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TR: Great Western Divide ~ July 2014.

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TR: Great Western Divide ~ July 2014.

Postby Bluewater » Mon Oct 06, 2014 3:16 pm

After reading the "High Route South" by Bill Finch last winter I decided to create my own version of the HRS along the Great Western Divide (http://sierrahiker.home.comcast.net/~si ... outeSouth/). I'm not a climber and doing a traverse along the top of the ridge was out of the question, but I still wanted to explore the basins and cross country passes along the GWD. Like many of us on HST I spent hours reading trip reports and considering the different ways to access the range. With some luck I was able to organize a car exchange so I could start at one end and do a thru-hike style route to the opposite end. As summer approached my own version of the High Route South took shape and by July I had a good route plan. Thunderstorms, blisters and an unexpected reaction to the pollen blowing through the fields of wildflowers all caused me to take many of my 'plan b' routes. In the end it was a great trip and although I didn't finish my route along the Great Western Divide I will be back to finish it soon.

To avoid reposting all of the photos here is the link to the TR:

http://seatosummitultralight.blogspot.c ... -2014.html

40.JPG
Upper Kaweah Basin



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Re: TR: Great Western Divide ~ July 2014.

Postby maverick » Mon Oct 06, 2014 4:13 pm

Beautiful TR and wonderful pictures Bluewater!

Wildflowers usually are at their peak in July, and sometimes into early August
in the high country from my experience, especially during normal years of precip.

Thunder Col is a solid class 3, why its rated only class 2 is beyond me, as is
Kaweah Pass. :\

I too enjoyed the lakes in Milestone Bowl, saw some huge bucks the last time
going thru there on my way to Milestone Basin.

Oleander and myself stayed at that large lake with the several peninsulas and
beaches, very pretty lake, and worth revisiting some day, as is the whole Upper
Kern. :nod:

Gallets meadow area is one of the prettiest meadows in the Sierra to me, especially
during the Fall season, but as you saw, it is still quite striking in the Summer too.

In regards to your shoes, I have had that happen to me too, for me personally,
getting pre-hikes that even closely resemble Sierra type hikes hikes (length or
difficulty) is not really possible in the Bay Area, except maybe at Henry Coe.
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
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Re: TR: Great Western Divide ~ July 2014.

Postby Mike M. » Mon Oct 06, 2014 5:28 pm

Andy, nice trip report! You really put in the miles, especially that first day, coming as you did right from sea level. I couldn't do that with my big lunker of a pack and my 50 lb load.

I have not tried Thunder Col but have considered it in the past. If the chute you encountered is the only way down, there is no way I would risk it. Good on you for having the judgement to turn around and not risk a bad outcome.

That big patch of purple flowers (Lupine?) along the trail on the north side of Forester Pass is one of my favorite in the Sierra. Not far from there, further down the trail near the junction with Center Basin, is a great place to camp. Just up from the junction, right next to the trail, is an expansive developed dirt site (several actually), but if you walk upstream a few hundred yards there are couple of private sites in the trees, just a few steps from the creek, where you get expansive views both up and down the creek -- and loads of wildflowers.

Mike
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Re: TR: Great Western Divide ~ July 2014.

Postby freestone » Mon Oct 06, 2014 5:46 pm

Excellent report and beautiful pictures, especially the trees. Only in the California and the Sierra can you find such beauty. Surprised you developed blisters with such a light pack weight. What was your menu? Looks like you had hot meals even by UL standards.
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Re: TR: Great Western Divide ~ July 2014.

Postby ofuros » Mon Oct 06, 2014 6:28 pm

Great trip report & pics, thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Re: TR: Great Western Divide ~ July 2014.

Postby alpinemike » Tue Oct 07, 2014 11:59 am

Fantastic TR Andy! I know we talked earlier in the summer about possible routes in the Great Western Divide. Glad you got out there to explore some amazing areas! That entire area really feels like my favorite in the Sierra. Not sure if you checked out my Great Western Divide TR but I faced my share of unexpected happenings and had a great deal of re-routing take place, so I only got into a few areas that I really planned on.

Thunder Pass really looks nasty. Reminds me exactly of what I did with RoguePhotonic on Rambaud Pass this summer. Really helps to have an ice ax on passes like that. I slid around a lot no doubt. It would be great if you could write up a small description of the pass and include your photos in the Cross-Country Passes section.
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Re: TR: Great Western Divide ~ July 2014.

Postby Bluewater » Tue Oct 07, 2014 9:15 pm

@Maverick, the lake with the peninsulas and beaches was beautiful and definitely worth another visit. I camped in the area just below along the outlet creek and it was also a gem. Granite ledges with puffy grass and flowers and a meandering series of creeks. The whole area showed little human use which seemed strange considering the beauty but the two day (minimum) hike in has probably saved it. I'm glad to have finally been able to see some of these places that I hear about on HST.

@Mike, I've done most of the first days route on other trips and it has become my favorite way into the Southern Sierra. Cottonwood Pass is mellow, about 1,500 feet, and from there the terrain is forgiving. I slept at the trailhead the night before which usually helps with the altitude. Thanks for the tip on the good camping spots near the JMT/Center Basin junction.

