Great Western Divide Trip Advice

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
GGC23
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 35
Joined: Fri Jul 08, 2016 2:51 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Great Western Divide Trip Advice

Post by GGC23 » Mon Jul 20, 2020 1:09 pm

I'm heading out later this week for a big loop starting at Shepherd Pass to the Great Western Divide area. The route is here: https://caltopo.com/m/C0RD. I have a few questions for those who have been there before:

1) Based on my research, it looks like we have the option of crossing the GWD at either the low point between Midway and Milestone Mountains (purple route on the map) or Milestone Pass southeast of Milestone Mountain (red line on the map). I'm struggling to find much info about the first option, likely because everyone seems to have a different name for that pass, which makes googling difficult! From what I can gather, it looks like the first option is more technical than the second, with short stretches of class 3. That's fine with me; while I don't find class 3 climbing with a pack to be particularly enjoyable, it won't cause me to turn around. Additionally, the first option spits me out on the correct (north) side of Colby Pass, so it seems to be more efficient given the direction of my trip. All of that said, does anyone have opinions on which is the better option? If the second option is particularly pretty or if the first option is particularly terrible class 3, the fact that I save a bit of distance with the first option doesn't matter too much.

2) Once we cross Longley Pass and hit Lake Reflection, I've plotted 2 ways back to the starting point. The first (red line) crosses Harrison Pass and goes to Lake South America and then picks up the trail back to Shepherd Pass. The second (blue line) drops into Bubb's Canyon and goes via Center Basin and Junction Pass back to the east side of the Shepherd Pass trail. Any thoughts on which route is preferable? They appear to be just about equal time-wise. The red route is a bit shorter, but has more off-trail hiking so will be slower. I'm drawn to the blue route because I've never been to Center Basin before, but again, happy to hear other opinions.

Thanks in advance for any advice or wisdom!








User avatar
maiathebee
Topix Regular
Posts: 351
Joined: Tue Jun 18, 2013 11:59 am
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker
Location: Oakland, CA
Contact:

Re: Great Western Divide Trip Advice

Post by maiathebee » Mon Jul 20, 2020 5:10 pm

2) I have done both routes. Here is a trip report from the Harrison/LSA way and here is a trip report from Center Basin / Junction Pass.

For the xc passes, you have the choice of slogging either up or down a steep sandy slope. (Up if you choose Harrison, down if you choose Junction). If you're comfortable clawing your way up steep sand with loose boulders, I'd pick Harrison. The Kern headwaters are cool and you get to see the GWD from another perspective, which makes sense given the theme of your trip. If you'd rather slide down steep sand than claw your way up it, go with Junction. Center Basin is absolutely beautiful and the view from Junction Pass is impressive and gives a unique perspective on Tyndall. Plus it's fun to be *higher* than Forester and think about all the JMT/PCT hikers just over the ridge. The old JMT use trail takes you right to the the ridge so you can look down on the basin north of Forester. If wildflowers are an interest, I've seen Sky Pilot on the north sides of both passes, but much much more on Junction.
oh hey! you're reading my signature.
that's nice. want to check out my blog?
here it is: plutoniclove.com
ig: @plutonic_love

User avatar
TurboHike
Topix Regular
Posts: 166
Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2017 4:10 am
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Re: Great Western Divide Trip Advice

Post by TurboHike » Tue Jul 21, 2020 6:09 am

For 1), I've done Milestone Pass and the views of the Kaweahs from the pass and from Milestone Bowl are outstanding.

I haven't done the other proposed route, but I've seen some recent photos in a trip report on yourownhike.com. Go to their Copper Mine Pass Loop trip report. On this trip, they did a day hike from Colby Lake up to Lake 3512, which is on the west side of the pass. The trip report describes the route, but to see the photos you'll need to click on their full photo gallery. Good luck.

User avatar
GGC23
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 35
Joined: Fri Jul 08, 2016 2:51 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Re: Great Western Divide Trip Advice

Post by GGC23 » Tue Jul 21, 2020 12:33 pm

Thank you both for the advice. I did more digging on question #1, and I found this old thread (viewtopic.php?t=13830) where the author described the pass between Midway and Milestone as "Nothing about this route was even slightly appealing" :eek: . So I think I'll stick with Milestone Pass, particularly given what TurboHike has said about it. Still torn on Harrison Pass v. Junction Pass for the return, but it sounds like both have their pros and cons.

