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lower Shepherd Pass water ?

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lower Shepherd Pass water ?

Postby SSSdave » Sun Oct 14, 2012 10:36 pm

Have a question about water sources on the lower section of the Shepherd Pass Trail.

This is the time of year I usually work on topos and spreadsheets for future trips before snow changes my interest to all things skiing. Thus worked on a 9-day trip I'd started analyzing last fall that I'd rejected for this summer because of the droughty conditions. So will be near the top of my list for the summer of 2013 after I have reached mid summer strength. Have most of the core hour to hour details for each day worked out. My main interest with most trips is large format view camera photography, so figure out various promising locations I can shoot from within the limited periods when light will likely be acceptable. The upper Kern Basin has some of the best areas of foxtail pines in the Southern Sierra and most of those areas are ignored because where they are best tends to be below many of the lakes which are more common above timberline especially near crest areas and places 95% of visitors tend to gravitate about.

Since I'll be hefting my usual 65 to 70 pounds I've decided to break up the horrendous 6400 foot vertical climb into the basin from the 6300 foot elevation hot sagebrush Symmes Creek trailhead into 3 smaller chunks in my poky style. Although I could probably manage two 3200 foot slow all day efforts to reach Shepherd Pass, that would likely leave me so weary I would not be able to reach anywhere beyond that which is interesting to me anyway. That might also leave me sore for the rest of the trip thus is a doubly bad idea.

As it is a 380 mile drive from San Jose, after I leave work say at 4pm some Friday night, I'm not going to want to spend 9 hours driving all that way anyway. So will likely drive over and disperse camp after 6 hours. Then will drive to Bishop to pick up the permit and could be down near the trailhead south of Independence later in the morning. I'm likely to start up the trail between 2pm and 4pm and am nominally planning to just do about 2100 to 2700 feet or just reach the ridge crossover notch into Shepherd drainage at 9080 feet (2760+ meters). The hotter the day the more likely a later start and even some night hiking. The second day will hope to reach somewhere below the pass between Anvil Camp and The Pothole. That way on day 3, I can zip over the pass in the cool dawn and get way down to lower Tyndall Creek areas by late morning.

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=36.71051,-11 ... lakes%20WY

My question here is, the topo shows a seasonal stream just west of where switchbacks climb up from Symmes Creek at 2100 meters to the ridge notch. It drains northern slopes as high as 11k. Is there likely to be water in that stream course, at least below say the 2600 meter level at 2.5 miles, early August after normal winters? I would expect so but knowing with more certainty has value as a last spot to vector off from the trail to fill bottles before continuing higher into waterless zones. Another small seasonal stream draining east facing slopes shown crossing at 2700 meters 4.3 miles from the trailhead I would not expect to have water. Otherwise at 5.3 miles at 2690 meters a more likely east facing stream holding water drains from way up on Mt Kieth. I would definitely not get that far after starting mid afternoon.



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Re: lower Shepherd Pass water ?

Postby DavePloessel » Mon Oct 15, 2012 9:47 am

This may be a silly question, but if you are planning on taking 3 days to clear the pass, why not take three days and go in by an easier (less vertical), albiet longer, route from a TH with a higher starting elevation?
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Re: lower Shepherd Pass water ?

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Mon Oct 15, 2012 12:54 pm

When I was up that way a few years back in mid-July, those creeks had a decent flow of water and that was after a not terribly wet winter (06-07). I would assume that there would at least be something in them that you could use for hydration purposes. Shepherd Creek is way down in a steep ravine, so while if you were determined you could probably access it, but it didn't look easy. Once you hit Anvil Camp, Shepherd Creek is full, flowing and easy to access. I'd think that would be the best place to camp the first night anyhow.
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Re: lower Shepherd Pass water ?

Postby atreehugger » Mon Oct 15, 2012 1:11 pm

From what I remember, the lower creek crossing on the trail will have water. I have camped at Mohagany Flats and there was plenty of water.This is based on an August trip years ago.
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Re: lower Shepherd Pass water ?

Postby overheadx2 » Mon Oct 15, 2012 1:46 pm

I did the loop from independence down the Kern River to the Kern Ranger station and then over to Lone pine over Cottonwood Pass last Labor day (2011). It was a big winter, so it may not be the same on a normal winter. There was plenty of water at that creek and some one camped on the only spot available. The canyon is pretty constricted, and there aren't a lot of places to camp until you get to Anvil. Mahogany has several decent spots to camp and seemed to have a lot of water. We did the same format that you are proposing. We had lunch in Independence and started up around 2. The afternoon heat never really subsided like you would think until the sun started to get behind the hills. At that time we were almost to Mahogany Flats since it's only about 5 miles if I remember right.
My suggestion would be to do what I did. As you are getting ready to go, make a post looking for info. Guaranteed some one on this forum has just been or knows.
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Re: lower Shepherd Pass water ?

