Trip Planning: High Sierra Trail, Summer 2015


After daydreaming about taking on this hike for a few years, I will finally be hitting trail June 17th. The High Sierra Trail (HST) starts in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park (SEKI), travels east and eventually meets up with the John Muir Trail (JMT). The JMT can be followed to the summit of Mt. Whitney, which is one of my favorite places and the highest summit in the contiguous United States. We plan on hiking the trail in 6 days, but have an extra day built into our schedule in the event of bad weather or a slower pace than expected. Our first day away from home will be spent setting up a car shuttle and getting close to the trailhead.

Planned Itinerary

6 Hiking Days (8 days total with travel, 1 buffer day)

  • Day 0 (Tue) – Setup car shuttle, travel to Visalia
    • Drop vehicles off at Whitney Portal
    • Hikers get dropped off in Visalia
  • Day 1 (Wed) – travel to Sequoia, pick up permits, start hike
    • Shuttle
      • 6:00 AM – Sequoia Shuttle to Giants Forest Museum
      • 8:30 AM – Route 1 (Green) Shuttle Bus to Lodgepole Visitor Center
        • 25 min ride
        • pick up permits
      • 9:30-ish – Route 1 (Green) Shuttle bus to Giants Forest Museum
      • 10:00-ish – Route 2 (Gray) Shuttle bus to Crescent Meadows (36.554982,-118.749247)
        • 15 mins
    • Hike Crescent Meadows to 9 Mile Creek* (36.571355,-118.645306)
      • 8.8 miles || + 1925, -1075 || 5 hrs
    • LEG 1 Total: 8.8 miles || + 1925, -1075 || 5 hrs
  • Day 2 (Thu) – Hike 9 Mile Creek to Precipice Lake (36.552500,-118.559689)
    • 9 Mile Creek to Bearpaw Meadow Camp (36.565340,-118.620522)
      • 2.6 miles || +860, – 565
    • Bearpaw Meadow Camp  to Big Hamilton Lake (36.564530,-118.577971)
      • 5.2 miles || +1375, -890
    • Big Hamilton Lake to Precipice Lake
      • 2.2 miles ||+2135, -15
    • LEG 2 Total: 10 miles || +4370, – 1470 || 8 hrs
  • Day 3 (Fri) – Hike Precipice Lake to Kern Hot Springs (36.478172,-118.405988)
    • Precipice Lake to Big Arroyo (36.521122,-118.533683)
      • 3.6 miles || +500, -1115
      • passes through Kawaeh Gap (36.557395,-118.551235)
    • Big Arroyo to Upper Funston Meadows (36.455497,-118.412704)
      • 12 miles || +1260, -4150
    • Funston Meadows to Kern Hot Springs
      • 2.3 miles || +190, -75
    • LEG 3 Total: 17.9 miles ||+1950, -5275 || 12 hrs 
  • Day 4 (Sat) – Kern Hot Springs to Wallace Creek Crossing (36.590791,-118.370433)
    • Kern Hot Springs to Junction Meadow (36.577869,-118.414035)
      • 7.5 miles || +1275, -70
    • Junction Meadow to Wallace Creek
      • 4.7 miles || +2340, -10
    • LEG 4 Total: 12.2 miles || +3615, -80 || 8 hrs 
  • Day 5 (Sun) – Wallace Creek Crossing to Whitney Summit
    • Wallace Creek to Crabtree Ranger Station (36.564841,-118.348074)
      • 4.2 miles || +1025, -690
    • Crabtree to Guitar Lake (36.571562,-118.311853)
      • 3.5 miles || +945, -90
      • Last large meal of the trip eaten at Guitar Lake
    • Guitar Lake to JMT Junction** (36.560532,-118.292906)
      • Start hiking around 3 PM
      • 2.8 miles || +2020, -10
    • JMT Junction to Whitney Summit
      • 2.1 miles || +960, -60
    • LEG 5 Total: 12.6 miles || +4950, 850 || 10 hrs 
  • Day 6 (Mon) – hike Whitney Summit to Whitney Portal
    • Hike 10.7 miles || 6 hrs
    • LEG 6 Total: 10.7 miles || 6 hrs 
  • Day 7 (Tue)- Travel/Buffer Day

* if we make good time to 9 mile Creek, we may continue to Bearpaw Meadow for the night. This would allow for a shorter day on Day 2, giving us more rest before our biggest mileage day.

** if there is bad weather or if we’re not up for Whitney Summit on Day 5, we will camp near Guitar Lake, leaving for Mt. Whitney around 2 AM on day 6.


Food


I’m still trying to figure out what I should bring, but I am shooting for 1.5 lbs and 3500 calories per day.


