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Nine Days on the Great Western Divide (August 2013))

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Nine Days on the Great Western Divide (August 2013))

Postby BigMan » Fri Jul 17, 2015 4:50 pm

Nine Days on the Great Western Divide
Aug. 19-27, 2013

From the Timber Gap trailhead in Mineral King, a friend and I hiked a Timber Gap>Blackrock Pass>Sawtooth Pass lollipop with a side trip to Nine Lakes Basin and Precipice Lake. Thank you HST forumites for all the trip reports that inspired and helped us. This trip report is long overdue and is my first of many. I hope you enjoy it.

Day 1: Timber Gap Trailhead to Pinto Lake:

After driving from San Jose and stopping in Silver City for lunch and pie, we hit the trail at about 2pm. The light rain made the hike out of Mineral King Valley cool and comfortable and made me a bit giddy. As we topped out on Timber Gap we were blessed by some light hail. We arrived at the camp near Pinto Lake just before the final usable light left us. We set up in the rain but soon the skies cleared. Before retiring I foolishly set out my wet merino shirt on a log.

Day 2: Pinto Lake to Little Five Lakes (Lake 10410):

My merino shirt had mysteriously moved. And became more breathable. And chic.

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I laughed for a good while and could swear I heard some marmots laughing, too.

The hike up to Blackrock Pass was long, slow, and arduous. But with partly cloudy skies and cool breezes, it wasn’t hot. Nor was it boring, as every switchback was an opportunity to see the great posternoster lakes (Spring, Cyclamen and Columbine) open up into view just a bit more.

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As we reached Black Rock Pass and gazed at the Kaweahs and the Sierra Crest, I felt that the trip was already a success.

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As I suspected, the trail actually didn't bring us to the highest Little Five Lake. We thirstily made our way down to Lake 10476, drank, rested, then moved on to Lake 10410.

It took us a while to find some decent campsites. There weren’t many clearings, and most of the ones we did find were boggy and muddy. Sometimes I foolishly believe that I deserve to be rewarded with an idyllic site after a long day's hike.

We finally found some decent sites. The view of the Kaweahs and the Sierra Crest didn't disappoint on this night of the full moon.

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(to be continued…)
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Re: Nine Days on the Great Western Divide (August 2013))

Postby rlown » Fri Jul 17, 2015 4:54 pm

I love the shirt.. looking forward to your next installments.
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Re: Nine Days on the Great Western Divide (August 2013))

Postby Jimr » Fri Jul 17, 2015 5:06 pm

I left my shirt out on a rock like that a few years ago. It stunk so bad, even the marmots wouldn't touch it. Woke up in the morning and it was frozen.

:lol: , I see you wore the shirt anyway. Now you gotta have sunburn spots where the holes are.
What?!
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Re: Nine Days on the Great Western Divide (August 2013))

Postby BigMan » Fri Jul 17, 2015 5:19 pm

Day 3: Lake 10410 to Nine Lakes Basin

We spent the morning roaming around the north side of Lake 10410. We saw the coolest glacial erratic that had split in two.

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To our surprise, it was already 1pm when we broke camp. As we approached Nine Lakes Basin a storm was brewing, with lightening hitting near Mt. Stewart. We met some campers at the heart-shaped lake (Lake 10440+); they weren’t very happy, having spent the last few days in a downpour. As we hiked around the west side of the lake we were pounded by hail, but our site at the south end of Lake 10725 came with some good luck.

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Sure enough, the skies cleared.

Day 4: Exploring Nine Lakes Basin

We used Phil Arnot's “High Sierra” to guide us up to a couple of lakes and eventually up to Lake 11682. Before we left I caught this view from our site.

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On the way up towards Lake 11682

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We thought about hiking up to Pyra-Queen Col but decided against it. I found the talus on the long northern shore of Lake 11682 to be tough going. Just sitting in the middle of this talus field, without my shelter, I felt a bit vulnerable. But of course this place was dramatically pristine and mesmerizing.

Black Kaweah
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Pyra-Queen Col
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We lazily explored the lakes and meadows west of Lawson Peak. Some shots along the way.

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My friend headed back to camp while I sat with the old foxtails.

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(to be continued...)
Last edited by BigMan on Wed Jul 22, 2015 8:25 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Nine Days on the Great Western Divide (August 2013))

Postby BigMan » Fri Jul 17, 2015 6:10 pm

Day 5: Nine Lakes Basin to Precipice Lake

My friend explored the lake to the north of Lake 10725 while I relaxed at Lake 10725. This lake has a nice “boat ramp” on its southern shore. This smooth and gradual granite shore provided a great clothes washboard and a warm lounge to stretch out on. I could’ve stayed here all day. By the time my friend returned, packed up, and left towards Precipice Lake, I was still here.

I looked forward to Precipice Lake, but given it’s beauty, accessibility, and location along the High Sierra Trail I assumed we’d be giving up the solitude we’d been enjoying for the past 48 hours. From the northwest shore of the Lake 10440+ I worked my way up towards Kaweah Gap along sandy benches. I ran into the HST about 30 feet below the Gap.

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Precipice Lake did not disappoint. By far the most colorful and unique lake I’ve ever seen. Also impressive was the view west towards Hamilton Lake and Valhalla. And to my pleasant surprise we saw no one there until the following morning.

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The surreal and euphoric evening at Precipice was followed by a cold, smoky and restless night. I thought I had half-awoken to the sight and smell of smoke above Hamilton Creek. My friend didn’t have the same experience so we wondered if it was just another vivid and strange high-altitude dream.

