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Reflection Lake to Upper Kern- which pass?

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Reflection Lake to Upper Kern- which pass?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jul 09, 2015 10:01 am

I have been over Harrison Pass, but not Lucy's, Thunder Pass or Milly's. I am going this route to get to the meetup. From Reflection Lake, the end-of-day goal is "Casper Lake".

1) Harrison Pass is longer (7.5 miles, 2755 gain) but nothing too difficult and I know what I am in for.

2) Millys is the shortest- 4.8 miles, 2270 gain. I am concerned about the difficult upper portion on the north side. I am not that good at class 3 or exposed ledges with a full pack. Without a pack, OK, but I will have nearly 9 days of food. And I am short, so a lot of ledges that normal tall people can easily go up or down, are quite a challenge for me.

3) I have done the south side of Thunder Pass (when climbing Thunder Mtn years ago) and have looked down the north side, but not sure what the north side would be like. The year I looked down it, was a higher snow year. I have also gone up to Lake 3496 from Reflection Lake previously on my way to Longly Pass, but have not been into the adjacent drainage that goes towards Thunder Pass. Thunder Pass would be 9 miles, 3095 feet gain. If I did this route I would go up to Lake 3496 the previous day instead of camping at Reflection Lake, and this would make the day over the pass 5.5 miles and 1425 feet gain. Thunder Pass is my preference simply because I get to see more new territory. It does not look too bad on Google Earth. I can find little detailed information, though.

4) From what I have read, I think Lucy's would be too technical.

I would appreciate any information that would help me decide. Particularly from those who have done more than one or all the passes for an objective comparison.



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Re: Reflection Lake to Upper Kern- which pass?

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Jul 09, 2015 11:36 am

WD, I'm pretty sure there have been more than one thread on this subject, but I have done Lucy's and can offer some insight into it. Lucy's is in fact class 2, but the very top part on the N side features a section of steep loose talus. How bad is this compared to other crummy loose class 2 passes? I think I've been over worse. Certainly the north side of Kaweah Pass is worse because it has very unstable large talus over a longer stretch--that is my standard for the scariest class 2 pass I've ever been over (large amounts of stuff were shifting and making noise up to 100 feet upslope of where I was climbing). I think Pants Pass is worse than Lucy's too (esp the very top of the E side of it). My recollection of Lucy's is that the crucial bad spot is rather short (perhaps a few talus moves that cover 15-30 feet of gain). The rest of the talus and scree could be managed with some good choices of a zig zag route.
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Re: Reflection Lake to Upper Kern- which pass?

Postby maverick » Thu Jul 09, 2015 12:04 pm

I have done the south side of Thunder Pass (when climbing Thunder Mtn years ago) and have looked down the north side, but not sure what the north side would be like. The year I looked down it, was a higher snow year. I have also gone up to Lake 3496 from Reflection Lake previously on my way to Longly Pass, but have not been into the adjacent drainage that goes towards Thunder Pass. Thunder Pass would be 9 miles, 3095 feet gain. If I did this route I would go up to Lake 3496 the previous day instead of camping at Reflection Lake, and this would make the day over the pass 5.5 miles and 1425 feet gain. Thunder Pass is my preference simply because I get to see more new territory. It does not look too bad on Google Earth. I can find little detailed information, though.


Wrong choice WD, TP has a steep cliff that needs to be by-passed to the west by using a very loose sand/scree chute, think something similar to Pants Pass steepness, why it is rated class 2 is beyond me.

Stick with Harrison, or try Ericsson, which is easier over all, just has more talus down low.
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Re: Reflection Lake to Upper Kern- which pass?

Postby Bluewater » Fri Jul 10, 2015 3:40 pm

ImageUploadedByTapatalk1436567328.928217.jpg
ImageUploadedByTapatalk1436567328.928217.jpg (457.94 KiB) Viewed 396 times


This is a photo from the top of the chute on the north side of Thunder Pass. The photo doesn't adequately show how steep and loose this was. I don't have the extensive amount of experience that you do, but this is the only time I have turned back from a pass. I was solo and after much deliberation and searching I went back down the southeast side. The closest thing I have to compare it to is the steep chute on the east side of Darwin Pass. At least with that pass it's possible to see where it ends. With Thunder Pass it was unstable, steep, loose and impossible to see the end. The angle steepened until it disappeared.

I did this short video that might give a more accurate perspective:

http://youtu.be/MJqG17RmCJc

I hope this helps. I know Charles Hayden did a trip report, but he was going up the north side and didn't take any photos.




