September 27 – October 2, 2012: we (Amy and James) hiked a six-day mostly on-trail loop through Sequoia and Kings Canyon (SEKI) National Parks. The trip was timed to take advantage of a spell of seriously good weather, as well as a full moon. We chose this route in order to hike a few stretches of trail we had not previously visited, primarily Deadman Canyon. Years ago we traversed across the upper reaches of Deadman (cross country from Cloud Canyon) but had never walked its length.
The route was nicely diverse, and although it contained long stretches of forest walking, we found it to be interesting and rewarding throughout.
We started the walk at dawn from Lodgepole Campground in Sequoia NP. We crossed Silliman Pass, passed by Roaring River RS, traversed Elizabeth Pass, Kaweah Gap, and Black Rock Pass, and visited Bearpaw High Sierra Camp. Along the way, we reached the summits of Silliman, Eagle Scout, and Alta peaks. We finished before sunset on the sixth day.
KML file of our route which you can drag into HillMap.com in order to view the route on a USGS background and satellite imagery side-by-side. We have found Hillmap to be a very useful tool.
GPX file of our route which you can load into Google Earth.
Or, a third way to see it - view the route in CalTopo, where you can flip between different map sources, including NPS, USGS, and Satellite.
The full set of annotated photos is posted in SmugMug. Here are a few of those images:
Aspens, Deadman Canyon
Ranger Meadow, Deadman Canyon
upper Deadman Canyon below Elizabeth Pass
south side of Elizabeth Pass
High Sierra Trail between Hamilton and Precipice Lakes
Mt. Stewart from above Precipice Lake, Kaweah Gap
Black Kaweah and Red Kaweah from Big Five Lakes Basin
A few notes:
• We had exceptionally good weather: on two days we had a (very) few late afternoon drops of rain (not enough for raingear), but otherwise days were sunny, calm and warm. Our camp at Ranger Meadow hit a low of 26 degrees, while the night at Bearpaw didn’t drop below 54. We hiked in t-shirts every day.
• There were no insect issues which is typical for September in the High Sierra.
• Deadman Canyon is a fantastic place and well worth walking. It is a classic U-shaped glacial valley and the brilliant yellows of the changing Aspens made it even more special.
• There were very few people out on the trails except between Lodgepole and Alta Peak.
• Secor’s route description for climbing Silliman from Silliman Pass is a bit confusing. Following Silliman’s north ridge from the pass, you eventually must drop off to either the east or west to avoid serious 5th class climbing. Secor states: “traverse to the east ridge from the pass and follow the ridge to the summit.” But this description more closely matches contouring on the west side of the ridge. If you stay on the east side, easy scrambling and talus walking eventually provides access to a steep gully ascending to a saddle between the north peak of Silliman and some slightly subsidiary peaks further south. Climbing the gully requires a short section of easy stemming around a huge chockstone; not difficult but not 2nd class. Once the saddle is achieved, head north to the summit over easy ground. There really is no “east ridge”. It appeared that the route on the west side of the north ridge would be very straightforward and match the text if Secor meant west ridge instead of east ridge.
• Eagle Scout Peak was easy class-2 and is a popular peak, as there were many entries in the summit register. The view from the summit is outstanding.
• There are no good trailside campsites between the top of Black Rock Pass and Pinto Lake, where there is good camping. We put down in the isolated valley just below Spring Lake, but the terrain is surprisingly rocky and finding an acceptable site took a while.
• There is a trail to the top of Alta Peak, and we met two parties that had day-hiked to that summit.
• We used our new home-made Love Bird Quilt (its 2nd trip) and liked at a lot.