Hell For Sure Challenge
Rated 5.00 out of 5 based on 3 customer ratings
(3 customer reviews)


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Deposit of $450/person



The Hell For Sure Challenge may be the most exhilarating long-weekend backpacking experience you ever encounter. Discover an unspoiled, and relatively unknown slice of heaven south of Yosemite, and north of Kings Canyon National Park. The three night, four day looped route (yellow on map), traverses close to 40 miles through John Muir Wilderness and includes two hand-and-foot off trail scrambles to ~12,000’ peaks along the Le Conte Divide (Red Mountain and Mt. Hutton' Knob) with unrivaled views of the Sierra Crest. The five night, six day experience – the Hell For Sure "X" Challenge – extends our loop to off-trail routes through Goddard Canyon, in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and includes an opportunity to summit the legendary Mt. Goddard (13,563') (yellow to black loop on map).

One-night of pre-trek cabin lodging in Shaver Lake, California is included in with all Hell For Sure experiences.

What’s included

  • One-night pre-trek lodging in Shaver Lake, CA (multiple occupancy cabin)
  • Guided multi-night trek through John Muir Wilderness to Le Conte Divide
  • Orientation and personalized pack-check prior to departure
  • All meals and snacks while in the back-country
  • Group gear and equipment
  • Backpack, tent, and sleeping pad if needed
  • Inspiration for a lifetime

What’s not included

  • Meals in the front-country while in Shaver Lake, CA
  • Transportation to and from Shaver Lake, CA

How it works

A $450 deposit per person is required with balance due 60 days prior to the event. The Hell For Sure Challenge is an aggressive hike with miles of travel over rugged, unmarked terrain, and is highly recommended for people who like to push it! Expect roughly 6-8 miles of off-trail travel. Treks begin departing in late June when spring like conditions may still persist in the Sierra. Consequently, each itinerary may be modified to account for varied trail conditions and to ensure the safety of your group. Please contact us for custom dates or corporate/group pricing. Typical group size of 6, including one guide. Maximum group size of 10, including two guides.

Getting to Hell For Sure

From the Clovis/Fresno area in California's Central Valley, head up Highway 168 toward Shaver Lake (elevation 5,600'). We will overnight near Shaver Lake on your trek start date. This is a roughly 4 hour drive from the Bay Area, and 5 hour drive from Southern California. From Shaver Lake it's a 1 hour drive to our trailhead near Courtright Reservoir (elevation 8,200'), and a 13 mile hike to the Red Mountain Basin (elevation ~10,300), providing access to Hell For Sure Pass, Red Mountain and Mt. Hutton.

Watch this video to experience the view from the top of Red Mountain.


Evening arrival, pack-check, overnight at cabin

On the day of arrival, you’ll be welcomed into our Shaver Lake, CA cabin like family. Swing by when you arrive in town. Driving in after work from the Bay Area or Southern California? No problem, we can accommodate late arrivals. The evening before departure we’ll host a one hour group orientation and pack-check on the cabin grounds. At orientation we’ll hand out gear that was requested. We’ll have a campfire if conditions permit, and get to know our team, before retreating indoors for a cozy night’s sleep.

Day 1 – Courtright Reservoir to High Meadow

Trail: Begins at 8,600′ and ends at 10,300′ with multiple stream crossings; long moderate-to-intense uphill

With an early, 5:30am departure from Shaver Lake, we’ll drive out to our trailhead near Courtright Reservoir where our hike begins with a long and gradual climb toward the Red Mountain Basin. Our pace will be brisk, as we cover miles on good trail to camp near a high meadow between Fleming and Disappointment Lake, which never disappoints.

Day 2 – High Meadow to Hell For Sure Lake

Trail: Stiff climb(s) to 12,000′, then descent, half of day off-trail

A moderate morning hike will take us to Hell For Sure Lake by lunch, where we’ll enjoy our afternoon. An optional up and back, off-trail scramble to the summit of Red Mountain (~12,000′) will be on the schedule. If trail and group conditions permit, we’ll begin our ascent toward the Knob of Mt. Hutton for camp with views of Artic, Horseshoe and Hell For Sure Lakes.

Day 3 – Off-trail traverse of Mt. Hutton and Bench Valley

Trail: Breathtaking and intense uphill, then down, majority of day off-trail

Weather and trail conditions permitting, we will begin our traverse past Mt. Hutton (~12,000′) with an early morning start. We’ll continue off-trail through lake-studded Bench Valley, before beginning our gradual descent towards the Kings River.

Day 4 – Return to Courtright Reservior

Trail: Reconnect with loop trail, and exit, moderate downhill

An early start will get us back to Courtright Reservoir after lunch where we will reload cars, and return to the town of Shaver Lake to share a hearty group meal. A final stop for showers at our cabin in Shaver Lake is optional, then it’s home to brag.

