High Sierra Trail - Day 3
Hamilton Lake to Big Arroyo
Points of interest
Hamilton blowout ~1 mile, 500 feet above the lake
Hamilton gorge ~1.5 miles, ~650 feet above lake
Precipice lake ~3 miles, 10,300 feet
Kaweah gap ~4 miles, 10,700 feet
Big Arroyo ~7.5 miles, 9,600 feet
2019 is the year of the Hamilton blowout. The trail crew started repairing the blowout a week before our hike and they had filled about 2-3 feet of the drop, so we were better off than the others who did the trail earlier.
We started hiking early on day 3, Sep 9. From lake Hamilton, it is a straight 2,000 feet climb to Kaweah gap via Precipice lake. As we start going up the trail, the sun started to raise and we started to see the lower and upper Hamilton lakes from higher up.
There were times where we thought we could have been in Yosemite instead of Sequoia NP.
The blowout is about 1 mile up the trail and 500 feet above the lake. Since the trail crew had already laid 2-3 feet of ground platform, it was not as scary as I thought it was going to be. Here is Durgi crossing the blowout.
Shortly after the blowout is the famous Hamilton gorge. When the original trail was built in the 1930s, the crew was unable to blast a trail successfully, so they ended up with a tunnel that is precariously placed on a ridge. Those 300 feet are interesting to walk through, but the whole climb has exposure, and my fear of heights was not overly challenged. The San Diego backpackers have already crossed the tunnel in this photograph.
Just past the gorge, you get to see the path to Kaweah gap very clearly. Here is Durgi soaking in the views of Kaweah gap.
When camped in the banks of upper Hamilton lake, we saw a waterfall up in the mountains, of course, we would go right above the waterfall, walking through a creek that feeds water to the falls. Here is Upper Hamilton Lake from over 1000 feet above.
The final hike towards Kaweah gap starts with a burst of wild flowers, even during Sep.
We arrive at Precipice lake, made popular by Ansel Adams' iconic photograph.
A little bit of hiking gives you the complete view of the lake from above.
Another mile of hiking, we finally arrive at the summit of Kaweah gap, overlooking the Kaweah basin.
Hiking down Kaweah basin towards Big Arroyo and the landscape changes dramatically.
Approaching Big Arroyo, you walk through meadows and dense trees.
We finally arrive at Big Arroyo campsite. It turned out our coldest night in the hike would be at 6,500 feet (and not at 12,000 feet) in Big Arroyo. We froze. To make things worse, a stock group paraded through our campsite at night with loud bells completely waking me up. It was a rough night. We had crossed the great western divide, but our real climbs were yet to begin.
Garmin map for days 1-3.