Question regarding Big SEKI loop and the Upper Kern area

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kylekuzma
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Question regarding Big SEKI loop and the Upper Kern area

Post by kylekuzma » Tue Apr 23, 2019 10:06 am

Hi Everyone,

Semi-long time lurker here, first time poster. Before I get into my question, I want to show gratitude to this awesome community. It's pushed my love for my home mountains even further by learning about areas and passes that I never knew existed.

Next, I'm planning on doing the Big SEKI loop over 9 or 10 days in the beginning of August. I am going to be doing the amended version which goes through Colby Pass, so my initial plan was to cut over to the Kern River most likely via Tyndall Creek. However, after doing something thinking, I'd like to spend half a day or so in the Upper Kern Basin to check it out while I've got the time and am in the area. I know it's not nearly enough to thoroughly enjoy, but I'd like to lay eyes on it, do some casual exploring, and setup camp for a night. My main question is: how should I go about getting there? After doing some quick research, it seems that most people would recommend getting over Forrester Pass (headed south), and turning west towards the trail that leads north up to Lake South America. From there head west x-country into the upper kern basin and explore as one wishes.

Does this sound right? Does anyone have any suggestions or recommendations? Any specific lakes that people recall good camping at?

A little about me and my hiking partner: both late 20s, in great physical condition, comfortable up to Class III, prior x-country experience is reaching the Kaweah Basin via the Kern-Kaweah route.

I have attached a Caltopo map for reference

Thanks all

***EDIT: This post was created with the assumption that I would be hiking the loop out of Roads End going clockwise. Another option that I'm curious for feedback on is going counter-clockwise instead (ie starting with Avalanche Pass). How this relates to my questions is this would allow me to access the upper Kern by hiking up the entire kern river. Are there any pros and cons to going this way versus the way previously discussed?
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commonloon
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Re: Question regarding Big SEKI loop and the Upper Kern area

Post by commonloon » Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:10 pm

Great country up there! Some tidbits of info based on my experience in the area (from looking at your map):

1. Out of Lake Reflection (really beautiful), IMHO, Little Joe's pass is the best x-country option to LSA. Look for the big talus fan at the bottom (good beta here on HST). I'm not a big fan of Harrison Pass personally. Note: given the big snow year, depending on how the melt proceeds, getting across Bubbs Creek at Junction Meadow can be sketchy. Forester Pass, particularly upper Bubbs Creek is pretty also though.

2. The Tyndall Creek cutoff trail between the JMT and the Kern Valley is pretty with off and on views of Milestone Mountain, etc.

3. The area around the lake where the Kern River meets up with the Tyndall Creek trail has nice campsites. You can camp at LSA but it can be windy.

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Re: Question regarding Big SEKI loop and the Upper Kern area

Post by RiseToADry » Wed Apr 24, 2019 7:39 am

I agree that the easiest way to get into the upper Kern is to go over Forester and around, but if you're comfortable with up to Class III and have a lot of X-Country experience, coming over one of the kings/kern divide passes would be more of an adventure and certainly more solitude. If you do choose Forester, you can cut off some miles and by going X-Country over the ridge west of the JMT to catch the LSA trail a little earlier. I can't really comment on the kings/kern divide passes because I've never done any of them, but there is a LOT of info on HST.

I've spent 2.5 days in the upper Kern and loved all of it. I think the three biggest lakes probably have the most campsites (LSA, the machine gun shaped lake under Mt Jordan, or the ghost looking lake at 11k ft at the southern end of the basin). When I camped at LSA the views west towards the divide were nice and when I camped at the machine gun shaped lake there was a nice view right down the Kern canyon and across towards LSA.

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Re: Question regarding Big SEKI loop and the Upper Kern area

Post by SSSdave » Wed Apr 24, 2019 8:39 am

Outside of Lake Italy, bleak, barren, unaesthetic Lake South America is the most hyped and over rated destination in the range. At one time decades ago was advertised in the Wilderness Press guidebooks as having large golden trout and that is how it all started. Regardless almost everyone that gets an interest to visit the Upper Kern Basin thinks that is the best place to camp then enjoy that area. Don't believe me? After searching Google with:

"Lake South America" kern

Show me a single strong image via Google Images or for its fishing a recent decades report of someone catching big trout there.

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Re: Question regarding Big SEKI loop and the Upper Kern area

Post by kylekuzma » Wed Apr 24, 2019 10:25 am

Thanks for the help. SSSdave, I've actually read this before and am thinking we may not go all the way to LSA and instead just explore the other parts of the basin that we enjoy.

RiseToADry: Thank you. We will consider going over over one of the Kings Kern Divide passes when we're out there. Its a possibility. We'll have had many days of solitude up until that point and we'll probably make a gametime decision whether we want to keep it going or mess around with the JMT crowd over forrester pass. I'd also like to lay eyes on it to size it up before I make any decisions.