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Re: Reflection Lake to Upper Kern- which pass?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Jul 10, 2015 4:14 pm

Thanks for the information. When I looked down the pass it was a high snow year and most of the gully was snow covered. Did not know that such rotten stuff was under the snow! If I go this way, I will do Harrison Pass or Ericson Pass.

Right now I have five different routes to go to the meetup. :confused: I am driving myself crazy trying to decide which route to choose. I may end up doing the shortest and most direct route (from Wolverton) and not try to tie it into other plans. Sometimes a "one goal" plan is the best option.
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Re: Reflection Lake to Upper Kern- which pass?

Postby Jimr » Sat Jul 11, 2015 9:38 am

I agree that men are fairly simple (another thread). If it were me, WD, I'd make a list of trips, have a couple of beers, then throw a dart. Then, I wouldn't have to ](*,) ](*,) ](*,)
What?!
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Re: Reflection Lake to Upper Kern- which pass?

Postby limpingcrab » Mon Jul 13, 2015 3:52 pm

I've only done Milly's and Harrison and I remember Milly's being sketchier than I thought and I didn't have a pack. I'm very comfortable off trail and I had to free up my hands to get down it so going up with a pack probably wouldn't be great.

Do Harrison, just so you can walk through that meadow on the NE side of Ericsson Crags, still one of the most beautiful places I've ever set foot!
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Re: Reflection Lake to Upper Kern- which pass?

Postby dematson » Sat Dec 26, 2015 9:39 pm

Does anyone know if Harrison Pass was part of the JMT before Forester Pass was completed?
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Re: Reflection Lake to Upper Kern- which pass?

Postby commonloon » Sat Dec 26, 2015 11:01 pm

I think Junction Pass was part of the old JMT.
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Re: Reflection Lake to Upper Kern- which pass?

Postby kpeter » Sun Dec 27, 2015 12:01 am

commonloon wrote:I think Junction Pass was part of the old JMT.


Yes. Hard to imagine driving sheep over Harrison pass, but apparently they did. It was a pre JMT pass, dating to the 1870s.

Then after the JMT act was passed in 1915, they put the trail over the ridge to the NE of Junction Peak, then down and back up to Shepherd Pass. This was a stop-gap until they could construct a more proper pass that did not gain and lose so much elevation.

They came back to construct Forester Pass in 1930. A trail worker died working on it.

http://www.sequoiaparksfoundation.org/t ... ison-pass/

Mathur Pass was the final piece of the JMT to be completed--in 1938. There had been crews working on pieces of the trail since long before the JMT was officially authorized. It took 46 years and a number of deaths to build it.

http://jmt.sierra-hikes.com/JMT.html
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Re: Reflection Lake to Upper Kern- which pass?

Postby kursavwilage » Mon Dec 28, 2015 9:34 pm

I have done Milly's a number of times, twice with packs. Milly's is a long class 2 boulder hop up until you reach the last approximately 150' class 3 chimney. The class 3 chimney part consists of pretty solid climbing that is made more difficult when carrying a pack. I did it one time as a day hike on a heavy snow year and the chimney was pretty scary because it was full of hard, steep snow. I never really was that uncomfortable with a pack but, I was constantly aware that a fall would not be good. I would not ever plan to go down that chimney with a pack but, it would not be impossible to do. I would steer clear of Milly's if it was a heavy snow year or you were going early in the summer. The last time that we went up Milly's we used Lucy's to get back to the East lake area. I would have no problem doing Lucy's to get into the Upper Kern but, if you carry a heavy pack the last steep part could be a little rough but not impossible. Both Lucy's and Milly's are fairly easy on the Upper Kern side. I have no experience with Harrison's or Ericson's but have them on my to do list.
I have done quite a number of cross-country passes including King Col and the one described in R.J. Secor's books as Not Pants Pass and would consider those two as scarier than Milly's or Lucy's.
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Re: Reflection Lake to Upper Kern- which pass?

Postby sekihiker » Tue Dec 29, 2015 6:24 pm

I think a lot of the issues discussed so far are also discussed at:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6497&p=94011&hilit=milly#p94011

The links to my trip reports on the above thread don't work, so here they are:
http://www.sierrahiker.com/KernBasinI/index.html
http://www.sierrahiker.com/KernBasinII/index.html
http://www.sierrahiker.com/ThunderCol/index.html
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