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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

Feather Peak

View of gorgeous Feather Peak from Feather Pass (12,375ft) on Saturday (3/3 panorama, for full view see my profile). Viewed from other angles it’s obvious why it was named “Feather.” I like this striking angle, too. I had a conversation with Poet yesterday. When I’m less than 500 feet from bagging a peak as I have been many times this month, why don’t I do it? It’s not that I can’t or am scared or haven’t thought about it, it’s just that I don’t want to. Strange? Poet thinks so.


Two dark-eyed juncos eye me as I consider a dip in Puppet Lake. They were the bird I saw the most of, except maybe the Clark’s nutcrackers, which have a sorta annoyingly shrill and verbose alert call. I prefer the finch-like juncos, which were quiet, almost trusting, and playful.

Other People on the SHR

It’s rare to meet other people on the SHR here we have three, including two who have hiked the route before. We’re at 11,800 feet, looking north on Puppet Lake. They have what appears to be their mother with them so they take the right side slowly, while I tackle the class 3-4 talus straight down and gain half a mile on them by the time I reach the lake. They then head East as they are on a shorter loop hike. Ah, solitude! Friday.

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 I got closer and closer to Tuolumne Meadows, hitting Vogelsang High Sierra Camp along the way, I started to really miss being off trail and making my own way. It’s so hard but so… charming. (Like being a kid in the Alaska woods again, just setting off and exploring, climbing on things, getting whimsical and finding oneself.) The pack trails leading up over Vogelsang Pass… continue reading

What Trail?

Trail? What trail? The Sierra High Route involves many miles of navigating fields of boulder fields and talus much like this, which explains how I’ve already destroyed two pairs of socks and a brand new pair of shoes in only 75 miles. Thank goodness for strong ankles a keen sense of balance, but let’s get real, sometimes I think: “fuck this shit!” It hurts. It’s scary and quite dangerous. Some of these stones are bigger than cars, many of them bigger than shopping carts, and at least half of them are sharp and unstable, and can send you stumbling when you step on them and they tip. I already have had a few bloody scrapes. But the views are so… continue reading


Thunderstorm east of Thousand Island Lake. I camped at the west end on Thursday night and stayed dry. Looks like the Agnew Pass area got hammered, but just for a few minutes. I went out knowing scattered storms were forecasted. I got lucky and missed them all, just like this.

Little Package