The Sierra High Hike

Done the John Muir Trail? Looking for a more difficult route that takes you over the high country of the Sierra rather than through the valleys?

If so, the Sierra High Route is for you. This is not a trail hike, but instead follows high alpine passes and basins, avoiding both trails and below treeline travel wherever possible. The route is the brainchild of long time Sierra climber and wanderer, Steve Roper, who pieced the route together in the late 1970’s creating a series of suggested sections rather than a clearly defined route. Many options exist but the overall goal is to stay high and to minimize trail travel. It would be possible to avoid on-trails all together, but this would create a very contrived route that also misses out on some fantastically beautiful country. We have added in some of our own variations to Roper’s, enabling us to pick up food resupplies and breaking the route into manageable sections, keeping the pack weight as light as possible.

We have added in some of our own variations that enable us to pick up food resupplies and break the route into manageable sections keeping the pack weight as light as possible.

We are now splitting the trip into a couple of segments. In the past we have done the route in one push and found that it is hard enough to simply wear people down. By doing it in shorter portions we are able to relax more, not have to push on extra long days and simply enjoy the wonders of the Sierra Nevada.

Notes

You need to be in good shape for the trip. This does not mean being a super fit marathoner though. The days will be long and steady. The most important thing is endurance and the ability to deal with whatever happens. The terrain is predominately off-trail which might mean extended travel over loose rock and talus of all sizes with a multi-day pack. This takes not only physical fitness but also mental fitness to deal with this tricky travel. Days will be long so come in great shape for a true backcountry adventure.


Return to Sierra Backpacking & Hiking

We are now splitting the trip into a couple of segments. In the past we have done the route in one push and found that it simply wears people down. By doing it in shorter portions we are able to relax more, not have as many long days in a row and simply enjoy the wonders of the Sierra Nevada. You can expect to cover eight to twelve miles a day, mostly if not all off trail. The tentative schedule is as follows, but remember that weather, conditions and perhaps issues such as sore feet or a desire for a rest day may well vary this outline. Be flexible and adapt to the inevitable changes that will occur during a trip of this duration.
Numbered days refer to significant logistical events during the trip. Due to the difficulties of trying to map out every day of a long journey such as this other days have been omitted from this itinerary. Expect changes to this itinerary!

Section One: Taboose Pass to Pine Creek. 9 Days

The start of any trip can be tough on the body so while this section involves some strenuous hiking we start off with not too much food in the packs to help us break into the trip easily. This is a very spectacular route through one of the highest sections of the entire route. From our start in the low desert of the Owens Valley we climb quickly into the high alpine zone of Upper Basin. Briefly following the JMT over Mather Pass we then take a high line below the spectacular west face of the Palisades and drop over Thunderbolt Pass into Dusy Basin where we meet our first food drop. From here we join the JMT down into Le Conte Canyon, cross Muir Pass and into the spectacular Evolution Canyon. We leave the JMT and climb up onto Darwin Bench. From here we actually have three pass crossings to choose from, and which one we choose will depend upon the conditions and group desires. No matter what route we take it will take us into the wide open expanses of Humpreys Basin and our final descent over Pine Creek Pass into Pine Creek Canyon north of Bishop.

Day 0
The first night before the actual hiking start of the trip will be spent in Bishop where we will do an equipment check and put together the final items for the trip.
Day 1
An early morning start driving to Independence to start hiking. Taboose Pass has a reputation for not being easy and this is a hard first day.
Day 5
Arrive near Bishop Pass and pick up resupply.
Day 9
Exit at Pine Creek.

Section Two: Pine Creek to Mammoth. 7 Days

This section spends some time on the trails (the John Muir Trail specifically). The canyons are deep and the peaks high as we link passes that the JMT carefully avoids. We take a variation here into Little Lakes Valley, which also gives us the opportunity to scramble up Bear Creek Spire along the way. We pick up a resupply at Mosquito Flats in Rock Creek Canyon and then head north to McGee Creek via Hopkins Pass, follow Corridor Pass to Convict Lake drainage and then over Pika Pass and finally along the Mammoth Crest to Mammoth.

Day 0
The first night before the actual hiking start of the trip will be spent in Bishop where we will do an equipment check and put together the final items for the trip.
Day 1
Shuttle to Pine Creek Canyon and begin climbing up out of Pine Creek to Pine Creek Lakes.
Day 4
Cross over Spire Col and drop down to pick up a resupply near Mosquito Flats in Rock Creek Canyon.
Day 5
We head along the Mono Pass Trail over Mono Pass and down Golden Creek to regain Roper’s route at Second Recess. This section is more spectacular than difficult as we gain the Silver Divide and head on towards the town and ski area of Mammoth.
Day 7
Arrive in Mammoth.

Section Three: Mammoth to Twin Lakes. 9 Days

The highlights of this section are the peaks of Ritter, Banner and the Minarets that dominate the area with their jagged skylines and sharp summits. The terrain changes slowly and becomes more open and expansive.

Day 1
We meet in Mammoth where we will do an equipment check and put together the final items for the trip and shuttle to Devils Postpile where we briefly get on the JMT north before heading to Minaret Lake.
Day 5
Arrive at the Tioga Road and a resupply. We leave Tuolumne Meadows and head to Young Lakes.
Day 9
Arrive at Twin Lakes. From here we will shuttle back to Bishop.

Program Prerequisites:

High level of physical condition and prior backpacking experience. Ability to carry a multi-day pack on uneven terrain for up to nine days.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding, permits, group climbing gear, tents, kitchen gear, breakfasts, lunches and dinners (you bring hot/cold drinks and snack items). Scheduled dates include USFS trail fees. Private programs do not.

Local accommodation is not included.

Details, Itinerary, and Equipment List:

Details, itinerary, and equipment list

Map:

Sierra High Hike Map 1
Sierra High Hike Map 2
Sierra High Hike Map 3
Sierra High Hike Map 4