The Making of Sierra Trail Runs
In 20+ years of mountain sport projects, from Himalayan climbing expeditions to skiing in North Korea to editorial and commercial shoots in mountain ranges all over the world, I have never enjoyed my work so much as I did while producing the Sierra Trail Runs book.
After living in the Alps for 15 years, returning to the mountain range where I am from, and where I learned to do all the things I do, was a pure joy. Best of all, I was able to realize that as it turns out, the Sierra may well be the best mountains of them all for trail running. There, I said it!
And we have some serious experiences to compare it all to. Before Sierra Trail Runs, our team also produced Elevation : The Alps Trail & Peak Running Resource. What makes the Sierra so good? Big mountains, wilderness, adventures to still be had, smooth trails, and of course abundant California gold in the form of sunshine and granite.
The idea for the book came about in the winter of 2020 when Kim Strom and I were shooting “Did you Ever Think?” for Patagonia. Our job was for Kim to discover the Sierra while returning from cancer treatment. We lived in the car, ran trails and ate a lot of burritos. For her debut performance as a Sierra trail runner, we ran Mt. Whitney on the winter solstice along with our great friend Hjördis Rickert. Somewhere along that lonely, snowy trail, we came up with the idea for the book after recognizing that there was little to no info for running in the Sierra. That discovery, combined with our previous experience creating the Alps guide, plus an interest in moving back to our old hometown of Bishop, plus wanting a long spell of sunshine, plus Hjördis saying, “Yes, let’s do it!”, got us to all to agree to commit to a summer and fall with the book production as our focus.
Next up, we needed routes. Not just hiking routes or established classic tours, but quality running routes with the unique features that trail runners want; interesting terrain, on and off trail routes, summits, and of course smooth trails to let the legs open up on. This was a job for Janine Patitucci who studies maps like a gold miner scrutinizes ore. Janine and I lived in Bishop for nearly ten years, much of which was spent in the High Sierra. With that knowledge, combined with her experience creating trails in the Alps, she scoured the maps, made us put in some long days, and finally came up with the runs we feature.
Our team of four started running in May 2021 and besides a three month break so we could return home to the Alps to check mail, do laundry and feed the cat, we did little more than work on this book. We were four close friends who’s lives revolved around running in the mountains, shooting photos, documenting the experiences, voting yes or no on routes, fine tuning, sleeping at trailheads, managing aching bodies and of course eating everything. These were the ingredients that made for a time none of us will ever forget.
The result is something we hope inspires you to visit, and if you do, to have some of the same types of experiences we had running in the mountains of the Eastern Sierra. It’s more than a trail running guidebook, it’s a photo book, a resource for the Eastern Sierra, and even a training guide thanks to the great team at UphillAthlete.
In the end, the making of this book included:
4 sprained ankles
11 pairs of shoes
172,190 vertical feet
More personal crises than pairs of shoes
1 “Not In My Backyard!” situation
1 rain day
By Dan Patitucci