Sierra Club High Trips

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The difference between High Trips, Base Camps, Cache and Carry trips, Burro Trips, and Saddle Trips

Through the 1950s, the Sierra Club ran a wide variety of trips, from High Trips that became a bit like traveling cities, Base Camps ('stationary' cities), to Three Camps (smaller moving cities) to even smaller knapsack (i.e. backpacking) trips. This note, by Richard M. Leonard, from 1947, helps illustrate some of the different trips once offered by the Sierra Club:

"The Sierra Club Base Camp, organized and managed by Oliver Kehrlein, had a total attendance of 145 at two sessions of two weeks each. Camp was made in the high country of the Fourth Recess of Mono Creek. This camp is similar to the mountain camps held by mountaineering clubs throughout the world. A fine location is established about one day’s pack from roadhead, and the surrounding country is thoroughly explored. The High Trip, on the other hand, is unique in permitting the members to move to new country every second or third day, and thus to explore by pack train remote wilderness areas that are inaccessible by any other means.

D. R. Brower was the organizer of the two-week “cache and carry” system of Knapsack Trips along the 13,900-ft. Kings-Kern divide of the Sierra Nevada, and among the glorious mountains of Grand Teton National Park. By careful planning in advance, food caches are established to permit high country off-trail exploration by knapsack, with loads not exceeding 20 pounds.

The other trips sponsored by the Sierra Club are the Burro Trips and the Saddle Trips. The Burro Trip is primarily for the purpose of instructing lovers of the wilderness in the technique of independent wilderness travel, doing all that is necessary to pack and care for a small pack train. Three of those trips indicate the enthusiasm with which people desire to learn. The Saddle Trip is the most luxurious of all, appealing particularly to those who love horses. Since all members are on horseback, a greater range of country can be covered than by other means."[1]

High Trips

Sierra Club High Trips began in 1901 after the organization's directors appointed a committee to "investigate and report on the feasibility of having a general club outing" during that coming summer.[2]

At some point the High Trips (appear to have) evolved into smaller burro and base camp trips (someone with copies of the Sierra Club bulletin that post-date the editions on could probably explore this more).

1901: Tuolumne Meadows


Supplies were packed in via a wagon train that started in Merced and continued along Tioga Road, where participants joined the wagon train at Porcupine Flat and left Yosemite Valley over the Yosemite Falls trail on Saturday, July 13 at 5 a.m. (after a two day delay to the wagon train owing to snow and a broken bridge).[3]. On Sunday, July 14, after arriving in Porcupine Flat, "many" of the party of 96 climbed Mt. Hoffman, and for most of that group, this would be their first mountain climb of their lives and they were "delighted to conquer a real mountain and encouraged to attempt the higher peaks to come later in the trip." Early in the afternoon on Monday, the party arrived at their next camp, Lake Tenaya. Then, Tuesday evening, the party reached their "permanent camp in the Tuolumne Meadows". Most participants walked to the destination in Tuolumne Meadows, though some road horseback.


Peaks visited include: Mount Hoffman, Mount Dana, Mount Lyell, and Lambert's Dome.

Plan for 1902

Writing of the proposed 1902 trip, the outing committee wrote:

"The main trip ... will be to the King's River Cañon and vicinity, and an opportunity afforded as mean as may desire, to return via the Giant Forest. ... In regard to the main outing, it is proposed to enter the mountains by way of Sanger, to which point railroad accommodations can be secured. From Sanger to Millwood, a distance of forty-six miles, stages will be provided, and at the end of the stage-road the party will immediately go into camp. Over the trails beyond this point the Club is not to be responsible for the transportation of anything other than baggage and freight, all members of the party being expected to walk the remaining distance of thirty-fix miles, in from two to three days, though any person desiring to ride may be able to secure a saddle-horse on his on responsibility. The main camp will be established at the upper end of the King's River Cañon, and the main objective point for the mountain ascent shall be Mt. Brewer. From the main camp many splendid walks and high mountain climbs can be taken, and many may prefer to remain in the cañon enjoying camp life, fishing, etc., during the whole outing. For those wishing to see the finest mountain scenery in the region,--the finest in fact to be found in the whole Sierra Nevada range,--an excursion will be arranged up the great cañon of Bubb's Creek, to East Lake, from which the ascent of Mt. Brewer (13,886 feet) can be made. This point is chosen as furnishing, in the belief of your committee, the very finest mountain view to be obtained in the range, far surpassing that from Whitney, Williamson, or any of the higher summits. From East lake, the party will return to Bubb's Creek, and proceed up its cañon to Bullfrog Lake, whence the Kearsarge Pass (12,050 feet) and University Peak (13,950 feet) may be climbed, and then return to the King's River camp. A pack-train will be running between Millwood and the King's River Cañon once or twice every week, so that mail can be sent out, and persons called away on business will have no trouble in leaving at almost any time. Large tents for general assemblage, cooks, packers, and pack-train, will be provided by the Club. it is expected that the high standard of excellence set last summer will in every way be maintained. The cost of the outing need not exceed forty dollars. [ed: $1243.84 in 2019]."[4]

