Hell For Sure Challenge

(32 customer reviews)

Original price was: $1,950.Current price is: $1,650.


Starts near Fresno/Clovis, CA

Experience the exhilaration of true wilderness backpacking off-trail routes in a slice of heaven south of Yosemite and north of Kings Canyon.


Our Hell For Sure Challenge may be the most exhilarating backpacking experience you ever encounter. Discover an off-the-beaten-path region of the Sierra brimming with jagged granite cliffs, dark pitted canyons and burnt-red mountains. Enjoy more than a dozen high Sierra lakes, including Hell For Sure Lake, with time to swim, fish and enjoy. Our five night, six day 40-mile guided looped route includes roughly 6-8 miles of off-trail travel with two hand and foot scrambles to ~12,000’ peaks along the Le Conte Divide (Red Mountain and The Knob). You won’t find this route in any guide book. It’s an experience we created out of love for the region and for people in search of new adventure.

What’s included

  • Transportation between designated Fresno/Clovis area meeting points and trailhead
  • Guided 5-night backpacking trek through John Muir Wilderness to Le Conte Divide
  • All meals and snacks in the back-country
  • Backpack, tent, sleeping bag and pad if needed
  • Personalized pack-check prior to departure
  • Group gear and equipment
  • Flexible cancellation policy
  • Inspiration for a lifetime

What’s not included

  • Lodging in the front-country
  • Meals in the front-country

How it works

A $500 deposit per person is required with balance due 60 days prior to the event. Typical group size of 7, including one guide. Maximum group size of 12, including two guides. An additional 5% charge will be applied when your reservation is made to offset new fees mandated by the U.S. Forest Service. Private, family and modified itinerary trips available through TSX Pods. Book with confidence! Review our flexible cancellation policy.


Day 1 – Afternoon arrival, pack-check, overnight on trail

Trail: Moderate with short stiff uphill gain and gradual downhill loss of 850′

We’ll meet up in the Fresno/Clovis area by 8am on the day of departure and then begin the journey to our trailhead at 8,000′ near Courtright Reservoir and John Muir Wilderness (about a 2.5 hour drive from the Fresno/Clovis area).  Guests who are driving in may optionally meet us at our Shaver Lake Cabin at 9am. Our goal is to make it to the trailhead by lunch where we’ll do a final pack-check, get to know our team and talk safety before beginning an afternoon hike to camp on the trail.

Day 2 – High Meadow to Disappointment Lake

Trail: Long moderate-to-intense uphill, with 2,000′ climb and multiple stream crossings

Our pace will be brisk as we cover miles on good trail with a long and gradual climb toward Red Mountain Basin to camp near Fleming and Disappointment Lakes, which never disappoint.

Day 3 – Disappointment Lake to LeConte Divide

Trail: Gradual uphill to camp near Hell For Sure Lake; up and back day hike to 12,000′ peak

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 camp on the ridge of on the LeConte Divide with views of Artic, Horseshoe and Hell For Sure Lakes.

Day 4 – 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, with an early morning start we will Stomp, Shimmy and Hustle off-trail over The Knob of Mt. Hutton (~12,000′), traversing rugged granite terrain. We’ll continue off-trail toward lake-studded Bench Valley, with time to explore Schoolmarm, Holster, Bullet, Wahoo, Crabtree, and the many other lakes surrounding our Bench Valley camp.

Day 5 – Continue traverse of Bench Valley, then drop to Kings River

Trail: Long gradual descent to all-natural waterpark, majority of day on-trail

We begin our descent on and off trail past Colt, Horsehead, Guest and McGuire Lakes, before a meeting up with the North Fork of the Kings River, and our camp near the “waterpark” with natural pools, waterfalls and slides.

Day 6 – Kings River to Courtright Reservoir

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

An early start will get us back to Courtright Reservoir around 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.


Departure and pickup locations

On the day of departure, TSX will coordinate transportation from Central California (Fresno/Clovis area) and our Shaver Lake Cabin.

The specific departure time will be confirmed on a trek by trek basis. The Fresno/Clovis area is a 3 hour car drive from the Bay Area, and roughly 4 hours from Southern California. Meals are not provided when in transit, however, we will stop for food and to refuel before reaching the trailhead. Our goal is to make it to the trailhead around lunch time. Dinner will be provided that evening on the trail.