User avatar
thegib
Topix Regular
Posts: 138
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2012 11:37 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Berkeley

Re: Great Western Divide Trip Advice

Post by thegib » Tue Jul 21, 2020 1:42 pm

I did Milestone pass last year and agree w turbohike. Camping high on the south side you have an insane view of the Kaweah's in one direction and an awesome view of Milestone in the other. Super worthwhile.

User avatar
Flip1963
Topix Newbie
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2021 8:11 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: Great Western Divide Trip Advice

Post by Flip1963 » Fri Jan 01, 2021 9:08 pm

I did Bubb's Cr, Kearsarge and Harrison Pass with my three brothers back in 1963. Hiked across from Mineral King via Franklin Pass down Rattle Cr I believe.. to Little Kern if memory serve. There was a bath tub with from a hot spring there and had to bucket from the to cool it down. Always wanted to winter there. Hiked a lot of the Sierra back then. Still have ice ax and crampons. Could hike for two weeks and not see another sole. Did run into Marry Hooper one year, a 60+ year old gal that had no trouble keeping up with us kids. Great memories.

User avatar
stevet
Topix Regular
Posts: 105
Joined: Sun Jan 29, 2006 8:46 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Clifton Park, New York
Contact:

Re: Great Western Divide Trip Advice

Post by stevet » Sun Jan 03, 2021 8:04 pm

Maia's description is spot on. Claw up Shepherd or sandhill down Junction. From Reflection, Little Joe's Pass offers an alternate route to the Upper Kern and early season or in a big snow year it will be clear (west facing) where Harrison can to still icy/snow covered. On the other hand...if you've been through the Upper Kern, then let me recommend the Center Basin / Junction Pass route. Golden Bear Lake, enough said. The route over Junction... there is still enough old JMT left that the route finding is straight forward.

User avatar
Lumbergh21
Topix Expert
Posts: 442
Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2016 10:11 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Re: Great Western Divide Trip Advice

Post by Lumbergh21 » Sun Jan 03, 2021 8:22 pm

Flip1963 wrote:
Fri Jan 01, 2021 9:08 pm
I did Bubb's Cr, Kearsarge and Harrison Pass with my three brothers back in 1963. Hiked across from Mineral King via Franklin Pass down Rattle Cr I believe.. to Little Kern if memory serve. There was a bath tub with from a hot spring there and had to bucket from the to cool it down. Always wanted to winter there. Hiked a lot of the Sierra back then. Still have ice ax and crampons. Could hike for two weeks and not see another sole. Did run into Marry Hooper one year, a 60+ year old gal that had no trouble keeping up with us kids. Great memories.
When I was at the Kern Hotsprings in 2016, the bucket was rusted out, but the temperature of the hotspring filling the tub was fine by me. Soaked 2 days of trail dust off then jumped in the Kern River. Just a bit of a temperature difference. :eek: Loved it!

User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Docent
Posts: 5187
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Experience: N/A
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Contact:

Re: Great Western Divide Trip Advice

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Jan 04, 2021 10:03 am

Did "GGC23" ever do the trip? I was gone all summer so may have missed a trip report.

But if not, it annoys me when someone asks for advise, we respond, and then we never hear from them again.

User avatar
kylekuzma
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 50
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2018 1:30 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Re: Great Western Divide Trip Advice

Post by kylekuzma » Mon Jan 04, 2021 10:12 am

Flip1963 wrote:
Fri Jan 01, 2021 9:08 pm
I did Bubb's Cr, Kearsarge and Harrison Pass with my three brothers back in 1963. Hiked across from Mineral King via Franklin Pass down Rattle Cr I believe.. to Little Kern if memory serve. There was a bath tub with from a hot spring there and had to bucket from the to cool it down. Always wanted to winter there. Hiked a lot of the Sierra back then. Still have ice ax and crampons. Could hike for two weeks and not see another sole. Did run into Marry Hooper one year, a 60+ year old gal that had no trouble keeping up with us kids. Great memories.
1963?? Holy cow that sounds interesting. What was the sierra like back then? Was Bubbs still a highway? Would love to hear more about this.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot], Google Adsense [Bot], sekihiker and 6 guests