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Trip Advice: Onion Valley to Upper Kern Basin

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Trip Advice: Onion Valley to Upper Kern Basin

Postby BigMan » Wed Jul 20, 2016 8:45 am

Hi. I’m heading out this Friday for an out-and-back hike to Upper Kern Basin via Onion Valley. I’ve got 10 nights and really want to get to know the Upper Kern Basin, slowing down, exploring the lakes, soaking in the scenery, just being there. No fishing. And no, I don’t envy thru hikers. :)

I’m Level 3 but don’t want to do much class 2 on this trip, especially if its steep and exposed. (this is why I’m not using Shepherd Pass).

Questions:

- Assuming I can get a walk up permit for the Whitney trail, is there a good reason to start from Whitney portal instead of Onion Valley?

- I probably won’t get to Upper Kern until day 3. Any campsite recommendations on the way? I don’t mind camping away from water, especially if its worth the views/solitude. I’ve camped on the eastern shore of the largest Kearsarge Lake and I’m looking for something else. Other Kearsarge Lakes? Areas or tarns near Bullfrog? Near the JMT between Bullfrog and Bubbs Creek (w/ views of East Vidette)?

- Phil Arnot raves about Lake 3740m/12,270’ (half mile NE of Table Mountain) and Lake 3630m/11,909’ (ENE of Lake 3740), but I haven’t found any other information about these lakes or the routes to them. Anyone here been? Worth it? Are the routes to these lakes class 1?

- I’m also planning to explore another area or two if I have the time. Right now, I’m favoring Milestone Basin and Bighorn Plateau, but I’m also interested in Wallace/Wales or Wrights Lake Basins. Any ideas or recommendations?

Thanks. I’ll be sure to post a TR when I get back.

Geoff
Last edited by BigMan on Wed Jul 20, 2016 11:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Trip Advice: Onion Valley to Upper Kern Basin

Postby Hobbes » Wed Jul 20, 2016 10:15 am

BigMan wrote:Assuming I can get a walk up permit for the Whitney trail, is there a good reason to start from Whitney portal instead of Onion Valley?


No, but there are a ton of great reasons to exit out of Whitney. As far as walk-in permits, all of Whitney (except for 4 daily slots up the MR) are lottery only. BUT, you can get a same day entry permit after 11:00am if there are any no-shows. That is, lottery winners have until 11:00am on their entry date to pick-up their permits before they're cancelled.

Getting a walk-in Whitney exit permit is pretty straightforward; 10 days out, practically guaranteed. I really like to exit Whitney because it's gotta be the easiest shuttle/hitch in the E Sierra. By exiting out a different TH, you have more time to explore without backtracking. Plus, with 10 days, you have a ton of time to drop your car at the Portal, get a ride down to town, then get back up to Onion valley.

10 days is a lot of time. Once over Forester, you could head over to the Kern headwaters, check out Milestone, then cut back to WLB & Wales. From there, it's easy to get back on the JMT and head for Whitney and out.
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Re: Trip Advice: Onion Valley to Upper Kern Basin

Postby BigMan » Wed Jul 20, 2016 11:51 am

Thanks Hobbes. I thought about that, too.

I'm exiting Monday, August 1. Per recreation.gov there's currently no availability to exit Whitney on that date, so I'll just keeping checking before I leave and, if I can't reserve one, get to the Inyo Office early and see if I can get a Whitney exit permit then.

Also, fyi, per the Ranger I just talked with, WP parking is available only to those entering and exiting Whitney for trips that are 3 nights or less. She recommended that I contact the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce for information regarding parking in Lone Pine. I might just park in Onion Valley and hitch a ride back to my truck.
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Re: Trip Advice: Onion Valley to Upper Kern Basin

Postby maverick » Wed Jul 20, 2016 12:30 pm

Questions:

- Assuming I can get a walk up permit for the Whitney trail, is there a good reason to start from Whitney portal instead of Onion Valley?

- I probably won’t get to Upper Kern until day 3. Any campsite recommendations on the way? I don’t mind camping away from water, especially if its worth the views/solitude. I’ve camped on the eastern shore of the largest Kearsarge Lake and I’m looking for something else. Other Kearsarge Lakes? Areas or tarns near Bullfrog? Near the JMT between Bullfrog and Bubbs Creek (w/ views of East Vidette)?

- Phil Arnot raves about Lake 3740m/12,270’ (half mile NE of Table Mountain) and Lake 3630m/11,909’ (ENE of Lake 3740), but I haven’t found any other information about these lakes or the routes to them. Anyone here been? Worth it? Are the routes to these lakes class 1?

- I’m also planning to explore another area or two if I have the time. Right now, I’m favoring Milestone Basin and Bighorn Plateau, but I’m also interested in Wallace/Wales or Wrights Lake Basins. Any ideas or recommendations?




- Start from Onion Valley, you will enjoy your trip more going from a lower elevation to a higher one.

SEKI NPS: Bullfrog Lake, east of the trail between Vidette Meadow and Glen Pass, is closed to all camping, grazing and stock travel.


- Would recommend Vidette Meadow or Center Basin are good alternatives

- Yes those lakes are pretty, but do not think it is worth the effort, Lake 11548 south of Mt. Genevra is just as pretty without the climb, though the valley above Casper Lake (unofficial name) leading up to Thunder Pass is very pretty, but Milestone Basin would be even more rewarding, the small lakes in the basin are very pretty and the views get progressively better to outstanding the higher up you go towards the pass.

- Wales Lake is outstanding and the route up is not difficult, well worth the effort, it was the location of 2014 HST Meet-up. :nod:
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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Re: Trip Advice: Onion Valley to Upper Kern Basin

Postby Hobbes » Wed Jul 20, 2016 3:21 pm

BigMan wrote:There's currently no availability to exit Whitney on that date.


Whitney exit permits - like N Lone Pine creek entry/exit ie mountaineers route - are only 60% reservable. The remaining 40% is left for walk-in permits. So, with 10 days out when you arrive, I would guess a 99.99% chance on scoring an available exit permit.

BigMan wrote: per the Ranger I just talked with, WP parking is available only to those entering and exiting Whitney for trips that are 3 nights or less. I might just park in Onion Valley and hitch a ride back to my truck.


Ah, yes, I forgot about the parking issue. I was up there in early May, and rec'd a 3 day parking pass that I put on my dashboard. As far as hitching, it's harder to hitch when you're dirty - much easier when you're clean & fresh. That being said, regardless of what you look like, it's super easy to hitch down to LP from the Portal. Like 5 minutes or less - people leaving are going 5mph out of the parking lot about 1' from the hitch point - impossible to ignore & slink by. Besides, they've either hiked themselves, in which case they feel just like you, or they're checking out the scene, which might cause them to be sort of curious, so they almost feel obligated to give hikers a ride down.

There's plenty of places to park in LP. I'd leave a car there, and then hitch/shuttle up to OV. When you arrive at the Portal, grab a beer & a burger, and you'll probably end up having someone talk to you anyway that will offer to give you a ride back down.

As far was Wallace/Wales, as Mav mentioned, it was the location of the 2014 HST meet-up:

Image

The dude in the middle is currently hiking the PCT:
https://www.facebook.com/CaliTrails/?_fb_noscript=1
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