1902: King's River Cañon

The trip appears to have followed the plan, as proposed in 1901 (see above). For more information on their route, see the trip report by Charlotte Sanderson, and an (approximate) map based on her trip report. If viewing the map, be sure to toggle the base layers between the modern and historical maps. Of note, the party dropped into "King's River Cañon" by way of Horse Corral and the trail from Summit Meadow down into Cedar Grove, as SR-180 wouldn't connect Grant's Grove with Kings River Canyon for another three years.


  • Lookout Peak ("Lookout Mountain")
  • Grand Sentinel
  • Avalanche Peak
  • Goat Mountain
  • Mount Rixford
  • Mount Gould
  • University Peak

Report of the Outing Committee

The King's River Outing of 1902

It may be of interest to some members of the Club who were unable join the outing party to the King's River Cañon to know that it was an uqualified success. The trip involved fifty miles of staging [ed: stage coach riding] and thirty-five of packing over a rough mountain trail before the main camp in the King's River Cañon was reached. Oven two hundred people made the trip to the main camp, which was established for five weeks. over one hundred of this number went up Bubb's Creek Cañon to the very crest of the High Sierra at Kearsarge Pass, and fifty of the hardiest mountaineers climbed Mt. Brewer, nearly 14,000 feet in elevation. Considering that some 25,000 pounds of personal baggage and camp equipage had to be transported to the main camp on the backs of animals, and that during the entire trip, including many side trips involving rough mountaineering work, no accident happened to any member of the party, the Committee feel that they are justly to be congratulated, and they take this opportunity of expressing their thanks for the able assistance they received from members of the party. Financially the trip was a success, and over one hundred dollars remains in the outing fund to pay for printing and other expenses preliminary to the outing planned for next summer.

Plans for the Sierra Club Outing of 1903

"Profiting by the invaluable experience of previous outings, the Committee are planning an outing for the summer of 1903 that will be even a more complete success in all its details than those of the past.

At the present writing, provided certain physical obstructions can be removed and the rivers to be crossed made passable, it is the intention of the Commitee to have themain camp of the outing at Lake Eleanor. This beautiful mountain lake is situated at an elevation of almost 5,000 feet, and just at the doorway of a most rugged and almost unexplored alpine region lying to the east and toward the main crest of the Sierra.

The numberless streams and smaller lakes in the vicinity abound in trout.

The main camp-site is comparatively easy of access, being but twenty miles by train from a little logging train. This train takes the place of the usual stage-ride, and will land the party far up the sugar-pine belt. From this point to the camp-site the trail leads through one of the finest pine forests in the world and crosses several small and picturesque rivers. Members of the party can easily reach the main camp in two days from the city. From the camp several very attractive trips of a day each can be taken. The rim of that other world-renowned Yosemite, the Hetch Hetchy Valley, is but for our five miles from the proposed camp-site. The falls and cliffs of the Hetch Hetchy are wonderful beyond description and much finer than those of the King's River, and though on the whole they do not equal in grandeur those of Yosemite, yet they possess many features which are as attractive. an exceptional opportunity will be afforded for taking the famous knapsack trip down the Grand Cañon of the Tuolumne. It is also proposed to take those of the party who desire it across country and into the Yosemite Valley, form which place they will return home over the customary routes. An expedition to the crest of the High Sierra will be made by more hardy mountaineers.

A climb of Mt. Shasta immediately following the main outing is also being planned.

