The Joy and Struggle of the Rae Lakes Trek

Watch as a first-time backpacker pushes through exhaustion and near-breakdown on one of the country’s most spectacular high altitude treks.


We recently posted a little trailer of Chris Smead’s new film, “The High Sierra Trail,” about Chris and a friend hiking over the spine of the southern Sierra Nevada to Mt. Whitney, but, it turns out, this wasn’t Smead’s first backpacking film. He’d also tackled the Rae Lakes Loop.

While talking to my wife recently about planning a trip to the Rae Lakes, a legendary loop in the Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park high country, I decided to look for videos of the place for inspiration.

The first video I clicked on was, unbelievably, also made by Smead. This one chronicles a trip he took with his wife last year to the Rae Lakes, when high snow kept them from being able access the trail from the west, where it typically begins at Road’s End, the deepest inroad of civilization into the park. They instead entered from the east side, in Onion Valley.

Amazingly, Chris’s wife Muzzy is a beginning backpacker, but still took on the sometimes menacing Glen Pass, at 11,926-feet, equipped with ice axe and crampons. There’s some drama here, as Muzzy understandably has a bit of a panic attack while dealing with the altitude, snow-covered trail, and exhaustion, so far from civilization.

I won’t spoil the rest, but it’s a great look at the Rae Lakes area, and at what a trek like that can demand.

 

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