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Thoughts of Kaweah Basin

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Thoughts of Kaweah Basin

Postby copeg » Mon Jun 11, 2007 2:21 pm

I've got a week available at the end of the month, and I thought I'd give Kaweah Basin a shot again. I know its early in the year, but with the lack of snow I'm thinking it'll be more like late July up there. Given my experience with other routes in, I thought I'd try starting at Rowell Meadow, up Cloud Canyon and over Colby Pass, then head south. From Colby, I thought I'd head toward Picket Guard Peak and pass over this unnamed pass just to the east of the pass. From Picket Creek I'd head over this pass into the lower parts of the basin. Also considering a trip over to the Red Spur Lakes travelling along this contour. I will most likely head the same way out, although I'd love to make a loop out of it but am hesitant of the steeper passes this early in the year and alone.

I'd love to hear some advice or opinions about the route - are there better options or things to avoid (I thought another option into Picket Creek is from Gallets Lake to the lower Picket Lake which I hear is beautiful (map)? Things that are must sees? Fishing options? Should I carry my ice axe/crampons for Colby Pass and further? Any and all advice welcome and thanks in advance.



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Postby giantbrookie » Mon Jun 11, 2007 5:46 pm

It's really hard to say how much snow will be up there, but I'd bet Colby Pass should be fine. I was up in Sequoia NP in the Ranger Lake area as of June 1 and the snow situation then looked like late July. I wouldn't worry about the ice axe and crampons. The pass east of Picket Guard looks class 2 but may have some of the classically nasty large, loose Kaweah-style talus. At least this is what my friends and I thought when we gazed at it from the shores of Lake 11120+NW of Picket Guard Peak. We opted to go to Picket Creek by going right over the top of Picket Guard Peak via its north ridge. This was class 2 except for a short class 3 knife edge pitch at the top of the ridge. Alternatively one could probably veer eastward near the top of the ridge and skirt around the knife edge section. The second pass, the low one from Picket Creek to Kaweah Basin is trivial and easy (class 1). We went through this area on a trip that entered via Pants Pass checked out Lake 11380, then the big lake above 10875 (this is at 11120+), then headed over Picket Guard and nto Kaweah Basin with an exploratory trip into the Red Spur Lakes. We exited via Kaweah Pass. Your route sounds fine. How to do you plan on getting back to the car? Or are you planning a shuttle? I personally think the long approach from Marvin Pass or Rowell Meadow means a long time in the low country compared to the direct way from Crescent Meadow, but it does avoid those dreaded trans Kaweah passes. As for fishing there are no fish in the entire Kern-Kaweah River drainage (Picket Creek, Kaweah Basin, Kern Kaweah headwaters above Lake 10480+) except for on the trunk Kern Kaweah River from lake 10480+ on downstream (L10480+ has slender rainbows in abundance to about 11"). The Red Spur lakes are all fishless. Colby Lake has innumerable small rainbows and goldens topping out at about 9".
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Postby SSSdave » Mon Jun 11, 2007 9:05 pm

trailblazer, you might take a look at the SEKI NPS site as they do have a wilderness trail conditions report. I just looked at it today and noticed the last updates were mostly from the Memorial Day weekend. From that, my take is that while sunny exposures have melted back per your assessment, that the shady areas as those with northern exposures are less advanced in their summer meltback. I've seen this situation in past years and that was pretty much what I found far to the north last week in Desolation. Someone's actual trip report maybe over in summitpost would be worth more than my suspicions. I'm contemplating going over Sawtooth Pass sometime in the first couple weeks of July on a 5 night backpack to nail some old foxtails I know about. ...David
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Postby copeg » Tue Jun 12, 2007 12:28 pm

Thanks for the responses giantbrookie and David. I have checked some of the recent nps updates, as well as searched the internet for any recent photos around the area (not much). I would guess Colby would be managable (last I crossed it was sept. 2005 and it still had snow over the trail that late), but I might carry some 'tools' just in case.

I might prefer leaving from Crescent, but I've tried pyra-queen and Kaweah Col's in the past and have turned back for various reasons, and thought this entry direction would be the easiest and I'd have better luck of penetrating the area, esp. this early. I have also considered coming from Shepherd Pass on the east, but would prefer a western entry. It ain't easy getting there any which way you travel...If I loop, I will either try to close the loop via Lion Lake or elizabeth pass (ugh) - if worse comes to worse I'll try to hitch...
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Postby giantbrookie » Tue Jun 12, 2007 12:55 pm

trailblazer wrote:Thanks for the responses giantbrookie and David. I have checked some of the recent nps updates, as well as searched the internet for any recent photos around the area (not much). I would guess Colby would be managable (last I crossed it was sept. 2005 and it still had snow over the trail that late), but I might carry some 'tools' just in case.