Complete details of the trips will be issued in the customary announcements early in the Spring." -- Wm. E. Colby, Chairman, J. N. LeConte, E. T. Parsons, Outing Committee. [5]

Base Camp destinations

1940: East Lake


The first annual Sierra Club Base Camp outing took place from July 28 - August 10, 1940 at East Lake. As opposed to some of the other club outings, the idea with the Base Camps was to "thoroughly 'do' a given territory". If that was the goal, it appears they succeeded in spades with the Base Camps. During the 1940 edition they collected nearly 600 flora specimens for the California Academy of Sciences, studied and photographed 6 local residual glaciers, held classes in botany, map reading, camping, first aid, rock climbing, and glaciology. They also recorded over 200 individual ascents during the eleven days in camp. With respect to peakbagging specifically, at least four groups left camp each day to visit the surrounding peaks, and 10 unclimbed peaks were eliminated from the club's "unclimbed records". Additionally, daily horseback trips were taken to Bullfrog Lake, Glenn Pass, and Kearsarge Pass. There was also a knapsack trip to Forester Pass and Junction Peak, among others. Finally, their kitchen was so well stocked that they had fresh meat, vegetables, pies, and even ice cream with regularity. Oh, and there were 100 people. See the Base Camp Book (1940) for more information.

Of the location, Art Argiewicz wrote:

"LOCATION: The campsite for the first annual Base Camp is ideally located for climbing. East Lake, situated at the foot of South Guard, is ringed in the east by West Spur and Deerhorn; in the south by the imposing Kings Kern Divide dominated by Mt. Stanford and the massive crags of Ericsson; in the west by the massive wall of Mt. Brewer.

Interesting side trips are afforded by the many lake basins in this region to the less ambitious, who, while not content to sit idly, are not affected by that type of insanity common to all climbers.

It is worthy of note that Oliver [ed: Kehrlein], not to be outdone by the Hi-Trip management, did not allow one drop of rainfall in the entire two weeks spent at East Lake, much to the delight of climber and camp-lizard alike." -- Art Argiewicz, Base Camp Book (1940), p. 19.


