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Nine Lake Basin to Kern-Kaweah River

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Nine Lake Basin to Kern-Kaweah River

Postby EpicSteve » Wed Jan 20, 2010 12:56 am

I noticed on a topo that if you follow the south ridge of Triple Divide Peak, between the point where it passes Lion Rock Pass and the point where it becomes Lawson Peak, there are four saddles. I would love to be able to cross from the northernmost part of Nine Lake Basin into the basin that contains the Kern-Kaweah River, where it flows along the base of Triple Divide Peak's SE face.

It looks quite likely that these saddles are prohibitively steep, especially considering the many trip reports I've read, describing terribly loose and extensive talus in the Kaweahs. And further considering the fact that I've seen no references (so far) to anyone crossing in this area, I'm assuming I'm probably chasing a pipe dream, but still...

The southernmost of the four saddles appears to be the least steep, but probably involves the most snow. But sometimes that's an advantage. I'm sure I'm not the only one to have thought about all of this. Anyone have any relevant info?
“I don’t deny that there can be an element of escapism in mountaineering, but this should never overshadow its real essence, which is not escape but victory over your own human frailty.”

- Walter Bonatti



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Re: Nine Lake Basin to Kern-Kaweah River

Postby maverick » Wed Jan 20, 2010 1:41 pm

Pants Pass is the only class 2 pass north of Lawson Peak, and south of Triple Divide Peak
and it gives you access into the area you wish to explore.
You have to be sure to choose the right saddle/notch otherwise you will be stuck
on a none descendable cliff.
Secor has a picture of the correct notch to climb on page 96, and it is not the obvious
saddle that many people try, and then turn around at the top because of the
cliffs on the east.
It is steep, and sandy at the top, and especially steep on the eastern side, which
can be some what circumvented by getting onto the scree, and skiing down, if
you are comfortable on steep scree.
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Re: Nine Lake Basin to Kern-Kaweah River

Postby Ikan Mas » Wed Jan 20, 2010 1:57 pm

You would probably want to go over Pants Pass, which takes you from the upper lake in the Nine Lake Basin to the Kern Kaweah Basin and down to the trail at Gallots Lake. From the east, it looks like this:

Image

From the west, up close, it looks like this:

Image

It's a class 2 pass and is very doable if you good with going off-trail. If you can get through all the fishing stuff, look at my post on the fishin hole under Kern-Kawhea Big Hike.:

viewtopic.php?f=6&t=4683

Also, check out this website:

http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~glau ... racurr.htm

It probably gives the best description of approaching Pants from the east, including a real good photo of the pass and how to get over it.
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Re: Nine Lake Basin to Kern-Kaweah River

Postby el cuervo » Wed Jan 20, 2010 3:52 pm

This is the view from Triple Divide, looking south.
Image

1 October, 2005
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Re: Nine Lake Basin to Kern-Kaweah River

Postby Mike M. » Wed Jan 20, 2010 7:14 pm

Pants Pass from the north:

Image

Image

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Re: Nine Lake Basin to Kern-Kaweah River

Postby EpicSteve » Wed Jan 20, 2010 9:30 pm

Wow, thanks for the great info and quick response, folks! Ikan, thank you especially for posting the links. I had stumbled upon that other website recently, but that was before I bought a couple of maps of the area (Nat. Geo. and Harrison's maps of SEKI). I had really only looked at MyTopo.com prior to that.

I've read so many threads on HST over the past couple of weeks that it makes my head spin. I've never hiked as far south as SEKI, but I'm planning a 10-day hike there this summer. I had previously been very confused about where Pants Pass was, since it isn't shown on any "official" topo map. I had just assumed that it led directly into Kaweah Basin, rather than Kern-Kaweah.

It's tough to gauge from other people's descriptions whether or not a cross-country pass will be within my personal range of risk/fear tolerance. I'm an experienced off-trail hiker and ex-rock climber, but there are some things I absolutely hate. Loose footing above heinous drop-offs with no handholds is one of them. Traversing unroped (even with decent handholds) above mega-exposure (where a slip would certainly kill or at least seriously injure you) is another. And I'm finding I have less tolerance for these things as I get older.

However, between this thread, Ikan's thread from the link above, and the aforementioned other website, I feel like I have a lot better info now. The photos of the west side don't look bad to me at all. The photos of the east from a distance look extremely intimidating, but the close-up pics don't look so bad.

I've done my share of steep boulder fields, talus and scree. I don't mind scree-skiing, as long as it's not above a ledge that you could easily slide off the edge of, if you lost your footing. But I really don't like those talus slopes where the rocks range in size from say... the size of a toaster to the size of a small microwave oven and none of them stays put when you step on them. I was reading another thread on HST the other night where a guy was describing Kaweah Pass and said that as he descended toward Kaweah Basin, the whole scree slope was moaning and groaning and he could look fifty feet up the steep scree slope and see movement - presumably caused by his passage! :eek: That's not my idea of a fun backcountry experience. It wasn't his either. He said he'll never go near that pass again.

