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Almost done (and now available): Yosemite High Route Guide

Rock Island Lake, a rarely visited alpine basin

I had self-imposed a deadline of March 1 for publishing the Yosemite High Route Guide, knowing that backpackers are making their summertime plans (and in some cases have already made them).

The Guide is not yet complete — it’s about 85 percent of the way there — but today I’m releasing it anyway so that it can be put to use, especially its planning resources. The Yosemite High Route Guide is available for immediate download.

After I complete the remaining 15 percent sometime this month, I will send to all customers a new download link for the missing files or for the fully completed Guide (especially if I end up tweaking anything in the “finished” 85 percent portion). Expect another update in Fall 2019 based on guided trips on the route this July.

The current edition, which I’ve designated 1.0, includes the following materials:

  • “Guidebook — Part 1: Before you go” includes essential preparatory information (e.g. permits, travel, regulations, scheduling) that is supplementary to the existing online information;
  • Annotated topographic maps for the Core Route, all twelve Approach Routes, and eight recommended Section-Hikes;
  • Datasheets for the Core Route, all twelve Approach Routes, five Alternate Routes, six featured Thru-Hikes, and eight recommended Section-Hikes; and a,
  • Rudimentary GPX file to help find trailheads and download maps for off-line use.

The current edition does NOT yet include Part 2 and Part 3 of the Guidebook, which will have route descriptions for the Core Route, Approach Routes, Alternates, and Section-Hikes. I’m working on these documents now, but they’re not ready for prime-time. Thankfully, they’re not necessary in planning a thru- or section-hike of the Yosemite High Route.

Samples of these resources can be found here.

I’m frustrated that I’m not yet done with the Guide — I don’t like missing deadlines, and just as much I’d like to move on to other projects. But I’m satisfied with the current quality of the materials, and I’d rather that Part 2 and Part 3 of the Guidebook be late but good (instead of on-time but shoddy).

Partly responsible for the delay are the multiple revisions that I made to the route’s fundamental structure. Ultimately, I identified a 94-mile Core Route that is consistently world-class: it’s 70 percent off-trail, gyrates 630 vertical feet per mile, and accesses rarely visited pockets of America’s third National Park.

To reach this Core Route, I’ve offered twelve Approach Routes: eight for the northern terminus, ranging from 17 to 50 miles; and, four for the southern terminus, ranging from 10 to 18 miles. All told, there are thirty-two potential thru-hiking itineraries, making it possible that no thru-hikers in 2019 will do the same route.

12 Responses to Almost done (and now available): Yosemite High Route Guide

  1. Nathaniel March 1, 2019 at 1:48 pm #

    Andrew,
    This is fantastic, and I will most likely be purchasing it at some point.

    I’m wondering if you have an estimate for roughly which month this year would be good. I’m keeping an eye on the snow levels http://cdec.water.ca.gov/reportapp/javareports?name=PLOT_SWC and they are above average. Any input?

    • Andrew Skurka March 2, 2019 at 2:28 pm #

      If it’s a normal spring melt, June is out. So you’re left with July, when this year you’ll find lingering snow on the shadiest and most leeward aspect; and August and September, which will be pretty normal, and probably less smoky than they have been in years past.

      • Jason March 6, 2019 at 1:00 pm #

        I might try it in May with my splitboard

  2. Norman Clyde March 4, 2019 at 8:40 pm #

    Normal Spring melt ha!

    • Andrew Skurka March 4, 2019 at 9:08 pm #

      I think you might be misinterpreting what I meant by, “If it’s a normal spring melt.”

      With the current snowpack, water levels will definitely be higher and snow will linger longer relative to average. But if the timing of the melt is normal (i.e. normal temps, normal spring precip) then I think the route will transition in July, from a mountaineering-like experience in early-July to a reasonably normal backpacking experience in late-July. June is looking like a ski trip.

