One of the most classic multi-day ski tours in the country is the Sierra High Route. Stretching across one of the widest points of the range, the tour consistently stays above 10,000 feet and travels through some of the most impressive alpine terrain anywhere. Jeff, Michael, and SMC’s new intern Aaron joined me for a trip that seemed daunting at first, but became absolutely sublime by the finish.
SMC adds mileage, terrain, impressive scenery, and fewer people (we saw none this year for the whole tour) by starting in Onion Valley and crossing Kearsarge Pass. This is a higher start – indeed, we were able to skin almost immediately upon leaving the car – and avoids the slogging up to Shepherd Pass that the traditional start normally involves.
We had blustery weather for the first few days, with light snow and high winds that buffeted us every evening in camp. But each day it blew out in the night and left us with clear skies the next morning. By the time we reached the half-way mark at Milestone Pass (Day 3), the weather had improved to what the Sierra Nevada is famous for: warm and sunny during the day, clear and crisp at night.
The only disturbance we had later in the trip was a thunderstorm that caught us just a few hundred feet below Fin Pass (or Horn Col), so we hunkered down for 45 minutes before making it into camp. The weather cleared up as we were eating dinner, and we were able to ski several laps on nearby peaks in the sunset and alpenglow. In the morning we were able to climb up and ski off another peak on our way to Lodgepole, and we reached our planned campsite so early (12:30am!), that the team voted to continue on and reach the trailhead the same day, rather than have a morning run out.
When this trip runs above the minimum, SMC typically charters a plane to return us to Bishop and fly-over the terrain we had spent 6 or 7 days crossing. But with only the four of us, SP drove across to pick us up and bring us back. Dinner and beer at the Whisky Creek was a great way to finish the trip.
Thanks to Jeff and Michael for taking on the challenge – you guys were fantastic!
A longer, 3 part trip report can be found on my personal blog, at climbskirun.blogspot.com. It includes a slideshow and maps.
More photos – including an impressive sunset on our last night on the tour – can be found at my Picasa account: picasaweb.google.com/mtnfreak