I might prefer leaving from Crescent, but I've tried pyra-queen and Kaweah Col's in the past and have turned back for various reasons, and thought this entry direction would be the easiest and I'd have better luck of penetrating the area, esp. this early. I have also considered coming from Shepherd Pass on the east, but would prefer a western entry. It ain't easy getting there any which way you travel...If I loop, I will either try to close the loop via Lion Lake or elizabeth pass (ugh) - if worse comes to worse I'll try to hitch...


Here's some other calibration points. I crossed Colby on July 29, 2002 and if there was any snow on the trail I don't remember it. If there was any it wasn't near enough to either slow us down or pose a hazard. As of June 1, 2007 the north-facing open slopes above Ranger Lake had surprisingly little snow. Some patches existed in shaded north and east-facing areas down to about 8500. There is a lot more snow at the same elevation as one goes north, though and I recall that the north received more snow this winter than the south, too. This past weekend (June 9,10) we went over Tioga Pass. The north facing slopes there (Kuna Crest etc) had the amount of snow you'd expect in mid to late July of an average year.

Regarding trans-Kaweah entry routes vs those that don't, I don't blame anyone for being hesitant about crossing the Kaweahs. I haven't done Pyra Queen. If I had to go again, I'd go in via Pants Pass. It is steep, but does not feature the big, steep and loose moving talus that Kaweah Pass does (when the whole pile of big talus starts groaning and you see movement 50 feet above you, that is one nasty slope). I will not do Kaweah Pass again under any circumstances. I like the idea of a Shepherd Pass entry. That is an entry route with style and it has some very entertaining options. However, the steep snow near the top of Shepherd Pass may still be there as of the end of this month. That is one slope where an ice axe will make one feel much more secure (steep and fast enough to be fatal if you slip), although I didn't have one the last time I crossed (early July, 1996)--I wished I did, though.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Postby copeg » Tue Jun 12, 2007 4:30 pm

Thanks GB. Interesting to hear your input on Kaweah Pass. For what its worth I found a report online of a group going over the pass
I mentioned in my original post east of Picket Guard Peak - the report mentioned the North side has a 30 feet cliff. :eek:

The problem with shepherds pass (aside from the snowfield), would be that I would very quickly loose site of my destination and get distracted in upper kern, milestone, wright lakes, wallace, etc...well, ok, maybe that isn't a problem :nod:
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Postby giantbrookie » Tue Jun 12, 2007 5:21 pm

Yes that is certainly true of the upper Kern etc. It occurs to me that there might be some more entertaining ways of getting back to Rowell/Marvin if that is indeed the starting point. What you could try is initially leaving the Kern-Kaweah drainage via Triple Divide Pass. The approximate way those guys went on their report is one way; this is the most obvious line of weakness on the topo. We hit it from the Colby Pass trail and this involved one short class 3 pitch (easy, but loose), although with enough noodling around we may have been able to avoid the 3rd class stuff altogether (we did that pass on a separate trip over Glacier Ridge and the Tableland). The approach from the Colby side is more intricate, so going over Triple Divide Peak's east ridge from the Kern-Kaweah River makes much more sense for a trip departing the Kaweah/Picket area.
After going over Triple Divide Pass you could then do Lion Lake Pass. Note that Secor says to go below the level of the outlet of the Glacier lake (if coming from Triple Divide Pass) and work your way around. This not only causes one to lose a couple hundred feet or more of elevation unnecessarily, but it also forces one to descend or sidehill some very annoying loose talus. It turns out the better move (blind, albeit) is to cross the Glacier Lake outlet right at the lake then ASCEND slightly to a little nose just west of Glacier Lake before descending a short scree chute that dumps you right about where that little lakelet shows on the topo (don't know how easy the top of the chute is to find from above; looks good from below) map below (and N) of Lion Lake Pass. The descent to Lion Lake works best diagonaling and aiming to hit Lion Lake near the outlet end.
Once at Lion Lake, things get easier. You can descend to the Elizabeth Pass trail, ascend it part way, but peel off at a bit below 10000' and head WNW over the south ridge of Pk11598 (this is called Pteradactyl Pass I believe at elev. 10880+; you can see this as the only true line of weakness across this ridge--it is more of a shoulder than a pass.). Once over that pass you can cruise cross the Tableland, descend to Crescent Lake thence to Beville/Ranger Lakes and then you have clear sailing to Rowell Mdw/Marvin Pass. I haven't done that route (from the Elizabeth Pass trail to Tableland), but it sure looks nice on the map. The Tableland itself is really easy walking.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Postby copeg » Wed Jun 13, 2007 7:14 am

Thats a pretty intricate route...haven't had a chance to stare at maps yet to look at this, but its something to think about - I appreciate you taking the time to outline it.

