High Sierra Trail

15-20 August 2016

The High Sierra Trail is a 61.5 mile trail from the Crescent Meadow Trailhead on the west side of Sequoia National Park to the summit of Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states (elevation 14,505 feet!).  This is a classic Sierra hike with tremendous variety of scenery, but there are surprisingly few people who do the whole trail.

This may have something to do with logistics.  There are no roads from west to east through the Park, so the travel time from one trailhead to another is 7 hours by car.  Public transportation is possible, but it takes most people more than a day to make all their connections.  So I decided early on that I would do a there-and-back for this trip so I could spend more time on trail and less in the car.

Just to make things interesting, I researched cross-country alternatives to the trail and found that some people skip the long walk down Big Arroyo and then up the Kern River with a short-cut through Nine Lake Basin, over Pants Pass, and through the Kaweah-Kern basin down to the Colby Pass Trail.  This allowed for a slightly shorter (though no faster!) round trip distance of about 115 miles:

The full 115 mile route
Close up of Pants Pass short-cut

Earlier this year I spent some time with my friend from Peace Corps and told him about this trip.  He was an ultrarunner when he was younger (hence his trail name “UltraShuffle”), and he was intrigued by the challenge of climbing Mount Whitney and doing some cross-country traveling as well.  So I invited him to join me.  I was ecstatic when he agreed, but also a little worried about keeping up with him.  As it turns out we were a good match, but I definitely needed to be on my A game!  We planned for 7 days, but we ended up finishing in 6 days/5 nights.

Day 1: Beat the Moon!

Day 2: Pants Pass

Day 3: First Whitney Glimpse

Day 4: A Moonlight Climb

Day 5: Hot Tub Time Machine

Day 6: A Long Day Back