Initially when I moved to California I was skeptical the mountains would compare to the Cascades where I grew up. After many great experiences in the Sierras, I can say that I have been blown away by the beauty and ruggedness of these mountains. They are different than the Cascades, but special in their own way. The more adventures I complete in the Sierras, the more ideas I have for future runs. Here are some ideas for the High Sierra for the upcoming summer and beyond:
- Dusy Basin and North Palisade: A trip over Bishop Pass to Dusy Basin provides an awe-inspiring view of the West side of the Palisades group of extremely rugged peaks with a climb of North Palisade, the highest point in the Palisades at 14,248 ft.
- Rae Lakes Loop: I completed this amazing loop last year in early winter conditions in 12h31m. I’d like to return when the route is snow-free and I am better acclimated to improve my time by a couple hours or more.
- The Whaleback and Big Wet Meadow: One of the most remote spots in the entire range, it takes 18 miles just to reach Big Wet Meadow in order to get a glimpse of The Whaleback, but I hear the views of the sheer granite cliffs and meadows are magical. A trip here would be a good opportunity to climb peaks on the Great Western Divide, including Table, Milestone, and Midway.
- Triple Divide Peak via High Sierra Trail: It’s 72 miles from Crescent Meadow in Sequoia National Park to Whitney Portal, but the chance of somebody waiting to transport me back to the start is slim and I’m not about to do a 140 mile out-and-back. Thus, I came up with Triple Divide Peak as a destination while passing through the highlight area of the High Sierra Trail, namely the Valhallas cirque and Hamilton Lakes up to Kaweah Gap. This area has tremendous views and the magnificent amphitheater of rock walls has been likened to a little Yosemite Valley. The only difference is that this place is 16 miles from the nearest trailhead. Triple Divide Peak has significance as the divide between the Kern, Kaweah, and Kings Rivers.
- Arrow Peak via Bench Lake: The view of Arrow Peak from Bench Lake is one of the classic views in the Sierra. It’s quite a slog to get back there via Taboose Pass, but it’s worth it!
- Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne: A point-to-point 33 mile trail run through a spectacular and wild canyon in Yosemite National Park from Tuolumne Meadows to White Wolf. Alternatively, a 45 mile loop out of White Wolf is possible to avoid car shuttle issues. Numerous waterfalls and granite everywhere!
- Great Western Divide Traverse: One of the most remote and rugged areas in the High Sierra. These peaks form a spectacular skyline from the Sierra Crest. There are many options and routes up various peaks.
- Brewer- North Guard-South Guard: A link-up of these three summits in a single day via Sphinx Canyon and Road’s End in Kings Canyon National Park.
- Russell-Whitney-Muir: Fun scrambling up Russell and the north face of Whitney on this very aesthetic loop of the Whitney region.
- Mount Langley: Another great trail run up the southermost fourteener in the Sierras and one of the highest trailheads at over 10,000 feet.
- John Muir Trail: 222 miles from Whitney Portal to Yosemite Valley, the JMT is one of the most famous trails in the world. At the very least, I’d like to cover significant portions of this trail that I have not already seen to prepare for a future speed attempt.
The North Cascades are the most rugged and wild mountains in the contiguous United States. They are heavily glaciated and often difficult to access. I have been climbing in the North Cascades for many years and the breathtaking scenery never gets old. Here are some adventure run ideas I have for the Cascades this summer:
- Northern Pickets Traverse: From Hannegan Pass to Ross Lake, this traverse travels through the most rugged and remote terrain in the lower 48. Intense summit names like Challenger, Fury, Crooked Thumb, and Phantom manifest the difficulty of reaching this fabled region. There are no trails in the Northern Pickets and virtually no evidence of human impact.
- Redoubt and Spickard: I visited this spectacular area near the Canadian border way back in 2004 in a climb of Mount Redoubt via Depot Creek. It’s time to return and climb Mount Spickard, which has one of the best views in the entire North Cascades.
