Help Me Finalize Our HST 9-day Itinerary (Early Aug)

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HappyHiker11
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Help Me Finalize Our HST 9-day Itinerary (Early Aug)

Post by HappyHiker11 » Tue Jul 11, 2017 5:26 pm

Hi all \:D/ , I'm in the final stages of prepping and planning for the High Sierra Trail (west to east) in early August and would love to get some extra insight on the itinerary and any tips you'd be willing to share. I've researched and read a lot both here (eh-hm - lurker [-( ) and on other resources. So first off, many thanks to all of the information that is shared here and those that take the time to contribute it. It really helps! =D>

The groups background: 2 or 3 hikers. Mostly fit or at least in decent athletic shape (no ultra-marathoners or couch-potatoes).
- 1 of the 3 (the one that may/may not be able to join in) has extensive backpacking, navigation, survival experience. Here's hoping the schedule doesn't force him to be left out.
- 2 - I do not have over-night backpacking experience. But I have been day hiking and camping all over the mountains & deserts in the southern 1/2 of California since I moved here. And recently with my son in the Osprey pack as a training partner! The Mist & Upper Yosemite Falls trails with him were an experience this year in early June! So I do have significant hiking and camping experience and can read maps & generally understand navigation while still needing better practical experience and practice.
- 3rd in the group - is probably most similar to me. Lacking in longer-distant over-nighters and experience, but comfortable out on the trail and camping in general.

I would say in general the lowest of us are solid level 2 to 3 hikers. We planned 9 days on trail with a night at Dorst before hitting the trail. So the thought was to be in the 10ish miles or shorter range mileage each day in order to be able to shoot some photography &/or explore some areas after making camp. We will all be carrying bear canisters so hitting the developed sites & lockers is not required. In fact, I was hoping for light off-trail experience, so camping outside of the "developed locker" sites intrigues me. On our trip, I would be curious in potentially trying to summit an additional peak along the route other then Whitney if given the pace & weather allow (EagleScout, Stewart, or Kaweah maybe). A zero day could also be an option if the mileage and such worked out. I didn't account for one but thought a few shorter mileage days would give us time to play, explore, rest without ever stopping for a full day.

(Day-0): I have our entry permit set for Crescent Meadow for the 3 of us. We will be taking the Sequoia Shuttle up from Visalia into the park the day before our entry date. Use park shuttles to pick up our permit at Lodgepole and then over to Dorst Creek where we have a site for the night. We had to adjust our planned date to push it back (both for scheduling reasons & skill /comfort levels after the wet winter). So the with the new camp dates, when I changed my reservation, I ended up with a Dorst Creek spot because Lodgepole was all booked up by then. So after grabbing our permit and getting to Dorst via the shuttle, we are expecting to day hike the 4.2mi Muir Grove trail as a little warm-up.

(Day-1): Leave Dorst creek ASAP (8am I think is the earliest option?) on shuttle to Lodgepole. Hop on a shuttle to Gen Sherman Tree TH. Hike out past the Gen Sherm (2 in the party have never been in the giant forest before) and link up to the Congress trail to make our way down to Crescent Meadow TH (looks like about 3.2ish miles extra, pre-HST). Then hike out with a goal of making Buck Creek Camp for night 1. 9-mile Camp as a back-up.

(Day-2): Buck Creek to Precipice Lake. I really want to camp at Precipice. Hamilton Lakes area as a back up. I figured we could hit Hamilton and take a nice long break/rest. Fuel up, keep an eye on the weather. Then make the call whether to camp up high or not. But if you have any tips on camping near Hamilton or Precipice (or between them or Kaweah Gap) that would be welcome.

(Day-3): Hopefully Precipice Lake to 9 Lakes Basin / Big Arroyo. Day 3 & my 35th b-day! A planned shorter mileage day to climb/explore/photograph/relax/etc. If we end up at Hamilton, we can still hit 9 Lakes easily enough or Big Arroyo I thought. Here is where I would consider some of the exploring options and off-trail camping. I was thinking 9 Lakes Basin area, because I'd read it's better for bugs. I'd prefer to avoid be swarmed and sitting in my tent because of where we camp this night.