Pre- and post-trek accommodations (Out of State Guests)

For guest traveling in from out of state, we suggest flying into Fresno, CA the evening before departure and staying at the Best Western Clovis Cole, in historic downtown Clovis or Hampton Inn and Suites Clovis. Both are about a 10 minute cab/Uber ride from the airport. We can pick you up at the hotel on the morning of departure. If you plan on staying somewhere else, please let us know where you end up, and we’ll do our best to accommodate.

At the trailhead

Bring your personal items and a positive attitude! All group gear and food will be provided on the trail. Any major personal gear you’ve indicated you’d like us to provide (sleeping bag, tents etc.) will be waiting for you at the trailhead. Please also bring a small bag with a clean set of clothes. Before we hit the trail, we’ll leave that bag at the cabin for optional showers after we exit.

Returning home

We plan on exiting the trail between 10am and 12pm 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 4pm. Staying one additional night in the Clovis, Fresno or Shaver Lake area is also popular option. Expect to arrive back in Clovis by 3pm.


Don’t own a backpack, tent or sleeping bag? We provide all major gear for those who request it at no additional charge. We also take care of all group items like stoves, food, water filters, first aid and more. Your guides will do the cooking and dishes. Just show up with your personal items ready to hike!

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32 reviews for Hell For Sure Challenge

  1. Ray Hanosek

    Completed the Hell for Sure challenge with Team 1. This is a completely different experience from the established trails of the traditional TSX Sierra route and Grand Canyon. Hell for Sure is raw, wild, and rough TSX Challenge to stretch physically. There was uncertainty going in being the first group in a heavy snow year. The combination of snow, granite and alpine lakes made this the most scenic, beautiful of the three TSX trips I’ve completed. Kate, our guide did an amazing job navigating through the challenges of off trail trekking with the added snow! Nothing beats the intricate maze of crossing the Knob. Shout out to an awesome trail team: Kate, Celeste, Sinclair, Natalie, Erin, Izzy and Maria. Can’t wait for TSX#4.

  2. Joyce Weckl

    Just finished a bit of an abbreviated version of Hell for Sure. This is my second trip with TSX, the first being the Grand Canyon. The pictures above tell it all. It’s stunning, amazing, and awe inspiring. If you haven’t done a trip with TSX rest assured that everything is taken care of. They do a great drop of providing meals, guidance, emotional support, little touches that make things special, and great knowledge of the trip.
    The trips are hard but there’s nothing like a physical and mental challenge to make you believe in yourself and others. TSX has done a great job of providing a supportive environment for those who want to get out in nature with equally minded adventurous people. My experience is that many new friendships are forged and old ones are solidified. Amazing memories are made!
    Training is very important but at the age of 61, I was able to do these trips. Never thought I would, but so grateful they’ve provided an environment to accomplish these goals. Thanks, TSX!


    We had an amazing trek with our guide Chris! Food was good, scenery was amazing, we will definitely be back again for a third year in a row trekking with the TSX team!

  4. Ali Hartman

    Another incredible TSX trip completed! Thanks to Dave for an amazing Hell For Sure Challenge experience, he is a wonderful guide and cook and has a pretty good playlist for the van ride too! The Shaver Lake Pizza and Beer on the deck of the TSX Headquarters was the icing on the cake!

  5. Mike

    This was a great way to see and experience the headwaters of the North Fork of the Kings River. I would definitely recommend the Hell For Sure TSX trek! The food and snacks were good all week long. Our helpful and accommodating guide Dave was on top of everything as he led us through forests, over granite, and into streams. Plus, he always knew where the campsites with the amazing views were located.

  6. Larry Herko (verified owner)

    I’m 72 and do a serious backpack trip about once every 5 years, the last also with TSX across the Sierra’s. TSX does an incredible job of putting these trips together and executing. The Hell-for-Sure is special because your off-trail on a custom TSX route for parts of 3 days. The leadership is great, the planning is great, the food is great! So as long as you’re in reasonable shape and have a positive attitude, it’s very doable!

