My friends Julie, Fred, and I just completed a 49-mile backpacking trip—mostly off-trail—through the California High Sierra, crossing the range from west to east. Here’s the report.
Something I’ve wanted to do for a long time is hike across the Sierras, one-way. There are many ways to do this on-trail, but that’s boring. I wanted to do something that left the valleys and reached the highest of the High Sierra, going deep into the rugged granite peaks that line the region. When Andrew Skurka published his Kings Canyon High Basin Route guide last autumn, I found a section of it that matched these goals. My friends Julie and Fred—both former assistant directors of Deer Crossing Camp like myself—enthusiastically joined. (Another friend and former assistant director, Morgan, got sidelined by a work emergency last minute. We missed you Morgan!)
Disclaimer: This route is hardcore! Don’t attempt it unless you have significant cross-country backpacking experience, map and compass skills, strong ankles, beefy thighs, and a sick love of getting pummeled by gnarly mountain terrain over and over again.
All photos by Julie McPherson and yours truly.
Day 1: Lodgepole to Silliman Lake
- Hours: 3
- Miles: 4.5
- Starting Elevation: 6,800′
- Final Elevation: 10,000′
- Highest Elevation: 10,000′ (Silliman Lake)
We spent most of Day 1 getting a 6-hour ride (thanks Dana!) from South Lake Tahoe to our starting point, Lodgepole campground in Sequoia National Park on the western side of the Sierras. Two days prior we dropped Julie’s car at the terminus, Onion Valley Trailhead, on the eastern side of the Sierras.
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Getting back to Julie’s car from the west side (without a vehicle) would have been incredibly challenging, which meant that we were fully committed to this hike after started. Onion Valley or bust!
The first few miles followed the Twin Lakes trail, and then we cut up Silliman Creek following an easy use trail and smooth granite slabs.
We camped by Silliman Lake (SPOT coordinates) near a Sierra Club group. Our thighs ached from gaining more than 3000′ in three hours, but this was a mere taste of things to come. Continue Reading