TR: Tyndall Creek and Upper Kern, 9/22-9/27 | High Sierra Topix  

TR: Tyndall Creek and Upper Kern, 9/22-9/27

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar

TR: Tyndall Creek and Upper Kern, 9/22-9/27

Postby windknot » Tue Oct 02, 2012 3:48 pm

As both the headliner and first closing act of my Sierra backpacking season, last week I did a 6-day solo trip into the Tyndall Creek/Upper Kern area via Shepherd Pass.

Friday night found me shooting across the valley after work. I planned to stop driving when I got tired and sleep in the car for a few hours before continuing down to the Eatern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center in the morning to pick up my permit. Hopefully this would entail sleeping at an official rest stop on 395, and not a sketchy parking lot or spur road. The timing worked out, I made it through Yosemite in good time, and at about 11:30pm I pulled in to the rest stop just north of Mammoth and laid my sleeping bag/pad out in the back of the Subaru. It was a compromise – an official rest stop, yes, but still rather sketchy. I’d be lying if I said I slept well, but I was able to grab a few hours and soon my alarm went off at 5:30am, signifying the official start of my trip.

After stopping in Bishop for a chocolate croissant at Schaat’s Bakery and then coffee and a last email check at McDonald’s, I continued south through a still-slumbering Owens Valley and arrived at the Visitor Center just before 8am. The lottery system they have in place there didn’t seem to be too effective, but the backpackers waiting to get their permits weren’t overly put out and I chatted with a friendly woman who was doing a weekend trip over Kearsarge Pass with her husband and son as we waited in line.

Image

Permit in hand, I drove back up 395 a bit and turned off for the trailhead at Independence. I’d never been to the Symmes Creek trailhead before, but a detailed report I found online made it easy to follow the right dirt roads, and while the end of the road was a bit rough it was much easier to navigate than the last five miles to the Taboose Pass trailhead, itself still doable for a low-clearance sedan.

Image

Once at the trailhead, I got my pack ready and hit the trail. It was about 9am. I was moving quickly and effortlessly, and I had high hopes of making the pass by the evening. I even remarked as such to a couple of backpackers I met coming down the lower switchbacks up the side of the Symmes Creek Canyon. They expressed gentle doubts, but the older of the two reasoned that I was young and so I had a good chance of making it. I continued along up the switchbacks, passing several other backpackers coming down the trail, and made the top of the ridge in just over two hours. I was carrying about a 45-pound pack and estimates at mileage vary from 3.1 to 4.5 miles from the trailhead with nearly 2,800 feet of elevation gain, so I was making good time. The next section of the trail is famously (infamously?) downhill, so I churned that part out quickly too.

Image

Unfortunately, on the next section of switchbacks up to Mahogany Flat I began slowing down considerably. At first I was confused, and irritated. This was my 18th day of backpacking in the past month, having covered well over a hundred miles during that time including some strenuous cross-country travel, all with a pack in the 40- to 50-pound range. Why was I slowing down? As I labored on, I quickly came to the frustrating realization that it wasn’t my legs that were failing me; it was my health. I had caught a cold after my 8-day backpack the week prior and spent the week at work coughing heartily. I had shrugged it off, figuring it would go away as quickly as it arrived. My immune system had other plans though, and by the time I reached Mahogany Flat I was generating a considerable amount of saliva and mucus and it was inhibiting my breathing. Grumbling to myself, I slowed my pace and took several short rests. Didn’t help. I struggled into Anvil Camp at 2:30pm, having taken a ridiculously long rest/water break an hour earlier and even napped a bit still strapped into the pack. No way was I going to make the pass in this shape. I barely had time to set up my tent and throw my sleeping bag and pad in before I crawled in after them and passed out.

It was only supposed to be a short nap. I even entertained the brief notion of continuing up toward the pass later in the evening once it got cooler, but once I fell asleep I didn’t wake up again until 6am the next morning. I had slept for 13 hours! Feeling guilty, but also much more refreshed and less congested, I got up, made what was supposed to be yesterday’s dinner for breakfast (corn chowder), then packed up and hit the trail early. Invigorated, I arrived at Shepherd Pass in about an hour and a half and took a break at the lake there. After fishing for half an hour, I left my pack at the lake and headed over to the nearby Williamson Bowl to cross an item off my bucket list that I had added over ten years earlier.

Image

Once this detour was completed a few hours later, I headed down Tyndall Creek from the pass, contouring southwest to climb up Rockwell Pass and enter Wright Lakes Basin.

Image

In the early afternoon my cold again started acting up, so I made camp early at one of the lakes on the north end of the basin and enjoyed a relaxing evening and nice sunset over the Kern drainage.