  7. Chris W

    I had very high hopes for this trip and they were more than exceeded! I’m a solidly “older” woman and had backpacked once prior about 30 years ago, so this was a bit of a leap. I did make sure to be in reasonably good physical shape to prepare (day hiking – some at altitude + strength/endurance training), but otherwise I had no idea what I was doing. From minute one, I was welcomed, coached, supported and guided into an unforgettable adventure. The route was fantastic – a ton of variation from lush forest to meadow to lake side to barren granite mountain tops with amazing views. Our camp sites were gorgeous, we swam in lakes almost daily and did some challenging hiking, both long and sometimes technical. And let’s not forget about the food! Biggest surprise of the trip was how delicious all the meals were!
    Challenge is the right word to describe this trip, because it is not easy. But it is an absolutely do-able challenge, especially with the team focus that TSX brings. And now I not only have amazing memories and pictures but I also have the confidence to go and do more backpacking and exploring. Can’t wait to do the next trip!

  8. Rick Reicker

    I am approaching 50…faster than I care to admit. This trek definitely put me to the test. 2 years ago I was in peak shape. After Covid, I slowed down a bit, but every step of the way I felt OK with our guide and group. Hats off the Kate Hill for expertly navigating us around “the knob” and making us feel safe even if outside our comfort zone. Every stop we made was an incredible location and was worth a lifetime of memories. After having done a tour with Chris, I was certain that I could not have had a better guide, but Kate was a true champ, always positive, giving, supporting, and willing to make a best recommendation, which to our benefit we always followed. She’s also a helluva trail chef.

    Highlight of this trip for me was Schoolmarm lake. ~10k’ up – I don’t think I have ever been to a more pristine location in my lifetime. Just incredible.

    Thank you TSX for another challenge, 5 days later, I am still reflecting on the awesomeness of this trip and the new routes forged by TSX’s newest guide. We had waterfalls, snowfalls, marmot invasions, bear prints, a couple nice campfires and a great day at a natural waterpark. If you have any hesitation at all at booking this trip, just do it already. You will learn about the land, the wildlife, and also your limits, and you will come away better than you left. +100

  9. Heidi S (verified owner)

    Although I no longer consider myself a “beginner” backpacker, I signed up for a group trek for a few reasons. This route is remote with sections off-trail and would not be easy to navigate on your own. We saw one other person in six days. I also had two friends with varying skill levels that I roped into participating and being with a group allowed for each of us to go at our own pace. Finally, although I have little hesitation and often prefer to be on my own, I’ve met some fantastic people and made a few friends through these treks (this was my 3rd trip with TSX). It’s a great way to improve your knowledge and meet people with similar interests. It’s not an easy route but Chris and Kate made sure everyone succeeded and accomplished their goals. You don’t need a lot of experience but you do need to train and bring a good attitude. If you’re on the fence-go for it!

  10. Niki Stokols

    Fantastic trip. I loved the remoteness and beauty of this part of the Sierras. Without TSX, I can’t see how this trip could be done as a loop. Our guide, Dave, was great at making me feel safe on the difficult parts. Wonderful how 8 strangers can come together and work as a team supporting each other across 40 miles of backcountry to finish together.

    Whenever I felt like I was moving too slow, Dave was always encouraging me and telling me we were right on the estimated schedule. Some days were harder than others, but with our guide and our team, every trail was doable. I loved when we’d stop at a lake or river to swim or soak our feet.

    I chose this hike for the name, but it definitely wasn’t Hell. This is my second backpacking trip with TSX and each time I finish one, I find myself signing up for my next adventure with them. Truly a great organization to take you into the backcountry whether you’re a beginner or experienced backpacker. I highly recommend TSX and the Hell For Sure Challenge.

  11. Kevin Jalandoni

    My first ever backpacking trip me and my family ever did and it was such a memorable experience! The ambience of nature, going off trail and scaling up rock walls , something I never thought I could do! Walking through nature without a single worry in the world ! Trying out fishing and heck I was able to catch four trout in a row! It’s an experience I’ll never forget! Thank you TSX for this wonderful experience !

  12. Nick

    This was the first backpacking trip we ever did and the experience was breath taking! It’s been 2 days since the hell for sure challenge and I still can’t stop thinking about it. If you are thinking of experiencing all of the outdoors give this a shot!

