The Sierra High Route, a 15 Day Hiking Adventure

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The Sierra High Route Hiking

Words by PATH projects customer Matt Hyde. Photos by Thom Schroeder (@koaflashboy) and Matt Hyde (@mattalatta). 

This summer I wanted to go on a trip that took in the California Sierra’s all at once.  Hiking the John Muir trail is a nice hike and one way to do it, but the JMT is busy, it frequently drops into the trees and misses much of the best scenery in the Sierras.  So, I decided to hike the Sierra High Route. 

The SHR was pioneered by Steve Roper in the 1970’s and early 80’s and traverses the spine of the Sierras starting in King’s Canyon National Park and runs north 200 miles to Twin Lakes, just beyond Yosemite National Park. It’s estimated that about a dozen parties complete the entire route annually.

Hiking The Sierra High Route

The route stays high; rarely do you drop below 9,000 feet and there are multiple passes exceeding 12,000 feet in elevation. The total vertical gain of the trip is 60,000 feet. It’s the only hike of this distance in the lower 48 where you only cross one road. About half of the route is completely off trail, cross country hiking. About 30 miles follow the John Muir Trail and the rest of the SHR is on old, little used or climber’s trails. Our route, which included 26 miles to get to the start of the SHR and some extra mileage for food drops totaled 247 miles which we completed in 15 days. 

Hiking the Sierras California

While non-technical, the High Route’s off trail sections can be challenging. At times the navigation is unclear, and the traveler can expect to traverse many, many miles of boulder fields; some steep and loose. The passes range from delightful alpine cols to steep, improbable class 3 scrambles. Mercifully, the one impediment you rarely face is bushwhacking due to the high altitude of the route. Hiker’s should expect to complete daily mileages far shorter than they would on a trail.

Water crossing Sierra High Route

Sierra High Route rivers

Sierra High Route lake

Of course, on a trip like this, you want to keep your packs as light as possible. I try to be methodical with gear and my base pack weight came in at 10.5 pounds (without camera gear). On top of that I added 3.5 lbs of camera gear and 1.8 pounds of food per day. The heaviest my pack weighed was at the start with 7 ½ days of food for a total of 27 pounds. 

To keep your pack light, you need to be careful to not take too many cloths. For me, that meant one tee shirt, and just two pairs of underwear and socks. My choice for a tee shirt was the Path Projects Cascade Tee and my underwear choice was the Tahoe Base Liners. 

Hiking clothing PATH projects

Over the years I’ve had nearly every brand of performance outdoor clothing hanging in my closet. And let’s face it, today we’re blessed with an abundance of great choices.  But there are always standouts, and my Path gear has become my favorite performing items. I wore Path’s Cascade Tee for 15 days straight, 24 hours a day, only taking it off periodically for a rinse. 

The tee shirt rebuffed smells as good a Merino wool, while wicking sweat and drying as fast as any synthetic I’ve used. It didn’t pill or stretch and after washing it and I can’t distinguish the heavily used tee shirt from my other nearly new Path Project Cascade Tee. The Tahoe liners held up equally well. These are my new go-to outdoor base layers.

While the performance on my trip was superb, Path Project Gear was designed for trail running. Two weeks after I returned from the Sierra High Route, I was able to test the trail running performance of these products on the Noble Canyon 50K trail race. I ran with three friends and at the finish they all started discussing their chaffing and necessary clothing adjustments during the run. It was at that point that I realized that I had not even been conscious of wearing anything for the entire 50 kilometers – exactly what you want out of your trail running clothes.

Matt Hyde 50k run

Matt Hyde running 50k

Thank you Matt Hyde and Thom Schroeder for sharing an inside look into this spectacular and challenging trek. You inspired us to add The Sierra High Route to our bucket list. 

🚨Enter for a chance to win 1 Cascade T-shirt and 2 Baseliners. To enter, let us know in the comments below, which trail is on top of your bucket list of places to run or hike and why? 🚨

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