Image

Image

On Monday, I explored a few more lakes in the basin before heading south and entering the Wallace Creek basin, where I traversed high above Wallace Creek until I reached Wallace Lake.

Image

Image

This wasn’t a long hiking day, so I had plenty of time to fish for the plentiful goldens in the area. Camping near Wallace Lake, I was treated to some impressive alpenglow on Russell, Carillon, and the unnamed peaks near Vacation Pass.

Image

Tuesday morning found me sleeping in, still trying to shake the last remnants of that infernal cold. Some more fishing took up the rest of the morning, and so it was nearly 1pm by the time I headed down the use trail following Wallace Creek to the junction with the John Muir Trail.

Image

This was the part of the trip I wasn’t much looking forward to. I spent the next few hours taking the JMT north over Bighorn Plateau to Tyndall Creek, running across a handful of through-hikers heading south and checking out a few unnamed lakes in the Tyndall Creek drainage along the way.

Image

Image

I made camp for the night at Lake 3490 along the spur trail to Lake South America. The next morning I left camp at 8am and continued up the trail and over the small pass to reach Lake South America, where I fished for a little while before heading back the way I came.

Image

Returning to camp and packing up, I struck out cross-country in a general northeasterly direction as I stayed high above Tyndall Creek, aiming for the quartet of unnamed lakes to the east of Diamond Mesa.

Image

The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring these enigmatic lakes, the highlight of which was visiting the highest, largest lake beneath Junction Peak. At over 12,460 feet, this lake has a very austere look to it and is easily the highest lake I’ve ever visited. Judging from a discussion on this forum last year, it may also be one of the highest fish-bearing lakes in the entire range.

Image

I thought seriously about camping there, but the elevation combined with the dropping temperatures of the preceding nights convinced me to get lower. Clambering down from my elevated playground, I dropped down to Shepherd Pass and high-tailed it back down to Anvil Camp where I retired for the night.

Thursday morning I got an early start back down the trail. Galvanized by the prospect of stuffing myself with greasy, fried, sugar-laden, wholly unhealthy foods in Bishop, I skipped down to the trailhead in just under three hours. After gamely trying to shock my system into a premature cardiac arrest and (fortunately) failing, I rolled back onto 395 to begin the long drive back through Yosemite and down to Fresno to stage for a 3-day trip into the Tablelands beginning the next day.

Image
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/



User avatar
windknot
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1348
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:07 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: TR: Tyndall Creek and Upper Kern, 9/22-9/27

Postby gary c. » Tue Oct 02, 2012 4:28 pm

Another outstanding trip and report Matt. As always your pictures are great (even if a few of our favorites are missing). I've never been up in that area but it is on my bucket list also. Thanks for sharing.
"On this proud and beautiful mountain we have lived hours of fraternal, warm and exalting nobility. Here for a few days we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is hard to return to servitude."
-- Lionel Terray
User avatar
gary c.
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 999
Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2006 4:56 pm
Location: Lancaster, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Tyndall Creek and Upper Kern, 9/22-9/27

Postby windknot » Wed Oct 03, 2012 8:33 am

Thanks!

Gary, I'm still working on getting fish pictures up but they're forthcoming. :)
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
User avatar
windknot
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1348
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:07 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: TR: Tyndall Creek and Upper Kern, 9/22-9/27

Postby maverick » Wed Oct 03, 2012 8:53 am

Hi Windknot,

Thanks for the great TR and pictures. The whole Wallace Basin/Upper Kern Divide area is
a fabulous area for both fishing and photography.
Backpacking with a cold is miserable, doing it at elevation, and then doing strenuous
exercise can makes things it even worse, but it sounds like your immune system fought
it off. Hope it didn't flare up again in the Tablelands.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
User avatar
maverick
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 8038
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: TR: Tyndall Creek and Upper Kern, 9/22-9/27

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Oct 03, 2012 10:10 am

I have to wonder if it was your footprints I was tracking. We went up the kaweah and down through alta meadow last Saturday/sunday.

