The form of the Southern Sierra is like a tree, where the trunk of that tree is the Kern Canyon.
Kern Canyon may be one of nature’s least natural wonders. Conceived by an earthquake fault and molded by glaciers, it is as straight a terrestrial indicator of true north as can be found, and seems to be dug at right angles, without a single truss to hold up the great granite walls.
This stonewalled canal splits the Southern Sierra into two twin divides, each rising to elevations over 13,800 feet. The eastern divide is the loftier of the two (by 700 feet), but the western divide is the twin that endures most of the weather, and sports the most southerly glacier in the range.
The western divide even branches in two, giving birth to two lesser divides that each rise above 12,000 feet.
At this highest and most splintered segment of the Sierra Nevada, crossing the range can be a difficult task.