Best For Silver Divide Exploration - Duck Pass or McGee Pass?

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BigMan
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Best For Silver Divide Exploration - Duck Pass or McGee Pass?

Post by BigMan » Thu Jul 30, 2020 2:07 pm

- Trip starts mid-week next week.
- Prefer 6-8 miles a day on trail (or 3-4 miles a day off trail), plus a couple of layover days
- Level 3 backpacker - several nights in the Sierra backcountry and some x-country travel and not-too-hairy Class 2 passes (Nancy, Lamark Col, White Bear, Dancing Bear)
- Main interest - big Mountain scenery, lakes, solitude, photography, and a mix of trail and easy/moderate cross country travel

Of these two, is there a “preferred” trailhead/pass for an 8 to 10 night trip (starting next week) exploring the Silver Divide and the many off trail terrain and lakes mostly to its north?

Right now, I’m most excited about Grinnell, and based on what I've read here, Shout of Relief and Bighorn Pass are within my comfort zone. I'm also very interested in exploring Hortense/Mace/Issak Walton/Cotton/Red and White, the “Indian” Lakes near the JMT, and Peter Pande/Olive/Anne.

Duck Pass seems like the obvious choice, and I have permits. But permits for McGee Pass are also available, and I understand that McGee has a lot to offer, too, especially after reading kpeter’s recent thread about it. I also haven’t forgotten the colorful topography I saw from Stanford Col years ago!

Thanks.

Geoff
Last edited by BigMan on Thu Jul 30, 2020 2:24 pm, edited 3 times in total.


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Re: Best For Silver Divide Exploration - Duck Pass or McGee Pass?

Post by giantbrookie » Thu Jul 30, 2020 2:14 pm

In addition to coming in from the east (Duck, McGee and also Mono Pass, plus some very interesting off trail options from Convict Canyon), there are several alternative ways to get into this area from Lake Edison on the west. An example of some of this sort of wandering is the 2018 trip report here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=18658
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Best For Silver Divide Exploration - Duck Pass or McGee Pass?

Post by Bishop_Bob » Thu Jul 30, 2020 2:29 pm

I prefer Duck, as it affords a great view of the divide from upon high.

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Re: Best For Silver Divide Exploration - Duck Pass or McGee Pass?

Post by cgundersen » Thu Jul 30, 2020 7:44 pm

Hi Geoff,
OK, I'll chime in favor of McGee simply because the geology is stunning. Back in 2013, my wife & I did a big loop around the eastern part of the Silver Divide after entering on the McGee trail and doing a hop over the Mace-Warrior ridge to make the turn back toward Grinnell and Hopkins basin. The nice thing with that loop is you can shoot down to trail any time you want and then get back out over Hopkins pass (which Flamingo reported on recently). And, as you observed, the comments on kpeter's thread offer enticing possibilities. The downside of Duck is that you will spend a lot more time re-tracing footsteps on the way out as you climb out of Tully Hole and work your way back to the pass.....Cameron

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Re: Best For Silver Divide Exploration - Duck Pass or McGee Pass?

Post by BigMan » Fri Jul 31, 2020 9:03 am

Thanks everyone. I appreciate the responses and the reminder that there is no "better" - every place is worthwhile.

I'll probably stick with Duck, while looking forward to McGee later.

And I will post a trip report!
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Re: Best For Silver Divide Exploration - Duck Pass or McGee Pass?

Post by BigMan » Fri Jul 31, 2020 12:53 pm

Second thoughts after learning that McGee has half the daily quota of Duck (15 vs. 30).

Fewer people the better, imo.

Decisions, decisions. :)
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Re: Best For Silver Divide Exploration - Duck Pass or McGee Pass?

Post by kpeter » Fri Jul 31, 2020 3:53 pm

Perhaps I will see you up there!

Duck Pass is heavily used but most people do not make it beyond Duck/Pika lakes. Camping is thickest in the area between Pika and Duck, and at the outlet of Duck. The steep shoreline restricts camping somewhat in other locations and creates crowds in those two spots. I actually enjoyed those lakes--if you haven't seen them before they are beautiful, albeit a bit crowded. Duck Lake is huge. If you go in via Duck you will probably be speeding by Purple and Virginia Lakes on the way to Fish Creek. But I found the Ram Lakes above Purple Lake to be quite interesting and worth a visit.

