The Great Western Divide region of the Southern High Sierra is one of my favorite spots in the entire range. On this day I scoped out a spectacular figure-8 loop (see google maps overlay at the bottom of this post) out of Wolverton in Sequoia National Park that is mostly off-trail and stays high above the tree line nearly the entire way. The eastern loop of the figure-8 is the more challenging portion with big elevation changes and slab scrambling while the western loop is easy, open cross-country terrain. The start of the route features a quick ascent to the granite high country of the aptly named Tablelands via the Pear Lake Trail and up through pleasant cross country travel to Tableland Meadows. Once at high pass above Big Bird Lake I climbed up and over Big Bird Peak with fantastic views of the Great Western Divide and the Tablelands across to the Alta Peak massif. From Big Bird Peak the route traversed above Big Bird Lake to an unnamed summit with stupendous views down to shimmering Big Bird Lake below and precipitous cliffs on the east side down to Deadman Canyon. A quick trip from this summit brought me to Horn Col and then a traverse to Elizabeth Pass where I climbed a small summit along the ridge to enjoy more fantastic views of the Great Western Divide.
From Elizabeth Pass I descended down and into wild and remote Deadman Canyon to near Ranger Meadows. The broad upper basin is separated from the canyon by a headwall with a large waterfall on a high angle granite slab. The trail through Deadman Canyon is very faint in spots manifesting the lack of travel through this area which is 25 miles from the nearest road. I left the Deadman Canyon path and scrambled up to gorgeous Big Bird Lake, which is indeed relatively big for an alpine lake and is surrounded by granite cliffs in a wild setting. After enjoying the amazing setting at Bird Bird Lake, I ascended through slabs back up to the shallow pass near Big Bird Peak. From there, I crossed the Tablelands along its crest passing by numerous small tarns and ultimately the stunning Moose Lake perfectly framed with a backdrop of the Great Western Divide. The final portion entailed ascending all four high points of the Alta Peak massif. I especially enjoyed the stately Southern Foxtail Pines growing high on the slopes of Alta. Once I was on top of the primary Alta Peak summit (where the trail goes) it was a 7 mile trail run back to Wolverton. There was amazing clarity for mid-June with the Central Valley clearly visible over 10,000 feet below.Total time for the ~40 mile route was 13:36 roundtrip. There was amazing clarity for mid-June with the Central Valley clearly visible over 10,000 feet below. Some of my favorite photos are below with many more here.
Many more photos in the complete album here.