SHR – Part 1- Road’s End to Red’s Meadow

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Swimming Heaven | Sierra High Route.

Distance:  128 miles (206 km) (Note: includes 10 mile detour down Palisade Creek……see below for details)

Time:  8 days  (9/7/11 – 9/14/11)

Daily Average:  16 miles (25.7 km)

Highlights:

  • The Path Less Travelled: I love hiking off-trail. Route finding, challenging terrain, no crowds, having to constantly adapt one’s rhythm and expectations according to the dictates of the environment. A heightened sense of surprise and wonder. Approximately half of the SHR consists of cross-country travel. The remainder of the route follows trails, the quality of which can vary dramatically in terms of both maintenance and usage.
  • Hiking with a friend: From Road’s End to Red’s Meadow, I hiked with a friend of mine from Scotland by the name of Rachel. Over the years the majority of my hikes have been solo affairs, so when I have the opportunity to share a wilderness experience such as the High Route with someone dear to me, I tend to throw daily mileage expectations out the window and jump at the chance. The fact that Rach is an uber strong hiker, has a great sense of humour, enjoys a post-hike beer and is a bit of a looker as well, may have only slightly influenced my decision to invite her along.
  • Scenery-wise it is difficult to single out areas on the SHR,  simply because the vistas are uniformly spectacular from start to finish. That being said, places which come immediately to mind on the Road’s End to Red’s Meadow section are Marion Lake, Lake Basin, the Bear Lakes area and Mammoth Crest.

Lowlights:

  • Altitude Sickness: During the first four days of our hike, Rach suffered from mild, but persistent symptoms of AMS. Not really surprising, considering that the SHR climbs from 4,000 to 10,000 ft within the first 10 miles of its starting point at Road’s End. Being a hardy Scot she never once complained, but you didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out she was doing it tough. AMS is not something you want to mess around with, so upon reaching Palisade Lake when her symptoms still hadn’t improved, we made the decision to take a detour off the High Route and drop down to Deer Meadow alongside Palisade Creek. Descending a couple of thousand feet and most importantly sleeping at a lower altitude did the trick, and for the rest of the way to Red’s Meadows, Rach was back to her inimitable “Queen of the Scottish Highlands” self.
  • Sprained ankle: Descending from Feather pass, I wasn’t concentrating as much as I should have been and as a consequence fell arse over teakettle with my left ankle jammed between two rocks. Thankfully the ankle was only sprained and not broken. I stuck it in the snow for 15 minutes, took a couple of ibprofun and we continued on our way. As to be expected I was a bit foot-sore the rest of the hike, and at the time of writing it has taken a good nine days of rest and Vitamin “I” (ibprofun) for it to finally settle down.

Notes & Musings:

  • Red’s Meadow: Resupplied, laundry, shower, slept in a bed, huge dinner/breakfast…………….thank you Red’s Meadow!
  • Weather: Most days we had fine mornings mixed with afternoon thunder storms. I’ve often mused there is no greater motivation for a hiker to get up and over a mountain pass, than having a mass of ominous black clouds heading in his or her direction at the rate of knots.

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