TR: Silver Divide ~ 10/17 - 10/20/2013

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Bluewater
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TR: Silver Divide ~ 10/17 - 10/20/2013

Post by Bluewater » Mon Oct 28, 2013 4:46 pm

Just as the parks were re-opening I got one last chance to get into the high country before the first real winter storms arrived. Art (artrock) and I took off Wednesday afternoon and headed up the 395 toward Little Lakes Valley. We slept at the trailhead and considering the altitude (about 10,000 ft) and the temperature (23) we both endured a restless night on the asphalt. At least the car provided a good windblock. . .

Although we hit the trail at the same time we had very different styles for this trip. I was traveling light to cover some unfinished miles on the SHR while Art was geared up for mountaineering. My plan was to go over Mono Pass then follow the SHR over the Silver Divide and circle back via Silver Pass and the Mono Creek Trail. Art setup a base camp a few miles in and planned on bagging Mt. Starr, Mt. Morgan and possibly more depending on the weather and conditions after the recent snow storms.
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By 4:30 pm I made it up the switchbacks to the meadow below Laurel Lake. . .
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and setup camp by the creek.
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The next morning I followed the use trail toward Laurel Lake. It was cold that night, about 24 degrees, so most of the waterfalls were frozen. I broke through the frozen creeks in a few places to get water.
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By 10:00 am I took a break on the shore of Laurel Lake before starting the climb to Bighorn Pass. The views opened up as I ascended and at the top I could see Mt. Gabb and Mt. Abbot in the distance.
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Last edited by Bluewater on Mon Oct 28, 2013 5:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.








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maverick
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Re: TR: Silver Divide ~ 10/17 - 10/20/2013

Post by maverick » Mon Oct 28, 2013 5:02 pm

Very nice Bluewater. How thick was the ice on Summit? Love the Laurel Lake
area, especially Grinnell Lakes. Nice comparison shot of the two backpacks.
Looking forward to the next installment.
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TR: Silver Divide ~ 10/17 - 10/20/2013

Post by Bluewater » Mon Oct 28, 2013 5:10 pm

(continued)

I wasn't fully acclimated so I had to stop a few times on the way over Bighorn Pass. As I looked at the north and northeast facing slopes in the area I started to consider some alternates to the north side of Shout of Relief Pass. Most of the chutes and boulder fields on the north facing slopes were holding snow, not enough to make it easy but just enough to make route finding a challenge.

I decided to stick to the passes on the south side of the Silver Divide. From Bighorn Lake I could take Walton Col into the next drainage and Warrior Ridge over to Silver Pass.
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I contoured along the north and west shore of Rosy Finch Lake and followed the granite benches to the outlet of Bighorn Lake. Along the way I could see that the northeast facing chutes leading to Walton Col were holding a lot of snow. I decided to try the route over the ridge at a lower elevation (10,600) that looked like it would lead into the next drainage and eventually Warrior Ridge.
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After crossing the small tarn just below Bighorn Lake I found what looked like a use trail along the ridge at about 10,400 feet. Unfortunately it ended with a big dropoff just to the west of Mott Lake. I was forced to bushwhack down a dry riverbed to the trail below. I searched the ridge above for a good way over but it mostly looked like shear granite walls. I remember reading a TR about a route over this ridge at about 10,600 feet, but I wasn't finding anything from the Mott Lake Trail. Eventually it started to get dark so I took a detour to the JMT, then the Mono Creek Trail junction and camped on one of the large flat rocks on the promontory overlooking Quail Meadows. I got there just in time for an amazing sunset, which seemed like a good consolation considering my lack of route finding along the Silver Divide.
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TR: Silver Divide ~ 10/17 - 10/20/2013

Post by Bluewater » Mon Oct 28, 2013 5:38 pm

(continued)

The next morning I decided to hike back up the Mono Creek Trail and explore Pioneer Basin. Although I was looking forward to exploring the lakes in Pioneer Basin I kept getting distracted by the fall colors.
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I made good time and soon I was making dinner and relaxing along one of the lakes with amazing views across the canyon.
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The temperature plummeted as soon as the sun dropped behind the Mt. Hopkins. I setup camp on a plateau with great views of the aplenglow on Mt. Huntington, Mt. Standford and the peaks and ridges along the Third & Fourth Recesses across the canyon.
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On the way out the next day I made an unplanned detour to Golden Lake. Fortunately I found a good use trail that contours above the lake at about 10,200 feet and leads up toward Mono Pass. Some of the trail was covered with snow and the angle down to the lake got steep with some slightly uncomfortable exposure.
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After breaking through the ice for some crystal clear (and great tasting) water I took a break in the sun along the shore of Summit Lake.
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By 4:00 pm the sun was already disappearing behind Mt. Mills and Mt. Abbot and there were some long shadows in Little Lakes Valley. I got back to the car just in time to change clothes, warm up and get a cheese burger in town. On the way home Art and I exchanged stories about our last adventures of the summer. Art bagged Mt. Starr and Mt. Morgan and still had time to go into town for a real breakfast on Sunday. Nice.
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Re: TR: Silver Divide ~ 10/17 - 10/20/2013

Post by Bluewater » Mon Oct 28, 2013 5:41 pm

Thanks Maverick! The ice was getting thick in the center of Summit Lake, but it was easy to break through along the sides. Probably not solid enough for ice skating yet :).

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Re: TR: Silver Divide ~ 10/17 - 10/20/2013

Post by KathyW » Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:58 am

Great report and photos. I want to go to Big Horn Lake after seeing your photos. Maybe a trip to Big Horn Lake / Mount Izaak Walton is sometime in the future for me. Thanks so much for sharing.

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Re: TR: Silver Divide ~ 10/17 - 10/20/2013

Post by Ryanoa » Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:42 am

Nice report and photos...the Silver Divide is one of my favorite areas. My first major x-country hike was a traverse of the divide from Graveyard Lakes to Pioneer Basin. Lots of memories. The Laurel Creek valley below Red and White Mountain is stunning.

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Re: TR: Silver Divide ~ 10/17 - 10/20/2013

Post by freestone » Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:55 pm

Bluewater, nice report and pictures. I could feel the chill. Looks like you were SUL, with the long nights and short days, did you stay warm enough to be comfortable?
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Re: TR: Silver Divide ~ 10/17 - 10/20/2013

Post by Bluewater » Tue Oct 29, 2013 10:11 pm

Thanks KathyW, Ryanoa and freestone!

It definitely got cold on this trip. Freestone, I think my base weight was around 10 lbs so probably just 'UL' this time :). I stayed warm and brought most of my go-to winter gear. Also, to avoid carrying a lot of extra layers I usually have dinner in the afternoon while it's still warm and then hike right until setting up camp for the night.

I brought silk long johns, down vest, down booties, down mitts, w/b outer mitts, rain/snow pants and a dryducks jacket. I've been using a homemade 20 degree quilt with a down beanie, a wool balaclava and head band (to keep my face warm) at night. Just in case I threw in microspikes and gaiters, but never used them.

There's a picture of Mono Pass on the HST Facebook page that looks like the entire area got some serious snow yesterday!

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Re: TR: Silver Divide ~ 10/17 - 10/20/2013

Post by orbitor » Wed Nov 20, 2013 5:17 pm

Great report, I'm glad you had a nice autumn outing!
Thanks for sharing.
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