Welcome to the High Sierra Backpacker's Magazine, including forums for local and long-distance hikers sharing info about hiking the Sierra between Tahoe and Whitney.

This Magazine covers everything Sierra. Its
Forums cover TYT, PCT, & JMT and alt-route hiker input from the Guide. The Tahoe to Whitney Trail Guide explores the trails  & the necessary skills, fitness, and gear required to hike from Tahoe to Whitney. This evolving Magazine covers Current Conditions, News, the Arts, Sciences, Physicality, Spirituality, Gear, Environment, History, and Cultures of hiking Tahoe to Whitney. 

Purposes: Expand Knowledge, Explore Potential

for Beginners: To get you off the couch, gear you up, get you into Sierra Shape, and onto the High Sierra Trails. Find info. Ask questions, get feedback, generate self-understanding and terrain awareness. Find killer short routes up and down the High Sierra Crest.

for Backpackers: Get you in deeper, longer, and higher. Train for the long trails. Find your next-steps trips. Hit the Long Trails. Hike the TYT and JMT. Find and explore side trails, alternative, and cross-country routes until you hike your skills into Winter compentency. Explore your potential.

for Experts: The information to come from anywhere in the US or world and backpack from Tahoe to Whitney. The Sierra Nevada is the ultimate wonderland for expert backpackers in top shape. But don't get cocky! The Sierra is bigger, stronger, and has been, and will be here much longer than any of us.  

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Tick News: Oh-Oh, New, Nasty-Assed Tick in Eastern US



New Tick has Vast Range



Oh-Oh, New, Nasty-Assed Tick in Eastern US

Asian Longhorned Tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis) Asian Longhorned tick, Penn State Extension
Photo Credit: Thanks, Penn State Extension

Two Stories: New York Times & Ars Technica


An Invasive New Tick Is Spreading in the U.S.,
New York Times, August 6, 2018.

"...is spreading rapidly along the Eastern Seaboard. It has been found in seven states and in the heavily populated suburbs of New York City."

"It’s not known when or how long-horned ticks reached the United States, nor why the species is spreading so fast now."

"In theory, just one female could have produced all the long-horned ticks spreading in the country through asexual reproduction. But Dr. Egizi said she has found three mitochondrial DNA lineages, meaning at least three females arrived."

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Mountain Birds Declining in Europe due to Climate & Habitat Changes


Up to 10% Decline in Mountain-Specialists
Snow bunting, a mountain-specialist whose population has declined, by Aleksi Lehikoinen of University of Helsinki.
Snow bunting, a mountain-specialist whose population has declined, by Aleksi Lehikoinen of University of Helsinki

Mountain birds declining in Europe,
University of Helsinki, December 13, 2018.


“...the abundances of mountain-specialist birds has declined by as much as 10% in the 2000s. ”

Running our of “Running” Room
“These species are also very susceptible to climate change, as global warming is reducing their liveable habitats. In principle, species may relocate further up the mountains, but closer to the top their habitat inevitably shrinks.”

It’s Us!
“...declined in line with climate change projections.”

Alex Wierbinski's picture

HEALTH & FITNESS NEWS: Organic Food Worse for the Climate?


Industrial Agriculture vs Organic
Illustration by Yen Strandqvist of the Chalmers University of Technology showing how much more effective industrial agriculture is at producing food.
Illustration by Yen Strandqvist of the Chalmers University of Technology showing how much more effective industrial agriculture is at producing food.

Are the Lunatics Running the Asylum?

Short Answer: Yup!

Organic food worse for the climate,
Chalmers University of Technology, December 13, 2018.


"Organically farmed food has a bigger climate impact than conventionally farmed food, due to the greater areas of land required."

Massive CO2 Increases
“Our study shows that organic peas, farmed in Sweden, have around a 50 percent bigger climate impact than conventionally farmed peas. For some foodstuffs, there is an even bigger difference – for example, with organic Swedish winter wheat the difference is closer to 70 percent...”

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Observing the Celestial Sphere, Dec 2018: Comet 46P/Wirtanen & The Geminids TONIGHT


Observing the Celestial Sphere TONIGHT

Comet 46P/Wirtanen & The Geminids
Tonight, December 14


Comet 46P/Wirtanen

See a Passing Comet This Sunday,
NASA, December 14, 2018.


46P/Wirtanen at perihelion,
In the Sky, December 13, 2018.


DATA: comet 46P/Wirtanen,
In the Sky, December 13, 2018.