  • "July 30. 12,222 (first ascent) -- On the end of a ridge extending N.W. from West Spur. Climbed from lake basin at foot of Deerhorn. Party led by Wm. Morrison included Lee Morrison, Endicott Hanson, Dick Kauffman, and Bob Leggett, Jr.
  • July 30. 11,844 (first ascent)[6] -- Farthest point on a ridge extending to the N.E. of North Guard. Party led by Art Argiewicz included Edith Mains, Norman Roth, Walter Marx, Wayne Bryant, Bob Sconborn, Ted Simon, and Fred Foulon.
  • July 31. 11,593 (first ascent) -- A large, cleaver-shaped peak towering just W. of East Lake. Led by Oliver Kehrlein,--Davie Davidson, Tom Noble, S. Reynolds, Bob Reynolds, Virgina Whitacre, Edith Sperry, and Grace Winters made the ascent from East Lake by way of the north farce.
  • July 31. Mount Brewer-- The first of several ascents of this impressive mountain by the Base Camp Trippers by an experienced party under the leadership of Lee Stopple and including Harry Wessenberg, Avis Bryson, Mildred Pinniger, Ralph Chase, Norman Roth, Fritz Borncamp, Charles Stearnes, Harvey Dowling, Charles Bram, Louis West, and Helen Basdale. The route was by way of Ouzel Creek and a rounded buttress extending from the summit eastward.
  • August 2. Mt. Stanford--Highest peak on the Kings Kern Divide this mountain offers a superb view of the Sierra crest. In order to enjoy this view without discomfort of a chilling afternoon wind which had made itself noticeable in this region, Art Argiewicz, (leader), Paul Estes, Ben Mason, and Dick Kauffman left East Lake at 7:30 a.m. After a fairly easy climb up the west face and N. arete, the summit was reached at 11:25. After a two hour (and breezeless) stay on the summit, a traverse by way of the South Peak and Harrison Pass was decided upon. After a quick traverse and descent East Lake was reached at 4:10 p.m.
  • August 3. Mt. Jordan-- By way of Reflection Lake and a basin to the S.E. Art Argiewicz (leader), Ginny Whitacre, Walter Marx, Barbara Saunders, Wm. Morrison, Norman Roth, and Lee Morrison, made a fourth ascent and a first traverse of the interesting peak. After a case of mistaken summits, the party negotiated the delicate five foot leap necessary to attain the summit without undue difficulty. A descent of the west face was decided upon and a happy, if slightly weary, party arrived at East Lake in time for a late dinner.
  • August 3. Mt. Genevra-- With its twin summits, it is the only peak of the Kings Kern Divide whose summit is visible from East Lake. Bob Sconberg (leader), Ted Simon, Dave Davidson, Harvey dowling, Lee Stoppel, and Ervin Lix weakened to its challenge and started out; after first climbing the elusive Lucy's Foot Pass and the N.E. arete they reached the summit in time to wave at the party on Mt. Jordan, then descended to East Lake and supper.
  • August 3. Botrichium Peak-- Named thus because of the abundance of that otherwise rare plant in the region. A first ascent of the N. face by Alan MacRae (leader), Wayne Bryant, Ray Moose, and Bert Elosser Jr. A large party, led by Oliver Kehrlein followed.
  • August 4. Mt. Ericsson-- An ascent of this impressive peak was made by Alan MacRae and Dick Kauffman, by way of Harrison Pass.
  • Glacier E. of Brewer and Mt. Brewer-- Starting out on what was intended to be an exploration of an alleged glacier on the E. face of Brewer, Oliver Kehrlein (leader), Endicott Hanson, A. Fruge, G. Fruge, Louis West, Bob Leggett, and Amby Mulay couldn't resist the urge to continue the climb to the summit when a spectacular, new, snow and ice route up a couloir just N. of the summit confronted them. The top was gained at 5 p.m. and the descent was completed by the party safe at East Lake at 11 o'clock.
  • August 4. Junction Peak-- As a climax to a knapsack trip, Junction Peak was climbed by Ralph A. Chase (leader), Harry Wessenberg, Mildred Pinniger, and Edith Sperry.
  • August 5. Deerhorn Mt.-- This spectacular mountain was climbed by way of Deerhorn basin (W. of West Spur) was made by Bill Morrison (leader), Dick Kauffman, and Norman Roth.
  • August 6. Mt. Brewer-- On this, the third ascent of Mt. Brewer from the Base Camp, Oliver Kehrlein led up the S.E. arete no less than thirty-eight climbers, many of whom had never climbed a peak before. A party led by Art Argiewicz, including Alan MacRae and Barbara Saunders also made a leisurely ascent of Oliver's newly discovered snow and ice route, meeting the larger party on top in time for a late lunch and a marvelous view.
  • August 8. 13,110 & 13,027-- Located just N. of Thunder Mt. these two peaks form the highest points on a ridge that extends from South Guard to THunder Mt. Oliver Kehrlein, leading a party composed of Ben Mason, Endicott Hanson, Dick Kauffman, Art Argiewicz and Al Whitney, climbed steadily up the rugged E. face of the ridge. At the top the party traversed from north to south, climbing several minor summits, discovering a cairn on 13,027, and finally making a first ascent of 13,110.
  • August 8. Mt. Stanford-- Bill Mirrison and Alan MacRae made the second ascent of this peak on the trip, following the same route as the first party.
  • August 8. Nunatak (12,341)-- standing in the center of the basin S. of South Guard, this interesting peak yielded a first ascent to Ginny Whitacre, Davie Davidson, Peter Friedrickson (leader) and Louis West.
  • West Spur--(12,686) Climbed by way of Deerhorn Basin, by William Morrison (leader), Wayne Bryant, Ann Housen and William Pinniger, swelling the already long list of first ascends made by the Base Campers. [ed: a handwritten note is as follows: "They chanced to arrive 20 minutes before Richard L. Bower, climbing alone cautiously and happily from Vidette Lake. He was enjoying the climb until they gave the deep freeze treatment (he might have cost them their all-important 'first-ascent'!). There was no cordiality or pleasantness whatsoever!]"[7]

1941: Garnet Lake


The second annual Sierra Club Base Camp took place from July 26 through August 9, 1941. This time, in addition to botany, geology, glaciology, rock climbing, etc., there was even skiing. Additionally, over 550 plant specimens were collected for the Academy of Sciences. Fifty-nine participants summited a peak, and a new route was established on Ritter. Additionally, Lorin Trubschenk skied the full length of Banner Glacier an the snow fields below, and Carl Hogue caught a 17.5" trout. For more, see the 1942 Sierra Club Base Camp Book.