Sent from my HTC Glacier using Tapatalk 2
User avatar
AlmostThere
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1761
Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:38 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Tyndall Creek and Upper Kern, 9/22-9/27

Postby windknot » Wed Oct 03, 2012 10:28 am

Very possible! My friend and I just did the quick 3-day loop from Wolverton, Friday-Sunday: Lakes Trail to Moose Lake and down around to Alta Meadow and out. We were following a recent set of footprints during the off-trail portion on Saturday, but it seems like you may have come out later than us on Sunday.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
User avatar
windknot
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1348
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:07 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: TR: Tyndall Creek and Upper Kern, 9/22-9/27

Postby Ozark Flip » Wed Oct 03, 2012 2:40 pm

Matt,

I don’t report or even comment much anymore, but you went into my favorite of all Sierra locales and your report strikes a personal preference: Shepherd’s Pass, Rockwell-to-WLB, use trail to Wallace, Back down Wallace Creek to JMT, Bighorn Plateau-to-Tyndall, LSA, Diamond Mesa area back to Shepherd’s Pass. Excellent trip! Doesn’t get any better IMHO. I used to do this trip (or slight variant thereof) every other year. And I’m glad to hear you marked off a bucket list item. Got a bucket list item off of my list this year as well.

I really envy those who can make Shepherd’s Pass in one day. I always struggle to get to Anvil in one day. Even once fell asleep next to the trail in the last uphill climb to Anvil and evidentially was there for a few hours…woke up late evening with rain drops hitting my face and then staggered into Anvil and collapsed. Once made it out to the trailhead from Cloverleaf lake in Diamond Mesa though (love going downhill).

Anyway, no mention of Lake Versteeg........

Thanks for the read Matt. Right on with the right on!

Flip
User avatar
Ozark Flip
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 373
Joined: Wed May 10, 2006 12:31 pm
Location: Escalon & Cottonwood California
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Tyndall Creek and Upper Kern, 9/22-9/27

Postby fourputt » Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:17 pm

Thanks for both reports. Great pictures and writeup.
Only caught a cold once backpacking -- night before at Onion Valley trailhead. Dragged my sorry posterior over Kearsarge with it.
User avatar
fourputt
Topix Acquainted
 
Posts: 64
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2011 10:25 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Tyndall Creek and Upper Kern, 9/22-9/27

Postby windknot » Thu Oct 04, 2012 10:28 am

Thanks all!
Last edited by windknot on Fri Feb 27, 2015 11:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
User avatar
windknot
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1348
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:07 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: TR: Tyndall Creek and Upper Kern, 9/22-9/27

Postby sparky » Thu Oct 11, 2012 6:34 am

Great pictures! Multiple times I have napped all day then through dinner and then the night. Always day 1 at altitude after driving through the night.
There is a million ways to be human, all are worthwhile.

True happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
-Chuang Tzu.
User avatar
sparky
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 880
Joined: Tue Jul 20, 2010 10:01 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Tyndall Creek and Upper Kern, 9/22-9/27

Postby SSSdave » Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:39 pm

wk >>>"...Hopefully this would entail sleeping at an official rest stop on 395, and not a sketchy parking lot or spur road. The timing worked out, I made it through Yosemite in good time, and at about 11:30pm I pulled in to the rest stop just north of Mammoth and laid my sleeping bag/pad out in the back of the Subaru. It was a compromise – an official rest stop, yes, but still rather sketchy. I’d be lying if I said I slept well, but I was able to grab a few hours and soon my alarm went off at 5:30am, signifying the official start of my trip..."

I strongly dislike sleeping so close to US395 mainly because of all the big rigs even into the wee hours. Also rather creepy sleeping along well used paved roads where I don't like the notion of waking up with someone suddenly nearby. It is so easy to find dirt road dispersed camping spots most everywhere well off from the noise along that highway. One just needs to look at the Inyo NF map a bit.

Have 10 day trips elaborately planned for both Taboose and Shepherd that I might have done this year early August were it at least a normal precip winter. Much less strenuous verts and miles each day including 2 to reach either of those passes. Will be spending more time closer to the rim of the Kern Trench where foxtail pines, greenery, and wildflowers are more common though lakes are fewer. Your late Septemember ramble was a rather dry and chilly time to visit there with short days, however as least from a photographer's perspective, a more likely time to have cirrus clouds for reflections in usually calmer waters at sunset and dusk.
User avatar
SSSdave
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1965
Joined: Thu Nov 17, 2005 11:18 pm
Location: Silicon Valley
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: TR: Tyndall Creek and Upper Kern, 9/22-9/27

Postby windknot » Thu Oct 11, 2012 4:35 pm

Yeah, I think if I were to do it again I'd probably crash a bit farther away from 395. I underestimated the amount of light and noise at the rest stop, but by that time I was too tired to relocate.

I tend to plan my trips primarily from a fisherman's perspective, and so in that sense the timing for this loop worked out beautifully (have a few fish pictures in the Fishing Hole subforum). I'll gladly take the mid- to late September cold, shorter days, and less verdant scenery in exchange for more active trout.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
User avatar
windknot
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1348
Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2006 10:07 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer


Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests

cron