Trip planning Great Western Divide traverse Sept 2014 | High Sierra Topix  

Trip planning Great Western Divide traverse Sept 2014

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar

Trip planning Great Western Divide traverse Sept 2014

Postby themappist » Fri Jul 11, 2014 8:44 pm

Planning for my 2014 Sierra trip to SEKI is well underway.

We will be a party of 2, are experienced and competent at x-country travel and have done 3 trips together in the Sierras, this will be our fourth trip together. We are comfortable with class 3 -4 but prefer to stay at class 3 when in remote areas. We average 20 miles/day on trail and 10 off-trail but have the stamina to do longer days if necessary. This year we are bringing a fishing rod and hope to fish, climb some peaks and spend more time on photography. So camp sites with good vistas for golden hour shooting would be advantageous as are lakes with fish.


I have the following itinerary in mind, it's ambitious I know. But there is lots of room to improvise along the general route, with peak bagging options if we are feeling strong. I'm hoping to incorporate a shorter day into a stay at Lake Reflection if possible but if the time is short that can be dropped and we can go directly from Thunder Pass to Longley. I've also sketched out an alternate route over the KK via Harisson as I's like to cross that pass but this is not the priority, Thunder Pass is the preferred route.

Thoughts? suggestions? Our acclimatization strategy will likely raise some concerns but in general we plan to spend two nights below 10k before sleeping high and to go progressively to higher altitudes during the day. We will consider sleeping below Glacier Lake on Day 2 if necessary. We were successful using this approach on two previous trips to the Sierras.

I would appreciate some thoughts on the merit of the traverse into the Picket Creek as well as routes to do so. My drawn lines for that segment are very vague. I hope the terrain dictates a clever route.

Map here: http://caltopo.com/map?id=4K4E
Itinerary below:

Sept. 12: Fly to SFO, drive to Princess Campground, 5,900' elev in SNF
Sept. 13, Day 1: Pickup permit at Roads End, Hike over Avalanche pass (~10,000') to camp at Roaring Brook ~7,400' elev
Sept. 14, Day 2. Deadman Canyon or Cloud Canyon to Glacier Lake
Sept. 15, Day 3.

Option 1 Climb Triple Divide Peak, then cross Milestone Pass and ascend Milestone Peak camp in upper Kern

Option 2 Climb Triple Divide Peak, then hike up in to upper Kern Kaweah drainage and cross into picket drainage, return to camp near base of triple divide/Colby trail. Resume with Milestone Option following day

Sept. 16. Day 4 Cross Thunder pass and down to Lake Reflection

Sept. 17. Day 5 Cross Longley, ascend South Guard and traverse to camp near Big Brewer Lake
Sept. 18. Day 6 Climb Brewer and North Guard Either stay in same camp or cross Sphinx to camp near Sphinx Lake

Sept. 19. Day 7 Climb Francis Farquar and descend to RE or camp at Sphinx Lake
Sept. 20th Day 8 Exit to Roads End, drive back to SF



User avatar
themappist
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 49
Joined: Wed Apr 03, 2013 6:29 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Trip planning Great Western Divide traverse Sept 2014

Postby jmherrell » Sat Jul 12, 2014 11:36 am

The route into Picket Creek looks fine except for the escape at the bottom. Following the stream at the bottom can be Class 3 I've read (never done it). The route I've done 3 times is from the lowest lake ("Picket Lake"): from the lake drop about 400 ft to the NE then head to the left (N) when possible down to the river. Steep class 1 or easy class 2 at worst. Once with clumsy route finding I got into some class 3.
User avatar
jmherrell
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 37
Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2012 2:41 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Trip planning Great Western Divide traverse Sept 2014

Postby Robo_Hiker » Sat Jul 12, 2014 11:19 pm

I've only been up to Sphinx Lakes and around that general regional last year. Thunderstorms kept me down off the peaks. I was catching smaller rainbows out of Sphinx, and they were practically jumping on to my lures.
I'm sure you're aware, but I'll reiterate that the climb out of the valley really sucks if you leave too late. Your first day is definitely ambitious.
User avatar
Robo_Hiker
Topix Novice
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Fri Jul 26, 2013 9:49 am
Location: Fresno, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Trip planning Great Western Divide traverse Sept 2014

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Sun Jul 13, 2014 10:12 am

Robo_Hiker wrote:I'm sure you're aware, but I'll reiterate that the climb out of the valley really sucks if you leave too late. Your first day is definitely ambitious.