Geminids Reaching Peak Tonight

Geminid meteor shower,
In the Sky, December 13, 2018.



In the Sky

2018: Descent of the Summer Triangle, Rise of the Winter Circle



Star Maps & Charts

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Despite More Intense Rain, Blue Water Decline from Warmer Soil’s Reduced Runoff


Blue Water Decline from Warmer Soil’s Reduced Runoff

The long dry: why the world's water supply is shrinking,
University of New South Wales, December 13, 2018.


More Rain = Less Water
“...our water supplies are shrinking at the same time as climate change is generating more intense rain.”

“...the most exhaustive global analysis of rainfall and rivers...”

No Models
“...relied on actual data from 43,000 rainfall stations and 5,300 river monitoring sites in 160 countries, instead of basing its findings on model simulations of a future climate, which can be uncertain and at times questionable.”

"We expected rainfall to increase, since warmer air stores more moisture - and that is what climate models predicted too. What we did not expect is that, despite all the extra rain everywhere in the world, is that the large rivers are drying out.“

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July’s, “Bay-Delta Plan,” Reducing California River Water Withdraws, PASSED


July’s, “Bay-Delta Plan,” Reduced River Water Withdraws, PASSED

State board approves controversial river flows. What’s the next step for MID, TID?
Modesto Bee, December 12, 2018.

This article above & below references the Dept of Water Resources, “Bay-Delta Plan,” of last July:
California proposes reducing river flows for farms & cities


“The state board, on a 4-1 vote Wednesday, approved a Bay-Delta plan that includes what the districts consider unacceptable flow requirements for the Tuolumne River, as well as the Stanislaus and Merced rivers, a decision that’s expected to spawn lawsuits in the next 30 days.”

“The MID and TID, and its partner the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, wanted more time for an environmental review on the voluntary settlement negotiated with representatives of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and Department of Water Resources.”

MID Modesto Irrigation District

TID Turlock Irrigation District

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Research: Increasing Antarctic Snowing Replacing a Third of Increasing Ice Loss


Increased Snowing Replacing a Third of Ice Loss

100 Years of Accumulated Mass Change over Antarctica
100 Years of Accumulated Mass Change over Antarctica. Credit to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
Antarctic Ice Mass Change Gauge, the Last Hundred Years, credit to NASA!
Credit to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Check out the Video on the Report.



Snow over Antarctica buffered sea level rise during last century,
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, December 13, 2018.



Steadily Increasing Snowfall
“...an increase in snowfall accumulation over Antarctica during the 20th century mitigated sea level rise by 0.4 inches. However, Antarctica's additional ice mass gained from snowfall makes up for just about a third of its current ice loss.”

“...without these gains, we would have experienced even more sea level rise in the 20th century."

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2,500 year old, 881,849 pound, Quarter-Square Mile Super Mushroom


Super Shroom

2,500 year old, 881,849 pound, Quarter-Square Mile Super Mushroom

'Humongous fungus': 25 years later, this Armillaria gallica is bigger than first thought, says researcher,
Physorg, University of Toronto, November 14, 2018.


“In 1992...estimated that the honey mushroom, which is growing in a forest on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, was 1,500 years old, weighed 100,000 kilograms and covered 15 hectares.

Today’s Estimate
“Using current research and analytic techniques...that the mushroom is at least 2,500 years old, weighs 400,000 kilograms and covers about 70 hectares.”

"I view these estimates as the lower bound."

Alex Wierbinski's picture

December 2018 All High Sierra Outdoors & Nature News Index


December 27, 2018









High Sierra Backpacker's News
 Man and Nature

December, 2018

Happenings in the relationship between Man and Nature affecting our hike down life's trail through both worlds. We study both the reality created by humans and the uncreated reality reflected in, and tended by Nature. 

The vast majority of our reporting on Nature comes from the American Association of Scientists summarizations of each day's bounty of the peer-reviewed research published by academic institutions and journals around the world.

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Arctic Report Card Documents 'Cascading Effects' Of Warming Ocean Temperatures


The Grading Process
NOAA science on Arctic Ice, photo credit NOAA.
NOAA Science on the Arctic Ice, Credit NOAA.

Global Ramifications

Arctic Report Card Documents 'Cascading Effects' Of Warming Ocean Temperatures,
NPR, December 12, 2018.

2018 NOAA Arctic Report Card


Vast Transformation
“The Arctic has experienced the "most unprecedented transition in history" in terms of warming temperatures and melting ice, and those changes may be the cause of extreme weather around the globe, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 2018 Arctic Report Card.”