Would pushing forward to just below Mt Kaweah (if climbing) this day be better then the shorter mileage exploring 9 Lakes Basin? I was concerned with this idea/approach since there are so many accounts of lack of water along this stretch. Alternatively what about lower Little 5 Lakes area? Is that close enough to HST with some version of this plan you would recommend?

(Day-4): 9 Lakes / Big Arroyo to Moraine Lake. Maybe climb Mt Kaweah en-route to Moraine Lake. I think Mt Kaweah is the peak that interests me most outside of Whitney. It seemed like a good one to learn some route finding & approach skills with some xcntry to make our way up to the saddle and then over. Plus is seemed very much "along the route" and would make for 2 Emblem Peaks potentially on the hike. End the day at Moraine Lake.

Any other options you recommend in this section over potentially Mt Kaweah or just heading to Moraine Lake area? If not climbing Kaweah, any place along the Chagoopa Plateau to camp / explore over Moraine Lake?

(Day-5): Moraine Lake to north Kern Hot Springs / S of Junction Meadow. Hike down into the Kern Trench, hopefully stop and enjoy KHS for a break or stay there if not crowded. Or continue on north some of KHS and find off-trail camping and maybe come back to KHS for a bit. Recommendations along this section? I was thinking Moraine to heading out of Kern Trench as a good mileage day because it seemed like there were better options for some scenic exploring as we move further up the back side of Whitney.?.? (Wales/Wallace lake area) This is where my planning and lack of long-distance experience (pace, timing, knowledge of area, navigation, and use-trail or xcntry pace, etc) is leaving me a lot of questions in the plan.

(Day-6): North of KHS to Wales / Wallace Lake area? I read there is a use-trail that heads up that way? Would this be a good region area to explore (like in the 9 Lakes Basin area) & make camp at for the night? To difficult of a day with elevation gain coming out of Kern Trench and adding on the extra miles along the use-trail up to the lakes? To remote of an area to make our way back to the trail for next days section? I don't necessarily need to camp at a lake. I love creeks/streams/rivers as much or more. So camping along a good section of any of these areas would be good for us looking to relax/explore/photograph areas after making camp. Seems like it would be to many miles and elevation to push from north of KHS all the way to Crabtree Meadow or the lower Crabtree Lake over Wales/Wallace area?

(Day-7): Wales / Wallace Lake area to Crabtree Meadow, Guitar Lake, Arctic Lake, or Hitchcock lakes? I really don't know much of this section of the trail (out of Kern Trench to Crabtree). Any good camp spot tips around here to explore or visit with our more lax schedule? Looking at the Cal-topo map, it looks like there is a lower Crabtree Lake about 3 miles out from the meadow area? Distance, elevation, scenery wise off the HST is it worth venturing that way at all? We would have to double back to HST from there the next morning it looks like? But it looks like only a little over 6 miles to Guitar Lake from the lower Crabtree Lake maybe?

(Day-8): Crabtree, Guitar, Arctic, or Hitchcock lakes to summit of Whitney, then down to Consultation Lake. Obviously Guitar Lake or the tarns slightly above are the typical spot. Which will be fine as a general target. But if it's a tent city, I would be willing to opt for either Arctic or Hitchcock lakes areas. Mainly because (whether permitting for summit day) we are not in a rush to try and do sun-rise on the top of Whitney because we don't need to make it all the way out to the Portal. We are planning to stop 1/2 way down for one last night in the back-country. So any thoughts or info on that area? Arctic or Hitchcock Lakes over Guitar lake? Any advantage towards one of the other?

(Day-9): - Consultation Lake to Whitney Portal. Is it possible to camp out at Consultation on the way down? I've ready how crowded and dirty Trail and Outpost can be. So I would be extremely interested in one last "more remote" camp site on the way down. Or other options besides Consultation? We have a campsite reserved at WP for night of Day-9 (check-in @ 2:00) so we are in no rush to get down in the morning to meet our pick-up & stay at WP for the night before head home the next morning...

