Sep 5, 2013 at 8:57 pm #1307370
The Midway Traverse: a Walk in the SEKI
Never quite ever getting enough time in the SEKI (Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park), we (Amy and James) decided to take a long Labor Day holiday and spend six days out walking. Looking through the maps identified a few pieces of trail we had not yet traveled, some SPS peaks we had not yet climbed, and a nice stretch of untrailed glacial canyon not yet explored. Our route is mapped in CalTopo. Highlights included a descent of Cloud Canyon, which is bracketed by the massive granite walls of Glacier Ridge and Whaleback, a west to east traverse over the summit of Midway Mountain, and following the High Sierra Trail (HST) east to west from its junction with the JMT at Wallace Creek back to its origin at Crescent Meadow. James also climbed Lion Rock and Mt. Kaweah.
Some notes that may interest the community:
- The HST and its JMT extension from Wallace Creek to Whitney is a surprisingly fine piece of trail engineering and a very fine walk. Those who would like to do an on-trail Sierra hike less time consuming than the JMT might consider this as a good option. It was designed in the 1920s as a hiking route to cross from the west side to the highest point (Whitney) with as little altitude change as possible. As such, it contours the mountainsides for miles staying relatively level.
- Annoying insects are now completely gone in this section of the Sierra. This is expected for late August in any year, especially a summer following a low snowpack spring.
- Unfortunately, so are most of the flowers.
- Some of the willows are just starting to turn yellow.
- The HST travels through the very recent Chagoopa Fire zone (still smoldering when we were there), which is interesting to see; birds were actively foraging on the burned vegetation like nothing had happened.
- We had decidedly unsettled weather: we missed the incredible clear blue Sierra skies, but the swirling clouds produce some extremely dramatic scenes and superb sunsets.
- Most people still carry TMS (Too Much Stuff), suffer under their loads, and may unfortunately get turned off to backpacking because they haven’t or won’t learn to do differently (one example: carrying a set of heavy Teva sandals, each shoe attached to the person’s pack with its own full sized climbing carabiner).
The great west face of Whaleback as seen from Cloud Canyon. There is a route called "The Blow Hole", which is purportedly 2nd class, up this face to the summit.
Just below the summit of Midway Mountain.
The summit of Milestone (13,641') as seen from the summit of Midway (13,666').
Near our campsite on night 3 in the upper Kern Basin.
Looking north from the campsite.
Storm clouds over the Owens Valley. Looking east past Shepherd Pass.
Evening light near our campsite at Sky Parlor Meadow on night 4.
Found on a trail on the Chagoopa Plateau: one of the ten essentials.
Precipice Lake, which is just west of Kaweah Gap. Here in 1932, Ansel Adams made one of his greatest photographs: "Frozen Lake and Cliffs".
Our Smugmug album for this trip is not ready yet, but someday we'll have a full show available.Sep 5, 2013 at 10:39 pm #2022330
Andy DuncanBPL Member
Thanks for posting your trip report. The pxt of Milestone from Midway is impressive! Glacially polished granite canyons and cirques are among my favorite Sierra environments. Looking forward to seeing more.Sep 6, 2013 at 9:01 am #2022404
@andrew-fLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Thanks for sharing Amy! What's the name of the pass you went over north of Lion Lake, and how was it?Sep 6, 2013 at 11:38 am #2022435
I don't have my Secor here so I forget what it's called, but that pass north of Lion Lake isn't bad going up. The north side has lots of talus, but there is a trail of sorts curving around to Glacier Lake, if you want to head towards Triple-Divide Pass and onwards (which is what we did when I was out there).
Also, thanks for posting trip report Amy. I'm always inspired by your trips, whether it's bikepacking, the Bay Area, or the High Sierra!Sep 6, 2013 at 1:38 pm #2022456
Thanks for the great trip report. You are always a good source for ideas for the next trip. Now I just need more vacation …
Have a great weekend,
ManfredSep 6, 2013 at 2:40 pm #2022467
Tom KirchnerBPL Member
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"What's the name of the pass you went over north of Lion Lake, and how was it?"
Lion Lake Pass. You can take a shortcut to Glacier Lake low down on the west ridge of Triple Divide Peak, either on talus or via a short, very narrow, loose gully that takes some hunting to find. It will save you a lot of the time and hassle that goes with following Secor's recommended route over loose talus, as it is basically a nearly level traverse from Lion Lake Pass.Sep 6, 2013 at 2:44 pm #2022468
Tom KirchnerBPL Member
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"Never quite ever getting enough time in the SEKI (Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park), we (Amy and James) decided to take a long Labor Day holiday and spend six days out walking."
There is no such thing as enough time in SEKI. ;0)
A beautifully conceived route, and stunning pictures. Thanks for yet another gem.Sep 6, 2013 at 6:07 pm #2022533
In answer to Andrew's question about Lion Lake Pass. Secor's description of the approach and crossing is reasonably accurate. On this trip, we crossed the pass from south to north and descended Cloud Canyon. We have also crossed it from north to south from Glacier Lake and Triple Divide Pass. To descend into Cloud is easy; just head over the edge below the tarn just north of the pass. Head downhill generally following the line of least resistance until you drop into the drainage. There are a couple of easily avoidable clifflets to bypass. Once in the drainage, follow it until it pinches into some small waterfalls and then exit onto its west bank. There is a lot of talus, true. But it is mostly compact and stable and is generally easy walking. Once on the main floor of the Cloud Canyon, stay on the west (left) side of the creek and enjoy the glorious gradual downhill walk. Below is an image looking south back at the pass from Cloud.
JamesDec 28, 2016 at 2:59 pm #3442122
We have published an updated version of this trip report with a better map and more images on our brand new website DoingMiles.com. We only have a few trip reports published there now, but we will be adding more in the coming months. Cheers, Amy and James.
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