Gear

I’m not happy with the weight of my gear. The suggested max load for my pack is 35 lbs. I’ll be slightly over that when I add water to start my hike. There are some heavy items that I would like to replace with lighter gear – my bivy(2.3 lbs), sleeping system(2.8 lbs) and my walmart hiking poles(1.3 lbs) are quite heavy by UL standards. I am also carrying 2.5 lbs of camera gear, but that’s not something I want to “skimp on.” I spent a couple of years trying different cameras and the gear I am carrying now has been the best compromise of weight vs. quality.  As for the other things, I just don’t have the funds (or skills maybe) to update them at this time.

I am hoping that I will find some ways to make my pack lighter, but this is where it’s at right now.  This is my first multi-night trip as an adult (it’s been a loooong time), so I am still trying to figure out what I truly need to bring on a trip like this. I am optimistic that I’ll be more comfortable leaving some of this stuff at home in the future.


Resources

Here is some of the info that I used to plan my hike.

HST Trip Reports & Info

Transportation

When following this route as a one-way hike, setting up transportation can be a logistical nightmare. Luckily we have someone that’s willing to drive us from Whitney Portal to Visalia.  From Visalia, we will take the Sequoia Shuttle into the park then use the free park shuttle to pick up our permits and get to the trailhead.

Permits

General Permit Info:

  • http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/wilderness_permits.htm

Wilderness Permit Application:

  • http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/upload/2014-Wilderness-permit-application_20140411-2.pdf


12 Responses

  1. Peter

    I didn’t know that camping at Whitney summit was an option. I would be concerned that an electrical storm could develop and force a hasty descent at night. Finding a flat spot might be a challenge too. I’ll be hiking Onion Valley to Whitney Portal over 4 days in two weeks.

    Take a look at my food list (see the tabs for detail):
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1rIUPL13JQKv6G8EeVDscbFJlD2sixZ0PXTpR7CmE4u4/edit?usp=sharing
    I’m figuring 4200 cal/day for some strenuous hiking. We have pack-less side hikes mapped for every afternoon. Your list has some good ideas, but I shipped everything today, since it’s hard to fly with.

    • TheHikingGeek

      Sleeping on Whitney was suggested by the guy that runs WhitneyZone.com. Whether we’re sleeping on the summit or leaving Guitar Lake early on summit day, want to be up there for sunrise.

      Where are you coming from?

      I probably should be getting around 4000 cal/day, but I have a horrible time eating while hiking and especially at altitude.

      The pudding and eggnog ideas – are those your own recipes? I may try them.

  2. Peter

    I looked at your gear list. I would skip the stove and fuel, and adjust food list accordingly. Also, camp shoes are a heavy luxury. Consider trail runners rather than boots and ford streams barefoot. The bladder and filter are heavy a finicky; I’m taking two 1-liter SmartWater bottles and 2-part Aqua Mira drops. Except for Forester Pass and Whitney summit, one bottle will be empty. I have a 1lb pack, 1lb down bag, 1lb tent. The pack weight limit is 20lb, and I plan for it to weigh 16lb at the start and 10lb and the end. It gets expensive, and the UL stuff is not tough durable.

    • TheHikingGeek

      Do you have your gear list available somewhere online? I would list to see it.

      I’ve just recently starting backpacking, so still working on getting lighter gear. If the hike was later in the year, I would go stoveless. It has been dipping down into the low 30s and some nights even the high 20s @ 10,000 ft. Having something warm to eat at night or first thing in the morning seems like a good idea.

  3. Will T

    “Luckily we have someone that’s willing to drive us from Whitney Portal to Visalia”

    Was this a friend of yours? Or did you find a service in the area? Trying to figure this part out currently 🙂

    • TheHikingGeek

      Yes, it was my hiking partners wife. Logistics of the car shuttle is the toughest part of planning this hike. Our backup involved me leaving a car at WP the weekend prior with some friends, then taking a greyhound bus to Visalia.

      • Will T

        Gotcha. Yeah, I think we’ll end up taking busses back to Visalia. Thanks!

        Anything about your trip you would do differently? How was it??

        • TheHikingGeek

          It was amazing! I don’t think we’d talk the Whitney Creek shortcut and I’d split up hike from Precipice Lake and Kern Hot Springs. Adding 1 or 2 more days would’ve made it more enjoyable.

      • Annelise Schoups

        Such great information, thank you! Where would you have caught the Greyhound to Visalia? I’m trying to figure out transport from WP / Lone Pine back to the car in Visalia for next week, but I didn’t see any nearby Greyhound locations.

  4. wanderwithkait

    I am so greatful I fell upon your page. I have been searching and searching, but is this a hike I can do by just getting permits now? As in, this is NOT a lottery system, correct? I can just pay for my permits & do the trail as WELL as the mount whiteny summit? For some reason, I had friends try to get 2 day Whitney permits and were unsuccessful. By doing this trail, am I allowed to do Whitney regardless?

    • TheHikingGeek

      If there are permits available, you can get them now (no lottery system). They also hold a certain number of permits for walk-ins.

      Permits for this trail will allow you to summit Whitney and exit at Whitney Portal. let me know if you need more info.