Something like that anyways is what I was thinking. Make a solid plan and try to stay flexible so we can improvise as desired in route. But I could really use some knowledgeable and experienced eyes on the itinerary and any thoughts on the shorter mileage "more exploratory sections". With this being my first big trip, I'd love to feel confident in our plan starting out so we can improvise as desired based off weather, pace, and conditions.

Thanks again for all the knowledge in here and for anyone willing to chime in with their thoughts. I can't wait to get packed up and get out there on my first backpacking trip and longest hike yet! I've been planning and prepping for this trip for a little over a year now. It feels great to be finalizing the last few things and getting ready to pack up and hit the trail! :thumbsup:








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Re: Help Me Finalize Our HST 9-day Itinerary (Early Aug)

Post by maverick » Tue Jul 11, 2017 6:08 pm

Hi HappyHiker11,

Welcome to HST!
So I would be extremely interested in one last "more remote" camp site on the way down. Or other options besides Consultation?
Lone Pine Lake, a little solitude and away from the trail.
North of KHS to Wales / Wallace Lake area? I read there is a use-trail that heads up that way? Would this be a good region area to explore (like in the 9 Lakes Basin area) & make camp at for the night?
This may be a little to intense for you experience levels, especially with snow levels. Crabtree may be doable.
So any thoughts or info on that area? Arctic or Hitchcock Lakes over Guitar lake?
Arctic offers the most solitude, Hitchcock is also is a good option (propably a better choice), stay at one of the smaller lakes/tarns north of HL, it is a bit closer to the trail, but far enough to offer some solitude.
Or continue on north some of KHS and find off-trail camping and maybe come back to KHS for a bit. Recommendations along this section?

Plenty of sites along the Kern up to JM, which is hot and dusty.
Would pushing forward to just below Mt Kaweah (if climbing) this day be better then the shorter mileage exploring 9 Lakes Basin? I was concerned with this idea/approach since there are so many accounts of lack of water along this stretch.
Water will not be an issue this year. Lower Little Five Lakes are beautiful, well worth visiting, much better than Moraine Lake, IMO, especially for photography purposes. :nod:
I understand you wanting to see Precipice Lake, but the views from Kaweah Gap of the Kaweah Ridgeline, at sunset, can be sublime.

Expect bugs to be everywhere, they will be busy well into August, just prepare for them. ;)
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org

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Re: Help Me Finalize Our HST 9-day Itinerary (Early Aug)

Post by AlmostThere » Tue Jul 11, 2017 6:12 pm

There's like, one campsite at Precipice. If it's occupied, would you want to reverse course or go higher? Hamilton is busy even with the assigned sites and the shirt-eating deer, but it's also pretty, and the fishing's good.

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Re: Help Me Finalize Our HST 9-day Itinerary (Early Aug)

Post by maverick » Tue Jul 11, 2017 6:26 pm

and the shirt-eating deer
and anything else that has sweat on it. :)
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org

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Re: Help Me Finalize Our HST 9-day Itinerary (Early Aug)

Post by zacjust32 » Tue Jul 11, 2017 7:50 pm

I tend to find that once you get on the trail all your plans change. Keep all these in mind when you go and play it by ear. As Mav likes to say, a sense of mystery keeps the sense of adventure.

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Re: Help Me Finalize Our HST 9-day Itinerary (Early Aug)

Post by audiorecordist » Tue Jul 11, 2017 7:51 pm

We may be about the same level of experience and I can honestly say that I would not hike from Buck Creek all the way to Precipice in one day. I am sure it is doable for experienced peole who are in fantastic cardio shape. But trust me, the hike up to Precipice is a challenge. I went from Buck to Hamilton, then Hamilton to Big Arroyo. Each segment took about half a day.

