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Traverse of the Great Western Divide - TR

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Traverse of the Great Western Divide - TR

Postby jkemper » Mon Oct 20, 2008 4:19 pm

Great Western Divide Trip Report.

Aug 10 -- My friend Chris and I drove like crazy from the Bay Area to Roads End in Kings Canyon to secure our permit for the following day. The drive was HOT since my car doesn't have air conditioning but the thought of our upcoming adventure made up for the long drive. We got to the ranger station at 3:00 pm and where lucky to be the last crew of the day to get our permit before the ranger closed up shop.
Chris and I back tracked down the hill a bit and found a nice campsite where we downed a few last call refreshments and waited for our buddy Danny to show up. At 9:00 the car horn band rolled through camp as one of natures friends Ms. Black Bear paid a visit. After this I couldn't wait to get away from the Yahooooo's.

Aug 11 -- (11 Miles -- ~5700 feet gain) We got on the trail by about 8:00 and started the long hike up Avalanche Pass. The first couple of miles are really boring but once you start to leave the valley the views get much better. Here is a pic of Danny and Chris on our way up the hill.

At about the 8 mile mark we hit the end of our trail for the next few days and followed Sphinx Creek up to canyon. The X-country travel up to Sphinx Lake #3 wasn't very difficult except for the last hill from sphinx lake #2 to #3 and I think the only reason it seemed so tough was because I was dead tired and feeling a bit of the altitude kick in. But we made it none-the-less and spent a couple of hours before the sun set to catch a dozen or so small trout. Here is a picture from our night 1 campsite at lake #3 looking over Sphinx Lake at North Guard.

Aug 12 -- (6+ miles ~-1500/2000 loss/gain) We packed up really early that next morning after having a nice breakfast. We followed the valley up towards Sphinx Col passing the last few Sphinx lakes in route. Here a pic of Danny passing Lake 5 with a nice view of the Sphinx Crest in the background.

After gain Sphinx Col we decided to not bag Mt. Brewer, all of us where trying to still get acclimated. So we continued on across Brewer creek basin and climbed over Cinder col. We stopped and had our lunch at the tarn at the top of the col.
This little tarn was so inviting and it was so bloody hot out i went for a nice swim after lunch... boy was it refreshing.
We continued on down from Cinder Col to South Guard Lake and then down Cunningham Creek. After a few miles down Cunningham Creek we turned East and hiked up to the 1st tarn below Thunder Ridge at 11k feet. We found a nice campsite near the lake and ended a very long day. We didn't see any signs of fish in the tarn so we played a few hands of cards and called it a night.
Some alpine glow and Thunder Ridge in the background.

Aug 13 (6.7 miles - ~-2400/2100 loss/gain) - I finally started to feel pretty good; pack was lighter, and my lungs weren't burning so bad anymore. This would be our toughest day of the trip. The hike up to Thunder Ridge was very tough. It was steep with lots of big boulders to deal with.

So here is where i messed up. I spent a bunch of time researching this hike and had MacLeod pass highlighted on my TOPO! mapping software but forgot to mark the pass on the 7.5 minute quad i took on the trip. So after looking at the different options between Thunder Mountain and Table Mountain we decided to take the chute closest to Table Mountain... What a mistake!!!! The climb over was to the chute was very difficult with lots of giant boulders. The chute itself was very steep and loose (at one point i pulled a giant rock loose trying to climb up). Once at the top we realized we probably messed up because the backside of the chute looked worse then the way we had come. So instead of back tracking we took turns going down the chute which was very loose scree and rocks. We all got down safely and named the pass "Charmin Pass" since it scared the crap out of us. We ate lunch at the lake below the pass and took stock on what we had just done. We figured at that point the hardest part of the trip was over.
We continued east from Table Mountain down a number of larger granite cliffs following the creek down to an unnamed lake at 36.39.801N 118.26.185W. We found a nice fishing hole before the lake in the small stream and landed a dozen Golden trout. These where a welcome change from the dehydrated food we had been living on. At the lake we found a very nice campsite and caught even more Golden's... What a great lake....

Aug 14 (15+ miles ~3800/2600 loss/gain) -- We took it slow and easy the next morning. We knew the hard part of the trip was over and we weren't in a big hurry to get back to the trail. So we fished some more and caught a few more fish to add to the count. After a few miles of walking in the morning we where back on the trail, and within minutes we ran into our first people since leaving the Bubbs creek trail a few days earlier. We said our hellos and continued on till we ran into the JMT. From there we headed towards Forrester Pass and passed a number of people on the way. This was my first time over Forrester Pass... boy what a feet to make that trail. We had lunch on top of Forrester pass and then made our way down to 10k to Vidette meadows and found a nice place to camp for our last night. I heard a lot about the bears in this area but we didn't see any that night.

Aug 15 (15+ miles - ~4500 loss) -- With pizza and beer on my mind we made a dash for the car. We flew down the bubbs creek trail and made it back to the car in 4 hrs and 30 minutes. And yes the last 2 miles where as boring as the start of the trip.

This ended up being a great trip.. I posted a few more pictures here if your interested. ... 672253148/
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Re: Traverse of the Great Western Divide - TR

Postby hikerduane » Mon Oct 20, 2008 7:21 pm

Thanks for the pics, report and fishin report. More country I need to get to in time. I did the Rae Lakes Loop two years ago. Like you, where are the bears at Vidette Meadow? I saw a couple rattlers on my way down towards Roads End and went for a swim in the river before heading up towards the Lower Paradise CG.
Piece of cake.
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Re: Traverse of the Great Western Divide - TR

Postby Shawn » Mon Oct 20, 2008 7:34 pm

I enjoyed your TR and photos; thanks for posting them

Also for the smile; "Charmin Pass" is a great name. :D

Beautiful country back there!
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Re: Traverse of the Great Western Divide - TR

Postby copeg » Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:50 pm

Enjoyed reading the trip report, and even more so looking at the photos. Thanks for sharing!
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Re: Traverse of the Great Western Divide - TR

Postby Snow Nymph » Tue Oct 21, 2008 8:11 pm

I enjoyed the report too! And naming passes! :D
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison
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Re: Traverse of the Great Western Divide - TR

Postby AnnieB » Wed Oct 22, 2008 12:23 pm

I enjoyed your trip report! Great photos.
I don't know that I would call a 15+ mile day which includes Forrester Pass "taking it easy" but maybe that's just me...
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Re: Traverse of the Great Western Divide - TR

Postby windknot » Wed Oct 22, 2008 6:53 pm

Thanks for the wonderful pictures and report! Lots of beautiful country there.

A few backcountry fishing pictures:
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Re: Traverse of the Great Western Divide - TR

Postby quentinc » Thu Oct 23, 2008 2:45 pm

Ditto on the great report. I actually have seen bears in Vidette. Once, one was harassing some people with a bear canister. I got a kick out of that, since my food was safely hanging from a tree (this was before the NPS regulated your every move).
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