- Isolation Traverse: A high traverse through the seldom visited region between Snowfield Peak and Eldorado Peak with views of the rugged McAllister Glacier cirque.
- Wonderland Trail: This amazing 94 mile loop around Mount Rainier has been on my radar for a few years and while I may not get around to it this summer, it is definitely something I hope to do someday.
- Mount Shasta: Towering above its surroundings at over 14,000 feet, Mount Shasta looks impressive from miles around. This mountain is a good climb in late spring when the weather is more cooperative but snow coverage remains good.
- Sahale Peak: This is too short for an adventure run – it takes longer to drive to the trailhead then climb the mountain! What Sahale Peak does offer, however, is one of the best locations to watch sunrise and sunset in the North Cascades. The ideal for me would be to photograph the evening and morning light from atop the small summit, as I did many years ago with my father.
Garrapata State Park
Since the High Sierra and Cascades are snowbound until early summer, I’ll be sticking to coastal regions until then so here is a list of adventure run possibilities for the coastal regions of California. Ideas for the High Sierra and Cascades are forthcoming.
- Miners’ Ridge and James Irvine Loop: Located in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, this 11+ mile hike is known as the “best redwood hike in the world,” for good reason. The route includes a wild coastal beach, a lush fern canyon, and some of the most magnificent redwoods in existence.
- Lost Coast: Encompassing King Range National Conservation Area and Sinkyone Wilderness, the Lost Coast is the most remote and wild stretch of coastline on the US West Coast. The northern portion in the King Range Wilderness is primarily a beach walk while the southern portion in Sinkyone is trail on top of the bluffs traversing through redwood and fern glens. The complete Lost Coast trek is nearly 60 miles.
- Look Prairie-Peavine-Thornton Loop: The biggest redwoods in the world at Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
- Grasshopper Peak: A high point in Humboldt Redwoods State Park with great views.
- Cone Peak via Vicente Flat (“Sea to Sky”): A trail run from the beach all the way up to 5,155 ft Cone Peak in the Ventana Wilderness. The summit is less than three miles away from the Ocean as the crow flies so it is known as the most spectacular summit along the Central CA Coast, if not the entire West Coast. You can drive a dirt road high up the mountain leaving only ~2 miles to the summit, but the most aesthetic route is to do it right from the ocean via the Vicente Flat Trail, which has superb vistas of the rugged Big Sur coast and a nice redwood grove in Hare Canyon. Total distance is 11 miles each way, 22 miles roundtrip. This trip was completed on January 10th, check out the video and blog entry.
- Junipero Serra Peak: The highest point in the Santa Lucia Mountains with 360 degree views and a good workout of 4,000 feet of vertical climbing over 6 miles.
- Henry Coe State Park: Over 200 miles of trails are located in this huge area of protected lands, including the 23,300 acre Orestimba Wilderness Area. This area is stellar in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom.
- Arroyo Seco River Gorge: A point-to-point 11 mile river and canyon adventure in the Ventana Wilderness where wading and swimming in the river is the only way to go. A place of contrast, the mountainsides are arid while the river canyon is lush. An excellent route for a hot summer day!
- Pinnacles National Monument: Revisit this great park in the spring when the hills are green and do the North Wilderness Loop.
Rugged Big Sur Coastline
Great Western Divide
A recap of Adventure Runs in 2009 in chronological order:
- Thompson Peak: (June 17th) Located in the rugged Trinity Alps region of the Klamath Mountains, this climb entailed passing through the rugged glacier-carved Canyon Creek drainage with granite cliffs, waterfalls, and lovely alpine lakes.
- Mount Sill: (July 9th) Stellar views from the summit (known as the best viewpoint in the High Sierra) and travel on the Palisades Glacier, the largest body of ice in the High Sierra. The approach via first, second, and third lakes with Temple Crag towering above was equally impressive.
- Clyde Minaret: (July 10th) The highest of the jagged Minaret group of peaks near Mammoth Lakes. Stunning scenery on the approach via Lake Ediza and Iceberg Lake, including the Minaret Range, Mount Ritter, and Banner Peak. Early season conditions made the lower chute on the Rock Route a little spicy, but the scrambling was fun.