Extended Itinerary

Extended Itinerary – Hell For Sure “X” Challenge

Trail: Extends off-trail route via Goddard Canyon and Blackcap Basin; optional summit of Mt. Goddard (13,563′)

Evening arrival, orientation and overnight at cabin
Day 1 – Courtright Reservoir to High Meadow
Day 2 – High Meadow to Hell For Sure Lake or Goddard Canyon/San Joaquin River
Day 3 – Goddard Canyon to Martha Lake; optional summit of Mt. Goddard (13,563′) (no pack, off-trail)
Day 4 – Off trail from Martha Lake to Blackcap Basin via Confusion or Valor Pass
Day 5 – Blackcap Basin to Kings River
Day 6 – Return to Courtright Reservior


Pre and post-trip accommodations: Pre-trek accommodations in Shaver Lake, CA are included (multiple occupancy cabin – everyone will have a bed, but not everyone will have a room). If you’d like to arrange for accommodations on your own that is ok with us, please let us know where you end up! Post-trip accommodations are not included. If you’d like to stay at the cabin an additional night, please contact us to make arrangements and inquire about rates; additional fees required.

Transportation: If traveling by air, Fresno Yosemite International is the preferred airport. It is approximately a one hour drive from the airport to our staging area in Shaver Lake. Rental cars are available, or please contact us to inquire about arranging private guide-supported transportation to and from the Fresno Yosemite Airport. If traveling by car, it is a roughly 4 hour drive from the Bay Area, and 5 hour drive from Southern California to Shaver Lake. On the morning of departure, we will carpool and caravan for the one hour drive from Shaver Lake to our trailhead near Courtright Reservoir.

Arrival time: When scheduling flights or planning your drive, ideally, please allow enough time to arrive no later than 7pm the evening before your trek begins so that you can attend the pre-trek orientation (scheduled at 7:00pm at our Shaver Lake cabin). Driving in after work from the Bay Area or Southern California? No problem, we can accommodate late arrivals.

Departure time: We plan on exiting the trail between 1pm and 3pm on the last day of the trek. Please plan your return transportation accordingly. If flying out of Fresno on the same day, we suggest scheduling flights for departure no earlier than 6:00pm. Staying one additional night in the Clovis, Fresno or Shaver Lake area is also popular option.


Joining a TSX experience is easy. Don’t own a backpack or tent? Not a problem. We provide backpacks, tents and sleeping pads for those who need them, at no additional charge. We also take care of all group items like pots, stoves, food, food storage, water filters, first aid and more. Your guides will do the cooking and dishes. Just show up with your boots and personal items, ready to hike!

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3 reviews for Hell For Sure Challenge

  1. Rated 5 out of 5

    Jan Gazenbeek

    WOW, Awesome.
    When you accept the Hell for Sure Challenge you are in for a special treat and a wonderful experience. The route, partially off trail, is challenging but very rewarding. You hike through varied terrain, forest with lush underbrush, rocky trails, gentle slopes, steep ascents and descents, over ridges, granite slaps with occasionally glacial polish. Beautiful meadows with gorgeous alpine lakes in which you can take a dip to cool off.
    The 360 degree view from Red Mountain is breathtaking. There still were patches of snow which made the trip special and added to the grandeur of the mountain scenes.
    Steam crossings present their challenges but the guides have your back whenever and wherever you need them. You need a helping hand or some encouragement, they are there for you. Throughout the trip you develop great camaraderie and your teammates are supportive and encouraging. Initially you might be focused on your goal but the interaction with your teammates is an important byproduct which you will cherish. The team dynamics make this trip very special
    So what are you waiting for? Decide and add a fantastic life experience.
    Thank you Chris, Amy and Dirk for your guidance, support and not least of all for dealing with all the logistics.
    El Tanko (trail name)

  2. Rated 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn Sherry

    I had my first ever backpacking experience with TSX’s Hell for Sure Challenge in June 2018. I was honestly blown away. The trip came with incredible views, support, and challenges, as well as a well-earned feeling of accomplishment. So many lakes! Such diverse landscapes to take in! Chris, Amy, and Dirk were excellent at accommodating and motivating the group, and I can’t wait for my next excursion with them. Go on this trip!

  3. Rated 5 out of 5

    Greg L

    I backpacked with Chris to Hell For Sure this past September 2017. We overnighted at Disappointment Lake and Horseshoe Lake. Chris doesn’t mince words when he names his treks. The trans-sierra Mt. Whitney trip I did with him and my 15 year old son in 2012 was “Xtreme.” The Grand Canyon trip I did with TSX in 2015 was a “Challenge,” and this trip was Hell For Sure. The first day I kept thinking, “Where the hell is he taking me?” Then you get back there and you are blown away by the beauty and what you push yourself to accomplish. Awesome, awesome experience. Comfortably pushed me outside my comfort zone.

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