That's the truth. Your best bet is to camp at Sphinx Creek crossing (established camps) first night. My backpacking pard has trekked world-wide and pushed his trekking guides hard, and has an uphill gear most people do not have, and when he did that trail with me in 1997, he was very ready to camp by the time he got to Sphinx Creek. I did a little better because I had done the trail before and knew what to expect. From Bubbs Creek to Sphinx Creek crossing it is nothing but continuous stone stairs and switchbacks for well over 2000 feet of elevation gain, and just getting to Bubbs Creek crossing at the Sphinx Creek trail is a pretty good sweat: 8.9 miles and a fair amount of elevation gain to boot. A lot to ask of ones body on the first day of a long backpack. So, I suggest you have a contingency plan just in case you get the Sphinx Creek and, you know, you feel like passing out. :unibrow:
Attachments
IMG0003.jpg
A section of the stairs and horse-steps of the Sphinx Creek trail.
IMG0004.jpg
A small section of the Spinx Creek switchbacks.
Doyle W. Donehoo
Sierra Trails:
http://www.doylewdonehoo.com" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
User avatar
DoyleWDonehoo
Founding Member
 
Posts: 480
Joined: Wed Dec 14, 2005 2:06 pm
Location: San Jose, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

ick`e`

Postby themappist » Sun Jul 13, 2014 12:21 pm

Thanks for the comments so far.

Doyle I'm confused because most estimates I've seen for the R.E. to sphinx creek trail junction have this at less than 4 miles, not 8.9. Did you mean to say 3.9 which is what the Nat Geo map shows. Either way total distance to Roaring River Ranger Station is ~16 miles. We plan to be at the permit office for opening so we should have a full day for this.

I don't want to judge any one else's fitness level, abilities, or total pack weight but this would not be a huge day for me even loaded down and with 5500' of elevation gain. How would it compare to the Golden Staircase on the JMT or the Copper Creek trail out of R.E.? About the same elevation gain it looks like for the latter. Steeper and drier...probably but that's not unlike to many other Sierra passes. We did Copper Creek last year in half a day after a resupply with full packs. I do appreciate the concerns and I'm sure it won't be an easy day....but def. not impossible. Contingency plan is to stop earlier if we don't feel up to it..that's easy.

Another option is to reverse the entire route and head up Sphinx right away which should be a shorter day. That may be something to consider if weather forecast suggests good climbing weather early in the trip. We'll have to play that decision by ear closer to departure time.
User avatar
themappist
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 49
Joined: Wed Apr 03, 2013 6:29 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: ick`e`

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Sun Jul 13, 2014 7:27 pm

themappist wrote: How would it compare to the Golden Staircase on the JMT or the Copper Creek trail out of R.E.? About the same elevation gain it looks like for the latter. Steeper and drier...probably but that's not unlike to many other Sierra passes. We did Copper Creek last year in half a day after a resupply with full packs....

Yup, I meant 3.9.
I thought Golden Staircase was much much easier than the Sphinx Creek Trail. Copper Creek all the way to the lip of Granite Basin is still easier than the Sphinx Creek Trail in my experience. The 4000 feet of climbing out of Tahipite Valley is a breeze in comparison. The thing is, you get a nice workout getting to the Sphinx Creek Trail, then it is just unrelenting stairs and horse-steps until you get near the elevation of the Sphinx Creek crossing.
Still, if you are in great condition, like say a marathon runner, the Sphinx Creek Trail may be cake.
Doyle W. Donehoo
Sierra Trails:
http://www.doylewdonehoo.com" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
User avatar
DoyleWDonehoo
Founding Member
 
Posts: 480
Joined: Wed Dec 14, 2005 2:06 pm
Location: San Jose, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Trip planning Great Western Divide traverse Sept 2014

Postby maverick » Sun Jul 13, 2014 8:09 pm

I have the following itinerary in mind, it's ambitious I know. But there is lots of
room to improvise along the general route, with peak bagging options if we are
feeling strong. I'm hoping to incorporate a shorter day into a stay at Lake Reflection
if possible but if the time is short that can be dropped and we can go directly from
Thunder Pass to Longley. I've also sketched out an alternate route over the KK via
Harisson as I's like to cross that pass but this is not the priority, Thunder Pass is the
preferred route.

Thoughts? suggestions? Our acclimatization strategy will likely raise some concerns
but in general we plan to spend two nights below 10k before sleeping high and to
go progressively to higher altitudes during the day. We will consider sleeping below
Glacier Lake on Day 2 if necessary. We were successful using this approach on two
previous trips to the Sierras.

I would appreciate some thoughts on the merit of the traverse into the Picket Creek
as well as routes to do so. My drawn lines for that segment are very vague. I hope the
terrain dictates a clever route.

Map here: http://caltopo.com/map?id=4K4E
Itinerary below:

Sept. 12: Fly to SFO, drive to Princess Campground, 5,900' elev in SNF
Sept. 13, Day 1: Pickup permit at Roads End, Hike over Avalanche pass (~10,000') to
camp at Roaring Brook ~7,400' elev
Sept. 14, Day 2. Deadman Canyon or Cloud Canyon to Glacier Lake
Sept. 15, Day 3.

