2018: The Backstory
Hey, I'm RJ Soria and tbh I'm kinda sick of writing in the third person, so here goes:
In 2018, my good friend and TRVRS Outdoors media guru Jeremy Boggs organized a five day section hike along something called the Sierra High Route. At the time, I was vaguely familiar with the name but was in great shape for backpacking, so I decided to join.
We set out late summer (2018) and by the end of day one, altitude sickness had let on. By the second day, symptoms worsened. We were having a great time, but evening came and we knew that we'd need to make some decisions the next morning in order to stay on schedule. I spent that evening updating our daily itinerary to figure out what we needed to do to finish the route on time.
The following morning, symptoms were still strong and the group was leaning toward turning back. I was having such a great time, that I asked if anyone in the group wanted to press on. They all cheered and we immediately formed a conga line along the path. Well at least that happened in my head, but their actual response was pretty much crickets.
They hooked me up with some extra snacks and we parted ways. I was bummed to say goodbye, but the days to follow would turn me on to both the adventure of a life time and my current favorite style of outdoor travel.
Let me pause right here...
About The Sierra High Route
I should clarify that the Sierra High Route is not to be confused with the more widely known High Sierra Trail. These are two vastly different backpacking objectives.
While the High Sierra Trail is a great accomplishment for any outdoor enthusiast, the Sierra High Route is one of the most difficult known backpacking routes in all of North America. The biggest difference is in the name. One is a cross country route and one is a trail.
The Sierra High Route was developed in the early nineties by Steve Roper and later published into a book in 1997. The route crosses 33 high passes and hundreds of alpine lakes, creeks, and tarns. It spans roughly 200 miles of the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains These numbers are somewhat trivial in comparison to the difficulties faced along the high route as the majority of this trek is not labeled on any maps. Its junctions are not met by signs with mileage or direction, and its terrain is not marred by footprints, but instead large talus blocks and steep scree slopes. Some have estimated that the high route sees maybe a dozen people a year and of these individuals, most set out with the intention of managing a segment as opposed to the entire route.
It is truly THE cross country backpacking adventure of a lifetime.
2019: My First Attempt
After separating from my friends, I completed those five days along one of the most pristine sections of the entire route and was absolutely floored with its rugged magnificence. I planned a complete thru-hike the following year (2019). A year went by and training was a bit lackluster. I bailed after four days due to some weather and a very convenient crossing of paths with another good friend (Darryl Vigil) who offered my his car and his house in bishop to recover. Still, I had a great time in the backcountry. I had now completed two thirds of the entire route and was ready for another go in 2020.
2020: A Wrench In The Cogs
The pandemic hit and nearly everything about my life was changed. I am grateful to say that while a lot was put on hold, my plans for a second attempt at completing the Sierra High Route were not. However, August rolled around and California was in the middle of its worst fire season yet. I cancelled my flight three days before I was set to start. Fortunately, after a year a of massive life changes, I had grown to be flexible and instead completed Colorado's Pfiffner Traverse in five days.
2021: Fool Me Once
Accomplishing the Pfiffner Traverse was huge for me. Although the route was much shorter than the SHR, it would be my first successful cross country high route and I did it with very little planning.
The following year (2021), I was getting ready for my SHR attempt when California was once again set ablaze. I definitely should have seen it coming this year. As the State's growing fire season was now the new norm, the summer backpacking treks would need to be planned much sooner or elsewhere. Instead I headed over to Wyoming's Wind River Range to complete the Wind River High Route. Although I haven't wrote a trip report for this effort, I shared an amazing time out with my partner and completed the effort in seven days.
2022: My Final Attempt
I've got gear, the training, and now I even have the experience. I am ready to finish what I started...err, at least as ready as I'll ever be. Since I've now done roughly 2/3rds of the Sierra High Route, I decided that in 2022, I will be adding the Southern Sierra High Route to keep things interesting. The additional 70 mile segment (created by Alan Dixon) starts at Horseshoe Meadow and loosely follows the Sierra Crest to Mount Whitney before meeting with the original SHR route at the southern base of Mather Pass.
If this year doesn't go well and I need to bail, I'll at least have one more section under my belt so that I can come back in 2023 to finish the last portion and be satisfied with section hiking the Sierra High Route. I'm-freaking-stoked.
I will start on June 27th and intend to finish around July 12th for a total of 16 days.
You can follow my progress on the TRVRS Outdoors Facebook Page (daily updates by satellite beacon) and you can see my entire itinerary, gear list and nutrition plan below.
Gear List & Nutrition
My system for travel has a base weight of 12.5 lbs (without food/water) and is considered ultralight by most standards. A lot of the extra weight is from electronics due to the fact that I will be documenting the entire trek. I end up making up for this in food weight savings as I won't be cooking any meals and instead will consuming mainly dry calorie dense foods like granola, beef jerky, and dehydrated fruit. Yes, I enjoy eating this way on the trail. No my poops aren't weird.
You can review my Gear List and Nutrition Spreadsheet here.
Sierra High Route Itinerary
I will share my location on the TRVRS Outdoors Facebook page once per evening when I reach camp and maybe sporadically throughout the day if I feel like it (usually after I do something on the gnarly side of things). I won't be using the breadcrumb method because it wastes a good amount of power. You can also see my full Caltopo Itinerary here.