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Trip Advice Needed - Shepherd Pass

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Trip Advice Needed - Shepherd Pass

Postby Hobbes » Fri Aug 05, 2011 11:39 am

Ok, I'm going to follow Maverick's guide http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4205 for requesting trip advice.

First, some background. My brother is the real mountain man - he's hiked the entire JMT, has been over every pass, and has bagged every 12-14k peak. He's been doing this long enough (25+ yrs) that he's got a number of crazy stories involving bears, hypothermia, etc. Thing is, he stayed in the Bay Area (where we grew up), so he's had limited exposure to the region west & south of Whitney. (Other than climbing the peaks from the east.)

I'm the surfing/fishing guy - saltwater in SoCal and lakes/streams in the Sierra. I go solo to the Cottonwood lakes area pretty regularly, and sometimes boogie over New Army pass to browse around Miter basin. But the objective is always fishing, not peak bagging or getting some kind of endorphin high from carrying a heavy pack.

I also try & avoid the kinds of numbskulls that frequent the beach area where I live. In fact, the US Open is going on this week, and all the locals are lying low. Anyway, what we're thinking of doing is hiking a quick 4-5 day trip after Labor day from/to New Army & Shepherd pass.

After considering the pace, fishing spots and natural stopping points, I'm sort of coming to the conclusion that it would be better to start @ Shepherd and come out @ NAP/Horseshoe. First, here are some details, and then I'll explain the rationale:

What level of backpacking experience do you have?
Level 2.5 - Many backpacking trips, some x-country travel

What terrain are you comfortable/uncomfortable with?
- Class 2.5 terrain/pass/x-country
- Creek crossings

What is your main interest?
- Fishing

How many days/nights is your trip, not including travel to trailhead?
4

How many miles did you want to do a day, any layovers?
10+-15, no layovers

Do you prefer a loop or out and back trip?
Loop

Is there a particular area in the Sierra that you are most interested in?
Symmes TH/Shepherd pass <-> New Army pass/Horseshoe Mdw TH

Will you be hiking with a dog?
Not this time

Ok, here are the details:
Option 1
Pre - Camp @ Horseshoe Mdw TH
Day 1 - HM TH over NAP to Soldier lake
Day 2 - Go thru Miter basin, over Crabtree pass to (lower) Crabtree lake
Day 3 - Go thru Crabtree Mdw up to Wallace/Wright creek confluence
Day 4 - Fish Wright lakes basin, hike out over saddle, then Shepherd pass back to car

Alternatively, we could hike up to Long/High lakes on the "pre day" (rather than sit around the TH), but then it screws up the next day by making Soldier too short and Crabtree too long. As you can see, this route also heavily backloads the last the day, rushing potentially good fishing @ WLB, and possibly calling for a stay over @ Anvil on the way out.

So, the alternative is Option 2, where we actually do a little hiking on the pre-trip/prep day:

Pre - hike up to Anvil/Pothole
Day 1 - Shepherd to Wright lakes basin
Day 2 - WLB to (lower) Crabtree
Day 3 - Crabtree pass to Soldier lake
Day 4 - over NAP back to Horseshoe Mdw

Option 2 seems to have a better flow to it. Since Anvil is only 7-8 miles (admittedly up hill), we could handle shuttling cars (or hiring a shuttle) with no hurries and even get going as late as 2-3pm. It also has the advantage of acclimatizing during the "pre day", rather than launching out @ 10k and immediately hitting 11-12k the next. Last, but not least, if we hired a shuttle, I'd rather park cars @ Horseshoe than Symmes.

Oh, one last question: would it be worth an extra day to fish Wallace?

So, there it is. TIA for any comments and/or suggestions.



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Re: Trip Advice Needed - Shepherd Pass

Postby cgundersen » Fri Aug 05, 2011 2:55 pm

Hobbes,
I think you cannot go wrong either way, but I too would feel better leaving a vehicle at Horseshoe than the Shepherd's trailhead. The other big plus of going up Shepherd's is the drop-dead view when you reach the top. The wide open upper Kern basin bounded by the Great Western Divide is stunning. The only fishing advice I can give (based on experiences of those I've been out with; I do not fish) is Miter basin can be pretty good, especially for goldens. Finally, and this is nothing against New Army, but if you're looking to maximize fishing time, I've always found it faster to go out via Cottonwood pass. It's not as scenic, but you do go by Chicken Spring lake and that's good for a chuckle.
cg

