The 2018 Sierra Challenge

I first heard about the Sierra Challenge late last summer when Richard, Robert, Brian, and I had decided to climb Whorl Mountain in northeastern Yosemite. Whorl Mountain is a fairly obscure peak and is more of a high point along a ridge line than a proper mountain in and of itself so it was strange that we were able to find so many high quality trip reports from the previous summer.

After connecting the dots I realized that all of these authors were participating in Bob Burd’s Sierra Challenge. I had never heard of the Sierra Challenge before, but I had of course heard of Bob Burd. Bob must be one of the most prolific dayhikers in all of California if not the United States, and he maintains the authoritative trip report for what seems like half of all the major summits in the Sierra Nevada. In particular his trip reports for Mt Gardiner and Mt Williamson were critical in making planning decisions for my successful summits.

As it turns out the Sierra Challenge is an annual dayhiking event which takes place in the Sierra Nevada. And it is Challenging. So of course I’ll be participating!

The itinerary as it currently stands includes:

DayPeakMileageElevation Gain (feet)
1Suicide Ridge225400
2San Joaquin Mountain113500
3McGee Pass Peak164500
4Knapsack Pass Peak184900
5Mt George Davis83400
6Staghorn Peak249700
7Kearsarge Pinnacle #8114500
8East Spur138400
9Candlelight Peak84100
10Sky Blue Lake Peak255800

Although there are some criteria for competition, this event is really just 10 days of structured Type 2 fun. At an average of 15.6 miles and 5,420 feet of elevation gain per day I am not too daunted and, although I am sure Day 6 will leave me aching, my goal is to complete each of the 10 Challenge Peaks, or a peak which is at least as hard.

For the most part I want to stick with the peaks as suggested and, seeing as San Joaquin Mountain is the only peak I’ve already visited, I don’t have much reason not to. However many of these peaks have been selected precisely because they haven’t yet been visited by the challenge yet and in many cases the routes will bypass much more interesting summits. In addition, Kearsarge Pinnacle #8 will involve some rock climbing so I may choose to go elsewhere so that I don’t hold everyone else up on the climb.

Regardless of which particular piece of Earth I decide to visit each day I am sure that there will be spectacular hiking!


Tomorrow I’ll stick to the route from Mono Village to Suicide Ridge as planned, which should provide some high quality trail to start and end the route and some fun mixed slab cross country hiking to the summit. It’s unlikely that I’ll be able to spy Whorl at any point, but that old friend won’t be far away and I expect that the terrain should be just as rugged and ancient.

Spiller Canyon
The view down Spiller Canyon, just south of Whorl Mountain.

There’s been some concern among members of the Challenge that smoke from various fires in the area will be too much, and according to Bob the visibility was less than a mile this afternoon near the trailhead in Bridgeport. Having just pulled up to my spot for the night, the stars are very bright and I have high hopes for tomorrow’s hike! If these clear nights stick around I hope to do some astrophotography, but I’m supposed to hit the trail at 5:30am tomorrow, so it’s off to sleep for me now!

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