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Up Fern Creek to Agnew Pass OR other access to the high rout

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Up Fern Creek to Agnew Pass OR other access to the high rout

Postby srnovak » Wed Jul 30, 2014 11:17 am

I noticed another thread with a similar subject, but it seemed to have gone dead in the water.

A group of 5 of us had to change plans for our biennial backpacking trip due to some last minute issues and are having a problem with permits. Our trip is in the next couple of weeks and we are having a very difficult time find a decent access point to the Sierra High Route. We have 5-6 nights to spend in the backcountry and were looking to find a good base camp to spend a 2-3 nights and do some exploring. We have been looking in the area of Mt Ritter, but cannot find any access points that aren't booked. We can book Fern Lake, but aren't sure if we could make it up Fern Creek to the Carson Peak plateau and contour the county line down toward Agnew Pass.

I have found posts that say it is a simple class 2 hike up and over Carson Peak and I have also read posts that say it is awful and shouldn't be done with packs.

I need help! Does anyone have any insight? We are all experienced in the backcountry, but will not have ropes and do not want anything over class 2/3.



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Re: Up Fern Creek to Agnew Pass OR other access to the high rout

Postby SSSdave » Wed Jul 30, 2014 1:20 pm

As the person that responded to this on the other thread, as noted therein, I doubt anyone on this board has done the over the plateau route because it is a lot of extra vertical, distance, and offtrail awkwardness for no reason. However I am an expert looking at Sierra topographic maps and that is why I stated the map shows "modest gradients". The steepest 20 meter line is 3.2mm on my computer display with the key on the map showing 200meters is 14mm . 200meters is 200*3.2808=656 feet. Thus
(3.2/14)(656)= 149 feet between the elevation lines. Thus the tan of the slope is 65.6/149= 0.437. Thus a percent grade of 43.7% that is an modest angle of 23.6 degrees.

Although it is possible a 10 foot cliff could be within the elevation line and block the route, that would be very unusual especially given the metamorphic geology that I'd expect is just small to moderate talus and scree with some turf sections. Many novice backpackers are probably not going to like going through any talus even small and if that is your situation then you ought not consider it. Of course I have not actually been anywhere near Fern Lake so cannot say for certain. However I have been on the plateau above the Clark Lakes and dropping down the west slope can be done in many places for anyone with basic topo skills. In other words go where the lines are furthest apart and not close together.

If you found some posts or information saying otherwise please provide a link as I'd be amused to read it.
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Re: Up Fern Creek to Agnew Pass OR other access to the high rout

Postby maverick » Wed Jul 30, 2014 1:57 pm

Hi Srnovak,

Welcome to HST!
Yes, I have hiked up Fern Lake Trail, all the way to the end of the creek, and
then headed up onto the plateau from where I descend down to the PCT/High
Trail near Agnew Pass.
Nothing on the route is outside of your requested comfort levels (class 2/3), it
gets very steep at around 7600 ft on you way up, but gets easier as you get
closer to the Fern Lake, above it, nears class 2, where you should get onto the
western side of the creek at around the 9400 ft level for the easier ascent
route avoiding making this route any more difficult.
The steep ascent at the beginning requires and early start, as most trails
starting from this region do.
As Dave mention you cannot get directly down to Spooky or Clark Lakes area
directly, but can descend down near Agnew Pass.
Don't know whether this route would the best alternative since you will have full
packs (6 nights), but if all other trailheads a booked up, it's better than not
getting out.
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Re: Up Fern Creek to Agnew Pass OR other access to the high rout

Postby srnovak » Thu Jul 31, 2014 5:09 am

Thanks guys.
Yeah, having to climb up and over the plateau to get into the high country is obviously not the best route, but we were too late to get permits to Agnew Meadows or Rush Creek or any other access point. And with our permits to Fern Lake...we are trying to abide by them.

There are the walk up permits, but we are travelling from all over the country and won't be there until mid afternoon. We are worried that any of these type permits would already be taken.

