and Leyland continuing on the John Muir trail while Doug, Liz, and Manrico did the Sierra High Route as planned.

The trip was superb in all respects with great scenery and a truly stunning route.  We saw lots of people on the John Muir Trail sections but very few on the off-trail or the minor (not John Muir) trail sections.  Despite being in the middle of California, we felt we had a very good wilderness experience.

You can see a Google Earth tour video of our 2009 route here. A Google Earth tour video of the entire High Sierra Route can be viewed here.

Following are video clips and a slideshow of the trip.

Now the slideshow. Press the white button on the top right to get a full screen view. Select the first photo and then click the arrows on either side of each picture to scroll through the set.