PS. Although it's unlikely Miter basin will be busy in Sept, if Sky Blue is busy, Primrose is worth the short uphill jaunt.
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Re: Trip Advice Needed - Shepherd Pass

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Aug 05, 2011 3:16 pm

Leaving at 2PM and planning on reaching Pothole or Anvil on the first day (assume the same day you drive from sea level) is not likely to be successful and guarenteed to be miserable. I would NEVER start in the afternoon- it is horribly hot. It will totally sap your energy. Anvil is about 10,100 and Pothole about 10,800. Enough altitude that sleeping here coming up from sea level may be a problem. It is the heat+altitude issue. Last time I did Shepherd Pass we left at 6AM. Got to Pothole with plenty of time to relax and acclimate. If you can get an early start, then it makes sense.

Cottonwood is high enough that you do not have the heat issue if you start later. No reason not to slowly go up the trail and camp at one of the many beautiful lakes on the east side of New Army pass or on the creek. Why the preference to camp at Crabtree instead of Sky Blue Lake? As for the view from Shepherd Pass, nothing says you cannot turn around once in a while and look west as you go over west to east. You save nearly 5,000 feet elevation gain going from Cottonwood to Shepherd.
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Re: Trip Advice Needed - Shepherd Pass

Postby copeg » Fri Aug 05, 2011 7:47 pm

For what its worth, Shepherd's pass in a day is brutal either way (I'd much rather go down, but your mileage may vary). Starting from cottonwood might give you more time to acclimate at high el. the day before. The last day of your first itinerary seems a bit rushed, as does the first day of your second (assuming your first day is trailhead to Wright's lake? ouch) - you might wish to squeeze things together a bit more to give your group a bit more flexibility on these days.
If you are open to crazy suggestions, a loop from Kearsarge to Shephard's is an alternative to give you more time to explore the upper kern area (an area worth exploring for days if not weeks). You'd of course miss the southern areas, but this would give you more opportunity to explore some remove and beautiful country (I won't deny I'm biased towards the upper kern area).
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Re: Trip Advice Needed - Shepherd Pass

Postby Hobbes » Sat Aug 06, 2011 4:14 am

Thanx for the comments. As is true with most things, one should stick with what works. It's just that I've done the NAP route many times, so I was thinking of possible alternatives. (CW Pass is sandy & Chickenspring is fishless.) But, as WD points out, it's just as easy to wander up the CW trail a bit on the pre-day, rather than hang out @ the HM TH. No need to change the entire orientation of the trip by going up Shepherd.

copeg wrote:If you are open to crazy suggestions, a loop from Kearsarge to Shephard's is an alternative

That's actually in the back of my mind for a solo, but it's a route my brother has already done before. What he hasn't done is explore Miter to Crabtree. (But he did see the entire vista from atop Langley.) I haven't been over Crabtree pass, so it makes sense to do a two-fer for this go-round.

By upper Kern, are you thinking of Tyndall or hinting @ the actual drainage coming out of Lake SA and other unnamed lakes?
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Re: Trip Advice Needed - Shepherd Pass

Postby Wild Bill » Tue Aug 09, 2011 8:53 am

Hey Hobbes!

Hope I'm not too late to chime in.
Fish middle Crabtree Lake; you won't be disappointed! 'nuff said.
The Symmes Creek Trailhead (Shepherd Pass) is remote and having a car there waiting for you is a good idea. There might not be anyone there. As everyone else has already said, going up this trail is not to be taken lightly.
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Re: Trip Advice Needed - Shepherd Pass

Postby Ozark Flip » Tue Aug 09, 2011 1:12 pm

Oh, one last question: would it be worth an extra day to fish Wallace?


Absolutely!
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Re: Trip Advice Needed - Shepherd Pass

Postby East Side Hiker » Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:45 am

Wow. It seems you're brother is really a mountain person. All the 12-14,000 pks? There's a lot of them. And hypothermia...

I was in Markleeville 3 weeks ago. I completely cleaned my car of every crumb. The next morning, the car right next to me was attacked by a bear - broke out a window and got their goodies.
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Re: Trip Advice Needed - Shepherd Pass

Postby Hobbes » Wed Aug 10, 2011 12:00 pm

East Side Hiker wrote:Wow. It seems you're brother is really a mountain person. All the 12-14,000 pks?