The only mentioned peak is Mount Ritter. Sad.

1942 Little Five Lakes


1942 brought both both another Base Camp trip, this time to the Great Western Divide and the watershed of the Big Arroyo. See 1942 Sierra Club Outings Book for exact detail. Both trips began in Mineral King, though they'd each have unique, though partially overlapping, experiences.

Three Camps

From Mineral King, the Three Camps folks crossing over Franklin Pass to their first camp at Forester Lake. From there, Shotgun Pass, and Rattlesnake Creek were visited and "a half dozen unclimbed peaks were assaulted."[8] The second camp "was established in the lower end of the Big Arroyo after a rough trip down the little visited Soda Creek." From there side trips were made to Moraine Lake and the Chagoopa Plateau. The third, and final camp, was then made at Little Five Lakes, where participants "took daily trips to the Big Five Lakes, Nine Lake Basin, Kaweah Gap, Precipice Lake and to the numerous un-named creek and lake basins to the north." On the return, the group split into two parts, with one group making a single day push through Lost Canyon and Columbine Lake over Sawtooth Gap; the second group exited in two days by way of Black Rock Pass, Pinto Lake, Cliff Creek, and Timber Gap.

Base Camp

Whereas the Three Camps group exited over Black Rock Pass and Timber Gap, the Base Camp group entered that way, and then spent two weeks at Little Five Lakes in the same spot as the Three Camps group.[9] The Base Camp group visited the same scenic spots, "but managed to get in more mountain climbing." John Thomas Howell was at once again, this time collecting "some 800 specimens for the California Academy of Sciences."


Ascent of West Spur of the Black Kaweah

By Paul Hunter

August 3, we set out from 1942 Base Camp in Little Five Lakes Basin to explore Nine Lake Basin and confirm the report of an existent glacier. Present: Oliver Kehrlein (leader), Carolyn Palmer, Fred Johnson, Copeland Palmer, Paul Hunter.

Dean Curtis had given us such a good breakfast that we couldn't fail to accomplish something. we left the John Muir Trail about a mile and a half below Kaweah Gap, and headed diagonally up the east slope, in order to obtain a birdseye view of Nine Lakes Basin. We found plenty of pinus albicaulis [ed: whitebark pine], but no glacier. The ridge on which we found ourselves ran diagonally from east of Kaweah Gap toward the Black Kaweah Summit.

One or two climbers were observed gazing longingly toward the Black Kaweah, so, although we hadn't planned to climb it, we changed our course upward and to southeast, in the hope of obtaining a close view of the summit pinnacle. After a short trek on the ridge we contoured around two couloirs to the southeast and ascended a wide one toward what appeared to be the summit.

The rocks on the spur, from start to finish, were very treacherous and extreme care was necessary to avoid dislodging them onto the persons below. We headed for a snowdrift near the sky line, and found that it was melting freely at the elevation of 13,200 feet. By scooping a small dam, we obtained excellent water.

We climbed about 300 feet more, crossed a sharp buttress to the south for our first glimpse of Black Kaweah, about a quarter-mile east, but hopelessly distant at 1:00 P.M., considering all the slow rock work required. We cached our packs and ice axes here and completed the ascent (perhaps a first) of the west spur, using the rope for safety at one point. Finding no record of previous ascent, we erected a cairn and signed up. The view was similar to that from the Kaweah to the southwest, but was cut off to the east and far more extensive to the worth.

Good view: Nine Lake Basin almost under us, with blue water of many shades, as well as ice and snow. There was no flat surface on the west peak, so it was necessary to hold tight on the knife-like edge. Pebbles dropped on north side sailed clear for a considerable distance.

Returning to our cache we were obliged to rope together again until we arrived above the spring. We lunched at the spring and dropped down the wide couloir, in a more direct return route, using utmost care to avoid dislodging rocks. All went well until nearly off the bad rocks, when the second climber almost "rubbed out" the leader under a 200 pound, boulder, but Oliver Kehrlein was too fast and outran the boulder in circutuous [sic] down-hill course.

We approached what resembled a cliff, but it petered out and we reached timberline and a lovely hanging garden along a ledge as we entered the Big Arroyo. The water was welcome, as we had found only one source during the day.