- Mount Olympus: (July 16th) My second time up Mount Olympus via the Blue Glacier. I managed to improve my FKT from 2007 by 24 minutes, completing the round trip in 11:06. Great weather and similar conditions, although a bit softer snow conditions.
- Clark Mountain: (July 21st) The highest point in the Dakobed Range, Clark provides great views of Glacier Peak, other peaks in the Dakobed Range, and the Napeequa Valley.
- Ptarmigan Traverse: (July 28th) A new FKT of 14:36 on this classic traverse from Cascade Pass to the Suiattle River. The Ptarmigan travels along the crest of the North Cascades and includes extensive glacier travel, high passes, and alpine lakes.
- Suiattle Crest 50 mile: (August 4th) An aesthetic single large loop providing a grand tour of the region including Napeequa Valley, High Pass, Lyman Lakes, and Spider Gap. We completed this awesome loop in 13:37.
- The Stanford Loop: (September 23rd) Another single large loop with excellent views of the Southern High Sierra including Center Basin, the Great Western Divide, Lake Reflection, and the Kearsarge Lakes area.
- Middle Palisade: (September 24th) A classic scramble of the northeast face of this fourteener passing by gorgeous Finger Lake on the approach. Awesome views of the High Sierra from the summit!
- Pinnacles National Monument: (October 20th) Only 2 hours from the Bay Area, Pinnacles is a slice of the desert Southwest with boulder caves, red rock formations, and stately gray pines.
- Rae Lakes Loop: (October 24th) One of the most popular backpacking destinations in the High Sierra, I did this 46 mile loop in 12:31 in late-season conditions with extensive snow travel from Vidette Meadows to below Dollar Lake. While the snow, particularly on the north of Glen Pass, slowed me down, the amazing views of the snowcovered peaks more than compensated.
- Carmel River: (November 17th) My first exploration in the Venetana Wilderness, which had been closed for a year due to the large fires in 2008. This point-to-point 19 mile adventure included great views of the Santa Lucia Mountains, a stop at Jack English’s cabin in Pine Valley, and a walk down the lush Carmel River canyon with over two dozen crossings.
- Sykes Hot Springs: (November 24th) The most popular destination in the Ventana Wilderness for good reason, the hot springs are perched above the Big Sur river in a lush redwood forest making for a zen setting. The hike includes great views of the Santa Lucia Mountains and rugged Ventana Double Cone. On the way back I took the Terrace Creek Trail through a nice old-growth redwood grove and the Coastal Ridge Road with superb views of the Big Sur Coast.
- Rose Peak: (December 8th) This one wouldn’t normally qualify for an adventure run, but with 6-8+ inches of snow on the summit, this one was adventurous! The Diablo Range in the East Bay usually gets some snow at least once every winter, but the copious amounts of snow and the low elevation (1,500 ft) were rare. We enjoyed spectacular snowy scenes in the oak forest and lovely views of the Diablo Range and Bay Area. Picturesque photos from the Santa Cruz Mountains the previous day can be found here.
Excited for the many plans and ideas taking shape for 2010!
Much of the FKT focus in California is with multi-day long routes (John Muir Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail), but there are numerous single-day loops and routes in the high Sierra that are aesthetic, providing the runner with all the scenery and fun without the sleep deprivation and extreme fatigue. There are a plethora of peaks to scramble and climb in the Sierra so this list focuses on routes that are mainly nontechnical and mostly on trail or relatively easy off-trail travel. There is undoubtedly many more worthy routes to design, these just happen to be the ones I am most interested in at the moment.
- Rae Lakes Loop (Kings Canyon National Park): The most popular backpacking destination in the Southern Sierra, this 42 mile loop has 7,300 ft of elevation gain and starts at Roads End. This one is popular with fastpackers (aka Rae in a Dae) and is basically a “one-up” meaning there is one major hill climb, which is the ascent up to Glen Pass at just below 12,000 feet. While there may not be many climbs, the trail is apparently not very conducive to opening up the stride for long stretches. Map of the loop.