      • Boris Seymour March 4, 2019 at 9:59 pm #

        I’ll go with that…I think we are adding to the disappearing Lyell Glacier this year, but it could be 100˚F in Tuolumne Meadows in late June. Climate change creates wild erratics over normal evolutional changes…snowy year…it will be around awhile..watch out for the hidden snow bridges….the Randy Morgenson demise…

        The book looks good; hopefully it does not add to the crowd prowling around the High Routes…

  3. Rob March 5, 2019 at 7:53 am #

    Any word on lightning predictions this year? Just kidding, but….seriously, how does one do the high route in relative safety from afternoon lightning storms or dontou just have to get lucky for two weeks?

    • Andrew Skurka March 5, 2019 at 9:20 am #

      You avoid lightning by:

      1. Waking up f’ing early and getting in most of your miles when it’s safe to do so.
      2. Playing the storms, by getting over high stuff when you have a clearing and pushing through the low stuff when the weather is not cooperating.

      The longest stretch of exposed terrain is from Spillway Lake (in Parker Pass Creek) to Isberg Pass Trail (between Harriet Lake and the Clark Range). This stretch is entirely above treeline, and there are only a few protected areas where you could get out of the wind (maybe), or at least not be the tallest thing around.

      North of Tuolumne, the route is constantly up and down: from the bottom of one deep canyon, climb up to a high ridge, and drop into the next deep canyon. Rock Island Lake is an exception, but it’s not a long section. Some of these canyon bottoms are forested, others not. But even those not forested feel much safer than the ridgetops, or the section that I originally referenced.

  4. Lucas March 10, 2019 at 4:35 pm #

    Hi Andrew.
    I’m planning a week long trip this summer and trying do decide between doing sections of either YHR or KCHBR and was curious about how they differ from one another in section-hikability, relative scenery, and accessibility (I will be flying to fresno and may or may not rent a car) etc. I’ll definitely be purchasing one of the guides once I decide. I did the Pfiffner Traverse last summer and I tremendously appreciate your efforts into putting these together so a Wisconsin boy can have a world class adventure while only taking a week off work.
    Thanks

    • Andrew Skurka March 10, 2019 at 4:59 pm #

      Woot, woot.

      If you tell me the section hikes you are most interested in, I can tell you the differences. Overall the YHR is probably a bit easier than the KCHBR: less off trail, less vert per mile, no single feature as hairy as King Col or as rugged as the Goddard Creek bushwhack. But individual section hikes vary in intensity, and YHR has hikes that are both easier and harder than sections of KCHBR.

      • Lucas March 11, 2019 at 9:30 am #

        I’m not too partial to any specific section but a few have caught my eye. For YHR I figured it would be easy to get to Tuolume Meadows if I want to save $$ on not renting a car. From there the South Loop and Roosevelt Rock Riviera look like they are about on the money for a 4.5-5 day itinerary

        Am I correct in assuming logistics would be much more difficult to do 1 or 2 sections of KCHBR if I fly into Fresno and want to do without a car? Although it seems manageable to get to Lodgepole using public transport so I guess it would be loop 1 in that case. With a car, loop 4W and 5W look enticing. I’m all for maximizing off trail %.

        Thanks again for your time

        • Andrew Skurka March 11, 2019 at 11:15 am #

          It’s very easy to get to TM without a rental car. Although you will waste some time on travel, because the bus/shuttle schedules may not operate exactly when you need them to.

          With the South Loop, be aware that reserving a permit will be really tough. The hordes of JMT hikers grab all the permits. So you might need to do a walk-up, and it’s safest to get there by 11am the day before you want to start. If you have some flexibility in your dates, you can probably still score a permit for Glen Aulin pass-through (or Murphy Creek, +4 miles).

          From Fresno, you can get to Lodgepole via public transit (via Visalia) but not Road’s End. Loop 1 is excellent. Most of the on-trail is out of the gate, from Lodgepole over Silliman Pass to the Roaring River. But it’s almost entirely off-trail thereafter. Those trail miles are a good opportunity to eat through some food and acclimate.

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