Hiking The Theodore Solomons Trail South: Horseshoe Meadow To Roads End

August 26th to 30th, 2019
Theodore Solomons Trail South
106 miles, 20,800' gain
Day 1: Cottonwood to Kern 24 miles, 1,700'
Day 2: Kern to Wet Meadow 16 miles, 6,000'
Day 3: Wet Meadow to Cliff Creek 25.5 miles, 4,100'
Day 4: Cliff Creek to Deadman Canyon 18 miles, 7,100'
Day 5: Deadman Canyon to Roads End 23 miles, 3,100'
[Pics] [Caltopo]

I must say that the most common question I encountered while hiking the Theodore Solomons Trail was "What the heck is the Theodore Solomons Trail?"

This is the first of two posts about my experience hiking the 281 ish mile Theodore Solomons Trail across the Sierra Nevada in the summer of 2019. It will cover Horseshoe Meadows to Roads End and for the northern section see Hiking The Theodore Solomons Trail North: Roads End to Yosemite. If you're interested just in the trail itself and how to do it I made a convenient post called Matt's Guide to The Theodore Solomons Trail which is just that.

I've spent the last 15 years or so climbing and hiking all across the Sierra and in that time I can't recall ever coming across a mention of the Theodore Solomons Trail. Then I just happened to have a random conversation at Mammoth Mountaineering Supply after wrapping up an 11 day southbound trek along the John Muir Trail.

A 280 ish mile trail, largely unknown, that parallels the JMT, visits all the spectacular points of the Western Sierra, and has a fraction of the crowds that currently define that far more popular trail? Sign me up!

And as it turned out when you mapped the JMT and the TST together they basically make a loop. Sounds like the perfect thing to hike and document for your personal hiking blog doesn't it?

So about 10 days after finishing the John Muir Trail I set off.

Mount Lewis via Bloody Canyon WTC Experience Trip

August 17th & 18th, 2019
Mount Lewis (12,320')
Day 1: 3.5 miles, 2,200'
Day 2: 11.1 miles, 3,200'
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

These days I struggle a bit to come up with peak based trips to lead for the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course that are accessible but that I haven't done before. In 2017 I'd lead a climb of the SPS peaks Koip and Kuna from this trailhead and found it to be a nice trip but a bit on the long side for a mixed group. So I'd decided why not revisit the area and climb one of the multiple peaks around Mono Pass.

And so this two day climb of Mount Lewis was born. The peak itself is on the Vagmarken Sierra Crest List if you're into that sort of thing or if you are not peak motivated then it's a relatively lightly used trail that takes you past waterfalls, gives you multiples lakes to pick between for camping, and lets you visit a historic mining site before presenting you with an epic view of June Lakes.

John Muir Trail Plus Half-Dome, Whitney, and Muir in 11 Days

August 5th to 15th, 2019
Half Dome (8,840')
Mount Whitney (14,498')
Mount Muir (14,012')
Day 0 - To Sunrise: 6.8 miles, 4,000'
Day 1 - Half Dome, To Cathedral: 16.86 miles, 5,500'
Day 2 - To Rush Creek: 22.64 miles, 3,200'
Day 3 - Reds Meadow, To Red Cones: 24 miles, 4,000'
Day 4 - To Silver Pass: 19.8 miles, 4,900'
Day 5 - To Seldon Pass: 21.5 miles, 4,200'
Day 6 - MTR, To  Evolution: 19.8 miles, 2,700'
Day 7 - To Le Conte: 21.55 miles, 3,000'
Day 8 - To Pinochot: 18 miles, 5,300'
Day 9 - To Glen: 19.71 miles, 5,000'
Day 10 - To Crabtree: 21 miles, 4,700'
Day 11 - Whitney, Muir, To Portal - 20.74 miles, 4,900'
Total: 232 miles, 51,400'
[Pics] [CalTopo]

Back in May due to a variety of issues expounded on elsewhere I quit my job and went about seeing just how much trouble of an outdoor variety I could realistically get up to when not tied to a desk during the week. While still gainfully employed I had committed to a number of weekend backpacks for the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course but even sticking with those I ended up with a few tantalizingly long periods here and there that were just begging for the longer sort of a trips I always had to say no to. And hell, if I wasn't going to go big then I might as well still be working right?

The John Muir Trail is a well known 220 ish mile wilderness trail stretching from Yosemite Valley in the north and Mount Whitney in the south. I'd attempted it once before in 2013 setting an aggressive 25 mile a day pace that had been proven...challenging. And painful to the point I practically had PTSD about the whole experience for years after. And after all of that thanks to an early winter storm I'd had to exit at Kearsarge Pass instead of over Mount Whitney.

So while I'd seen *most* of the trail I'd had it on my list to go back at some point and do it propper. And seeing as how my girlfriend Jen had never done it and that as a teacher she has summers off plans started to solidify around a 12 day plan in early August which would mean a reasonable 20 mile a day average. And in the end we did it in 11! With side trips to Half Dome, Whitney, and Mount Muir thrown in for good measure. And far less pain and trauma. But a whole hell of a lot more mosquitos.

Mount Muir aka Mount Whitney's Much Cooler Neighbor

August 15th, 2019
Mount Muir (14,012')

I have been occasionally observed to not be the biggest fan of Mount Whitney. I love almost every aspect of the Sierra Nevada and after over a decade  backpacking and climbing my way across it it does make me a bit sad that the thing people are most familiar with is the highly trampled wag bag strewn mess that is the Mount Whitney Trail.

Don't get me wrong marching yourself up the well groomed trail is a physical challenge due to the altitude. And the views of the High Sierra are always impressive. And yes it is technically the highest point in the continental US. And what do you get at the top?

Big flat area. With a building. And it looks down on civilization (assuming you agree Lone Pine qualifies as civilization).

There are more adventurous routes like the excitingly named yet surprisingly simple Mountaineers Route or the technical east face routes but they all end somewhat anticlimactically on said plateau.

If you love it more power to you I just wish I could take you up something like Seven Gables, Mount Winchell, Spanish Mountain, or any of about 50 others in various spots in the Sierra that would absolutely knock your socks off.

Seven Gables: Cooler Than Mount Whitney
Now, lest I start sounding like some bitter climbing hipster the point of this post is actually to point out the far less visited yet far more interesting Mount Muir located a short distance of the trail just after leaving Trail Crest.