“...rapid warming over the past three decades has led to a 95 percent decline of the Arctic's oldest and thickest ice.”

“...it may be the catalyst for extreme environmental events across the world.”

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All Alaska-North Canadian Infrastructure at “Immediate” Risk


All Alaska-North Canadian Infrastructure at “Immediate” Risk

Study: Degrading permafrost puts Arctic infrastructure at risk by mid-century,
University of Alaska Fairbanks, December 11, 2018.

Holy Alaska!
UAF researcher Vladimir Romanovsky poses in a place where permafrost has thawed, causing a surface disruption. UAF photo.
UAF researcher Vladimir Romanovsky poses near Fairbanks, Alaska in a place where permafrost has thawed, causing a surface disruption. UAF photo


70% in 30 Years
“Seventy percent of the current infrastructure in the Arctic has a high potential to be affected by thawing permafrost in the next 30 years. ”

No Escape
“...meeting the climate change targets of the Paris Agreement will not substantially reduce those projected impacts”

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Greenland Ice Sheet Melt 'Off the Charts' Compared with past Four Centuries

December 10th!



Waterworld on the Way

Greenland ice sheet melt 'off the charts' compared with past four centuries,
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, December 5, 2018.


“Ice loss from Greenland is one of the key drivers of global sea level rise.”

"Melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet has gone into overdrive. As a result, Greenland melt is adding to sea level more than any time during the last three and a half centuries, if not thousands of years."

"And increasing melt began around the same time as we started altering the atmosphere in the mid-1800s."

Off the Charts
“From a historical perspective, today's melt rates are off the charts, and this study provides the evidence to prove this"

Vast Increases in Melting
"We found a fifty percent increase in total ice sheet meltwater runoff versus the start of the industrial era, and a thirty percent increase since the 20th century alone."

Alex Wierbinski's picture

HEALTH NEWS: Weak Fat Children Around World, & 88% of American Adults Metabolically Unfit



Two Research Reports

1> Weak Fat Children Around World

2> 88% of American Adults Metabolically Unfit


December 10
Science Tracking Tech Tards



1> A Technological Wonder!

Fat , Weak Children Around World

Childhood physical inactivity reaches crisis levels around the globe,
Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, November 26, 2018.


“Children around the world are not moving enough to maintain healthy growth and development...”

“…compared 49 countries from six continents to assess global trends in childhood physical activity in developed and developing nations...”

Modern Zombie Fatasses
“...modern lifestyles – increases in screen time, the growing urbanization of communities and the rise in automation of previously manual tasks – are contributing to a pervasive public health problem that must be recognized as a global priority.”

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Totten and Four East Antarctic Glacial Neighbors are Moving


East Antarctic Glaciers Moving Rapidly
Totten and E Antarctic Glaciers, Landsat 8 — OLI
Totten & E Antarctic Glaciers, NASA, Landsat 8 — OLI

Totten, & More Glaciers in East Antarctica Are Waking Up

Totten and Four Neighbors are Moving,
NASA Earth Observatory, December 11, 2018.


It’s Moving
“...scientists have long considered the eastern half of the continent to be more stable than West Antarctica. Now new maps of ice velocity and elevation show that a group of glaciers spanning one-eighth of the East Antarctic coast have been losing some ice over the past decade.”

“...found that the surface height of four glaciers west of Totten, in an area facing Vincennes Bay, has dropped by an average of nearly three meters (9 feet) since 2008.”

East Antarctica on the Move
“Such levels of ice loss are small when compared to those of glaciers in West Antarctica. But still they speak of nascent and widespread change in East Antarctica.”

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Two Twin Tunnels Articles: Water & Growth, Another Arena of Extreme Political Corruption



LATEST UPDATE: Third Article, below, Added
December 10, 2018

Delta Stewardship Council Hurdle Derails Devils Straws

A Temporary Reprieve


Delta tunnels won’t get green light before Gov. Brown leaves office. What will Gavin Newsom do?
Sac Bee, December 7, 2018.


Dead for Now!
“...the Department of Water Resources withdrew its petition to the Delta Stewardship Council to have the project deemed in compliance with what’s known as the the Delta Plan, a set of policy goals, mandated by state law, that put protection and restoration of the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta estuary’s eco-system on an equal footing with more reliable water supplies.”

“Without the council’s green light, the $16.7 billion project, known officially as California WaterFix, can’t go forward.”

“Now they have to go back to the drawing board and prepare a new certificate.”

“it’s hard to see how these issues could be fixed quickly.”

