I’ve flown this route many times heading from the coast to the Eastern Sierras, but always at altitude. It is indeed a gorgeous area.
I’m sure this flight would indeed be spectacular and normally within the reasonable operating range of a SR22, under appropriate weather conditions and with a pilot trained in mountain flying. At the wrong time of day and/or with strong winds aloft, there can be significant downdrafts/turbulence on the eastern slope of the Sierras, far greater than the SR22’s ability to climb out.
I think an important thing for someone to consider before flying this route at any altitude, but especially down low, is the sheer ruggedness and complete lack of roads and habitation. You certainly won’t be gliding to a safe, flat landing area for 20 or 30 miles of the route if you have trouble. Once you are over the ridge (eastbound), the eastern side is much more open and gliding all the way to MMH is a possibility if you keep up high.
The FAR/AIM admonition to operate only where a safe landing can be made in case of a problem is obviously not something that we all do all the time. In most real-world mountain flying in rugged areas, canyons or valleys it should be clear to most pilots that an engine failure is a life-threatening event - you aren’t going to put it down in Farmer Jones field. It is also difficult or impossible to receive flight following at anything lower than the very high MEA on the airway (~14,000 ft. by memory) - I am inevitably dropped with ‘radar contact lost’ even above 12,000 ft. on the airway, so there’s no one there to notice if you never arrive on the other side, and they sure won’t know where to look for you. Even if you do land safely or survive a CAPS descent, survival will be a serious issue - this is real wilderness. I won’t fly this route without my 30 lb. survival kit including several gallons of water.
For pilots who don’t feel comfortable with the tradeoffs involved here, and who want to stay higher above the terrain, I think crossing the Sierras along the I-80 corridor west of Reno and north of Lake Tahoe provides equally spectacular scenery and the opportunity to land off-airport near/on a major highway or in a lot more comparitively flat emergency landing spots (or actual airports) than you’ll find west of Mammoth.
Now that I’m sounding like Chicken Little, I will say that making this sort of risk vs. reward decision is part of why we fly, and for the well informed and well prepared pilot, the flight suggested is in a drop-dead gorgeous region…on the eastern side the terrain between Mammoth and Mono Lake is as bizzare and beautiful as I would imagine a flight on Mars…I also suggest flying north to Bridgeport Bryant field and walking 1/4 mile into town for lunch or whatever.
Just be careful out there!