I'm actually leaning toward an itinerary that would not include Pants Pass, but it's still under consideration. And if not this trip, perhaps I'll cross it as part of another one. So thanks again for the generous and helpful descriptions, photos and links! =D>
“I don’t deny that there can be an element of escapism in mountaineering, but this should never overshadow its real essence, which is not escape but victory over your own human frailty.”

- Walter Bonatti
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Re: Nine Lake Basin to Kern-Kaweah River

Postby Cloudy » Thu Jan 21, 2010 8:44 am

Wow - that second link...55 miles in..two..days...
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Re: Nine Lake Basin to Kern-Kaweah River

Postby EpicSteve » Thu Jan 21, 2010 11:30 am

I know! My hiking partner looked at that website and said: "Man, those guys are nuts!" Myself, I prefer to go slower, so I can enjoy the scenery more fully. But I have to admit, I'm envious of their fitness. Ten miles a day is about my limit these days (being 48 years old and a veteran of multiple joint surgeries).
“I don’t deny that there can be an element of escapism in mountaineering, but this should never overshadow its real essence, which is not escape but victory over your own human frailty.”

- Walter Bonatti
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Re: Nine Lake Basin to Kern-Kaweah River

Postby Radnord » Fri Jan 22, 2010 8:40 pm

Great pics and very helpful for route finding purposes. Keep 'em coming! Information on any other routes in the area would also be appreciated. Nice thread Epicmaster! :rock:
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Re: Nine Lake Basin to Kern-Kaweah River

Postby EpicSteve » Sun Jan 24, 2010 12:05 pm

As the rest of you may have guessed, Radnord is my hiking partner. We're planning a 10-day hike during the last week of July and first week of August this summer. We've been hashing out a route based on estimated mileages, the potential risk/scariness factor of crossing various off-trail passes (according to the trip reports and guide book descriptions we've found so far - and HST has been incredibly helpful!), and a couple of key areas we want to visit. Basically this trip will center around the destinations of Kaweah Basin and Upper Kern Basin. Also, we'd like to do a trans-Sierra trip.

We'd appreciate opinions on our mileage estimates. We'd also like to know if we can dare leave behind our ice axes at that time of year for this route, and if not, is it advisable for us to bring our Kahtoola Microspikes or full-on crampons. I've read that nighttime temps in the 20s are common, even in the middle of summer. My questions about that are: Do you agree, and if so, how low in the 20s? We're trying to keep weight to a minimum, but don't want to suffer too much from being cold either! We're trying to keep our mileage to about 7 - 9 miles per day on average, with 2 layover days to explore the basins. I haven't worked nightly camping destinations into our itinerary yet, but here's the rough draft:

Wolverton to Onion Valley

0.0 Wolverton

2.8 Panther Gap

10.3 Bearpaw Meadow

14.1 Tamarack Lake

15.4 Lion Lake

16.1 Glacier Lake

16.8 Triple Divide Pass

18.8 Colby Pass Trail

21.8 “Picket Guard Lake”

24.4 Upper Kaweah Basin

29.3 Junction Meadow

34.5 Milestone Creek

38.2 Lake South America

41.8 Junction with PCT

53.4 Lower Vidette Meadow

60.8 Onion Valley Trailhead

Thoughts? Thanks!
“I don’t deny that there can be an element of escapism in mountaineering, but this should never overshadow its real essence, which is not escape but victory over your own human frailty.”

- Walter Bonatti
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Re: Nine Lake Basin to Kern-Kaweah River

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Jan 24, 2010 9:48 pm

Hi. I am new to this forum. I hope I can add to the good information already given.

I went over Pants Pass a few years back, from Kern-Keweah side to 9-lakes basin. Instead of using one notch, I used the easier lower angle ascent to the left saddle from Kern-Keweah and then traversed right on the ridge to the "proper" pass. There was one small step to come down where I had to lower my pack into the pass proper, otherwise it was moderate class 2. It was not hard but route finding was a bit tricky. The south side was tedious scree. Glad I was going down and not up! There was actually a piece on the internet about doing the pass this way. I thought it worked out quite well.

I have also gone over Pyra-Queen Col from Keweah Basin to Nine Lakes Basin. The talus is quite steep and a bit loose a few places on the Keweah Basin side. The key is to not go directly up the drainage, but stay to the left and traverse into the main gully quite near the top. My biggest problem was that there was a 50mph wind howling and it blew me over several times. And the pass itself would have been hard to find were it not for some well placed cairns. It is really hidden from the Keweah Basin side, but very obvious from the Nine Lakes Basin side.

The descent north of Black Keweah peak was steep scree with one tricky rock slab. There was a band of icy snow that I had to lower my pack down and cut a few steps with a rock. (I did not have an ice axe or crampons, only trekking poles) I am not sure that snow would be there in all years. There is a lot of tedious talus to hop before you get to Nine Lakes Basin.

Pants Pass is the easier of these two passes.
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Re: Nine Lake Basin to Kern-Kaweah River

Postby EpicSteve » Sun Jan 24, 2010 9:58 pm

Thank you, npallister. That's good information!
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