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Spider Babies Like Spider Milk


Spider Babies Drink Spider Milk

The Next Health Food Fad for Yuppies we will see at Whole Foods?

Until leaving the nest, jumping spiders suckle spider milk from their moms,
American Association for the Advancement of Science, November 29, 2018.


Spider Milk!
“...some baby jumping spiderlings are entirely dependent on nutritious spider milk secreted and fed to them by their mothers. What's more, spider mothers continue to care for and feed their offspring the nutritious milk-like fluid - which contains nearly four times the protein of cow's milk - into their subadult lives and long after they're able to forage on their own.”

8 Spider Tits?
“...the possibility that long-term, milk-provisioning maternal care may be more common in the animal kingdom than previously believed.”

Spider Maternity
“While lactation-like provisioning is known elsewhere in the animal kingdom, the intensity and duration of associated parental care is uniquely mammalian and thought to increase fitness by providing the opportunity for offspring to learn behaviors crucial for survival.”

Alex Wierbinski's picture

All Starlight EVER Measured Through Time’s Foggy Lens



Let There be Light. Lots of Light

All Starlight EVER Measured Through Time’s Foggy Lens

Clemson scientists measure all of the starlight ever produced by the observable universe,
Clemson University, November 29, 2018.


The Great Fog
“...gamma rays (the most energetic form of light) and their interaction with the extragalactic background light (EBL), which is a cosmic fog composed of all the ultraviolet, visible and infrared light emitted by stars or from dust in their vicinity.”

How Thick
“...using Fermi's Large Area Telescope data to analyze the extragalactic background light. Starlight that escapes galaxies, including the most distant ones, eventually becomes part of the EBL. Therefore, accurate measurements of this cosmic fog, which have only recently become possible, eliminated the need to estimate light emissions from ultra-distant galaxies.”

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Two 2018 HEALTH & FITNESS Articles: Global Decline & Rising American Mortality

HEALTH & FITNESS: Global & American Decline

Two Articles of Declining Health

1> Warming, and Bad Air Damaging and Killing Millions

      Bottom Line

2> US Life Expectancy’s Continued Decline



1>DEATH from the Skies

Pollution and Warming: Coal Killing the Planet & its People

Climate change and air pollution damaging health and causing millions of premature deaths,
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, November 29, 2018.


“...shows that rising temperatures as a result of climate change are already exposing us to an unacceptably high health risk and warns, for the first time, that older people in Europe and the East Mediterranean are particularly vulnerable to extremes of heat, markedly higher than in Africa and SE Asia.”

Death from the Skies
“...ambient air pollution resulted in several million premature deaths from ambient fine particulate matter globally in 2015, a conclusion from IIASA researchers confirming earlier assessments.”

Alex Wierbinski's picture

ARRIVAL of the WINTER of 2019

ARRIVAL of the WINTER of 2019

Current Progress, Comparisons, and the Arts of Prognostication

Warm North Pacific
The anticipated El Nino is not happening, so far at least, as cool water continues to surface off the central-Western coast of South America. But, we are having what appears to be a, "Northern El Nino," with abberant warm waters persisting in the Gulf Alaska, and generally warmer than normal water spread all around & across the North Pacific. Weird...

Tracking El Nino

Nonetheless, we’re looking a lot better this year than last, having 108% of a normal snowpack on December 5th this year, compared to the 23% of average on December 29th of 2017.

Last year’s snowpack total came in at 58% of average, only being preserved, and luckily, being stretched-out to human-use sufficiency, by the cool temps and late-season storms we experienced through last year's Spring.

Will we get so little snow, and be so lucky with its timing, this year as we had last year?



Tracking El Nino

Tracking Tropical Activity

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Chinese Doc makes Genetically-Modified Humans


Re-Manufacturing Mankind

'CRISPR Babies' Scientist Just Defended His World-Shattering Research in First Public Appearance,
Science Alert, November 28, 2018.


“He Jiankui, the Chinese researcher who claimed this week to have helped produce the world's first genetically altered babies, said Wednesday there was another "potential pregnancy" involved in his study...”

“...he had successfully altered the DNA of twin girls while they were embryos to make them resistant to HIV infection, the Stanford-trained bioengineering professor said he felt "proud" of his work and its implications for public health in the face of nearly universal condemnation.”

“...31 embryos created through in vitro fertilization, and 70 percent were successfully edited.”

“...raised the prospect of a future in which parents produce "designer babies" with selectively improved traits such as intelligence or strength.”

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