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Hiking The Sierra High Route

On this burly, 210-mile traverse, which crosses 33 passes and barely touches established trails, you can find Alaska-sized scenery, complete solitude, and just enough risk to keep things interesting.

Descending on easy trail, high on fresh air, I reflect on the Sierra, the most beautiful of ranges. The impact of its graceful aesthetic on visitors like John Muir almost singlehandedly created the modern environmental movement. And its recreational history goes back almost 150 years. Long before backpacking became a sport, people like Joseph Le Conte, Theodore Solomons, and Norman Clyde threw home on their backs and got lost here for weeks at a time.

Steve Roper, the father of the SHR, is a throwback to that era, and to the early days of the ’70s backpacking boom. A Berkeley boy who became a Yosemite dirtbag climber, he betrays a bit of hippie still, sprinkling his sentences with ‘mans’ and frequent profanities.

“Climbing and hiking get you out into nature and away from these horrible f***ing cities, all that traffic and war and pestilence and sh**,” he tells me when I call him for pre-trip beta. “It gets you out, and you’re there, man.”

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