2012 Adventure Run Ideas – High Sierra

I have been fortunate enough to explore some amazing spots in the High Sierra over the last few years, but the outstanding scenery in the “range of light” keeps me coming back for more. Virtually every trip features a stunning combination of rugged granite peaks, placid alpine lakes and colorful meadows in an authentic wilderness setting. The High Sierras are a special place. Following are some adventure run ideas for next summer:

  • Glacier Ridge and Big Wet Meadow: One of the most remote spots in the entire range. In fact, just to reach Big West Meadows to get a glimpse of the Whaleback and Glacier Ridge requires a 40 mile round trip hike/run with substantial elevation gain and loss in both directions. However, the sheer granite cliffs rising above the picturesque meadows is simply magical. Last year I climbed the Whaleback itself but this time I’d like to ascend Glacier Ridge, the high point across the valley to the West. Glacier Ridge is a striking aiguille rising from an immense granite ridgeline. Panoramic views from the top include the Great Western Divide and Kaweah Range. 
  • Mount Winchell: A member of the Palisades subrange, the most alpine region in the High Sierra. I’ve heard the class three route up the summit is lots of fun and a trip up the North Fork Big Pine drainage is always a pleasure.
  • Ritter & Banner: Last climbed in 2007, it has been awhile since I have visited these two summits that form the centerpiece of the Ansel Adams Wilderness. This time I intend to make a large loop out of Agnew Meadows including Garnet Lake, Thousand Island Lake, Lake Catherine and Lake Ediza.
  • High Sierra Trail – Whitney Portal to Crescent Meadows: This magnificent route stretches 72 miles from Whitney Portal on the eastern side of the Sierras to Crescent Meadows on the western side in Sequoia National Park. The trip includes a big ascent of Mount Whitney right from the start but is largely downhill afterwards (except for the gradual ascent up to Kaweah Gap). This trail features stunning scenery throughout and passes through one of the most magnificent basins in the High Sierra in Hamilton Lakes and the Valhallas. The primary logistical problems don’t involve the trail and are twofold: (1) obtaining a permit to hike in Whitney Trail, even if it will likely be ascended in the middle of the night, and (2) the car shuttle with a substantial amount of driving to get from the start to the finish.
  • Arrow Peak & 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 as the climb literally starts in the desert of Owens Valley, but it looks like it will be worth it!
  • Observation Peak and Amphitheater Lake: A remote destination with long approach routes by any means. I would likely ascend Taboose Pass and then head up the John Muir Trail towards Mather Pass before splitting off just before the pass and heading cross country over a different pass to the west and through a basin to the objective. Amphitheater Lake looks spectacular!
  • Middle Palisade: A 14er in the rugged Palisades group that I climbed in 2009. It would be nice to return and go for a faster time, but I would not sacrifice enjoying stunning Finger Lake, with its turquoise glacial water and towering granite slabs (pictured below). 
  • Langley: Another great trail run up the southermost fourteener in the Sierras and one of the highest trailheads at over 10,000 feet. A loop around Langley/Cottonwood area has been on the list for awhile but it’s about as far from the Bay Area as you can get.  Hopefully I’ll get to it this season in conjunction with acclimation for a run of the High Sierra Trail.
  • Tower Peak: An impressive peak in Northern Yosemite accessed from below Sonora Pass. This trip looks to be around 35 miles roundtrip.
  • Mount Stanford: The “shyest” major peak in the Sierra, Mount Stanford just barely misses the 14,000 foot level so it is infrequently climbed, but I’ve got to climb the peak named after my alma mater at some point!
  • Northern Yosemite 50: delicious 50 mile loop in northern Yosemite originating at Twin Lakes and entailing five passes, including highlight stops at Peeler Lake, the Benson Lake Riviera, Matterhorn Canyon, and Sawtooth Ridge. I ran this loop last year, but it’s so good that I definitely want to return.
  • Palisades Circumnavigation: A complete tour of the Palisades Group including passage through five  high passes: Scimitar Pass, Potluck Pass, Thunderbolt Pass, and Jigsaw Pass.
Past adventure run ideas for the High Sierra:

Photo Locations: 

  1. Dusy Basin, 2011
  2. Finger Lake below Middle Palisade, 2009
  3. Bear Creek Spire from Long Lake, 2011
  4. Milestone Peak from Milestone Creek, 2011
  5. Banner Peak (center) and Mount Ritter (left) from Thousand Island Lake, 2007
  6. The Whaleback from Big Wet Meadow, 2011
  7. Fin Dome near Arrowhead Lake, 2010
  8. Picture Peak from Sailor Lake, 2007

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Andrea says:

    Awesome pictures. Thanks for the adventure run ideas – will definitely look into those! The Sierras are truly stunning.

  2. David says:

    Awesome! Where is the first picture of the bottom 4 taken at?

    1. pantilat says:

      Thanks! The photo locations are as follows.

      (1) Top photo: Dusy Basin
      (2) Finger Lake below Middle Palisade
      (3) Bear Creek Spire from Long Lake
      (4) Milestone Peak from Milestone Creek
      (5) Banner Peak (center) and Mount Ritter (left) from Thousand Island Lake
      (6) The Whaleback from Big Wet Meadow
      (7) Fin Dome near Arrowhead Lake
      (8) Picture Peak from Sailor Lake

  3. cmorton says:

    Taboose Pass to Arrow Peak is awesome! Mt. Winchell is still one of my favorite scrambles. Tower peak was awesome as well, but it wasn’t very exciting jogging the exact same trail back out. Can’t wait to see the trip reports for these.

  4. Tan says:

    Any of those adventures sound like it would be great. How do you do these trips? One day run/hike? Backpack? Set up a basecamp then head out for a 50 mile run then make it back to camp by evening dinner?

    1. pantilat says:

      All of these ideas are one day runs so the goal is to make it back to the car for dinner and rest.

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