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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


North Palisade (14,242 feet), a skeleton of a mountain, snapped and crumbled loudly all night while I slept under it at 11,922 feet; a phantasmagoric sunset opposite, provoked by wildfire smoke.

Heart-shaped Hole

During this descent [along Mill Creek down the Second Recess] the hiker can enjoy an unusual Sierra sight. Across the Second Recess and about one mile distant is a gigantic, heart-shaped hole in a steep cliff. So incongruous is this feature that the mind struggles to explain it. Perhaps it is a gouge left after… continue reading

Trees eat rocks

The Sierra High Route wasn’t all rocks and alpine lakes – it was also rocks and trees! Trees eating rocks! And a good chunk of this section was on well-established trail. I struggled with my feelings about this. The trails bring civilization back far into the woods, though they do definitely make walking easier. As… continue reading

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… continue reading

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