  13. Shawn Repulles

    6 days, 40+ miles, 13k ft climbing, 50+ fish, and 3 generations of the Repulles Family just completed this Hell For Sure Challenge with TSX. What an epic trip with long lasting memories. This was my third trip with Chris and TSX. I wish you could see my pictures… this was a rad crew!

  14. Randy Hartgrove

    It was cool.

  15. Greg Hidalgo

    My first trip with TSX, and it was amazing, even better than anticipated. We encountered never ending scenic views as we traversed many miles uphill, around the hill, down the hill, to the next hill, etc. At times we had to shimmy, stomp and really hustle, including to traverse a 12,000 foot granite knob and cross over to the next valley. I had an amazing experience fishing numerous mountain lakes along the way, each one a delight to the senses. We walked, we talked, we relaxed and we walked and talked some more. At some point during our adventure, the 9 of us on the trip became a team, helping each other along the way. Truly great friendships were established, and I look forward to more adventures with the TSX team (family)! Thanks for an amazing adventure, Chris!!

  16. Michael Webber

    Pride Ridge was amazing and I couldn’t believe the views we got to see! First time backpacking and you really made me want to do it again. Something I think most people should get to experience if they have the opportunity to.

  17. Scott Webber

    Another great trip with TSX! Two 12,000 peaks in one day, camping atop ‘Pride Ridge’ and bringing my best shimmy, stomp and hustle up and over the ‘knob’ are memories I will never forget. Getting to do all this with my 18 y/o son made it even more memorable. Can’t wait to plan for my next adventure with TSX!

  18. Dave Balducci

    Second trip with TSX, and on this one we took our entire family – two daughters and my wife. We went up and over “the knob” and off-trail to Schoolmarm Lake on a route pioneered by TSX. Schoolmarm is hands down the prettiest lake I have visited and best place I have camped. Probably because it is at least 2 day uphill walk to reach. The water is crystal clear and the kids site-fished trout after trout… I finally had to stop them after unhooking at least 100. Not an exaggeration. We also hiked to other lakes, swam, cliff jumped and played games. An incredible trip! Ready to plan a new route with TSX for next year!

  19. Tina “Tough Mother” Rundel

    We couldn’t have asked for a better experience for our family. From start to finish, the memories are ones we will have for a lifetime.

  20. Justin James Landfair

    Positively wonderful experience! Thanks you Chris C. and TSX team for making this happen!

    From the stay in the Shaver Lake Area, early ups trail head start, Fleming Lake, Disappointment Lake, Hell for Sure Lake, Hell for Sure Pass, Red Mountain, Goddard meadow area, Confusion Pass scramble, Rainbow Lake, Lighting Corral Meadow and beyond, every aspect surpassed expectations.

    We even scored some excellent high elevation trout fishing!

    The beauty of these places can’t be described without being there and I feel fortunate to have spent that time with Chris as our guide and a wonderful group of friends.

    Stick to the TSX packing list . . you’ll likely use every last piece of gear they recommend!!!!

    Thanks TSX!!! Great job.

  21. Elizabeth Marxen

    This was the most challenging and rewarding backpacking trip I’ve ever taken. The terrain was difficult, but allowed us access to some of the most scenic and untouched parts of California. Chris was a fabulous guide who clearly has a passion for this neck of the woods, in addition to being a great on-trail chef! Again, and as the name suggests, this is a challenge, but one anyone will derive a true sense of accomplishment and enjoyment from.

  22. Nora (verified owner)

    Words fail me on how beautiful and fulfilling this Hell For Sure trip was, and despite months of anticipation, it was better than I could have imagined. We climbed a pile of rocks called
    Red Mountain and summited over 12k of elevation, swam in the most crystal clear mountain lakes, and dare I say this was better than Yosemite? We had this place nearly all to ourselves for the week and it was incredible. I’m also so grateful to have had Chris as our guide, as you can clearly see his love and appreciation for this special area.

    Can’t wait for my next TSX adventure!

  23. Lindsay (verified owner)

    This trip stands out as one of the best adventures I’ve ever taken! From beginning to end…. AMAZING! The route in particular was filled with beautiful terra – gorgeous views, interesting textures and colors, and glorious sky-gazing! There were *many* stand out moments for me every day. I had so much fun jumping into the lakes and river! The bald eagle that flew over us was breath-taking! Waking up to watch the meteor shower, or watching the full moon rise – these are just a few of the incredible memories!