Morning at Precipice Lake

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Day 6: Precipice Lake to Little Five Lakes (Lake 10476)

We headed down the Big Arroyo partially off trail and alongside the creek. We saw smoke in the Kern and worried that we might be hiking right into the fire.

At t Lake 10476 we met Ranger Christina Gooch. She was leaving to assess a small fire on Chagoopa Plateau and larger fire in the Southern Kern Canyon. Before leaving, she pointed us to her favorite campsite along the east side of lake 10476.

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(to be continued...)
In wilderness lies the hope of the world.
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Re: Nine Days on the Great Western Divide (August 2013))

Postby sparky » Sun Jul 19, 2015 7:39 pm

wow awesome pictures and and cool trip! Love that big split boulder, the old horseshoe.....and of course precipice lake.....love that campsite!

Thanks for sharing.
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True happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
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Re: Nine Days on the Great Western Divide (August 2013))

Postby BigMan » Tue Jul 21, 2015 11:40 am

Day 7: Lake 10476 to Big Five Lakes (Lake 10260)

We took the trail to Big Five Lakes. My friend left before me, leaving me to hike in desired solitude. This short and less dramatic section of the hike gave me an opportunity to hike slowly and be present for every step; a walking meditation. Before dropping down into Big Five Lakes I sat on the shady ridge above Lake 10260. The cool, smoky breeze felt like autumn, and suddenly I was eagerly anticipating shorter days, longer nights, and Monday Night Football. We camped just east of Lake 10260 and looked down on Lake 9830 (and the smoke beyond).

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Before retiring I leaned my trekking poles against a granite shelf (*cough* foreshadowing *cough*).

Day 8: Lake 10214 to Columbine Lake

Of course, I found my poles with its straps chewed off. That marmot at Pinto Lake must have told his cousins I was coming.

My friend broke camp before I did. I packed up and sat quietly at our site above Lake 9830. Just as I stood up, a loud “whoosh” buzzed my right ear. I looked down to see a hawk gliding at full speed, directly away from me and downwards towards Lake 9830. I kept my eyes locked on it until I could no longer see it.

How did that happen? I looked around and realized that while I was sitting I might have been screened from the hawk’s view as it approached me. Could we have collided? I know hawks have skills but I wondered. Regardless, what a unique and intimate encounter!

In Lost Canyon I ran into some mules belonging to the National Forest Service. They let me pass.

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Columbine Lake was awesomely beautiful, yet eerily unfriendly and uninviting due to its rocky terrain and the rough surface of its rocks. I cut my hand on one just getting up. We had a large and sandy campsite, and despite the elevation, the nighttime temps were mild. And of course, the views were fantastic.

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Day 9: Columbine Lake to Mineral King Valley

The final day. The unmaintained trail up to Sawtooth Pass was solid. On the Pass the weather grew unstable.

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The first few hundred feet down from the Pass were a bit steep in places, but soon we were slaloming down the soft sandy slopes (try saying that three times fast). Wow, what fun! This is precisely why we chose to exit Sawtooth Pass.

The not-so-private loo at Monarch Lake. Because… why not?

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Below Monarch Lake we met a marmot who strongly encouraged us to drop our packs and explore Crystal Lake. He even offered to watch our packs for us. How kind.

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Then we spied a buck.

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Our final encounter was with a couple of humans who were planning on doing the Black Rock Pass to Sawtooth Pass loop in three days. They were carrying enormous packs and appeared to be struggling. I wondering how they were going to do it. And enjoy it. I hope they did.

Back at the truck, then a stop at Silver City. We found out that they don’t serve lunch on Teusday, so we took some pie to go.
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Re: Nine Days on the Great Western Divide (August 2013))

Postby maverick » Tue Jul 21, 2015 4:33 pm

Fabulous TR and pictures, from a beautiful location, marmots seem to really like you! :) There is a smaller lake next to Columbine, on the northern side of the trail, that has decent campsites, somewhat wind shielded, and has great views towards the Kaweah Ridge Line.

I found the talus on the long northern shore of Lake 10682 to be tough going.


You meant 11682.
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Re: Nine Days on the Great Western Divide (August 2013))

Postby BigMan » Wed Jul 22, 2015 8:22 am

Thanks everyone.

Maverick, your recommendations in the "Best 5-night Backpacking Trip" thread led me to this trip.

Geoff
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Re: Nine Days on the Great Western Divide (August 2013))

Postby maverick » Wed Jul 22, 2015 12:16 pm

Thanks everyone.

Maverick, your recommendations in the "Best 5-night Backpacking Trip" thread led me to this trip.

Geoff


Great, hope it lived up to your expectations.
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Re: Nine Days on the Great Western Divide (August 2013))

Postby bbayley80 » Wed Jul 22, 2015 3:38 pm

great report and amazing photos.
those marmots sure do love your gear! :D

thanks for sharing.

BigMan wrote:Maverick, your recommendations in the "Best 5-night Backpacking Trip" thread led me to this trip.


Maverick- that thread put this one on my radar as well..havent had a chance to tackle it yet. but soon!
thanks so much.
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Re: Nine Days on the Great Western Divide (August 2013))

Postby maverick » Wed Jul 22, 2015 3:57 pm

Maverick- that thread put this one on my radar as well..havent had a chance to tackle it yet. but soon!
thanks so much.


Looking forward to reading your version of the this trip Bbayley80, it is always interesting to read someone else's interpretation of the same route/trip. :)
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