We grew up in the Bay Area. Our parents used to take us to Yosemite every spring (May) to see the waterfalls. I got into surfing and headed south to college and never returned. My brother stayed & stuck with backpacking - mostly solo as everyone else dropped out.

I was talking to him the other day about some planned trips. He casually mentioned that a few years ago, he went over Kearsarge, over Forester, climbed Tyndall, and then went down Shepherd to spend the night @ Anvil. I asked him how he got back to his car (assuming he walked from Symmes and hitched a ride back up to Onion V), and he said it was there @ the end of the loop.

At this point, I was a little confused, until he explained that he had gone back up & over Junction! Seems that he wanted to hike the old JMT before they had re-routed it over Forester some years back. LOL

I gotta tell you, he's pretty comfortable in the high country all by himself.
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Re: Trip Advice Needed - Shepherd Pass

Postby KathyW » Fri Aug 12, 2011 6:33 am

Option one looks okay.

Option two would work better for me like this, but we're all differnt:

After you shuttle your vehicles on the pre-hike day, skip the pre-trip hike and backpack up to Anvil/Pothole and hike to the saddle at around 9100' late in the day (you'll actually end up in the shade if it's late enough in the day). There's a nice place to camp there - you have to carry water because it's dry, but it's only about 2800' gain from the trailhead - it took me 3 hours to get that far with a heavy pack, but if you're fast it will take less time. This will give you one night at under 10,000' and help with acclimation and you don't have to hike back down - you can start from there in the morning and pick up water before you get to Mahogany Flat. You could also go as far as Mahogany Flat to spend the first night if you have time.

Day 1 - The saddle at 9100' along the Shepherd Pass Trail to to Wright lakes basin
Day 2 - WLB to (lower) Crabtree
Day 3 - Crabtree pass to Soldier lake
Day 4 - over NAP back to Horseshoe Mdw

View in the morning from the saddle at 9100':

http://kathywing.smugmug.com/California ... 1653-M.jpg
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Re: Trip Advice Needed - Shepherd Pass

Postby Hobbes » Fri Aug 12, 2011 7:39 am

KathyW wrote:hike to the saddle at around 9100' late in the day (you'll actually end up in the shade if it's late enough in the day).

Hi Kathy, thanx for the tip. I was thinking along the same lines, in terms of hiking up to some point above the TH just to get moving, but late enough in the day to avoid the afternoon heat.

I took a look at your TR - great photos! Got a quick question for you: is there a reason you didn't go over Rockwell pass? From your trail map, it looks like you started going in that direction, but then turned back and followed the std trail around Tawny Pt/Bighorn Plt.

Then, on the way back, it appears you re-traced, rather than going up through WLB and over Rockwell to get to Shepherd. I'd hate to get all the way up there and then have to turn-around if the trail conditions have changed to a significant degree.
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Re: Trip Advice Needed - Shepherd Pass

Postby KathyW » Fri Aug 12, 2011 4:05 pm

Hobbes wrote:
KathyW wrote:hike to the saddle at around 9100' late in the day (you'll actually end up in the shade if it's late enough in the day).

Hi Kathy, thanx for the tip. I was thinking along the same lines, in terms of hiking up to some point above the TH just to get moving, but late enough in the day to avoid the afternoon heat.

I took a look at your TR - great photos! Got a quick question for you: is there a reason you didn't go over Rockwell pass? From your trail map, it looks like you started going in that direction, but then turned back and followed the std trail around Tawny Pt/Bighorn Plt.

Then, on the way back, it appears you re-traced, rather than going up through WLB and over Rockwell to get to Shepherd. I'd hate to get all the way up there and then have to turn-around if the trail conditions have changed to a significant degree.


It was the snow conditions that stopped me from going over Rockwell Pass. Once I got over Shepherd Pass, the snow was soft and suncupped, which made travel really slow. If I went over Rockwell Pass, I would be dealing with a lot more of those big patches of suncupped snow in upper Wright Creek Basin. By going down to the JMT, I was able to get off the snow and move along a better pace. I came back the same way - longer, but faster with the conditions at the time.

I have been up to Rockwell Pass when snow wasn't an issue - it's easy to cross when it's dry and there's even a use trail to follow up to the pass on the north side. Anyway, going over Rockwell Pass shouldn't be an issue now.
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