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Forester Pass or Harrison Pass?

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Forester Pass or Harrison Pass?

Postby drhabes » Mon Jun 28, 2010 6:31 am

I'm looking for some beta regarding our scheduled trip starting July 17th out of Onion Valley. We are headed to Whitney and with all the snow am concerned about a route to get there. Our group of 7 has limited snow travel experience so I was wondering if anyone has some input about route selection to get there. Would it be a smart choice to divert the route down to East Lake and Reflection and go over Harrison Pass or still try to get over Forester? I know it's the longer way but I'm looking for safety as my #1 priority. Any help would be appreciated! Thanks. :)

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Re: Forester Pass or Harrison Pass?

Postby Wild Bill » Mon Jun 28, 2010 8:35 am

The north side of Forrester Pass gets pretty good sun exposure. It actually has a good section that has east exposure. The high volume of foot traffic this trail receives lends itself to paths through any snow. The best info you can get will be someone that has tried the south side. The "catwalk sections" are your main concern. By your departure date, you should most likely hear from someone that tried it.
I did Mather Pass in early August 2006(heavy snow year). The north side had solid snow, but the foot traffic created easy walking through the trenches.
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Re: Forester Pass or Harrison Pass?

Postby SPeacock » Mon Jun 28, 2010 9:46 am

Harrison Pass is a definite problem for those with little snow experience. There is no significant trail even when there is a chance to see one. The trail has long been abandoned and very indistinct nearer to the top of the pass you get. That becomes a moot point when there is a snow cover which if enough snow, actually makes it less confusing to get over. More than likely there would be little foot traffic and therefore no hint of a way to go.

Forester Pass is always an adventure when there is snow on its southern face. There is information from a PCT hiker who went over it June 1. Look in the thread "Onion Valley to Mt Whitney". You would have had a month of melt - so there would be a significant change. There have been a pack of hikers over it already this year. The normal trail is ingeniously engineered and is plastered against the wall as if it was put up by a mud dobbing swallow. This few hundred feet near the top would be of concern if covered in patches by ice. Wet snow in later afternoon would be much less of a problem.

Even in late July - this year, most passes will have some snow cover yet. In a late snow year similar to this one going over a normally mellow pass such as New Army, it still had a considerable cornice the last week of July. This only made us take a slight detour directly up the snow and rocks to the top.

If you are set on going and you find there are problems for your group over Forester, perhaps Shepherds Pass will give you a better chance.


At 12,040' its about 1,200 feet lower. It drops you out just south of Forester as would Harrison. It is a bit of a climb from 6,000' to the top of the pass (about 2300' more gain than Forester) even though it is a beautiful trail. You will still have to slog up a snow slope near the top. My favorite (long) day hike in the Sierra is up to Anvil Camp...the better overnight stop.
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Re: Forester Pass or Harrison Pass?

Postby maverick » Tue Jun 29, 2010 12:03 pm

Stick with Forester Pass, there will have been plenty of PCT hikers who have
gone over it by the time you go on your trip.
It is the easier/safer route, Harrison should only be attempted by those with solid
backpacking experience over snow/icy, steep terrain.
Also getting over Bubbs Creek will be easy either.
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