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Hiking up the sides of Big Arroyo and Kern River Canyons

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Hiking up the sides of Big Arroyo and Kern River Canyons

Postby Steve Bearman » Thu May 17, 2007 3:11 pm

I am planning a two week trip in July. There are two places I would love to be able to cut down on trail miles by going cross country. I've never been to either place, so I don't know how intimidated to be by the steepness on the map.

If you have done either of these cross-country routes, or know anyone who has, or if you have walked by and seen what the terrain is like, I'd love your opinion!

1. From Moraine Lake directly down into Big Arroyo: We might want to go up or down this way and save ourselves 6 miles of walking around the top of Big Arroyo. Have you done this or seen what the terrain looks like?

2. From Crabtree Ranger Station area (below Whitney) directly down to Kern Hot Springs: It seems like Rock Creek is far too steep to follow into Kern Canyon, but I wonder if it is possible to descend the canyon wall further to the North, perhaps just North of Mt. Guyot. Any guesses as to whether the canyon wall can be downclimbed with packs on?

Any help (even in the form of educated guesses) would be much appreciated!



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Postby maverick » Thu May 17, 2007 4:01 pm

Photo#1 is the Whitney Creek drainage into Kern Canyon from
Red Spur Basin.
Photo#2 is Chagoopa Plateau and eastern side of the Big Arroyo Canyon
wall.

http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id ... eam&size=1
http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id ... eam&size=1
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Kern Short cuts

Postby gdurkee » Thu May 17, 2007 4:29 pm

1. From Moraine Lake directly down into Big Arroyo: We might want to go up or down this way and save ourselves 6 miles of walking around the top of Big Arroyo. Have you done this or seen what the terrain looks like?


Yes. I can't remember the exact route, but it's not hugely difficult. If I remember right, I think I went slightly west (check map for best slope) of Moraine Lake and worked my way down. Even picked up parts of an old trail. A bush whack, but nothing exposed. Which is also to say that if you're on an exposed section, you're in the wrong place and ought to retrace your route to something safer.

2. From Crabtree Ranger Station area (below Whitney) directly down to Kern Hot Springs: It seems like Rock Creek is far too steep to follow into Kern Canyon, but I wonder if it is possible to descend the canyon wall further to the North, perhaps just North of Mt. Guyot. Any guesses as to whether the canyon wall can be downclimbed with packs on?


Also yes, but more caution is required. There's a couple of routes, but I've only done one just south of where the creek drops down. You follow Whitney Creek down then at some point cross to the south side. The creek will drop away below you. From the ridge above, you find a gulley that takes you all the way down to the Kern. Another bushwhack but I don't remember anything exposed. Some people go farther down the creek, then move over onto the slope when opposite "the green wall", but I'm less sure about that. Main message, though, is it shouldn't be more than 2nd, easy 3rd class. Nothing dangerously exposed. As above, back off if it is. You're in the wrong place.

If you run into any of the rangers there, ask them for an exact description. They've all been down it a number of times. Trail crews too.

Do not, under any circumstances, try Rock Creek. Very dangerous.

Good hiking,

George
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Postby Steve Bearman » Thu May 17, 2007 8:27 pm

All-right!

It looks like not only can we take some fun short cuts, but I can even assure my wife in advance that it can be done.

Thanks, Maverick, for the photos. The slope below Moraine Lake is not quite discernible, but from what I can see in both photos, there seem to be abundant options.

George, thanks for providing the voice of experience. When I follow your description of the route down Whitney Creek on the map, I can see just where the slope eases up south of the creek - a perfectly positioned route. And I trust we can find our way up to or down from Moraine Lake since you've managed it in the past.

