Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hike the Sierra High Route, California

A climber makes tracks to the Mountaineer's Route on Mount Whitney in California's Sierras

Original Word By Jim Gorman and Robert Earle Howells, executive summary by darmansjah

If the Sierra’s original pathbreaker and solitude lover, John Muir, were alive today, it’s a fair bet he’d hike the Sierra High Route instead of the trail that bears his name. The High Route, arguably the best kept wilderness secret in the lower 48, shadows the John Muir Trail as the two traverse the remarkable kingdom of granite that lies between Kings Canyon and YosemiteNational Parks. But whatever the JMT does, the High Route does it higher, harder, and more spectacularly.

The route is the brainchild of mountaineer Steve Roper, who sought an alternative to the heavily pounded JMT. With a taste for glacier-polished slab (or what he calls "Sierra sidewalk"), wind-warped whitebark pine, and lonely lake basins encircled by shark-toothed peaks, Roper pioneered a route that hews as closely as possible to the 10,000-foot (3,048-meter) contour in the narrow zone between timberline and talus summit. A portion of its 195 miles (314 kilometers) piggybacks on existing trail, but mostly the High Route sends hikers off trail to pick their way up jumbled passes and across high-mountain streams. No paint blazes and few cairns mark the way.

Don’t have the month required to hike the whole thing? Then spend a week on Roper’s favorite section between Merriam Lake (accessed via Paiute Trailhead west of Bishop) and Duck Lake, just south of Mammoth Lakes. As you clamber down from lonesome 12,400-foot (3,780-meter) Italy Pass, look west. Way down below you might catch a glimpse of the JMT.

Need to Know: Sierra High Route, by Steve Roper, is a must-read for off-trail hikers (The Mountaineers Books, $17).

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

15 Classic Trails World's Best Hikes

executive summary by darmansjah

Over the past decade, author Peter Potterfield has hiked more than 10,000 miles over six continents to research this list. He here tells us his picks for the world's 15 best hikes, including Patagonia, Tasmania, Newfoundland, and Petra. Read more in his best-selling book Classic Hikes of the World or his forthcoming book Classic Hikes of North AmericaKungsleden, Sweden

Grand Canyon Hike, Arizona

Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal

Fitz Roy Trek, Patagonia, Argentina

Petra Through the Back Door, Jordan

Grindelwald, Switzerland

Yosemite Grand Traverse, California, United States

Chilkoot Trail, Alaska and Yukon Territory, U.S. and Canada

Tonquin Valley, Canadian Rockies, Alberta, Canada

Bay of Fires, Tasmania, Australia

Long Range Traverse, Newfoundland, Canada

Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand 

Mountains of the Moon, Uganda

Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawaii, United States

Croagh Patrick, Ireland

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Grand Canyon Hike, Arizona

Rim to Rim to Rim

executive summary by darmansjah

Round-Trip: 44 miles, 4 to 6 days

When to Go: Everybody does this hike in September to October or April to May, so go in March or November for a more contemplative experience.

Any walk in the Grand Canyon is going to rate pretty high on the Richter scale of hikes, but this route shows you both rims and the river, offers different trails in and out, and gives you enough time within one of the greatest features on Earth to actually savor the majesty of the natural architecture. Time travel through the multicolored layer cake of the Colorado Plateau for two billion years' worth of geology, from the Kaibab limestone at the rim to the Vishnu complex at the river, all on good “corridor” trails with known water sources and pleasant camps.

Insider Tip: Bomb down from the South Rim via the uber-direct South Kaibab Trail to cross the Colorado River on the Black Bridge and camp at Bright Angel camp. Then ascend through the Box, the inner heart of the canyon, up to Cottonwood Camp and the remote North Rim. On the return trek, cross the Colorado on the Silver Bridge and ascend to the South Rim through Indian Garden via the Bright Angel Trail, better suited for uphill travel.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mountains of the Moon, Uganda

Central Circuit, Ruwenzori Range

executive summary by darmansjah

Round-Trip: 38 miles, 6 to 7 days

When to Go: December to March, the “dry” season. Go with guides and porters; they know the way and are not expensive.

When approaching high-altitude glaciers, you don't often hear locals say, “There are elephants here.” But everything about the Ruwenzori Range, Ptolemy's legendary Mountains of the Moon, is unexpected. Looming on the Uganda-Congo border, these peaks make up the highest range in Africa, rising to 16,765 feet at the Margherita summit of Mount Stanley. (Kilimanjaro and Kenya are taller, but they aren’t ranges.) You’ll hike three days through two 14,000-foot passes and mind-bending forests of giant groundsel and giant lobelias to get to the Bujuku Hut, base camp for those wanting to climb Mount Speke. Hike one more day to Elena Hut, base camp for those who want to climb the glaciers, and try for the summit of Mount Stanley for its unique views of the Congo Basin. Two more trail days take you over Scott Elliot Pass, the highest on the circuit at 14,344 feet, and back to the starting point for your eventual return to Kampala.

Insider Tip: Bring a pair of indestructible camp shoes impervious to moisture, such as Crocs. The circuit can be a muddy mess. Walking in the creek beds often makes for the best progress. It is essential to be able to change into something dry and reasonably comfortable for your feet at day's end.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawaii, United States

Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Valley

By Peter Potterfield, executive summary by darmansjah

Round-Trip: 22 miles, 3 to 5 days

When to Go: May to September for drier weather; April or October for more solitude

The finest coastal hike in the world, this rugged route through Kauai’s impressive Nā Pali Coast will challenge you physically with tropical heat and steep trails, and scare you with exposure on muddy slopes. But after a day of slogging 11 miles through the fluted cliffs above surf that crashes like howitzer fire on the coast below, you are rewarded with a view of the impossibly serene mile-long arc of golden Kalalau Beach along the shimmering Pacific. The Kalalau Valley itself holds fairy-tale waterfalls and lush tropical jungle, well worthy of exploration, but the highlight is camping right on the beach, with the Western Pacific before you, reflecting the setting sun.

Insider Tip: It’s hot, and you’ll be tempted, but don’t even think about cooling off with a swim at Hanakapi’ai Beach on the way in. All those small, makeshift memorials are erected in the memory of hikers who thought they might enjoy wading in and were immediately swept out to sea by the violent rips.