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Category : Sierra High Route

The Sierra High Route (SHR) is an alternate route — not a trail — through the high Sierra Nevada suggested by Steve Roper in his 1990 book Sierra High Route: Traversing Timberline County. It somewhat parallels the John Muir Trail (JMT) for most its length, and briefly uses the JMT to move from one crest to another. Steve Roper agonized over whether to share the route in a book; he feared its pristine nature would be damaged by overuse.

Between the months of June and October 2015, I had the privilege to take on every mile of the SHR, solo. I attacked it in a south to north fashion; however, I started with a chunk at the north, and hiked subsequent chunks moving south by a chunk from that. I had the luxury to be able to take chunks over the course of several months, when I felt up to them. However, as I approached the southernmost chunk, smoke from the expansive (80,000 acres and only 25% at the time of writing in early September) Rough Fire filled the Kings Canyon and closed the southern terminus at Cedar Grove. It’s uncertain when I will be able to hike the remaining 30 miles from Land’s End to Taboose Pass (the SHR near the southern foot of Mathers Pass).

I kept my camper van in Lone Pine, a wild frontier town in the Eastern Sierra, and resupplied from there. All trail access was done by hitchhiking and the Eastern Sierra Transit bus. As I already had the gear from my PCT thru-hike, this hike cost me very little money (mostly just food expense).

June 13-15th: Tuolumne Meadows to Twin Lakes
July 15-19th: Reds Meadow to Tuolumne Meadows
July 24-27th: Piute Pass to Reds Meadow
August 16-20th: Taboose Pass to Piute Pass
October 18-22nd: Kearsarge Pass to Taboose Pass

Total trail miles: ~195 of 195 (Roper’s main suggested route almost completed; two “major” alternates used: Alpine Col and Cartridge Pass)
Total miles hiked (access trails included): 233
Total days on trail: 21
Today days on the SHR: 19

Nancy Pass

Atop Nancy Pass, 10,200ft, named after an 8-year old girl who was the first to summit in 1967. She only lived to be ten, presumably because she liked doing crazy shit like climbing straight up mountains. I’m humbled.

Razor’s Edge

Sierra High Route designer Steve Roper wrote, “The descent from Stanton Pass can prove tricky if the hiker does not find the easiest possible route.” This class 2-3 descent had me up worrying most the night before. Would I be able to make it? The top is a razor’s edge, and up there is a waypost on a nearly-but-not-quite level slab of slate, boulder battlements stacked desperately against the wind and a long fall down. Coming down with a backpack was awkward but fine, until the *very last* talus before I hit snowfield gave way and sent me falling on my head. Oh, one moment, too confident! Once this summit was complete I figured it’d be smooth sailing to Twin… continue reading

Sunday Morning off Sky Pilot Col

If you’re going to go down 650 vertical feet the wrong way in the middle of nowhere headed straight for a cliff that leads to hell, you might as well have fun doing it. I glissaded most the way down, which I suppose afforded me the energy to get all the way back up. WHOOPS. I’m good at this! All said I’m pretty proud of my side venture and recovery. Take note: I am definitely one of the only few stupid idiots who has ever gone reconnoitering the upper upper Lundy Canyon (before it drops off to hell).


Sunday morning, 11,650 feet up in Yosemite. In the distance is the East Ridge of Mount Conness (pictured up close in the last Instagram post from when I climbed down it). Here I’m standing on top of what Steve Roper (the designer of the Sierra High Route) has named “Sky Pilot Col,” after a pretty and fragrant flower which I did not see. Roper said I would see gray-crowned rosy finches eating bugs off the snow and I did. And he said about the last third of the ascent, “Next, a stretch of ever-steepening talus leads up the left side of this bowl to the final indignity, a short but steep scree slope that most hikers will find offensive.” NO… continue reading

Pulverized by the SHR

Cumulus chasing me down from the southeast and southwest, getting darker and threatening thunderstorms, and I’m doing some snow patch traverses and hopping away down slippery talus in sneakers as fast as I can at 11,000 feet. Saturday was my first day in and I didn’t get anywhere near as far as I thought I would. It took me 3 days to do 25 miles when typically I can bang out 25 miles in one day. This route is not a trail; it’s very slow-going. At the end of my ~8-9 mile day I was absolutely pulverized, and passed out cold by 8pm. This Sierra High Route business has me both piqued and terrified at the same time… Oh –… continue reading

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