With regards to fishing, I was browsing the internet and stumbled upon this page from the angeles sierra club:
http://angeles.sierraclub.org/skimt/tri ... weah-8.htm

Greg
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Postby giantbrookie » Wed Jun 13, 2007 8:06 am

trailblazer wrote:With regards to fishing, I was browsing the internet and stumbled upon this page from the angeles sierra club:
http://angeles.sierraclub.org/skimt/tri ... weah-8.htm
Greg


That is pretty surprising. I camped at the biggest and lowest lake in Kaweah Basin (10560+) and fished and inspected it pretty thoroughly. There were thousands of bugs swarming and alighting on the surface, but not a single rise. Water beetles and other aquatic insects were cavorting around everywhere in open water. Deep retrieves didn't yield anything, and there were no fish sighted swimming. There were no fish sighted in the inlet or outlet creeks, either, nor were any seen the length of the stream as we ascended to the upper part of the basin. When I spoke with Roland Knapp about the fishless nature of these (and the Red Spur lakes) following our trip in 2003, he agreed with me, and he's sampled all of those lakes with nets.

I would like to assume the author of that post isn't just pulling our leg. One thing I am fairly sure of: If they had ever planted fish in Kaweah Basin, Picket Creek drainage, or in the chain of lakes including 10875, I believe the spawning habitat is sufficient to sustain trout populations. There are good reaches of low-gradient stream in and out of most of the major lakes. IF these lakes were ever planted, they were air dropped within a pretty small window in time. As of 1960 or a bit before when Charlie McDermand went through this area looking for fish, they were still fishless. Thus, if they were air dropped, they would have been planted sometime after 1960 but before they shut down air drops in Seki (70's?).

In any case, I would love to be proven wrong about the presence of fish in any of these basins. If you don't mind the extra weight, I'd still encourage fishing gear on the trip. One way or another, please send word if you see any fish in any of the lakes of the drainage or Red Spur.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Postby maverick » Wed Jun 13, 2007 7:05 pm

Once your ready to leave Kaweah Basin go into the Picket Drainage
and follow the creek all the way to its highest lake and go over
the pass so you'll end up at the bottom of Pants.
Go over Pants and then over Lion Rock Pass to Lion Lake.
From here you have several possiblities, going over Lion Lake
Pass and descending the western side branch of Cloud Canyon.
Go over to Copper Mine Pass and descend into Deadman Canyon.
Or as GB mentioned going over from Elizabeth Pass to
Pterodactyl Pass into Tablelands and go over into Box or
Crowley Canyons, both are pretty, and descend to meet up with
the Sugarloaf area.
Choose the one that takes you in an area you havent visited before
all a great.
CMP will be the most diffucult(steep), LRP and LLP are easy class 2.
Kaweah Pass is easier to do from the north than to descend into
the basin. Nasty rock that many people who have done it say they
will never enter the basin thru it again.
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Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Mon Jun 18, 2007 4:17 pm

I did a thang on this subject:
http://www.sierra-trails.com/kaweah/cover1v9.htm
Or more in particular, the route and basin starts here:
http://www.sierra-trails.com/kaweah/Kaweah31.htm

As an aside: What is interesting is that on the map, "Picket Lake" has only one stream, when really there is an inlet stream, and a mere few yards away there is a whole other outlet stream. It is really pretty unique at one of the most beautiful lakes in the Sierra.
Doyle W. Donehoo
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http://www.doylewdonehoo.com" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Postby copeg » Mon Jun 18, 2007 4:37 pm

Thanks Maverick and Doyle. I still haven't chosen my exact route yet...the thought of going over Shepherd Pass is tantalizing, as is any approach from the west. We'll see as I go back and forth through the week.

Doyle, I've studied your report many times (excellent report by the way). I hope to follow the route you described up the diagonal line of trees and beyond.
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