Well I might have said Snow Tongue Pass if it weren’t for what would happen later that day… The whole day, I was moving pretty fast and thought I would be at camp around 9:30 or 10pm. Sierra High Route Guide; Gear / Contact / The Olympic National Park Traverse(ONPT) is a 104.5 mile self created route that patches together many of the most remote and difficult trails in Olympic National Park. Current Seattle and Foothills instructors, thank you, a big thank you. All of this triggered another intense flow state. My legs held strong through all that continuous downhill running and about 5,200 feet of descent later, 7 minutes shy of 5 days, I saw the cars in the parking lot…. And something about that break was magical… Maybe it was the food I ate (jerky?) The stunning beauty and joyous terrain (challenging at times, but really fun) continued all morning, past Barrett Lakes and the descent off Cirque Pass, then things started getting a little obnoxious…. This FKT was going to be hard enough without adding that to the mix… Luckily, as I climbed out of Virginia Canyon towards Sky Pilot Col, the smell of smoke started diminishing. I was tired. It was raining, but I didn’t care. for all ages and levels in the Pacific Northwest. Travelling north to south is very advantageous for the terrain between Twin Lakes and Lake Catherine. Since it wasn’t part of any of my recon trips, I wasn’t sure how it would go… I ended up right in the middle if a disconnected ledge system on a very sheer face. That meant a lot of stroller runs, primarily. On August 5, 2020, the Seattle Navigation Committee sponsored a webinar on creating custom physical and digital online maps using the CalTopo online service. I decided it was worth the extra time to take off my shirt and do a full head-to-toe swim. So I didn’t have to worry about route-finding or cliff surprises (except later, at night, when I didn’t follow my route line closely enough, ahem…) but knowing that I would need to be travelling off-trail after sunset and into the early morning always adds a bit of intimidation. I wanted to be done. Then we descend off trail around Isaak Walton and Hortense Lakes, returning to the familiar trail by day’s end. Then took the Sierra High Route from Blue Lake Pass to Dusy Basin. Turns out, my timing was perfect. Cross-country travel can be exhausting. Posts. Apparently it had been too long since the last time I had been on this trail…. During my spring seclusion, I was planning a summer escape to hike the final section of the Sierra High Route. It’s easy to find. Not so much. We trek above Rosy Finch Lake then continue on the Sierra High Route over Bighorn pass and finally Shout-of-Relief Pass (11,400 feet). I imagined it as being a series of scenic ridge traverses through the Sierra. Caltopo route outline. My start time of 1:35am left me with a lot of time following a tunnel of light from my headlamp, seeing animal eyes that turned out to be specks of mica. I decided to look at my InReach messages and I discovered some messages of support from friends: A smile spread across my face and a thought, “This is what I am out here for!” And of course, then I think about my toolkit: These were my tools to get through the miles. Climb to the small shoulder at 3630 south of the lakes. that would sometimes lead to mommy and me yoga sessions. I would get my long runs in on daycare days (minimum of two per week keeps me sane and my household happy), but during the coronavirus shut-down, my husband gave me one morning each weekend for a long run. My 3:44am start was a couple hours earlier than planned, but I woke up naturally before my alarm and took advantage. Taught by the CalTopo training team, the webinar covered the basics of using CalTopo for planning a trip, including navigating the map tools, saving and sharing maps, working with layers and overlays, using their new mobile app, creating routes, and more. It might have helped that I was ascending rather than descending, but I don’t think that explains all of the discrepancy. As the terrain switched from forest to talus en route to Gabbott Pass, it was time to put on the scree gloves again, which lived in my pockets, available at a moment’s notice. Custom mapmaking is a new tool for our toolbox and, while more complicated, enables you to plan explorations of any corner of the planet. Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. CalTopo is a free and paid online service for making custom maps to print at home. From June 24th-28th, 2018 I solo hiked this self-created route. It is a rugged alternate to the John Muir Trail (JMT)– it boasts about 100 miles of cross-country travel, numerous Class III scrambles, and endless miles of … They also stayed up until I made it to camp/my car every night, sending messages of encouragement all the while. It was a magical moment that had me dancing inside. I decided I would opt for the east option during the FKT, which seemed to be the pass described by Roper. I found that to be a perfect start to the route. I had been experiencing intermittent nose bleeds (I think it was from the smoke…) and now even my eyes were burning. Future students who would like to hone their navigation best practices, please watch for upcoming Seattle and Foothills courses. The sun starts feeling low in the sky and my brain begins to think “If you aren’t heading home yet, you should be.” I was getting tired. A good, easy route up Goat Crest Saddle was very obvious to me from the north. Past students wanting a refresher or to learn the new curriculum, please join us to teach. As with day 1, I had done a recon trip earlier this summer over the entirely of the route I would be covering today. Individual Accounts We are revamping our individual subscription tiers beginning January 1st, 2021. Change ), Sierra High Route Fastest Known Time Trip Report, Video: Virtual Chat with Sierra High Route FKT holder Renee Elsdon Jacobs, Second Run Hard Mom Hard Podcast Interview, Follow Renee Elsdon Jacobs on WordPress.com, The net elevation gain is more than 2,000 ft less if you travel north to south. Change ), You are commenting using your Google account. Change ), You are commenting using your Twitter account. This was put together by Andrew Skurka in 2015. I promise my students I will haunt them if they fail to print grid lines, which are the critical link between GPS devices and the physical map. “Have you ever done this before?” he asked, obviously questioning my judgement. This 210- to 220-mile, 20- to 30-day cross-country journey could be the premier mountain trek in the Lower 48. I found trying to find the “easy wooded ramps” below Glacier Lakes at home using the tools on Caltopo.com to be quite fun. Roper talks about permanent snowfields in this area, but I think that is simply a thing of the past – permanent snowfields are disappearing and the few remaining glaciers are receding throughout the Sierra, exposing some pretty obnoxious terrain that you have to deal with instead. Slabs and snow, not the best combination. Trimming down your pack weight as much as possible will really help! I had a packet of instant espresso that I would add to my bottle of liquid calories around 9pm (I usually don’t use caffeine). It was like I was watching the polar ice caps of Mars—before I landed at the trailhead I knew I would not need axe or crampons this year. Tax ID: 27-3009280. I eventually gave up and just started climbing straight up the slope, in the approximate location of the supposed trail, which was not fun. Roper intentionally keeps this route vague, describing way points rather than a specific route, in order to maintain the wild nature of the terrain. He met me in Devil’s Postpile at night 2, hiked in our overnight gear and my food resupply at both Toe lake and the Bishop Pass Trail for night 3 and 4, stayed up until I got there, cooked dinner for me every night, woke up with me to make my hot water and get me on my feet in the morning, and drove my Sprinter van to Road’s End to meet me when I finished. But news that the smoke was not bad in Mammoth Lakes kept me going. Powerful trip planning tools and high quality maps. I made it to Muir Pass around sunset, and was dismayed by how technical and difficult the trail was. And before I knew it, I can see Sean’s headlamp in our camp. Use CalTopo for collaborative trip planning, detailed elevation profiles and terrain analysis, printing geospatial PDFs, and exporting maps to your smartphone as KMZ or MBTiles files. I was delighted to play host and put CalTopo into a Mountaineers context. Most of the route traverses the trailless backcountry, and, thus, carries the risks and beauties associated … I was still moving relatively slow and my brain wasn’t functioning as well as I would like (I made multiple small route-finding mistakes), but I was in much better spirits. While it may not expand your horizon to include Mars, it will enable you to visit a little-explored wonder of this planet. There are a couple of steep areas between Feather Pass and Merriam Lake where I did some 3rd and 4th class moves for the sake of speed and maintaining a more direct line – the “headwall” with the “obvious cleft” above La Salle Lake and the “steep slope next to cascade” above Merriam Lake. Stanton Pass is one of those spots that might leave you concerned after reading Roper’s book and online beta. And there, in the talus field surrounding Cecile Lake, I found myself in an intense flow state. The Mountaineers®, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. or the amino acids+carbs+electrolytes drink I put in my body bottle, but somehow I suddenly had energy to tackle the next climb up to Cecile Lake with gusto. I also did a lot during nap time (at-home strength training and runs in the neighborhood), since my husband works from home. I found myself