Option 1 Climb Triple Divide Peak, then cross Milestone Pass and ascend Milestone Peak
camp in upper Kern

Option 2 Climb Triple Divide Peak, then hike up in to upper Kern Kaweah drainage and
cross into picket drainage, return to camp near base of triple divide/Colby trail. Resume
with Milestone Option following day

Sept. 16. Day 4 Cross Thunder pass and down to Lake Reflection

Sept. 17. Day 5 Cross Longley, ascend South Guard and traverse to camp near Big
Brewer Lake
Sept. 18. Day 6 Climb Brewer and North Guard Either stay in same camp or cross Sphinx
to camp near Sphinx Lake

Sept. 19. Day 7 Climb Francis Farquar and descend to RE or camp at Sphinx Lake
Sept. 20th Day 8 Exit to Roads End, drive back to SF



I have gone from RE to Sphinx Lakes and RR in a day, so yes, it can be done.

In Sept, would prefer the Cloud Canyon over Deadman Canyon route, as a
photographer, the best time for DC is wildflower season, plus Gallats is beautiful
in the Fall.

Option 2 for Day 3, but head for the lake above the one you have indicated your
decent from to the Kern-Kaweah River, and hook up with the Colby Trail, and then
follow the KK River to your route.
Your traverses into and out of Picket are fine, except head north of the last lake in
the Picket drainage, from where you start your traverse down to the Colby Pass Trail.

Would prefer the Harrison Pass option to Lake Reflection-Longely Pass. Little Joe
Pass is an alternative to Harrison Pass, adn will get you to LR quicker.

Big Brewer option as your base camp to climb the peaks. Have only climbed Brewer
via Ouzel Creek route, so I cannot give you info on the peaks, but Brewer was a fun
climb with great scenery.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
User avatar
maverick
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 8028
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Trip planning Great Western Divide traverse Sept 2014

Postby astrogerly » Sun Jul 13, 2014 8:15 pm

@themappist

I think your trip sounds awesome and I'm kinda jealous! I'm still working on getting more multi-nighters under my belt after major back surgeries. In regards to Sphinx Creek, you should be fine. Maybe you and I are just weird breeds that don't have problems with elevation gain. I was up Sphinx Creek over Memorial Day and had no problems at all with the elevation - yes, even with not being in the backpacking shape I was in before I broke my back. Then again, I'm just weird when it comes to hiking... I prefer elevation gain over minimal gain/loss. ;) I'm looking forward to hearing about your trip afterward!
User avatar
astrogerly
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 50
Joined: Tue Jul 16, 2013 8:48 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Trip planning Great Western Divide traverse Sept 2014

Postby themappist » Sun Jul 13, 2014 9:07 pm

Astrogerly thanks for the comments and all the best on the recovery. Back injuries are scary. Every trip is different for acclimatization but I did most of my getting sick in my 20's and early 30's. I've been more conservative since and following the best practice for my body. Usually I can put my head down, climb and do the miles and if I don't feel well I stop. Simple.

Thanks for the beta Maverick. Good to hear about Cloud Canyon for fall photography. That's a very strong endorsement. It's also a shorter route both mileage and elevation gain wise. I do like the idea of the high traverse from Elizabeth pass, but the terrain in the Canyon looks more appealing visually in Cloud. I'm guessing this will be decision that gets made based on how we are feeling and where we are on the morning of day 2.

Would prefer the Harrison Pass option to Lake Reflection-Longely Pass. Little Joe
Pass is an alternative to Harrison Pass, and will get you to LR quicker.


I did Little Joe last September and saw both the top (from LSA) and bottom of Harrison. I'm interested in Harrison someday but more interested in the high traverse over Thunder this year. But it's good to have both those options relatively fresh in my mind and be familiar with them in case we are not feeling like Thunder is a right.

I've made some adjustment to the Caltopo route based on your other comments. Let me know if I've interpreted them correctly.

http://caltopo.com/map?id=4K4E
User avatar
themappist
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 49
Joined: Wed Apr 03, 2013 6:29 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Trip planning Great Western Divide traverse Sept 2014

Postby maverick » Mon Jul 14, 2014 12:31 pm

themappist wrote:
I did Little Joe last September and saw both the top (from LSA) and bottom of
Harrison. I'm interested in Harrison someday but more interested in the high
traverse over Thunder this year. But it's good to have both those options relatively
fresh in my mind and be familiar with them in case we are not feeling like Thunder
is a right.


Okay, now I see why you want to do Thunder.
Just for you info on Thunder, the chute at the top and upper part of northern side
is steep scree city, and as you get lower it turns into some deliciously of loose talus.
Here is a photo of the northern side: http://images.summitpost.org/original/2162.jpg
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
User avatar
maverick
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 8028
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: Trip planning Great Western Divide traverse Sept 2014

Postby themappist » Mon Jul 14, 2014 1:13 pm

Another nice image of the glacier remnant on that side here:

http://cache.backpackinglight.com/backp ... _16318.jpg
User avatar
themappist
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 49
Joined: Wed Apr 03, 2013 6:29 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Trip planning Great Western Divide traverse Sept 2014

Postby sekihiker » Sun Nov 30, 2014 2:36 pm

I hope you will tell us how your GWD traverse turned out.
User avatar
sekihiker
Founding Member
 
Posts: 268
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2005 2:47 pm
Location: Fresno
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Next

Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google Adsense [Bot] and 11 guests