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Colby Pass trail at Kern River question

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Colby Pass trail at Kern River question

Postby jimmeans » Sun Jul 17, 2011 9:52 pm

I'm in the planning process for a mid-August trip that will cross Colby Pass and descend to the Kern. This will be the first time that anybody in my group has been down this trail. I've been searching high and low to find info on the Colby Pass trail crossing of the Kern River at Junction Meadow, and I've been unable to find any descriptions or photos of this crossing on the WWW.

What can I expect at this crossing? Full-on wade, rock hopping, logs, steel suspension bridge,...?

Thanks,
Jim



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Re: Colby Pass trail at Kern River question

Postby copeg » Mon Jul 18, 2011 6:50 am

There's no bridge at this location. I've crossed it twice, both times later in the season of low snow years, and both times it was a mixture of rock hopping and strolling through shallow rapids. I recall it being fairly wide which mitigates the need to wade - of course this depends upon the time of year and season. I'd predict you'd have similar conditions in mid-August.
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Re: Colby Pass trail at Kern River question

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Jul 18, 2011 8:21 am

The west side of Colby Pass tends to deteriorate. I have been over twice- once before trail re-building and once after (thanks CCC trail crew!). The switchbacks are supported by rock walls, and if they fail it is steep scree. This year's snow could also cover parts of the trail and the snow would be very steep and icy. The east side is easy. You have to pay attention down lower because the trail is not heavily used- more so early season when it over-grows and people have not been through to stomp it down. Just before you drop to Juntion Meadow the trail goes through a really cool slot. I have waded the crossing in August (but a normal year August). It was not difficult but mid calf-deep and wide. A lot of trails could have washed out sections this year. Pay attention to your loacation at all times and do not expect a PCT-quality trail.
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Re: Colby Pass trail at Kern River question

Postby cgundersen » Mon Jul 18, 2011 10:02 am

Hi Jim,
I too have crossed at Junction Meadows a couple of times and the experiences were identical to those recounted. This year you may find appreciably more water volume with the heavy snow, but it should still be possible to wade through. More importantly, you may want to keep an eye on the Lion fire. I, too, am tentatively planning to go over Colby in mid-August (aiming for Kaweah Basin), but I'll re-route if the Kern basin remains as smoke-filled as it is right now. I've had enough experience breathing heavy wildfire smoke that I'm reluctant to go for a repeat. Unless there's significant rain between now and early August, I think that entire area will be seriously affected.
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Re: Colby Pass trail at Kern River question

Postby Ikan Mas » Mon Jul 18, 2011 12:56 pm

Here's a photo coming down the Kern Kaweah. Its well above Junction Meadow, but you can see the trail is a bit interesting here. Thats Whitney poking its head up on the upper right of the photo. you can also see the trail coming down to Junction Meadow from Whitney in the middle of the photo.
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I think this is the river crossing of the Kern you are concerned with:

Image

Here's Gallats Lake, which you will see as you descend Colby Pass.
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I'll see what other photos I have of the the area.
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Re: Colby Pass trail at Kern River question

Postby Mike M. » Mon Jul 18, 2011 4:52 pm

I'll be there in mid August. The Kern crossing at Junction Meadow is usually easy. I expect you might have to wade this year rather than rock hop, but the crossing is wide enough that it will be safe even if the stream level is much higher than normal. At peak flows this might be dicey, but peak flow will have passed weeks before you get there (it may already have occurred).

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Re: Colby Pass trail at Kern River question

Postby lambertiana » Mon Jul 18, 2011 8:18 pm

I went over that section the first week of August 2006, which was a heavy snow year. The Kern River crossing was knee deep. After crossing, drying my feet, and putting my boots back on, I discovered that only fifty yards further was another crossing - Kern River is split at the location where the trail meets it.

I remember the Slot that is mentioned above, I wonder how much more it has eroded since I was there. And the western side of Colby pass may not be in the best shape.
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Re: Colby Pass trail at Kern River question

Postby Ikan Mas » Mon Jul 18, 2011 9:28 pm

OK, here are a few more working up from Junction Meadow to Gallats Lake.
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Whoever built that trail was quite creative.
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And the post wouldn't be complete without a couple of gratuitous fish photos from the Kern Kaweah. Got to love these little fish. Caught and released ten of them from one little hole.
Image
Image
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Re: Colby Pass trail at Kern River question

Postby Cross Country » Mon Jul 18, 2011 10:05 pm

I crossed the Kern near Jct. Meadow several times on 3 different trips. It was easy. However I believe that this year in mid Aug. will be between difficult and dangerous.
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Re: Colby Pass trail at Kern River question

Postby Mike M. » Mon Jul 18, 2011 10:22 pm

Cross Country:

This area received much less snow than the northern Sierra. I believe water levels will be higher than normal here but not dangerously so. Remember, the OP is talking about tackling this crossing in about four weeks. Moreover, the crossing is upriver from Wallace Creek (e.g., it does not include Wallace Creek's flow) and is spread out (not confined to a narrow channel).

I'll find out for sure in a few weeks, as I am doing a cross country route in this area beginning Aug. 3 at Horseshoe Meadows. My crossing of the Kern at Junction Meadow will happen on Aug. 13th.

Mike
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Re: Colby Pass trail at Kern River question

Postby NancyM » Wed Aug 17, 2011 4:51 pm

My backpacking buddy and I went over Colby and down the Kern last year in late Aug/early Sept, and we had no problems with the trail or the crossing. GREAT trip! However, I expect this year to be quite different.

I'm planning another trip this year (starting Aug 25th) over Colby and then up the Kern to Lake South America. I would very much appreciate any trail and crossing conditions from any of you who are headed in that direction this month.

Thanks so much!
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Re: Colby Pass trail at Kern River question

Postby Mike M. » Fri Aug 19, 2011 10:59 am

I crossed the Kern at Junction Meadow last week. No problems whatsoever -- I just walked in the streambed with my boots on. The water level was well below knee height. The stream coming out of Kaweah Basin (the Kern-Kaweah River), which joins the Kern after the crossing, was flowing impressively high for this time of year. It was beautiful.

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