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TR: High Sierra Trail 2017 9/17-9/22

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TR: High Sierra Trail 2017 9/17-9/22

Postby nightowl » Thu Nov 30, 2017 12:12 am

I finally got to hike the HST this year, something I've been wanting to do for a while now. I was a little nervous with it being the longest trip I'll have done to date, as well as the most miles in a day. We had planned for a conservative 8 day itinerary, but we ended up hiking it in 6 days.

We spent the entire day before our trip setting up our car shuttle, leaving one at Whitney Portal. After staying the night in Visalia, we headed to Crescent Meadow to begin our trip!

Day 1: Crescent Meadow to 9 Mile Creek (8.5 miles)
Today was all about adjusting to the high elevation and heaviest packs of the week. There was a lot of up and down resulting in a decent amount of elevation climbed that isn't reflected in the net elevation change.

Right off the bat we definitely felt the altitude, and the low elevation was a nice warm up to the rest of the week. The views were already incredible hiking through the forest and then up to Eagle View, where we got our first glimpse of the Great Western Divide.

We were glad to have 9 Mile Creek all to ourselves, complete with a fire ring, bearbox, clothesline, and lots of flat sites to choose from.

Day 2: 9 Mile Creek to Hamilton Lake (6.1 miles)
Even though today was the shortest mileage, this was one of the hardest days for me, as my body was still adjusting. We took a break at Bearpaw Meadow and had a chicken sandwich and an ENORMOUS brownie. The views here were absolutely gorgeous, I'd love to spend a night there one day.

We looked up towards the towering Great Western Divide and couldn't believe we would be climbing up and over that range the next day! Continuing on, we traversed along the side of the valley with lots of dramatic, exposed views.


Eventually we made it to Hamilton Lake, and I can see why it is so popular! The upper lake is nestled in a huge granite basin entirely surrounded by sheer peaks with some waterfalls cascading down on the other side of the lake. The deer here were also quite entertaining.

Day 3: Hamilton Lake to Moraine Lake (13.8 miles)
When I look back on the entire trip, this was the most memorable day for me.

After switchbacking straight up from Hamilton Lake and crossing the Hamilton Gorge, we headed up towards the ridgeline. I was most excited to see Precipice Lake in person, and it did not disappoint. Talk about a photogenic lake!

When we finally made it up to Kaweah Gap, we all cheered with excitement. The lush valley on the other side of the mountain range looked so welcoming compared to the alpine terrain we just came from.

From there it was 3.25 miles downhill to Big Arroyo, where we were supposed to stay the night. At the time, we felt pretty good, so we decided to push on to Moraine Lake, which we didn't get in until dark.

Day 4: Moraine Lake to Junction Meadow (15.6 miles)
On day four of the High Sierra Trail, we descended from the top of Chagoopa Plateau all the way down into Kern Canyon and then followed the Kern River up to Junction Meadow with a stop at Kern Hot Springs on the way. This was one of the few days of the trip with a net elevation loss, but going downhill with a pack on was still tiring on the legs.

The scenery from this day was a refreshing change of pace and provided some nice contrast from the first couple days on the trail. Instead of climbing over and along the tops of sheer mountain ridges, this portion of the trail has you making your way through the Kern River valley.

Kern Hot Springs was the highlight of the day - definitely a must visit if hiking along this way!

Day 5: Junction Meadow to Guitar Lake (11.7 miles)
Our fifth day on the High Sierra Trail was the day with the most total elevation gained - 4,300 ft! The best views of the day were during the climb out of Kern Valley, especially with the dramatic weather in the morning from the sun, rain, hail, and snow.

We eventually merged with the John Muir Trail, and when we reached Crabtree Meadow, we decided to push on to Guitar Lake 2.7 miles away and summit Whitney the next day.

Day 6: Guitar Lake to Whitney Summit and Whitney Portal (15.5 miles)
That night up at Guitar Lake was the coldest night I've ever experienced backcountry, the icy wind up there is no joke! We abandoned an alpine start to catch sunrise from the summit, which was a good idea since there was a lot of slippery ice on the start of the climb up to Mt. Whitney.

We definitely felt the altitude as we started climbing up to 14,000 feet, switchbacking up and way from Guitar Lake. After 3 miles, we reached the summit junction where we dropped our packs and finished the final 2.7 miles with the throngs of Whitney dayhikers. Standing on top of the highest point in the US, I felt so happy, and slightly emotional.. we had done it!

Time to head down and finish what we started a week ago, we headed down the other side and passed the infamous 99 switchbacks, followed by Trail Camp, and then Outpost Camp.

As we walked up to our car and dropped our packs, I couldn't believe we had just crossed the entire Sierra in a week. What an utterly incredible, challenging, and jaw dropping scenery the entire experience was!

If you're interested in more photos and maps, I have more in depth trip descriptions from each day on my blog here!
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Last edited by maverick on Thu Nov 30, 2017 11:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Title Dates

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Re: TR: High Sierra Trail 2017

Postby gary c. » Thu Nov 30, 2017 3:32 am

Great report and some beautiful pictures.
"On this proud and beautiful mountain we have lived hours of fraternal, warm and exalting nobility. Here for a few days we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is hard to return to servitude."
-- Lionel Terray
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Re: TR: High Sierra Trail 2017

Postby CAMERONM » Thu Nov 30, 2017 9:27 am

Nice report. That lightrays photo at Hamilton Lake is great.
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Re: TR: High Sierra Trail 2017

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Nov 30, 2017 10:06 am

What were the dates of your trip? Looks like it was in the fall.
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Re: TR: High Sierra Trail 2017

Postby nightowl » Thu Nov 30, 2017 10:58 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:What were the dates of your trip? Looks like it was in the fall.

Yup definitely fall conditions with the hail and snow! We hiked Sep 17-22
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Re: TR: High Sierra Trail 2017 9/17-9/22

Postby cslaght » Thu Nov 30, 2017 1:29 pm

Great report! The morning light at Hamilton was incredible
"The mountains are calling, but can't find my phone"

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Re: TR: High Sierra Trail 2017 9/17-9/22

Postby oldhikerQ » Fri Dec 01, 2017 7:29 am

Very nice TR. Love the photo of the morning sun at Hamilton Lake.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost
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Re: TR: High Sierra Trail 2017 9/17-9/22

Postby sambieni » Fri Dec 01, 2017 11:08 am

Nice photos!
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Re: TR: High Sierra Trail 2017 9/17-9/22

Postby sekihiker » Fri Dec 01, 2017 1:49 pm

Thanks for the report. Glad you had a great time.
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Re: TR: High Sierra Trail 2017 9/17-9/22

Postby bobby49 » Sat Dec 02, 2017 2:24 pm

Good report. I covered the same ground in mid-August to one point. I had reached Crabtree Meadow on the fourth day, so I did the Whitney summit on Day Five and returned to Crabtree. Then on Day Six I exited out over Cottonwood Pass to Horseshoe Meadow. Back in early July, the streams were flowing dangerously high and fast, but by August they were normal. As far as the Whitney summit went, that was Year 41 for me.
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