- Evolution semi-loop (Kings Canyon National Park): Start at North Lake and end at South Lake. The most aesthetic route in this magnificent region passes through 12,960+ foot Lamarck Col, descends down Darwin Canyon with some off-trail travel, joins the JMT for an ascent through Evolution Basin to Muir Pass, continues on the JMT for a descent of LeConte Canyon, and finally takes the Bishop Pass trail up through Dusy Basin and down to South Lake. This semi-loop is approximately 38 miles with 8,200 feet of elevation gain and 7,700 feet of loss. Map of the route by Jay Helms (route highlighted in yellow).
- Stanford Loop (Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks): This one has the makings of a classic. A giant loop around Mount Stanford (South) starting at the Onion Valley Trailhead with four high passes – University Pass, Forester Pass, Milly’s Foot Pass, Kearsarge Pass. This one promises spectacular views of Center Peak, the Great Western Divide, Lake Reflection, and the Kearsarge Pinnacles. There is off-trail travel between Upper Kern Basin and Lake Reflection with some class 3 scrambling giving this one a feel of adventure.
Kaweah Range from Little Five Lakes
If you are looking for some E (elevation) in the Bay Area, this post provides a great list of hill climbs, including famous mountains like Diablo and Tamalpais, but also lesser known trails and summits. These ascents will not only get your heart pumping, but will also inspire you with the beauty of nature. The high point is provided in parenthesis.
- Steep Ravine/Dipsea - Mount Tamalpais State Park (1,500 ft): Aptly named, this magical trail on the flanks of Mount Tamalapais traverses through a redwood filled ravine complete with a rushing stream and even a ladder! When this trail is combined with the lower portion of the Dipsea Trail it climbs from Stinson Beach to Pantoll in 3 miles.
- Black Mountain – Rancho San Antonio Open Space (2,800 ft): Fantastic views of the Silicon Valley are the highlight of this climb with an exhilarating last 1.5 miles to the summit where over 1,000 feet of elevation is grinded out.
Black Mountain Trail, photo courtesy Gary Gellin
- Mission Peak - Mission Peak Regional Park (2,517 ft): Lots of steep up, with ~2,100 ft over 3 miles. Great views can be seen while ascending the aesthetic summit ridge.
- Kings Mountain via Richards Road – Huddart County Park (2,000 ft): A great climb to gauge hill climbing fitness. From the rock at East Meadow to Skyline Blvd under redwoods; ~1,700 feet of gain over 2.9 miles, virtually all of it coming in the last 2 miles.
- Kings Mountain via Lonely Trail - Phleger Estate (2,000 ft): 4.1 miles from the entrance into Phleger Estate to Skyline Blvd on great single track amongst redwoods and streams with a steep finish.
- North Peak (Montara Mountain) – San Pedro Valley County Park & McNee Ranch (1,898 ft): Gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean and pristine coastal scrub is everpresent on this 1,800+ foot climb in 3.5 miles.
- Rose Peak – Ohlone Wilderness (3,817 ft): One of the Bay Area big boys, Rose Peak is an arduous 10 mile climb either from Sunol or from Lake Del Valle. A roundtrip will have you running nearly 20 miles with over 5,000 feet of gain either way you go.
Eight more great hill climbs after the jump!
The Southern Picket "Fence" - August 5, 2008
A selection of adventure run possibilities for 2009 and beyond in Washington State.
- Ptarmigan Traverse: Tough to pass on this one.
- Mount Olympus: Shoot to lower my FKT from 2007.
- Lyman Lakes/Napeequa Valley: An area of astounding beauty covered thoroughly in a 50 mile loop.
- Mount Shuksan: An iconic mountain that has yet to see speed activity. The Sulphide Glacier would be a quick route.
- Isolation Traverse: The middle section is an enigma with sparse and conflicting info.
- Cathedral Peak: Long trail run to reach this extremely scenic area of the Pasayten Wilderness.