enjoying the scenery and even joking around a bit…. Alan Dixon created his map sets for the Wind River High Route and the Southern Sierra High routes using Caltopo. Dusy Basin in the morning is so very special. The Helen Memorial Plaque is just west of a use trail on the west shore of Marion Lake, on the side of a large triangular rock facing the lake. In this section we cross the Sierra crest for the first time, and then descend to join Roper’s Sierra High Route (SHR) near Dusy Basin. Twitch. Learn how it works, and how to use it for planning future trips. If you use satellite imagery, the wooded ramps are quite apparent, separated by white slabs. On the Mammoth Crest, the sky began to lighten. It’s gorgeous thinking of us hiking jmt together Matt for our honeymoon happy anniversary! Other interested branches, Seattle will happily provide the curriculum and help you develop your instructors. After finishing this section, I shared this moment in an InReach message to my crew member Sean O’Rourke, “Feeling sky high wahoo!” I also found myself to be mesmerized by the patterns of sunlight on the lapping waves on Cecile Lake and the sunlight beams streaming through the smoke on the Minarets. I later bought Roper’s guide book and discovered it’s far from a ridge traverse (despite being described as running “along the spine of California’s Sierra Nevada”), and it really would be essentially impossible to do such a thing, but I do think that Roper’s intent was well executed and it’s a beautiful, “rugged alternative to the John Muir Trail” through the Sierra High Country. The low point? Choosing exactly where to go along the route? When coming from the north, the “gap” that leads to the use trail above Shadow Creek is not obvious at all. Stretching 200 miles through the Sierra Nevada, most of the High Route is off-trail, posing challenges both physical and mental as you attempt to navigate dangerous, unmarked terrain. Want outdoor gear and skills info you can really trust? Caltopo USGS Topo in Google Earth. The scenery from Lake Italy through the Bear Lakes Basin is absolutely spectacular. That was definitely the high point of the day. I didn’t have to register and calculate my steps around rocks in the trail – my legs did it for me. CalTopo is a free and paid online service for making custom maps to print at home. It’s been on my bucket list ever since! This absolutely could not have been done without my wonderful husband’s support. Trip Report: 2020.08 Southern Sierra High Route. The only concern with them is how steeper slabs can become dangerous when wet, from rain or snow melt above. The cost of commercial maps, especially for longer trips, can be significant and are not tailored to your planned start, route, or campsites. I did come across a deer that had me convinced it was a bear, but that’s it, and dawn broke soon enough. And Finished with a full hike of the Southern Sierra High Route from Dusy Basin to Cottonwood Lakes. But it is an expert route–not for novices, youth groups, bad knees, or even experienced trail hikers new to loaded scrambling and off-trail navigation. This was definitely the lowest point of the day. But not so… When I got up to start moving again, I felt even more tired than I did when I sat down. My eyes felt like they were rolling in their sockets. Sunlight can be so amazing! We (Sierra Mountain Center) ran the High Route starting from Kearsarge, going over Deerhorn instead to avoid Shepard's. In this way, I could get 6-8 miles (or more) with him. A physical map is not fragile, needs no electricity, and provides both backup and the “big picture” about a region that cannot be replicated by written descriptions or a tiny screen. And I was not the only member of the audience. The Mountaineers teaches skills and leads outdoor activities Then I’d get a second chance to run back to the car when he got hungry for lunchtime. CalTopo has made this seamless with their new Gaia GPS competitor app for iOS and Android. It was only a little over 7 miles of fantastic run-able trail and there was a good chance I would hit the trail head before my 5-day goal. From the top of Mather Pass, storms brewed. I like to print one map set at 1:24000 for detail and one at 1:50000 (or more) for the big picture. Even hiking quickly was challenging at times. CalTopo has a smorgasbord of map types available, including the gold standard USGS, Forest Service, marine charts, satellite imagery, and a variety based on OpenStreetMap. But I finished feeling good, mentally and physically. For anyone considering this route, I would highly recommend you train on such terrain, wearing the pack you plan on using while on the SHR. Snow in the early season makes this all that much more complicated. I’d also sneak in some yoga while playing with him (it’s amazing how many random stretches you can do while sitting!) I imagined it as being a series of scenic ridge