Joined: Fri Feb 18, 2005 8:56 pm Posts: 478 Location: Meyers, CA
Monarch Divide Tour
South Lake to Road's End
This tour had been on my list for a couple of years, and when I heard some Troller friends were looking for another crew to swap cars with, I was down. It took a while to find a partner and then some more time for winter to stop delivering powder, but by Cinco de Mayo we were set.
This was a great year to do a trans-Sierra tour. The coverage out there is incredible (around 140% of average, I believe). The only challenge was finding a weather window. We ultimately hustled a bit to finish it before yet another storm hit the Sierra. The middle of this tour would not be a good place to be during any significant storm.
I was really impressed with this tour. It's insanely beautiful from start to finish. A couple of the passes are improbable enough to make you double and triple check the topo, but ultimately it's all there.
Our partners crossing West to East kept getting the runaround about the road status on the west side. Finally, with both Caltrans and the Kings Canyon NP websites saying the road was still closed, they got a human being on the phone that said, "Of course it's open you stupid tourist" or something like that so they went for it. From the east side we weren't too concerned about the road status, but we still asked at the FS office down in Bishop. They not only told us it was plowed to South Lake, but gave us a little lecture about where to park up in the lot. Of course, it wasn't plowed that far...no biggee.
James near the top of Bishop Pass.
We took it sorta easy on our first day and camped on the shoulder of the Palisades, just north of Thunderbolt pass.
It was a windy day, and the fast moving clouds created great images and great light.
The next morning we traversed beneath the Palisades, before riding down from Potluck Pass. There were some old skinny ski tracks in this area and then a boot pack downclimbing the pass. It was a good comparison to our splitboards, which may not always be the ideal skinning/traversing tool, but they work pretty damn well going down hill. Potluck Pass is behind James.
After a very firm climb up, we checked out the obvious col that dropped down towards Palisade Lakes, and then decided it was worth an extra little climb to find a longer steeper descent. This was James' first time using crampons.
At the base of the run we crossed paths with our car shuttle partners and then we headed across Palisade Lakes and up and over a shady Mather Pass.
From camp that evening, our next pass Frozen Lake pass was to our west, next to Vennacher Needle.
It was a cool climb up to the small notch.
We skied down from the pass and then headed towards Marion Lake. Along the way we crossed this small glide crack.
It was a hot climb up Marion Pass.
But then a great run down the other side.
The next portion of the route contours over the Muro Blanco, which is pretty damn rugged looking.
The next pass was pretty steep and featured a pretty deep bootpack from a previous group.
After another descent and some exciting steep contouring, we reached the summit of Dougherty Peak.
This descent was around 2000 feet.
At the base we were back near tree line. The lenticular clouds were a little foreboding since we knew that the predicted storm was getting close.
Last night's camp at Glacier Lake.
The last morning we woke to sunny skies, but looming clouds which quickly started to build. We hustled out just as it started to snow on us.
Above Road's End we started to run out of snow around 7800 feet.
After some fun patch riding, we threw our boards on our packs and walked the last couple of miles down the trail.
A couple of weight weenie gear thoughts...we brought whippets but no ice axes and I think this worked pretty well for us. I probably could have left my split crampons at home and just relied on boot crampons. We both ended up with extra food and we only used about 1 1/2 medium fuel cannisters for our reactor stove (though we were carrying 4).
I wish I brought stronger lip stuff and an extra bandanna to cover my face. At the end of 5 days at elevation in May, my lips, tongue and gums were fried. Avoiding sun damage is a serious challenge on a tour like this.
Joined: Mon Feb 06, 2006 11:31 pm Posts: 592 Location: ca. - sierra
whooooo hoooooo so nice to see splitters going out on these big tours! congrats on getting this one done. kind of a rarity to see a TR on this much less a splitter TR.
one of the shots at the end of this, where you are camping at glacier lake, some nice looking peaks in the background, i'd like to get some beta on that area from you...how far is it from roads end? can you pm me a full res pic?
Joined: Thu Apr 26, 2007 11:42 am Posts: 529 Location: Oakland, CA
very very sweet, applaud the effort.
I LOVE the MSR Reactor. So freaking fuel efficient and even got it burning down at 10F in the middle of the Desolation. My new trick I have yet to try is toe warmers for really really cold days using that thing ... biggest problem in mid winter is the fuel canister getting endothermic during the pressure loss.