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Trip Report: Sequoia-Kings Canyon Great Western Divide Criss-Cross
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Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Trip Report: Sequoia-Kings Canyon Great Western Divide Criss-Cross on 08/12/2012 20:01:05 MDT Print View

On August 6, I drove to Kings Canyon and picked up my reserved wilderness permit at Roads End before the station closed, then spent the night at one of the Cedar Grove car campgrounds where some bear was working the area. My load was to consist of about ten pounds of base weight (including bear canister), about 13 pounds of food and fuel, and about 11 pounds of camera gear. I didn't really need that much food for seven days of trip.

On Day 1, I hit the trail at Roads End at 6 a.m. and arrived at Lake Reflection by 3 p.m. That is about 15 miles and 5000 feet of gain, and I can do that only on my first day when I am fresh. Unfortunately, the sky was not cooperating and photography was somewhat limited. It rained before 4 p.m.

On Day 2, my plan was to go over Harrison Pass, and that would require me to backtrack downhill one mile, then head east following the drainage. Instead, I followed a usage trail up to a hill northeast of Lake Reflection, then cut across the bench to reach the middle of the drainage. At the head of the drainage was Harrison Pass, but this wasn't going to be easy. There is no visible trail. It was just one long gravel-scree slope with the occasional boulders sitting around at the angle of repose. I didn't know which side of the steep chute to try, so I started with the west side. It was terrible, and the rock wall couldn't be gripped because it crumbled. I couldn't get much traction in gravel. A boulder slid in front of me and gashed my shin. I gave up on the west side and moved across the chute to the east side. That required me to swim through the moving gravel even faster. The east side was ascended, and I made it to the top by 1:30 p.m. Descending would have been much easier. At the top of Harrison Pass, I had crossed the Great Western Divide into Sequoia National Park. I walked down to Lake South America, then continued to a small nearby lake just in time for the rain at 4 p.m. I could see south into the Kern River area, Milestone Peak, and all that.

On Day 3, I descended south as I followed fresh bighorn sheep tracks that were made within the previous 14 hours. I cut cross-country east at the 12,000 foot contour to intercept the John Muir Trail, then turned north toward Forester Pass. Gaining the pass at 11 a.m., I saw a struggle between one horseman and his number two pack horse which had rolled its heavy load. I continued northbound back into Kings Canyon along the JMT for four hours, and the horseman never caught up with me [strange]. I made it to Charlotte Lake for the night, but not before the afternoon rain drenched me. Maybe you see the daily weather theme here.

On Day 4, I left Charlotte Lake, got back out on the JMT northbound, and went over Glen Pass. Descending only halfway down to Rae Lakes, I veered off northwest, over Rae Col, and down into the Sixty Lakes Basin. Guess what. Rain again. I wandered around and got over into the western end of the basin with the intention of getting a camp close enough that I could climb Mount Cotter. Then it rained again, and this time was very cold, so I sat down on the ground with just my plastic ground sheet over me. I realized that I would not want to be solo climbing the 12,700 foot peak with the rain and lightning, so I bailed. The rain soaking had ceased to make this fun. I turned around and headed back east and fled to the far northern lake of the basin and camped early. I had lots of stuff to dry out, and I ate double that night to try to consume some excess food weight.

On Day 5, I estimated that I could get more than halfway out in one day, so I started out. It took me a couple of hours of cross-country to get directly out of the basin and back onto the JMT, and then I started rolling downhill toward Woods Crossing. Turning left, I headed toward Paradise Valley, and it was still early afternoon, so I decided to just keep the pace and go all of the way out that day. I rolled all the way down and back to Roads End by 6:15 p.m., totally exhausted, but not before it rained again on me. I still had enough food for at least a couple of days, and I had used only half of my Esbit fuel. Feet hurt.

Assessment: Wishful thinking caused me to carry twice as much camera gear weight as what I needed. There wasn't a lot of wildlife to photograph. The daily rain was a big disappointment, but what can you do? Bailing out from Mount Cotter was not hard. I've never wanted to become a human lightning rod.

One box of Esbit fuel seemed to have an odd, unusually waxy texture. It left a lot of black residue on the cook pot, and it seemed to burn very slowly. It's OK for solo cooking as long as the weather is mild.

--B.G.--

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Trip Report: Sequoia-Kings Canyon Great Western Divide Criss-Cross on 08/12/2012 21:24:32 MDT Print View

Bob, fantastic report...funny summer...a lot more rain this year it seems. I have a trip planned for next year and it calls for going over Harrison in the opposite direction. Sounds like I am making the right decision. Glad you came back in one piece!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Trip Report: Sequoia-Kings Canyon Great Western Divide Criss-Cross on 08/12/2012 21:36:51 MDT Print View

Ken, let me say that Harrison Pass is -interesting-. On some heavy snow years, the chute is clogged with old snow. That would make it a lot easier since you could use some light snow spikes (or else real crampons) and an ice axe. On light snow years like this year, there was only one tiny snow patch down low on the west side, and I just went up around it. The rock is really rotten there, and I'm surprised that there aren't more bodies of climbers piling up at the bottom. If there is no remaining snow, then you might be able to plunge step right down. However, you would not want to have multiple people closely spaced for fear of rockfall.