The McGee trailhead may have half the number of hikers, but there are fewer destinations unless you are headed over the pass, which I have not (quite) yet done. A few people go to Steelhead Lake but the vast majority go to Big McGee. The campsites at Big McGee on the northern shore tend to get pretty crowded, but if you camp in the meadow below the lake or if you take the trail around the lake and descend to its western side you can find less crowded conditions.

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Re: Best For Silver Divide Exploration - Duck Pass or McGee Pass?

Post by BigMan » Fri Jul 31, 2020 5:23 pm

It'd be great to meet you out there kpeter. :)

If you see a bearded "BigMan" (6'6" 260 lbs) wearing a light blue travel shirt and tan sun hat, please say "hi". My friend and I will be there 8/4 - 8/12-ish.

I've been thinking similarly - Duck Pass TH might have more people but also more places early on to go to get away from people. Ram Lakes are definitely on the list.

My latest thinking - if Grinnell is really THE primary objective, I should go in via McGee. And like Cameron's suggested, I could loop back via Hopkins Pass.

I want to do both Duck and McGee eventually and don't want too much overlap, so I could see each trip looking like:

From McGee TH: Big McGee Lake - McGee Pass - Red Slate Mtn - "Tully" Lakes - Laurel/Grinnell - Upper Hopkins - Big McGee

From Duck Pass TH: Pika - Ram - "Tully" Lakes - Indian Lakes - Peter Pande/Olive/Anne - Deer Lakes

Those aren't nights, just places to see and explore. I like to slow a bit and each of these trips, based on what I've read, offers plenty to see on a 8-9 night trip.

Does this sound reasonable? I'd be grateful for any other insights or suggestions. Thanks.

Geoff
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Re: Best For Silver Divide Exploration - Duck Pass or McGee Pass?

Post by kpeter » Fri Jul 31, 2020 6:14 pm

BigMan wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 5:23 pm
It'd be great to meet you out there kpeter. :)

If you see a bearded "BigMan" (6'6" 260 lbs) wearing a light blue travel shirt and tan sun hat, please say "hi". My friend and I will be there 8/4 - 8/12-ish.

I've been thinking similarly - Duck Pass TH might have more people but also more places early on to go to get away from people. Ram Lakes are definitely on the list.

My latest thinking - if Grinnell is really THE primary objective, I should go in via McGee. And like Cameron's suggested, I could loop back via Hopkins Pass.

I want to do both Duck and McGee eventually and don't want too much overlap, so I could see each trip looking like:

From McGee TH: Big McGee Lake - McGee Pass - Red Slate Mtn - "Tully" Lakes - Laurel/Grinnell - Upper Hopkins - Big McGee

From Duck Pass TH: Pika - Ram - "Tully" Lakes - Indian Lakes - Peter Pande/Olive/Anne - Deer Lakes

Those aren't nights, just places to see and explore. I like to slow a bit and each of these trips, based on what I've read, offers plenty to see on a 8-9 night trip.

Does this sound reasonable? I'd be grateful for any other insights or suggestions. Thanks.

Geoff
You will be a bit ahead of me. I am 8/7 to 8/13 and definitely from the McGee side. I am NOT a big man, about 5/7", and wear a white Tilly hat with a HST patch on the front, so if we cross paths you should easily recognize the HST connection. I also wear a pale blue sun shirt. Since I put that patch on my hat I have bumped into a couple of dozen HST people who otherwise would have been friendly folk with no particular connection. It is pretty cool to instantly have a conversation starter on the trail.

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Re: Best For Silver Divide Exploration - Duck Pass or McGee Pass?

Post by cgundersen » Fri Jul 31, 2020 7:26 pm

Well gents, have a great time; I'm envious. For Geoff: kpeter's suggestions about Big McGee are spot on, it can get busy, but I'd like to add that there is a delightful little pond about ~60 ft above lake level just beyond the outlet stream. It's got plenty of flat ground, and gets you away from crowds. From there, Tully Lake is not a bad target for day 2, even if you do a side trek up the flanks of Red Slate (and, if you check out Flamingo's photos from early July, you'll see why that might be worthwhile). From Tully, it's a snooze to get to Cotton, and you can kill the rest of that day wandering wherever (Izaak Walton, Mace, etc). Cotton also leaves you nicely lined up for the hop over to Rosy Finch, but I'd keep going to Grinnell. It's seriously spectacular and you won't regret having a full day to bang around there. From there it's Hopkins basin & pass and you're back to McGee. The tiny tarn at ~11,100 in upper Hopkins basin is also a great view campsite and better than the lake. Cameron

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