traverses through the Sierra. A physical map remains important—print one to bring on each of your backcountry adventures. Introduction. I discovered that they were not fully run-able for a variety of reasons during the recon and apparently neglected to fix his in my estimate after the fact. I was about to start my last massive climb (almost 4,000 ft over 6 miles) before camp and it was daunting. I was still listening to music, and feeling spunky. Resupplying twice - once at Parcher's Resort at South Lake, once at Red's Meadow (i.e. Luckily, I had an idea that brightened my mood… Crossing the outlet of Twin Lakes required a thigh-deep wade. Essentially they told me that massive fires had been sparked throughout California by the recent lightning storms and I wondered if I would have to abandon the FKT for health reasons. It was nearing the time I expected to be done for the day and I expected I had a couple of hours remaining to go, if not more. There was definitely no trail where it was indicated on my gps watch. The more technical side of passes tends to be on the north. The Seattle Navigation Committee has been hard at work since Freedom 9 was published to rebuild our navigation classes around its four key principles: While a digital map with a “you are here” arrow seems to make ink obsolete, the physical map is unchallenged for its ability to synthesize a vast amount of geographic information. The High Sierra Trail to Mt Whitney is a challenging 75-mile trek whose scenery ranges from the giant forest of Sequoia National park, gorgeous mountain lakes, the Kern River Valley and of course the rocky jagged terrain of Mt Whitney. To plan your next escape, try “rolling your own” maps using the CalTopo or Gaia GPS online services. Years ago, a crazy wind event blew over a significant portion of the trees in this area. These are two areas where traveling north to south is not advantageous and you might have to do a little bit of poking around to find terrain you are comfortable descending. My favorite way to experience the mountains is to move freely and quickly over vast quantities of rugged terrain. The smoke in Virginia Canyon was undoubtedly within the hazardous range, which made me concerned about my health, but it was also messing with my mental game. I had been on this segment of the SHR (Frozen Lake Pass to Road’s End) before, during one of my reconnaissance trips with Liz earlier in the summer. As I got closer, Sean’s headlamp began blinking in strobe mode, almost exactly in-time with the song Aerodynamic by Daft Punk streaming through my headphones. It is at the head of a short talus slope around 9,639 feet, right where there is a level spot in the shoulder coming off the Minarets. The descent off Blue Lake Pass surprised me a little. I’ve been in two of the three obvious ones. They are not optional—always print grid lines. Why am I in my early 40’s and only now learning about all of this? Kern is burnt out and brutal isothermic junk, good coverage and skiing up high through Tablelands. I’d much rather finish with that as a descent. It sounds like the kind of route that can chew you up and spit you out. But traveling south to north would not make things better. Keep off the steep slabs. CalTopo’s optional overlays expand the very concept of “a map.” Overlays can enhance your map with weather forecasts (temperature, precipitation, wind speed), slope shading, and real-time data from SnoTel sites, water gauges and weather stations. This area was a time sink for me during an early-season reconnaissance trip. Any of the gullies south of Marion Lake looked like they would go. Or you can you use the Roper book and Caltopo and make your ‘own’ route.. When I got to the top of the pass, I was a bit behind schedule. But no fear – there is a fine (albeit loose and obnoxious) route to a higher point just to the east. I hadn’t been on a trail more than maybe a mile or so all day and I was looking forward to opening things up a bit and doing some running! I see no reason to fear finding it, whether you travel north to south or vice versa. However if you are using gps, note that the location is not accurate in many places. Soon I was at Piute Pass Trail, the start of another section that I had done reconnaissance on earlier this summer, which included Snow Tongue Pass. I started hearing thunder and saw the most ominous of clouds directly over the Frozen Lake Pass area, my next destination. Many women have attempted it, but none have finished it and submitted their effort to the FKT database. In fact, the High Route doesn’t dip below 9,000 feet at all! “Thankful to have this inspiring mama in my life! I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail through Yosemite in 2006 and 2007, on the Sierra High Route in 2008, and on the John Muir Trail in 2011. To get from the “inconspicuous saddle” to the inlet of Lake Superior, it took me 1:20:30 during the FKT