Commonloon: Thanks for the info. Much appreciated.

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Re: Question regarding Big SEKI loop and the Upper Kern area

Post by kursavwilage » Wed Apr 24, 2019 11:33 am

If you go counter clockwise you could go over Colby Pass down the Kern-Kaweah then up the Kern to the Upper Kern... If you wanted to by-pass the Kern-Kaweah, after Colby Pass you could turn north and go over Milestone Pass down into the Milestone Creek area and then to the Upper Kern by not having to drop down into the Kern. Years ago I did Milestone and Colby in the same day staring in the Milestone Creek area. Midway Col is another option but, I've never done it. I have gone into the Upper Kern 3 times using Milly's Foot pass, if you are comfortable with class 3 it is a really cool pass, in a high snow year the last class 3 part could be full of snow.....I've went over Lucy's Foot pass going south to north, it is a little steep and loose on it's north side but not impossible. On a high snow year the base of the steepest part of the north side could have some hard icy snow that might make things a little hairy. Never been over Harrison or Little Joe's. Never stayed at LSA just because it never really appealed to me. I do recommend the lake that is right below the lake that a lot of people call Casper or Ghost lake, there is a great campsite in the bushes at the north east end of the lake right where the north east stream feeds into it. Also this lake is full of Golden trout if you fish.

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Re: Question regarding Big SEKI loop and the Upper Kern area

Post by commonloon » Wed Apr 24, 2019 1:30 pm

I agree w/ SSSdave that LSA is a bit over hyped and barren. Here is a photo from it South-East shore looking North-West. This was a mid-Sept trip. It is prettier when the nearby peaks are snow capped.

1266403_10151901930244328_1230744830_o.jpg
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Re: Question regarding Big SEKI loop and the Upper Kern area

Post by kylekuzma » Thu Apr 25, 2019 10:46 pm

kursavwilage wrote:
Wed Apr 24, 2019 11:33 am
If you go counter clockwise you could go over Colby Pass down the Kern-Kaweah then up the Kern to the Upper Kern... If you wanted to by-pass the Kern-Kaweah, after Colby Pass you could turn north and go over Milestone Pass down into the Milestone Creek area and then to the Upper Kern by not having to drop down into the Kern. Years ago I did Milestone and Colby in the same day staring in the Milestone Creek area. Midway Col is another option but, I've never done it. I have gone into the Upper Kern 3 times using Milly's Foot pass, if you are comfortable with class 3 it is a really cool pass, in a high snow year the last class 3 part could be full of snow.....I've went over Lucy's Foot pass going south to north, it is a little steep and loose on it's north side but not impossible. On a high snow year the base of the steepest part of the north side could have some hard icy snow that might make things a little hairy. Never been over Harrison or Little Joe's. Never stayed at LSA just because it never really appealed to me. I do recommend the lake that is right below the lake that a lot of people call Casper or Ghost lake, there is a great campsite in the bushes at the north east end of the lake right where the north east stream feeds into it. Also this lake is full of Golden trout if you fish.
Thank you so much for all of the advice. Very helpful. Hadnt thought about Milestone pass from Colby pass. Thats quite interesting. Only issue is it would take out a side trip into the Kaweah Basin, which both of us have already seen before.

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Re: Question regarding Big SEKI loop and the Upper Kern area

Post by kursavwilage » Thu Apr 25, 2019 11:40 pm

You're welcome.

Going over Milestone will take you away from the Kern-Kaweah drainage and the Kaweah Basin. If you decide not to go into the Kaweah Basin and elect to go over Milestone Pass I don't think you'll be disappointed with the Milestone Creek area. From what I remember of that area ( because it was back in 1984 when I was last there) the view across the Kern to the Whitney region was awesome. The general terrain is mostly like glacial polish with a lot of little lakes and streams. The fishing is great. We were lucky to camp there during a full moon and the moonlight really made all the granite glow like we were on the surface of the moon.... Also back then there was an unmaintained old trail that went into Milestone Creek area starting around below the south end of the 2nd lake below Casper Lake. I'm not even sure if it is still there since it has been about 35 years since I was there last.
During the 1st week of September I'm hoping to go through there and over Milestone then Colby to see if it was all that I remembered it was...

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Re: Question regarding Big SEKI loop and the Upper Kern area

Post by stringbop » Fri Apr 26, 2019 8:40 am

kursavwilage wrote:
Thu Apr 25, 2019 11:40 pm
Also back then there was an unmaintained old trail that went into Milestone Creek area starting around below the south end of the 2nd lake below Casper Lake. I'm not even sure if it is still there since it has been about 35 years since I was there last.

That trail is still there. I was just on it last summer and it's in decent shape.

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