    It was awesome learning about the area. It’s clear that Chris knows and appreciates all the land has to offer – and has this process ironed our exceptionally well! The food that was prepared was the best food I’ve had while camping or backpacking, and it every day felt like a fun well oiled machine. Despite us being so far into the wild and me being a solo traveler, I always felt safe and supported. I also had a rip-roaring good time with everyone on the trip!

    I would not only recommend this hike to everyone – I would happily do this hike again – and am already scheming my next adventure with TSX!

  24. Neeral Dodhia

    The Hell for Sure trip is an incredible experience! I absolutely loved every minute of it. I went in thinking it would be a “backpacking” trip but found that the “Challenge” in TSX Challenge has the most emphasis. On my trip, we went through many terrains from forest, meadows, tundra, rocky, snow, lakes. It was beautiful and so much variety. Despite the difficulty of the terrain and trail, which had significant portions off-trail, we always felt confident in our guides, Chris and Jenny. They gave very practical advice when summitting Red Mountain and the Knob of Mt Hutton. The views were stunning. I’ll never forget Hell for Sure lake, partially frozen with patches of thick and thinner ice. The hues of blues and whites were incredible. I had my first taste of snow, using crampons and glissading. So much fun and I enjoyed seeing my progress and confidence increase throughout the trip. As a vegetarian, I was a little nervous about what I’d be served to eat but I needn’t have worried. Chris and Jenny prepared delicious meals. I surprised myself by jumping into lakes, so much fun despite the cold water. I was impressed by Chris’ knowledge of the land, it was as if he knew it like the back of his hand. I’d thoroughly recommend Hell for Sure challenge to anyone.

  25. Ting C

    The trip was incredible! Trekking through woods, meadows, and granite rocks, we were greeted by lots of serene lakes along the route. Our wonderful guides, Dirk and Sani, took great care of us. Such a memorable adventure!

  26. Li

    Awesome route! Loved the hiking and seeing the gorgeous views all around us especially overlooking the lakes. I enjoyed the challenge of the off trail sections – definitely feel empowered when you get through each section and finally to the top! We had a fun group and Chris, Amy and Dirk took great care of us. I would definitely go again!

  27. Martha Holbrook

    What an experience of a lifetime! Our guide, Chris, provided the best trek ever! As this is my third trek with TSX, and the other two were fabulous, it’s hard to beat the inspiration of those two trips, but he did. Hell For Sure was challenging with every day being different in terrain and beauty. Breathtaking views on and off trail and I earned it. Oh, and did I mention how well we were fed? Superb menues and so tasty. Hell For Sure surpassed my expectations and provided me with some personal firsts. I’m a Happy Trekker!!

  28. Kenneth L Kann

    “Most people don’t choose to go to Hell,” a friend observed days before departure for my second TSX challenge. I went to “Hell For Sure” with guides Chris and Amy, and it was an exhilarating journey. We hiked deep into the John Muir Wilderness with its towering granite peaks, alpine meadows thick with wild flowers, dense forests, lush valleys, pristine icy lakes, glaciers above and below, and often no other people in sight. We camped in stunning locations, over 10,000 feet for three nights, hiked adventurous off-trail routes for several days, and scrambled over the Mt. Hutton “Knob” at 12,000 feet, an adrenaline pumping climb. Chris said we would do things we never before had done, and, sure enough, that’s what I did. The extended itinerary gave us extra time to explore and enjoy this extraordinary high Sierra wilderness. And our terrific guides were right there with faultless planning, precise knowledge of the terrain, and all the support you need. Along the way, our group became a team, and that was special. “Hell For Sure is an unforgettable experience. My advice: choose to go!

  29. Ann

    Another EPIC tsx challenge. Going somewhere i would have never gone if hadnt been for Chris. Pushing beyond your comfort zone is incredibly rewarding! Photos cant even begin to capture the feeling of being out in nature enjoying all that this earth has to offer , the feeling of being one with the world, is priceless. Just do it!!!!

  30. 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)

  31. 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!

  32. 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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