@freestone, my menu is basic, mainly calorie dense stuff. I have a hot dinner each night and still just go with Mountainhouse. My 'cooking' is limited to boiling two cups of water for Mac & cheese (900+ calorie bomb), beef stew, lasagna. For breakfast I like the MH granola with dehydrated blueberries, dried mangos and S-bucks Via ice coffee on the trail. For lunch and snacks I go with a mix of ProBars, cliff bars, p-nut m&ms, dried salami, cheese, p-nut butter & tortillas and lots of gatorade powdered drink mix.

@alpinemike, thanks for your help this summer with the route planning. Your GWD trip looks like it was epic! Dericks video from some of the time you spent with Rogue this summer is great, you guys must have had a blast. . . I like the climbing you did on the peaks around Bear Lakes. I'm going to post some info on the southeast approach to Thunder Pass (although I can't help with the north side:). I went back later and finished the northern GWD via Longely, Brewer, Sphinx & Roads End.
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Re: TR: Great Western Divide ~ July 2014.

Postby sekihiker » Tue Nov 04, 2014 8:17 pm

Wow, Andy, what a great adventure. Photos are awesome. I'm afraid to saturate photos as much as you have, but, somehow they create a positive mood for the report. You certainly managed to visit lots of memorable places. Vantage points for many of the photos really gave me a feel for what the trip was like. For example, "The final Class III climb to Kaweah Basin" was a real eye opener. I've been up that creek a couple of times and never noticed how steep it is. Thunder Pass/Col sure is nasty on the north side. When I was clawing my way up it in 2003, I thought it was the most exhausting pass I had ever done and was really happy I was going up and not down. Every time I read a report for this area, it inspires me to revisit it. Tough part is that you have to be in really good shape to get around like you did.
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Re: TR: Great Western Divide ~ July 2014.

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Nov 05, 2014 3:42 pm

Great trip report. I have been to all those places. It was interesting how you put together your particular route. Lucky duck to have an opportunity for a one-way trip! Driving logistics are always a problem.

You can really do the miles on trail going UL. But when on hard off-trail terrain, I think that the day's mileage is more limited by the sheer difficulty of travel. A few more pounds carried is not a huge factor. But avoiding the "standard" backpack weights is needed simply to be able to maneuver. My 10-day starting pack weight is usually 32-33 pounds and my off-trail mileage is about the same as yours. I make a point of saving the hardest travel for the ending part of the trip when I have eaten most of my food!

As I get older I find I can still keep up the 7-mile difficult off-trail miles because the terrain itself limits speed. But I can no long pull 20+mile days on trail- my poor joints and feet just cannot tolerate that any more, regardless of weight in my pack. I cannot even do that as a day-hike anymore!
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Re: TR: Great Western Divide ~ July 2014.

Postby alpinemike » Wed Nov 05, 2014 9:19 pm

Just a little bit about pack weights for me this summer. I try and go quite light and even skimp on food quite a bit. The problem was that when Rogue and I were out for 13-15 day sections it's hard to get the weight down since you're just carrying so much food. And on top of all of that my 9 pounds of camera gear didn't help. Definitely wish it wasn't so heavy but old school film gear wasn't exactly made with ultralight in mind. I remember my pack and his weighed around 48-50 pounds for about 14 days. The first few days of cross country travel was very rough.. We never got more than 4-5 miles in the day.
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Re: TR: Great Western Divide ~ July 2014.

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Nov 06, 2014 5:47 pm

I guess from an outsider-looking-in, it amazes me you would skimp on food, and then have 9 pounds of "old school" camera gear, on the type of trip you and Rogue were doing. I guess we all have our "sacred cows" we just are not willing to skimp on! For my husband it is his 5 pounds of fishing gear. At least you can catch dinner with some of that gear. In 2012 I started my 14-day trips in the Wind Rivers with 42 pounds on my back. I skimped on food but took fly fishing gear (total of 11 oz) and knew I could easily catch dinner if needed. One "sacred cow" in the Wind Rivers is wading shoes - 10-oz crocks. There, you end up wading creeks many times each day and the luxury of dry shoes at night are worth it to me.

My main problem with the 40-45 pound range, is that it is too heavy for my GoLite Quest, so I really suffer until I get rid of about 5 pounds. Yet, if I use my Kelty load hauler, I am carrying so much extra weight I do not need later in the trip.

A heavier pack never stopped me from hard off-trail travel, but a lighter pack sure makes it more fun!
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Re: TR: Great Western Divide ~ July 2014.

Postby Bluewater » Sat Nov 08, 2014 2:25 pm

Thanks for your feedback! I used the 'super vivid' mode on a Canon S95 a lot on that trip. It automatically super saturates the photos and instead of editing them I just posted as-is. It's sometimes over the top (understatement).

Sekihiker, I used the information from your Mt Brewer Loop tr as an outline for a follow up trip later in the summer. I went back and finished the north end of the GWD, although t-storms kept me off Mt Brewer. I got to within 100+- feet from the top via the north chute.

WD I agree about the realistic cross country daily mileage. I'm ok doing the long trail days (w/ a light pack) to access the 'good stuff', but those long boulder fields can be demoralizing:) I max out at around 1 mph and can really only comfortably go for 6-7 hours in a day.

Alpinemike I can't imagine how hard it was sliding on granite boulders descending into the Enchanted Gorge with a heavy pack. Adding 9 lbs of camera gear and another 7.5 lbs of food (1.5 lbs/day @ 5 days) would have had my pack at over 40 lbs on day 1. I've trained with a 40 lb pack and it was hard. You guys are hardcore. Still, I would gladly carry a little more to beable to go out for 30 days at a time.


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