Roper's High Sierra Route - Section 1

Cirque Country

Roper's Sierra High Route is a worthy alternative to the John Muir Freeway. Linking slightly different destinations, the the SHR seldom drops below 10,000' while the JMT occasionally strays several miles from the Sierra Crest. The JMT starts at Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley and winds over 200 miles to the summit of Mt. Whitney. The SHR starts at Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon and ends at Twin Lakes, just north of Yosemite National Park.

Roper divides the trip into five main parts.

  1. Cirque Country - Cedar Grove to Dusy Basin featuring a climb and traverse of the Monarch Divide, Lake (Cartridge Creek) Basin, Upper Basin, Palisades Basin, Barrett Lakes Basin and, finally, Dusy Basin.
  2. Whitebark Country - Dusy Basin to Lake Italy featuring Le Conte Canyon, Muir Pass, Evolution Basin, the Glacier Divide, Humphrey's Basin, and Bear Lakes Basin.
  3. Lake Country - Lake Italy to Devil's Postpile featuring Bear Lakes Basin, Mono Lakes Basin, the Recesses, the Silver Divide, and the Mammoth Crest.
  4. Headwaters Country - Devil's Postpile to Tuolumne Meadows featuring the Ritter Range and the Cathedral Range.
  5. Canyon Country - Tuolumne Meadows to Twin Lakes featuring Yosemite's North Country.

This view of the Monarch Divide welcomes the High Country hiker to Kings Canyon National Park. The area traversed by the High Route is higher than visible from this angle. Monarch Divide's name, obviously, is an allusion to the river basin it dominates. Separating the basins of the South and the Middle Forks of the Kings River, Monarch Divide tops out at the summit of Marion Peak, over 12,000' above sea level.

I hiked Part 1 in 7 days back in the early 90s & took these slides. We continued after that to traverse Enchanteed Gorge. I hope to someday complete the entire High Route.
The first part of the High Route, "Cirque Country," is divided into the following nine sections:
  1. Kings Canyon to Grouse Lake - This first section is a grueling climb of over 5000' from deep within Kings Canyon to a beautiful subalpine lake near Goat Crest, a section of Monarch Divide between Glacier Basin to the west and Cartidge Creek basin to the east. From Kings Canyon, the Route is on trail, but just before Grouse Lake, the Route becomes cross-country until it meets up with the John Muir/Pacific Crest Trail in Upper Basin in Section 7.
  2. Grouse Lake to Goat Crest Saddle - The second section features a climb out of Grouse Lake, over a small divide and up further to Goat Creek Saddle on Monarch Divide. The Route then passes from the basin of the South Fork Kings River to that of the Middle Fork Kings.
  3. Goat Crest Saddle to Horseshoe Lakes - Descending from Goat Crest, the Route passes two subalpine lakes, one above and one below timberline. Continuing north across wooded tablelands, the hiker encounters a seldom-visited group of subalpine lakes.
  4. Horseshoe Lakes to White Pass - The route continues its traverse of the north side of Monarch Divide. This section starts north from the basin of Horseshoe Creek over awesome Windy Ridge and southeast to the spectacular upper basin of the South Fork of Cartridge Creek. Then, an ascent to White Pass on the northwest slopes of Marion Peak, the high point of Monarch Divide.
  5. White Pass to Marion Lake - The route decends the northern slopes of Marion Peak into the magnificent upper basin of Cartridge Creek, aka Lake Basin.
  6. Marion Lake to Frozen Lake Pass - An easterly traverse of Lake Basin up to a low point on Monarch Divide.
  7. Frozen Lake Pass to Cirque Pass - The Route re-crosses Monarch Divide twice and ends on the slopes of the Palisades. First a descent into Upper Basin, the source of the South Fork Kings, then a easterly traverse of the basin to intersect with the John Muir/Pacific Crest Trail. Now, following the tracks of millions of through-walkers, the Route climbs Mather Pass into Palisade Basin, where the Routh eschews the trail once again and climbs to Cirque Pass on the slopes of the Palisades.
  8. Cirque Pass to Knapsack Pass - This section is a northerly traverse of the Palisades' west side, aka Barrett Lakes Basin. Knapsack Pass is on the divide overlooking Dusy Basin, the end of the "Cirque Country" part.
  9. Knapsack Pass to Dusy Basin - Another spectacular Sierra basin, Dusy Basin features a main East Side access point, Bishop Pass.