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THUNDER MOUNTAIN / TABLE MOUNTAIN /

MILESTONE MOUNTAIN / MIDWAY MOUNTAIN


A traverse of the Great Western Divide: Thunder Mountain (East Ridge, class 4), Table Mountain (West Ridge, South Side, class 3), Milestone Mountain (East Side, class 3) and Midway Mountain (East Ridge, class 2), with Robert Zeithammer, September 6-12, 2016.


Timeline:

September 6, 2016: We departed the Shepherd Pass trailhead at 8:55 am and reached the top of the pass at 15:35. We proceeded to descend the West side of the pass and reached our first camp at a lake located near the John Muir Trail at 17:45 (an 8:50 hour day, with about 15 miles of hiking and 6,000 feet of elevation gain).

September 7, 2016: We left camp at 8:26 and moved it to a lake located in the Upper Kern basin, a short distance North of where Milestone Creek meets the Kern River. We set up the tent, took our bivy gear and hiked into the glacial valley East of Thunder Mountain. Leaving our bivy gear at the uppermost lake in that drainage, we set out to climb Thunder Mountain at 14:35. We reached the summit at 16:30 and were back at our bivouac site at 18:10 (a 9:44 hour day).

September 8, 2016: We left camp at 7:56 and climbed over McLeod Pass to contour the West side of Table Mountain. We climbed the class 3 chute on the southern side of the West Face, reaching the summit of Table Mountain at 13:22. We descended the Norman Clyde "ledge" route on the Southeastern side of the peak, and at 16:56 reached our second bivouac site below a lake situated immediately East of Midway Mountain (a 9:00 hour day).

September 9, 2016: We left camp at 8:25 to climb Milestone Mountain via the Northeast Face, a very enjoyable class 3 route. We reached the summit at 10:41, and enjoyed the best views of our trip so far – extending from the Palisades to the North, the Whitney group to the West, all the way to the Kaweah range South of us. We then proceeded to climb Midway Mountain via its East Ridge, which we caught at a prominent notch located about halfway up the ridge. We reached the summit of Midway at 13:15. We then descended the Northern side of the East ridge to regain our bivy site and pack our gear. Next we descended Milestone Creek to regain our main camp in the Upper Kern. The Milestone Creek drainage is one of the loveliest parts of the Sierra I have visited, on par with places such as Granite Park, Upper Basin or Center Basin. We reached camp at 18:09 (a 9:44 hour day).

September 10, 2016: I did not sleep all night and woke up with a stomach ache. We had planned to climb Mount Ericsson via its long South Ridge but I did not think this was going to happen this day. We set out of camp toward Lake South America at 8:52. We reached Harrison Pass at 12:00 under gathering clouds. Robert set out to climb the Northeast Ridge of Mount Ericsson, while I made my way back to camp by crossing the numerous lakes of the Upper Kern basin – another beautiful part of the Sierra – stopping for a nice lunch in the drainage South of Lucy's Foot Pass. I reached camp at 15:24 under light rain, and Robert returned about an hour later, having successfully climbed Ericsson. That night we played cards and made a serious dent in the supply of Johnny Walker we had brought along for the ride (a 6:32 hour day).

September 11, 2016: We set out from camp at 8:48 to climb back up to Shepherd Pass, reaching it at 12:08. We had a long lunch near Lake WL3661, and at 12:50 Robert set out to climb Mount Tyndall via its North Rib (I had already climbed it a few years back). I stayed near the lake for a while more, talking to a Polish hiker. As clouds were gathering again I started down toward Anvil Camp, reaching it around 15:30 pm under pouring rain. Since Robert had the tent poles, I made a shelter with the tent fly as best I could, and managed to stay dry until Robert stumbled into camp around 5 pm. The rain had stopped and we spent another nice evening playing cards (a 6:42 hour day).

September 12, 2016: We left Anvil Camp at 7:55 and descended at a steady pace, reaching the trailhead at 11:10. Encounters on the way included an aged hiker going at a snail's pace, two female mule drivers working on fixing the path across a stream in skimpy clothing, and a group of young Mexicans who were descending from a successful ascent of the West Face of Williamson. Robert and I rushed to Lone Pine for a well-deserved BBQ lunch, and were back home in LA at 17:00 (a 3:15 hour day).

Photos:

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