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Great Western Divide--snow? Are we nuts?

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Great Western Divide--snow? Are we nuts?

Postby fogey » Tue Jul 26, 2011 12:38 am

Six of us are planning to head up Cloud Canyon the first week of August, camp near Colby Lake and climb Milestone (class 3 route from the west)--and whatever else we have time/energy for--starting from Horse Corral, 6-7 day trip. Can anyone shed light on how much snow to expect, or where? If this didn't involve six people and six schedules, plus some paid-for travel arrangements, I'd be putting it off. I can't get a sense from the snow conditions threads here what things will be like that far into the range.
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Re: Great Western Divide--snow? Are we nuts?

Postby iHartMK » Tue Jul 26, 2011 6:32 am

I'm wondering the same thing,, we're heading out of Horse Corral to Seville Lake>Ball Dome>Lost Lake>Silliman Pass>Mt. Silliman>Silliman Lake and out at Lodgepole.
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Re: Great Western Divide--snow? Are we nuts?

Postby Princess Buttercup » Tue Jul 26, 2011 3:11 pm

Hi, guys. This pic is a little over a week old, so assume some good meltoff since then, and it's looking south from the slopes of Mt. Gardiner, so it gives a little idea of what you might expect:

Image

There was a good amount of snow hugging the GWD, heck the east ridge of Brewer looked almost skiable. So I might suggest snow in all the cirques, while everything below is nicely melted out, wet, and a wonderful haven for mossies.

Fogey: if you're camped near Colby Lake, you may as well hit Centennial, a nice walk-over from the pass. I haven't done the Whaleback yet, but that's another of my favorite peaks in the area (love the way it rises above Beg Wet Meadow).

Have fun!
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Re: Great Western Divide--snow? Are we nuts?

Postby labgloves » Tue Jul 26, 2011 4:25 pm

Last week I did a 9 day loop out of crescent meadow. (HST - Colby Canyon - Deadmans Canyon) There was snow on all the passes (Kaweah Gap, Colby, and Elisabeth) but it was pretty manageable. For example, from the NW the very steep section just shy of Colby pass is clear and the snow is restricted to lower angle sections. The the daily melt-off is pretty big too. There was no significant snow on our route expect for these passes.

Here are three relevant pictures:

Near Colby pass looking SE:

Image

NW of Colby Pass looking toward the Pass:

Image

The summit of Centennial Peak looking North:

Image
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Re: Great Western Divide--snow? Are we nuts?

Postby mrchad9 » Tue Jul 26, 2011 5:41 pm

As of last weekend cirques that were north facing and lakes in them, even if a bit further out, were snow covered and frozen above 11,200 in the Kearsarge/Glen Pass area. Anything below that melted out.

Much of the snow was knee to crotch high suncups. Really annoying but probably much worse if my legs were a few inches shorter.
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Re: Great Western Divide--snow? Are we nuts?

Postby fogey » Tue Jul 26, 2011 9:49 pm

Thanks all, especially for the photos. Worst fears allayed, and I've got a better idea what we're getting into.

labgloves, MooseTracks, or anyone else--It doesn't look like we'll need crampons for the trails. Any thoughts on whether we'll want them for Milestone, or for Coppermine Pass (thinking of setting up a shuttle and coming out that way and through the Tablelands to Wolverton)?
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Re: Great Western Divide--snow? Are we nuts?

Postby labgloves » Tue Jul 26, 2011 11:02 pm

We didn't bring crampons on our trip. If I had them, I would have worn them once for ~100ish ft. (An early morning decent from Kaweah Gap - when the snow was still quite hard.) We did each bring an ice ax - which only came out a few times. Other groups didn't bother and did just fine. I don't mind the weight of an ax and tend to err on the side of caution there.

Tablelands still has some snow. Moose Lake appeared frozen when viewed from the peaks above Elisabeth pass. But again, its mostly low angle stuff. To echo mrchad, the sun cups are pretty crazy in some places. Tedious terrain no doubt, but they can provide footing in the absence of crampons.

I don't specifically know the approach to milestone - but you won't encounter any snow of significance until well above Colby Lake.

This winter has brought what seems to me to be an unusually large number of downed trees to the Sierra. The crux of our trip was a large avalanche debris area at the beginning of the eastern entry to the Colby Pass trail. The trail itself is unusable in that area (on the headwall to the canyon) and we encountered about a 1/4 of mile of bushwhacking hell. Our descent to the west was better. The crux there was mosquitos . . . bring your DEET.
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Re: Great Western Divide--snow? Are we nuts?

Postby Pantilat » Tue Jul 26, 2011 11:09 pm

Not much snow left on the Great Western Divide as of last Saturday. Also, the trail crews did a fantastic job logging out the trails from Marvin Pass TH all the way to Big Wet Meadow.

Image

Trip Report and photos of adventure run of Whaleback last Saturday
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Re: Great Western Divide--snow? Are we nuts?

Postby fogey » Thu Jul 28, 2011 6:06 am

Pantilat--Great photos and an even more amazing 50-mile day trip with 2 or 3 thousand feet of climbing thrown in the middle. Folks should check out your link if they haven't already.
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