Postby quentinc » Mon Oct 15, 2012 7:15 pm

I was by there the second week of August this year, and I think there was water. I didn't really pay much attention though, because the place where the trail approaches that stream is so close to the crossing of Symmes Creek itself, that I just planned all my water collection around Symmes.

By the way, of the two streams the map shows between the ridge and Mahogany Flats, the first (eastern-most) one was absolutely bone dry even on July 4. In fact, I'm not sure I ever recall seeing water there. The second one is reliable, however.
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Re: lower Shepherd Pass water ?

Postby SSSdave » Mon Oct 15, 2012 7:28 pm

quentinc wrote:There will be water there. There was even this year in the second week of August. I once hiked that way late October/early November of what I think was an average snow year, and there was a decent flow.


Thanks mucho quentinc, appreciate that information.

Although the topo shows one switchback coming close to that stream channel at 2420 meters, I'm wondering if most hikers climbing those switchbacks, especially the majority that haha probably don't use their topo maps, haven't noticed there is a water source there because the stream is not actually in view? A reason that is somewhat a mystery to me is I read several other modest reports on various sites of those making their way towards Shepherd Pass and no one bothered to mention it. That includes climbers sites for those doing Tyndall or Williamson. All one reads is after leaving Symmes Creek, the first water is at Mahogany Flat on Shepherd Creek.
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Re: lower Shepherd Pass water ?

Postby SSSdave » Mon Oct 15, 2012 7:34 pm

DavePloessel wrote:This may be a silly question, but if you are planning on taking 3 days to clear the pass, why not take three days and go in by an easier (less vertical), albiet longer, route from a TH with a higher starting elevation?


Hello Dave. You might want to recheck numbers of what you think has less effort because the possibilities are quatro and Shepherd is clearly the least unpleasant choice.
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Re: lower Shepherd Pass water ?

Postby quentinc » Mon Oct 15, 2012 11:00 pm

SSSdave wrote:All one reads is after leaving Symmes Creek, the first water is at Mahogany Flat on Shepherd Creek.
[/quote]

I think that's because the trail doesn't cross or come right next to that branch of the creek. Instead, one has to wander through some slightly unpleasant brush and go down a bit to get to it. Also, because it's so close to the last crossing of Symmes Creek, most people probably don't consider it significant.
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Re: lower Shepherd Pass water ?

Postby SSSdave » Tue Oct 16, 2012 8:59 am

Yeah that's what I suspected, out of sight, out of mind for those who don't use their maps.

The last efficient spot to venture off towards that stream would be at the west end of the 2450 meter (8038) switchback that is 1100 feet above where one leaves Symmes Creek. And one could camp along that stream as high as 2530 meters (8300) and still traverse back to the trail.

Here's my strategy now hiking on a mid afternoon when on most early August days, it is likely to still be warm. Normally I hike in jeans and nylon shell but will do this section in shorts and no shirt. I'm 66" 140# and will be carrying 65>70# which is about half my body weight and is a different world of effort than what most carry. Some wonder how I manage such heavy weights so here is some insight. I'll be carrying a 32 oz one quart nalgene bottle outside my pack that I may start off half full and my 70 ounce platypus inside the pack that I only use once at campsites. For the first afternoon will add another smaller 16 ounce 2 pint plastic bottle that will start out empty.

From the trailhead at 1935 meters (6350 feet), the last crossing of Symmes Creek is at 2115 meters (6940) or 600 feet up and am likely to take a 15 minute break, a full body dip in the creek, and only fill up my nalgene quart bottle with a pint or 8 oz of filtered water. Will dunk a cotton t-shirt and put it on. Will then climb 1100 feet with frequent brief 30 second to 2 minute stops on convenient boulders. There will drop the pack then venture west to that stream, take a dip, re-dunk the t-shirt, take a big drink without bothering to filter, and fill both the 32 oz and 16 ounce bottles. That will be enough for me to camp along a waterless section of the trail. From there it is another 1020 feet to the ridge notch at 2762 meters (9060) that I am likely to drink all the 2 pint bottle on the way. By the time I start that section, the sun will be blocked by the crest, temps lowering, and I will continue my slow poky pace. At the notch 2650 feet above the trailhead will likely set up for a dry camp. Another reason to camp at that spot is it may offer a nice view upcanyon at sunrise towards Williamson for a pic. The next morning will stash the 2 pint bottle so I can pick it up on the way back.

From there, Anvil Camp at 10300 is just 1800 feet so I've got all morning to poke my way up towards that section while the air is still cool. Will take a few hours of break there at lunch. Then later in the afternoon continue up towards the pass and camp either at The Pothole at 10850 or somewhere above that where the next morning at early dawn, maybe getting up at 4:30am, I can zip up the rest of the way to 12040 and cross the pass. That way by mid morning leisurely pounding down the 4 easy miles downhill gradients will reach lower Tyndall Creek areas where I've sized up a camp spot, and can take out my view camera and still catch some reasonable morning light before things get too harsh.
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