What a great website!
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Re: Hiking up the sides of Big Arroyo and Kern River Canyons

Postby kkman » Mon Sep 22, 2008 9:13 am

... one year later and another hiker thinking of the same shortcut from Moraine Lake to the Big Arroyo. Can you let us know how it went?
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Re: Hiking up the sides of Big Arroyo and Kern River Canyons

Postby cgundersen » Mon Sep 22, 2008 10:00 am

Hi kkman,
I missed this thread earlier, but many moons ago my wife & I went up to Moraine from the Big Arroyo, and it was pretty much as described by others: a well-vegetated but relatively clear hillside that just demanded a bit of determination (it was pretty warm the day we did the climb, so even though Moraine is not the best swimming hole, it sure was a welcome coolant). We are probably going to be following those footsteps next year on a trek to the backside of the Kaweahs out of Mineral King; regardless, if you get there before we do, I'll look forward to the report!
CG
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Re: Hiking up the sides of Big Arroyo and Kern River Canyons

Postby Steve Bearman » Mon Sep 22, 2008 10:42 am

We had an exciting hike up the canyonside! Though we encountered what seemed to be fragments of old use trails, mostly we just had to make our own way. It was steep and required some tricky routefinding. You will most certainly be off-trail, but it is well worth the shortcut. The alternative is a long way around!

Here's the relevant map fragment:

Image

As you can see, just west of the westmost point of the lake there is a nose sticking out from the canyonside that is so steep as to be cliffy on the bottom half. Our strategy was to go just north of that, and to angle from northwest to southeast a bit so we were at less of a slope.

Here's what it looks like from the bottom:

Image

You can see how the slope to the left of the nose looks reasonable if you cut up and to the right from the bottom (or down and to the left from the top).

This is a view from above, taken a little ways up the canyon:

Image

The nose is visible as cliffs on the far right of the left side of the canyon. The area to the left provides a reasonable slope. Don't go too far left (north), however, or you'll find the top part of the canyon to be too steep.

If you're coming from the lake, and you're good at following contour lines, you should be able to make your way up the easy slope west of the lake and find yourself up above the nose. From there, cut down and to the north. Follow your nose, not the nose of the cliff, and you should find your way!
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Re: Hiking up the sides of Big Arroyo and Kern River Canyons

Postby cgundersen » Mon Sep 22, 2008 2:03 pm

Hi Steve,
Wow, great photos. It's hard to document the route any better than this. Now, it gets me stoked for next year (and, wishing I had time this year!).
CG
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Re: Hiking up the sides of Big Arroyo and Kern River Canyons

Postby kkman » Mon Sep 29, 2008 1:15 pm

Thankyou kindly, Steve. The route looks clear and fairly reasonable, and it sure saves a distance from the 10? mile grand switchback of the trail route. I just got back from a climb of Dunderberg Peak (from Virginia Lakes, northeast of Yosemite) and the 1500 foot talus slope route up will have been good practice for this route and for the Big Kaweah. Will be leaving in a week and a half with a friend who led me to this cool website.
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Re: Hiking up the sides of Big Arroyo and Kern River Canyons

Postby maverick » Mon Aug 25, 2014 2:42 pm

Here is a very well described TR of this route, for anyone wanting to get from
Kern Hot Springs area to Crabtree Meadow via Whitney Creek.
http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ubbthread ... ort#UNREAD
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Hiking up the sides of Big Arroyo and Kern River Canyons

Postby Jim F » Mon Aug 25, 2014 6:09 pm

My 1953 copy of Starr's Guide (1934) notes the trail descending directly south from Moraine Lake/Sky Parlor Meadow to the Big Arroyo Trail. This trail is shown on Starr's map, as well as some of Clyde's published maps.

Starr also notes "feasible routes for knapsackers down Whitney Creek" from Crabtree Meadow. Richins mentions such a route in his Mt Whitney guide, but the depiction in his publication's map is totally off. Thanks to Steve C of the Whitney Zone for his superb documentation of one of the Whitney Creek shortcut options.

No matter how one descends Whitney Creek, one is rewarded with a nice campsite next to the creek when the HST is met.

Jim

PS: I heard rumor that with the melting of the heavy snow in 2011, there was some earth movement along the Whitney Creek drainage that might have changed the game on the lower route. I talked to some trail crew (from Canada) in the Trench in July 2011. They said getting down to the Kern via the shortcut was not so easy as was anticipated. If anyone knows about this, your feedback would be appreciated.
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Re: Hiking up the sides of Big Arroyo and Kern River Canyons

Postby tomba » Sun Feb 22, 2015 9:33 pm

This old map shows a trail SE from Moraine Lake going down directly to Big Arroyo:
http://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=36.44841 ... =14&b=1930
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