Our return route lay in a beeline contour through the woods, coming out near the top of the switchbacks above the Big Arroyo ranger station. We reached Base Camp during the dinner hour, and enjoyed Dean Curtis' deluxe chicken dinner. A perfect day![10]

Ascent of Mt. Kaweah

By Paul Hunter

"Off" at 6:00 a.m. to climb the "Big" Kaweah on the way to the one-night camp at Moraine Lake, we encountered our first obstacle in the form of frost encrusted log [sic] across the Big Arroyo. After our leader had overcome this setback, John Thomas Howell obtained "the" botanical specimine of the season, or one of them, right at the vacant ranger-station corral.

At a small lake where the trail entered the Chagoopa Plateau we cached our packs and began the ascent on the crescent-route, to come out at the col directly northwest of the summit. This avoided some rough rock scrambling and steep snowbanks. John Thomas Howell brought up the rear, collecting en route. At timberline we found a single specimine of pinus albiaulis [ed: whitebark pine] among the storm beaten foxtail.

At the col we rested briefly in the shelter of rocks out of the wind. A short climb from there brought us to the false summit on the northwest end of the summit ridge, where we put a small cairn. Then we crossed a few hundred feet of ridge-rocks to the true summit.

The view from Mt. Kaweah's 13,816 foot summit is probably one of the best in the Sierra, covering as it does a complete circle of grand mountain scenery devoid of any visible man-made improvement, with the single exception of the stone-house on Mt. Whitney.

Among other things, we saw: Mts. Goddard, Banner, Ritter, the Red Kaweah, Alta Peak, Mt. Silliman, Moose Lake, Moro Rock, Panther Peak; The Great Western Divide (Mts. Stewart, Eisen, Eagle Scout (Peak), Lippincott, Sawtotoh (Peak); Big Five Lakes Basin, Little Five Lakes Basin (Base Camp), Lost Canyon, Soda Creek, Moraine Lake, Kern River Canyon, Crabtree Meadows, The Tehachapi, Kaweah Gap, Big Arroyo, San Gabriel Ridge, and Sand Bernardino Mts., and the peaks of crest [sic], Langley, LeConte, Mallory, Irvine, Whitney, Russell, Barnard, Tyndall, Williamson and the King Kern Divide. A lake immediately below Mt. Kaweah, on the north side, was still covered with ice and snow.

Our descent was by a different route, almost a straight line from the summit toward our cached packs. At one point we veered slightly to the southeast to avoid a sheer cliff. After a long, hot day we finally reached a stream (our first water) in a meadow filled with wild onions.

"Three miles more" they said, would bring us to Moraine Lake. But the last short miles stretched and stretched until they became six long miles. Although tired, we seemed to gain vigor with each mile through the beautiful pine forest on the Chagoopa Plateau. The trail sloped gently, until near the lake, it descended more abruptly.

We reached the camp at Moraine Lake about half an hour before dark to enjoy the corned beef hash and hot drinks that Marion Jones and Cohorts had ready for us and the campfire organized by Tyler Van Degrift.

Mileage: Approximately eighteen and differences in elevation 4000 feet.

Present: Oliver Kehrlein (leader), Cope Palmer (ass't leader), Fred Johnson, Walter Marx, Homer Wellman, Peter Kehrlein, Carolyn Palmer, John Thomas Howell, Parker Severson and Paul Hunter.


  1. Richard M. Leonard, AAC, Mountain Activities of the Sierra Club, 1946.
  2. Sierra Club Bulletin, Vol 3, pp. 250-253. See
  3. The Sierra Club Outing to Tuolumne Meadows, SCB vol. 4, no. 1, p. 20. All citations in this paragraph to this article unless noted
  4. The Sierra Club Outing to Tuolumne Meadows, SCB vol. 4, no. 1, p. 62-63.
  5. Report of the Outing Committee, SCB vol. 4., no.3, p. 237, available at
  6. NE of Marmot Ridge -- 3622T.
  7. Mountaineering Notes on the 1940 Base Camp, Art Argiewicz, Base Camp Book 1940.
  8. Sierra Club Base Camp Book 1942, p. 12, available at All references in this paragraph are identical.
  9. Ibid. All references in this paragraph are identical.