Ski Mountaineering

Silver Divide
Aug 13-19, 2006

Reiner Stenzel

This is a report of an unscheduled peak climbing trip in the Silver Divide by two SMS members. Summer trips nicely complement our backcountry ski tours in the snow season and show a very different picture of the beautiful Sierra Nevada.

The Silver Divide lies in the Ansel Adams Wilderness between Yosemite and Kings Canyon N.P. In the snow season one can see it from Mammoth as a line of many white peaks to the southwest. Although only two of those peaks are on the SPS List (Silver, Izaak Walton) there are many more enjoyable climbs possible. In addition to the peaks, there are many beautiful lakes, streams, meadows and forests to enjoy. Since it is in the heart of the Sierras it takes almost two days to get there from either the east or west side. The plan was to make a loop trip starting from Edison Lake to the Graveyard Lakes, over Goodale Pass and Silver Pass along the John Muir trail back to Edison.

It takes about 7 hrs drive from LA to Edison Lake, at least 1.5 hrs from Huntington to Edison Lake on a narrow winding, one-lane road. The trailhead is a mile beyond busy Vermilion Resort. Starting at 5pm the best option is to hike along Edison Lake and camp along its shores. Next morning there is plenty of time to hike up to the Graveyard Lakes.

The 7 or 8 Graveyard Lakes are scattered east of Graveyard Peak. The lowest lake is surrounded by trees, had many nice campsites, relatively warm water and plenty of fish, and was completely deserted. It was a good basecamp for two nights. Fishing was successful and the trout dinner was delicious.

Next day was a climbing day. With light day packs we headed up to the highest of the Graveyard Lakes, climbed the prominent chute on the NE ridge of Graveyard. At the first cl 4 section it became a solo trip. Following the ridge crest involves several cl 4 sections, but these can be detoured by descending and reclimbing. Nevertheless, it is an exciting climb to the summit.

The summit views on a clear warm summer day were excellent. Many peaks and blue lakes were visible. But the best surprise was a historic peak register. Inside the regular aluminum cylinder was a small rusty box with scraps of paper, one of which dated back to 1935. In fact, the names are those of the two climbers who are credited with the first ascent of the peak. The newer register book was placed in 1976, but since then hardly any SPS trips have been done to this peak since it is not on the "List". The climb is far more interesting than the talus slog to the listed Silver Peak. The summit block is kind of a phallic rock for only one person on the top.

After a lunch break and a picture-taking spree I headed back the same way. The afternoon was spent with exploring most of the Graveyard Lakes including a few dips into them. Intense sunlight light and warm air compensated for the ice-cold water. But at night it did get down to freezing temperatures.

On Wednesday it was time to move on to the next destination, the Goodale and Silver Pass area. After a short descent from the Graveyard Lakes it was a long uphill climb to Goddale Pass (10,997').

Right next to the pass lies an unnamed peak, Peak 11,424. It has three summits, one minor southern one, an easy northern one and the highest summit in the middle. R.J. describes only technical routes on its east side. So it was a challenge to find a doable route on the west side. After climbing the easy northern summit we inspected and found a possible route. It starts at the saddle, climbs up from tree to tree, then along an exposed slab to the summit. Due to a 600' drop it is probably cl 4 but has solid hand and footholds. It was rewarding to be on the summit of another fine peak in the Silver Divide. There was a peak register in a small glass jar filled with loose scaps of paper. No familiar names were spotted. We signed in and enjoyed the views and kept them in real and digital memories. One example is the vast panorama to the north and west. After descending it was a short hike down from Gooddale Pass to the Indian Lakes, first Papoose Lake which had too many mosquitoes, then to the Lake of the Lone Indian. Since it was pretty, it was dedicated as a basecamp for the next two nights. In the evening the sky and lake lit up in red and purple. Fishes were abundant but so were the mosquitoes.

Thursday was another climbing day. Next to Silver Pass is another unnamed peak, shown as Peak 12,221, EVON, on the topomap. I was wondering what the letters mean and found out on the summit. The climb from the westside is a straightforward but long cl 2 scramble. The peak is higher than the nearby Mt Izaak Walton, which is on the SPS List. The view from the summit is again outstanding. The brown barren slopes of Red Slate are impressive. Red and White looks like black rather than what it is called. One has a fine view of the Clark Range, Ritter Range, Dana, Parker, Mammoth, the Recesses, Abbott, Seven Gables, etc. It was warm and sunny on the top with wildflowers and bees. With GPS and WAAS accuracy the high point measured actually 12,239'. Nearby was a benchmark with code EVON. But no register was found. So I placed a new one on the summit under an obvious cairn at the benchmark. The return was uneventful. Silver Pass still had a sizeable snowbank at its north side.

Friday was a layover day at the beautiful Silver Pass Lake. The lake had everything one could ask for: a sandy beach, meadows with abundant wildflowers, bays for swimming and fishing and beautiful mountain scenery. The campsite was between trees and boulders for wind protection. Since the lake is close to the John Muir Trail one could meet a variety of people.

Regrettably, it was time to hike out. Down the JMT, past green meadows, streams and forests, and eventually reaching Edison Lake. Since it was a 3 hour wait for the evening Ferry it was decided to hike along Edison Lake, which is a looong hike up and down. There was enough time to drive out from Edison Lake and to camp at the Kaiser Pass Meadows, a last night in the mountains.

It was an enjoyable week in the Sierra Nevada in best summer weather. We should plan to do more summer trips within the SMS.

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