and 1:27:44 in my recon trip with Liz – basically the same. As I was descending the pass by headlamp, I saw Sean’s headlamp in the distance. But I found none of this. I shared my stoke in a InReach message to family and friends “Running in the rain! High Sierra Trail: Introduction. Slabs are often the best terrain for high routes. I came across a few issues with this idea, however: (1) The routes are not geographically near one, … My best guess is that it starts around the store now, rather than the campground. Helping people explore, conserve, learn about, and enjoy the lands and waters of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. I found it to offer some tricky route-finding and/or slow terrain on the approach and the descent. Free USGS topo maps! Quite the opposite in fact – I was absolutely ecstatic during the last climb up to Goat Crest Saddle (3 miles and 1,600 feet). When he stopped, there was a hearty round of applause from at least a handful of people. And over the col, in the Saddlebag Lake area, the skies were blue! Note, we couldn’t find the register on the pass and there aren’t many places for a register to hide up there. It is easier to use but gives you less control over the output, particularly scale. The Sierra High Route (SHR) is a 195-mile trekking route that runs north-south across the heart of the Sierra Nevada Range, through Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, John Muir Wilderness, Ansel Adams Wilderness, and Yosemite National Park. I would advise the same. But it is advisable to stay true to the line in two spots: on the west shore of Grouse lake, where there are some cliffs at the lake’s edge that require you to climb up and around; and on the traverse between Copper Creek and the Copper Creek Trail where it will help you avoid some really bad bushwhacking. Maps, Guidebooks & GPS. Starting with a nearly continuous 6,400 ft climb up Copper Creek Trail to Goat Crest Saddle out of Road’s End sounded horrendous. Slabs: Some areas, like the High Sierra, are littered with slabs. I was in good spirits during the 2,500ft descent to the Mono Pass Trail, but as I descended, it started getting really warm. And when I got there, my route line turned out to be located perfectly. The CalTopo instructors suggested that, optionally, you may want to print and bring a physical map in addition to the digital version accessed in an app. Even as far back as late August, air quality along the SHR was a concern due to the Moraine Fire at the Southern Terminus (where I would start). I can see how you could get screwed and waste a lot of time if you were descending blind. The Isberg Pass Trail is more developed than I expected from Roper’s book. ( Log Out /  Thankfully, it occurred to me to put in my headphones. When was almost ready to go I checked the time and… It was only 2:30! JOIN NOW Subscription Improvements December 2, 2020 / 1 Comment / in Blog Posts / by Ben Lantow. I made it to Gabbot Pass right as the day’s light began to wane and I was delighted to find the terrain on the south side to be very pleasant, with a lot of run-able scree and grassy slopes. If you have read some of the 600+ pages of the latest Freedom of the Hills, you may have noticed significant changes in the Navigation chapter (Ch. Different route, different challenges, but same endeavor of going after a fast time on a hard, multi-day adventure. Roper’s very fine Sierra High Route fixes these problems with the JMT, but requires a lot of skilled off-trail travel and and navigation. This also seemed to be where Secor located the pass (in his book The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, Trails). This trip report covers a 10 day hike of the Southern Sierra High Route that my w And it felt like they were turning over faster than they ever had before, to the tempo of “All Eyes On Me” by Girl Talk. Two crew members (Sean O’Rourke and Carol Patterson) met me at the Sprinter van this time. This is one of the few short sections of the route where travelling south to north could help a lot! It’s almost 12am, a little over 18 hours since I started that morning. I could think of numerous more salient reasons for traveling north to south (the direction I selected for my FKT): Choosing the direction of travel was an easy decision. CalTopo also offers free and discounted subscriptions to first responders and team accounts for a variety of different organizations. It was amazing, even mind-blowing. You can also google sierra high route caltopo…. Don’t worry too much about finding the right one. I was disappointed to see so much smoke in the Owen’s Valley, but the views and the mild slope angle helped my mood immensely. The Sierra High Route (SHR), a trek designed by Steve Roper to traverse the High Sierra, is near the top of my list of hikes to complete. Look at slope angle shading too. 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