Silver Divide Timberline (CA)


This was my first backpack. When I signed up, I did not really know where I was in for. Once headed out I fell in love with the High Sierra Nevada. We had a fun group with excellent leaders, in the most beautiful natural surrounding.

Trip report

Sierra Club trip 96190A lead by Bill and Kevin. The area of our trip, where the Silver and Mono divides meet the main crest of the Sierra Nevada, provides a diverse sample of the features that attract backpackers to the Sierra Nevada: alpine meadows, lakes nestled in granite basins, wildlife, and rugged peaks. Staying near or above timber line and frequently departing from major trails, we are rewarded with expansive vistas of rugged Silver Divide peaks as well as the softly sculpted glacial valleys of the Mono Recesses. This late-summer trip provides an excellent chance to enjoy all of these attractions in what many consider the best part of the season, after the peak crowds have gone home, but while the days are still warm. Although we will start and finish our journey on major trails, in between much of our travel will be off-trail, further enhancing our opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the region.

Our trip starts at the McGee Creek trail head, seven miles south of the town of Mammoth Lakes on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada. We finish at the Rock Creek trail head, only about 20 miles away by road. The first day, we travel up McGee Creek on a maintained trail, continuing on the second day to cross the main Sierra crest. For several days thereafter, we travel mainly on unmaintained trails and cross-country routes. We will traverse the Silver Divide by way of Shout-of-Relief and Bighorn passes, taking a layover day near the divide to explore the lakes and basins of this region. Several nearby peaks are accessible to interested peak baggers.

We will head down Laurel Creek and then hike up Mono Creek and explore the region in the vicinity of the Mono Recesses and Hopkins and pioneer Basins. A second layover day in this area will provide opportunities to explore lakes in the area or to bad a nearby peak. From here, we will continue on to cross Mono Pass (12,000+’) and descend into the spectacular Little Lakes Valley and our exit at the Rock Creek trail head.

Although the overall trip is rated Moderate, portions of the trip will undoubtedly be strenuous. Most planned single-day elevations gains are less than about 1,500 feet, but the first day will include a gain of 2,400 feet. We will generally hike from five to nine miles on travel days. Off-trail sections of the trip (about one quarter of the total mileage) will include rough, rocky terrain with loose footing, which require patience and reasonable balance. Since our trip is at high elevations, very good aerobic conditioning is essential.

Daily elevation gain

elevation ascend/day descend/day trail x-country
McGee trail head 2480 m
1. Big McGee Lake 3200 m 960 m 240 9.8 km
2. Tully Lake S 3230 m 560 m 525 m 7.0 km 2.4 km
3. Tully Lake S 3230 m day hike R&W Lake (1.8 km, 210 m, 3360 m)
4. Laurel Creek 3140 m 370 m 450 m 6.0 km
5. Fourth Recess 3088 m 630 m 680 m 12.7 km
6. Pioneer Basin 3320 m 370 m 145 m 4 km 1 km
7. Pioneer Basin 3320 m bagged Mt Hopkins (1.6 km, 430 m, 3750 m)
8. Pioneer Basin 3320 m near Mt Stanford (3.6 km, 450 m, 3870 m)
9. Mosquito Flat 3120 m 810 m 1000 m 12 km 3 km


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