I understood that there was an old trail there many years ago, but the park service quit maintaining it since it was so difficult to deal with the constantly sliding gravel. I believe it. You can barely find a trace of it now, and only if you know exactly where to look.

I was gone from home for one day of driving and getting into position, then five days on or off the trail. I lost twelve pounds of body weight!

It looks like the rock ding on my shin is going to heal. Getting the hole sewed up in the trouser leg might be another story.

--B.G.--

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Trip report extra: Photo on 08/14/2012 21:29:16 MDT Print View

Here is a photo shot from the top of Harrison Pass (about 12,700') looking down.

Harrison Pass

You know how tipping a normal camera lens up or down will change the perspective (ignore tilt-shift lenses). This photo was shot from the top of Harrison Pass, and the lens was tipped down very slightly. Perhaps you get some idea of the steepness of the chute.

If it had much snow and ice, it would border on suicidal.

--B.G.--

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
This one is for Tom K. on 08/14/2012 23:58:28 MDT Print View

Sequoia National Park, upper Kern area.

Photo shot from near Lake South America, looking toward Milestone Peak.

Milestone Peak at sunset

--B.G.--

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: This one is for Tom K. on 08/15/2012 09:33:36 MDT Print View

Bob, pretty funny, we just missed each other. Tom and I went over Shepherd Pass on the first day of our trip Aug. 6, then hit Lake South America on Aug. 7 on our way to our camping spot for that evening. Tom would have to tell you exactly where we camped, but it was at the end of a small lake near the trail that takes you back over to the JMT is all I remember. We were pleased that the rain was brief and stopped pretty much as we set up camp.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: This one is for Tom K. on 08/15/2012 12:51:01 MDT Print View

On August 7 you got hit with the same rain that I got hit with over at Lake Reflection. On August 8, I got to the small lake near Lake South America.

Fine minds think alike.

--B.G.--

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Trip report extra: Photo on 08/15/2012 16:59:12 MDT Print View

impressive photo Bob...that pass looks steep. Still would rather go down that than up.

Doug, you made it over Shepherd in a day...that is quite impressive too. That is one heck of a slog. I went down that in July and it killed me

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Trip report extra: Photo on 08/15/2012 17:07:20 MDT Print View

Ken, what the photo does not show is the texture of the steep chute. It looks like it is hard and smooth. In fact, it is mostly loose gravel with big chunks.

Besides, if you are going down, you can just collect the bodies at the bottom.

My problem going up was that I had a 10-pound camera shoulder bag hanging around my neck, and it was hanging low enough that it was banging along the gravel surface in front of me. Every time one of those basketball-size rocks would come sliding down, I had to decide whether to dodge the rock and let it hit the camera, or swing the camera and let it hit my leg.

--B.G.--

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: This one is for Tom K. on 08/15/2012 17:18:12 MDT Print View

"Tom would have to tell you exactly where we camped, but it was at the end of a small lake near the trail that takes you back over to the JMT is all I remember."

We were a couple hundred yards SW of the western terminus of the Kern Connector Trail on the south shore of lake 10,6xx. It is the last lake in The Upper Kern Basin before the Kern River drops into Kern Canyon.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Trip Report: Sequoia-Kings Canyon Great Western Divide Criss-Cross on 09/09/2013 22:14:19 MDT Print View

Bump for Bob Gross getting it done on a cool SEKI trip.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Trip Report: Sequoia-Kings Canyon Great Western Divide Criss-Cross on 09/09/2013 22:31:58 MDT Print View

I'll tell you, if you try to go fully loaded from Roads End to Lake Reflection in nine hours, the last thing that you call it is cool.

The thing of it is that there are all sorts of interesting places like that, and many of them are just slightly off the beaten track. So, they aren't super difficult to do, but you just have to do your research in advance. You won't find many written accounts of those spots within the normal trail journals and guides. To find good information, you need to scour the offbeat web sites for old trip reports for named places on a map. I recommend climber.org

--B.G.--

M G
(drown) - F - MLife

Locale: Shenandoah
"Trip Report: Sequoia-Kings Canyon Great Western Divide Criss-Cross" on 09/09/2013 22:34:58 MDT Print View

HST also seems to have some good reports if you look long enough or ask.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Trip Report: Sequoia-Kings Canyon Great Western Divide Criss-Cross on 09/09/2013 22:41:17 MDT Print View

Bob, I know I'm on to something good when there are almost no hits on Google for a particular lake name or geographic feature. Every once in awhile I'll find one that has exactly zero search results. Those places get put on the top of the list.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Trip Report: Sequoia-Kings Canyon Great Western Divide Criss-Cross on 09/09/2013 22:52:40 MDT Print View

Andrew, part of that is from place names that change over time. Part of that is from place names that are spelled inconsistently, like Forester Pass. You can get some additional ideas by reading the old accounts from Brewer, King, Muir, and the other explorers from 140 years ago. Those explorers weren't fools. If they saw a way to safely get from Point A to Point B, they would take it. They just didn't have Google Earth and other satellite imagery to help them out.

--B.G.--

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Me no red yur repurt on 09/10/2013 15:20:42 MDT Print View

Me ony wach videos, like one about Greenland.
Just joking, I read and enjoyed your report. Personally I enjoy written accounts, still photo essays, and videos, like that great one about Greenland.