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Re: Help Me Finalize Our HST 9-day Itinerary (Early Aug)

Post by HappyHiker11 » Wed Jul 12, 2017 12:57 pm

Lone Pine Lake, a little solitude and away from the trail.
- I'll look into that more. It seemed pretty close to Whitney Portal at first glance where Consultation was more 1/2 way. But I'll look at it a little closer and consider it. But it seems like either would be a good alternative to the 2 main camps? Are there other options to be outside of the crowd going up Whitney in the section other then these 2 that would be good since we are not in a rush to make the Portal?
Wales / Wallace Lake area? - This may be a little to intense for your experience levels, especially with snow levels. Crabtree may be doable.
- Intense because of navigation, trail, terrain? Or more of a concern because of potential snow travel conditions? The reason I was looking in this area is I was concerned about mileage and elevation for the day. I wasn't sure if somewhere 3/4's-N through Kern Trench to lower Crabtree Lake area is reasonable in a day. Everything I've read says the climb up is rough and it seems like those are typically the hardest creek crossings from what I'm reading right now as well. Which may be different still in 3 weeks from now I'm sure.
Arctic offers the most solitude, Hitchcock is also is a good option (probably a better choice), stay at one of the smaller lakes/tarns north of HL, it is a bit closer to the trail, but far enough to offer some solitude.

- A super rough estimate (which I know varies by person/experience) of what the trip up to Arctic lake takes verses hitting those lake/tarns N or HL? I'm curious what approximate trail time it would add to the morning assault up the summit. Obviously those lake/tarns N of HL seem interesting and on the map look easier to traverse. And since they are much closer to the trail to head up Whitney the next day I will definitely keep that in mind as a likely option if Guitar Lake is to crowded for tastes or whether requires an earlier start up the trail.
- Is there any "scenic" advantage to one over the other? Since we currently aren't planning to summit Whitney pre-sunrise (is it really worth it to be up as high as you can before sunrise?) I'm expecting to have my camera up for sun-rise where ever we camp while I cook breakfast before heading up the trail hoping to be off the summit thinking by noon/early afternoon whether permitting.
Plenty of sites along the Kern up to JM, which is hot and dusty.
- This sounds good then. Shooting for anywhere between them depending on how the schedule plays out should work. JunctionMeadows is hot and dusty you were saying yes? But not the plenty-o-spots along the Kern after KHS?
I understand you wanting to see Precipice Lake, but the views from Kaweah Gap of the Kaweah Ridgeline, at sunset, can be sublime.
- I get Hamilton Lake may be wonderful. And I have read about the animals eating anything salty out there! :puke: But the thought of camping above it interests me more then staying in a more rigid established camp system. Unless we show up with the whole place to ourselves which I assume is a fat chance. I was hoping after arriving at Hamilton and having a nice long break we felt up to assaulting PrecP and the Gap to camp high.

- From what I've read, it looks like PrecP Lk and Kaweah Gap are not that far apart in distance or elevation. And I have noted in my trail notes of the potential to camp above/beyond PrecP and before the Kaweah Gap in case the sites at PrecP Lk were taken. So if that is true, I am sure either area would be a great option. Any trick to finding a good spot above/beyond PrecP Lk before the gap?
Water will not be an issue this year. Lower Little Five Lakes are beautiful, well worth visiting, much better than Moraine Lake, IMO, especially for photography purposes. :nod:
- I hadn't found much info on the Lower Lil' 5 Lks and was curious about it. So I'm glad to hear they could be a good option. Hoping we make it PrecP/Gap the night before; 9 Lk Basin or the Lower Lil' 5 were the places I was thinking to explore. Given this day having a shorter schedule, those both seemed like good options for some exploring and fun. But it seemed WAY to lopsided to stay near the Gap, then down to 9 Lk, then over to Lower Lil' 5 Lk... then to KHS seems to force a a bit of a long leg?

- If water on the Chagoopa Plateau won't be as big of an issue this year in the beginning of August. Would something like this be smart? ... PrecP/Gap camp to either 9 Lk or Lower Lil' 5 for a night, then head up the Plateau... other options along the plateau you'd recommend here other then Moraine? It seems like we could fit some exploring into this section depending on where we decided to camp on the Plateau.
Expect bugs to be everywhere, they will be busy well into August, just prepare for them. ;)
- This I had expected based off the winter and what I had read. Other then bug-head-net, deet, L/S & pants treated with Permethrin prior to leaving, is there something you'd recommend that I'm missing? I suppose I could always throw on my Froog-Toggs UL-2 rain suit if absolutely needed.