I think we will try and be to the ranger station by mid afternoon and check for any walk up permits to better access points. If there aren't any, then we will camp at Fern Lake on Saturday and climb up the creek Sunday over into the high country.

appreciate the replies.
-srnovak
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Re: Up Fern Creek to Agnew Pass OR other access to the high rout

Postby kpeter » Thu Jul 31, 2014 8:37 am

This is an honest question to those who know about how the permit system works: If you camp at Fern Lake the first night, is there a reason you could not walk back down to Silver Lake and in via Rush Creek on day two?

In 2011 I did the North Lake to South Lake loop starting with a Tyee Lakes permit. I explained my whole route to the ranger and he took it down, but since I started with Tyee Lakes I only counted against the Tyee Lakes quota--which was nil. Why couldn't the same be done with Fern Lake? You would have to walk a bit on a road as I did getting from Sabrina to North Lake, but that did not invalidate my permit. I was not trying to evade a quota since I wanted to make the complete loop, but I thought at the time that it was odd that one of the least used trailheads could wind up qualifying me to pack into one of the most used trailheads.
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Re: Up Fern Creek to Agnew Pass OR other access to the high rout

Postby SSSdave » Thu Jul 31, 2014 10:28 am

kpeter wrote:This is an honest question to those who know about how the permit system works: If you camp at Fern Lake the first night, is there a reason you could not walk back down to Silver Lake and in via Rush Creek on day two? ...


Some years ago I had a 4 or 5 day permit out of Onion Valley with my itinerary starting at Bench Lake. After a couple nights there, I started hiking back down the trail to the trail junction for Golden Trout Lake that is about a quarter mile up from the parking lot as I planned to go up to that lake. Inyo NF categorizes it on a different quota from the University Peak basin and Kearsarge Pass which my permit was for. On the switchbacks below Gilbert Lake I was met by a training group of FS rangers that were apparently being trained by a lead person on backcountry policies and processes. She told me I could not do so and instead should have been issued two separate permits and kindly wrote me up a second permit right there since the Bishop office had made the mistake. I had explained how I never would have actually returned to the trailhead but she said that did not matter since that first part of the trail is outside the wilderness boundaries and considered two separate trails even though they share the start. I believe at that time I asked her what if I had gone cross country by climbing up and over Gould Peak that is up near KP and though don't recall the response would expect that would have been ok.

Another time in Yosemite? I vaguely recall discussing whether it was ok to get a permit for one trailhead then return to the road the next day without driving and start up another trail. That also was a no can do. However in some cases trails do cross roads like the PCT at Devils Postpile or Tuolumne Meadows so this is probably one of those gray areas that may not be spelled out specifically with policy a matter of local interpretation. Others on this board who have work for the NFS and NPS ought to have a better answer.
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Up Fern Creek to Agnew Pass OR other access to the high rout

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Jul 31, 2014 12:18 pm

When you get to a road and the trail crosses it, you cross and are fine with the permit in hand.

If you turn down the road you left the wilderness and need another permit.

If you stop in town for a resupply and stay for more than 24 hours, you left the wilderness, but not sure how they would really know or enforce that one.... long thru hikes probably are considered a different situation.
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Re: Up Fern Creek to Agnew Pass OR other access to the high rout

Postby kpeter » Thu Jul 31, 2014 2:36 pm

AlmostThere wrote:If you turn down the road you left the wilderness and need another permit.


Then I was improperly permitted by the rangers, who gave me just one permit even though on day 2 I walked from Sabrina to North Lake on the road and reentered the wilderness there. I think he said something like I was fine so long as I did it within 24 hours and I did it within about 2. I always thought it seemed odd. But it seems that some of the staff don't know their own rules very well when it comes to writing permits.

If I had needed two permits, could they have given me the second one at the same time as they gave me the first, or would I have to have made a separate trip to town to pick it up?
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