Backpacking the Circle of Solitude

We hiked about 75 miles and climbed about 16,000 feet.

We hiked about 75 miles and climbed about 16,000 feet.

Up, up, and away.

Charlie, Dani and I huffed and puffed around the Circle of Solitude in five days. It was hard, beautiful and a lot of fun.

Avalanche Pass kicked my butt. Cloud Canyon felt like an achievement unlocked. Colby Pass, crossed at six pm, was a highlight. We’d pushed hard and the view was worth it. Standing up high on the Great Western Divide, looking down towards the Kern Trench, and across towards the Kaweahs, ready to drop down another five thousand feet.. it was a very physical trip.

We pushed up to the headwaters of the Kern, a basin I was thrilled to return to and can’t wait to visit again. Clouds joined us at Lake South America, but they felt more like the edge of a system rather than a growing cumulonimbus.

Day four brought us cross country to Harrison Pass. Being early July, we didn’t know if the chute would be covered in snow and ice. It wasn’t. We still turned around. Dang, that descent looked dangerous.

I don’t have a very high tolerance for risk. Harrison is your typical avalanche chute. Steep, featureless, loose. Below the top, there was no evidence of prints. No indication of a safe way. It looked like as soon as you were on the face you could slip. I can only guess that winter slides have changed the route since the guidebook recommended it. We turned around and started a long day over Forester instead.

I’ve wanted to do this loop for a dozen years and I’m very glad that my best buddies huffed along.

Falling on the first 40 feet seemed probable.

Falling on the first 40 feet seemed probable.

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