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Re: Help Me Finalize Our HST 9-day Itinerary (Early Aug)

Post by HappyHiker11 » Wed Jul 12, 2017 1:19 pm

AlmostThere wrote:There's like, one campsite at Precipice. If it's occupied, would you want to reverse course or go higher? Hamilton is busy even with the assigned sites and the shirt-eating deer, but it's also pretty, and the fishing's good.
- I would vote to go higher and not reverse course. Staying somewhere above Hamilton before the Gap would be my preferred goal I think.

The whole reason I'm getting into back-packing was SEKI blew me away on my 1st visit to it last year and I just had to see more of it beyond the crowds. So while Hamilton may be an amazingly nice place, none of us are heading out to fish. Although having seen the creeks and streams out here, I could get into it. A lot more then sitting around a stagnant pond in the mid-west! This type of fishing I actually "get" :wink: And given the options, I'd rather avoid the "assigned" sites feeling like the front country if possible. That's part of the reason for us all lugging a huge bear vault across the whole trail.

- If staying beyond/above Precipice towards the gap, would it be easily do-able to walk either to the gap or PrecP Lk for either sun-rise/sunset then? Since the next day is more exploratory and shorter mileage in maybe 9 Lks or Lower Lil' 5 Lks, we do not need to rush out of the area. So some morning photography from those spots, or even from a vantage point above PrecP Lk could be fun. All assuming we make it up there. Hamilton and the area is my fall back if any of us are pooped out in the afternoon after making it to Hamilton.

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Re: Help Me Finalize Our HST 9-day Itinerary (Early Aug)

Post by maverick » Wed Jul 12, 2017 1:43 pm

- If staying beyond/above Precipice towards the gap, would it be easily do-able to walk either to the gap or PrecP Lk for either sun-rise/sunset then? Since the next day is more exploratory and shorter mileage in maybe 9 Lks or Lower Lil' 5 Lks, we do not need to rush out of the area. So some morning photography from those spots, or even from a vantage point above PrecP Lk could be fun. All assuming we make it up there. Hamilton and the area is my fall back if any of us are pooped out in the afternoon after making it to Hamilton.
Both locations are western facing (Kaweah Ridgeline), sunset prime locations. PL location does lend itself to more intimate/close-up photography, if the conditions are optimal.
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org

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Re: Help Me Finalize Our HST 9-day Itinerary (Early Aug)

Post by HappyHiker11 » Wed Jul 12, 2017 1:59 pm

zacjust32 wrote:I tend to find that once you get on the trail all your plans change. Keep all these in mind when you go and play it by ear. As Mav likes to say, a sense of mystery keeps the sense of adventure.
I definitely understand this phenomenon. Even in long day-hikes there are times where my plans and route might adjust once I'm on the trail for any number of reasons.

But for me, in this case... it's almost ALL a mystery. I've never ventured out multi-days before w a back-pack only... But I've multi-day location base camped with day hiking a lot. We used our old 4x4 Jeep to run OTV trails and base-camped out in remote sections and day hike out from there.

I've never seen anything in the park E of the Giant Forrest area really. I've wanted to hike Whitney, but I've not made it up the E side of the Sierras yet either.

My goal with my itinerary and loose plan here is to gather enough knowledge on the alternate options in each zone that I feel confident and comfortable making determining calls once out there.

For example... if we poop out at Hamilton and don't make PrecP or the Gap. Then 9 Lakes Basin is probably where we're headed to explore the next day. But if we make it up to PrecP or the Gap, 9 Lks seems really short. So maybe spend some time in the lower 9 Lks area before maybe heading along down to Lower Lil' 5 Lks for the night. Getting in/out of Lower Lil' 5 Lks and back to the HST to head up Chagoopa doesn't seem like to far of detour to make up the next day if only heading to S of Mt Kaweah or Moraine Lake?

And the reason for planning all the way through (and researching Kern Trench to Guitar Lk area) is because I need to wrap my head around how changing any plans and pace in the first 1/2 of the trip for (x) reason will alter and force me to adjust pace, mileage, & camp site location trickling down the following days. I guess mostly for my peace of mind that I've got multiple options I'm familiar with on paper before heading out and changing it all :lol:
Last edited by HappyHiker11 on Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

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