The Great Western Divide

This is our ultimate trip: the rarely skied Great Western Divide. Since this our most difficult tour requiring solid skills and confidence on all sorts of terrain we will work closely with participants to ensure that the group is strong and competent. This route takes on all the terrain that the High Route avoids and then keeps on going ending in beautiful Mineral King, the site of a major environmental battle in the 1960’s when the Disney Corporation wanted to build a downhill ski area.

If this trip does not give you the best ski tour experience in the Sierra Nevada we just do not know what will!!


This is a long tour and pack weight needs to be kept as low as possible. We will be carefully selecting equipment to reduce weight and we will work with you to ensure that packs do not weigh more then about 45 pound plus the weight of your skis when we start out.

We highly recommend that you spend at least one night at moderate altitude (higher than 8,000 feet) just prior to the trip. Spending a night or two in Mammoth or camped at the trailhead campground would do the trick.

SMC does not rent ski equipment, but we work with Mammoth Mountaineering (760-934-4191) to get you set up on the correct equipment. MMS has a very wide range of rental equipment that is probably the best you will find anywhere in California. All gear is current state of the art, well tuned and rental fees are deductible if you buy a set up from them. (We highly recommend renting before you buy so as to find what suits you best, since a full setup is pretty pricey). We can coordinate the rental and suggest that if you can you arrive Mammoth the night before and get fully set up since boot fitting can take some time.

Return to Backcountry Spring Tours

After shuttling to the road head in Onion Valley we head up and over Kearsarge Pass the first of a dozen or more passes we will cross over the next nine days. We drop down into Bubbs Creek and follow East Creek up to Ouzel Creek. From here we climb towards spectacular Mount Brewer via Brewer Col. If conditions, and energy allow, a descent via the broad south slopes of Mt. Brewer is possible before we head south, linking high technical pass crossings along the western side of the Great Western Divide. Thunder Mountain, Milestone Mountain, Midway, Table Mountain and other peaks here will be familiar to those who have done the High Route but this time we are on the opposite side of the divide.

We intersect the High Route (at its most difficult pass crossing, but one of our easiest!), cross Triple Divide Pass and traverse into Cloud Canyon.

Now we enter Sequoia National Park via Lion Lake Pass and travel south paralleling the Kaweah Range with spectacular views to its jagged peaks. We enter Big Arroyo which must be one of the most wonderful gentle skis the Sierra has to offer. Miles of gentle downhill where you can relax and simply watch the scenery slip by. Beyond this we enter complex terrain and cross three passes in quick succession before finally descending below Sawtooth Peak and the final run down Monarch Creek to Mineral King. Just where the road head is will depend upon snowfall, but we will anticipate skiing out to the settlement of Silver City but hope to be pleasantly surprised by finding the road is plowed to Mineral King itself.

Either way we will meet the shuttle below Silver City and head to home.

Program Prerequisites:

You need SMC Advanced Ski Skills or better for this tour.

You need advanced ski skills for this tour. You should be able to ski advanced ski area runs confidently and be proficient at kick turns, traversing on 40 degree slopes, side slipping and parallel or telemark turns all while carrying a pack of about 40 pounds. Prior winter camping and mountaineering skills are required. You will be traveling up to seven miles a day and gaining up to 3000 feet a day so an excellent level of aerobic fitness is required.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding, van shuttle, permits, all necessary group gear, avalanche beacons, tents, kitchen gear and dinners, lunches and breakfasts (you bring snack items).

Please Read before you go

We feel the following information is essential... (links open as PDF in new window)

  1. Details and itinerary
    Equipment list
  2. SMC Cancellation Policy
  3. Suggestions on preparation - get the most out of your trip!
  4. Tips on physical training for your trip
  5. LNT - Let's work together to protect our precious mountain environment.

PDF Maps:

The Great Western Divide map

Rental Equipment:

Need to rent equipment for your trip? We can help.