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Shepherd pass trail conditions

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Shepherd pass trail conditions

Postby HikerDee » Mon Jun 24, 2013 6:38 am

My husband and I are planning a trip to the Upper Kern in August, going in Kearsarge Pass and would ideally like to exit Shepherd rather than going over Forester which we've done before. We are frankly not experienced enough to attempt the cross country passes from Lake SA. So has anyone been over Shepherd recently and could they tell me what it's condition is? Also, and probably most importantly, how remote is the trailhead and what would be the likelihood of catching a ride back to our car at Onion Valley? we've had great luck catching (begging) rides in the past, but from much busier trailheads. I will post this later question on the 'transportation' forum as well. Thanks all!



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Re: Shepherd pass trail conditions

Postby cgundersen » Mon Jun 24, 2013 7:07 am

HikerDee,
Not to be obtuse, but if you're entering at Kearsarge and not doing Forester or any of the off trail passes into the Upper Kern, then I'm assuming you're planning to do Junction pass, which does lead into the Shepherd's pass trail. That, or you're doing the Circle of Solitude via Avalanche and Colby passes. Frankly, either route is good, but the Junction trail is a little spotty, so be prepared.

As for hitching a ride at Shepherd's trailhead, I'd recommend checking to see how much of the quota is filled around the time you'll be out. Of any of the huge eastside passes, Shepherd's gets the most action, and I'd say on average there have been a dozen other vehicles when I've parked there. But, you could easily go many hours (days?) before running into someone there. Aside from using a shuttle service, another option would be to drop gear when you reach bottom and walk/jog to the Onion Valley road where there is plenty of traffic to get you back to your vehicle, but I'm guessing it's easily a 6-7 mile trek in the high desert, so make sure you have water.
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Re: Shepherd pass trail conditions

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Jun 24, 2013 7:30 am

There are shuttles (licensed/bonded and also informal/under the table) around... I managed via word of mouth to find someone to take us from the end trailhead to the start so we hiked back to our car.
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Re: Shepherd pass trail conditions

Postby richlong8 » Tue Jun 25, 2013 10:01 am

Often when I have gone with a friend, we just bring 2 cars, and leave one at the exit point, to avoid being inconvenienced at the end of a long trip. But I assume you have ruled that approach out...it is a little more gas, and hassle at the start, but kind of nice at the end of a trip.
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Re: Shepherd pass trail conditions

Postby Hobbes » Tue Jun 25, 2013 2:10 pm

I did this loop late spring of last year. It's very straightforward if you follow the PCT over Forester, down Tyndal, and then make a right turn (to the west) below Diamond mesa.

The only other real way to Lake SA is up Harrison, which you might wish to avoid. Skipping Forester and traversing Junction gets you to the Shepherd trail, but 180 degrees off + 10 miles away from LSA.

As for hitch hiking from Shepherd, just plan on walking the 3 miles back to OV road. It's actually sort of bitchin' @ first light - nice & cool, with great colors. In order to pull it off, you'll want to stop @ the Shepherd pass TH at the end of the day. Since it will probably be in the high 90s, you really don't want to get there much earlier than 8pm.

Shepherd is around 10 miles from the crest, so going 2-2.5 mph will get you to the bottom within 4-5 hours. That means you should time your arrival at the crest between 3-4pm. It might seem late, but the trail is excellent, it's all downhill (except for the saddle), and it's best traveled early/late in the day.

Once you hit OV road, you should be able to get a ride in under 10 minutes. There's practically nobody going that way @ the Shepherd junction that isn't going all the way to the top.
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Shepherd pass trail conditions

Postby bheiser1 » Tue Jun 25, 2013 10:46 pm

@Cgunderson you mentioned the Junction trail is "spotty". Is it hard to follow or does it require technical skills?
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Re: Shepherd pass trail conditions

Postby cgundersen » Wed Jun 26, 2013 12:44 pm

bheiser,
The Junction pass tail is just a bit hard to follow at times (sort of like Baxter pass), but it's sufficiently obvious where it needs to go that even if you lose it for brief stints, it's easy to recover. But, no, it just demands stamina, nothing technical (unless you really lose it!).
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Re: Shepherd pass trail conditions

Postby maverick » Wed Jun 26, 2013 1:03 pm

Hi Dee,

Here is a TR form 6/7-9 over Shepherd Pass:
http://www.calicokat.smugmug.com/Hiking ... &k=WhFmPMr
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
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Re: Shepherd pass trail conditions

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Jun 26, 2013 1:20 pm

I am quite confused! If your destination is upper Kern River, you HAVE to go over Forester or one of the x-country passes if you go in via Kearsarge Pass. Unless, you go over Junction Pass and then turn uphill and go over Shepherd Pass to reach the upper Kern, which sounds to me not worth the effort just to avoid Forester Pass. Or am I missing something here. Sorry.

If the upper Kern is your goal and you do not want to do Forester Pass, why not just loop to and from via Shepherd Pass?
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Shepherd pass trail conditions

Postby bheiser1 » Mon Jul 08, 2013 10:21 pm

Thanks cgundersen, good to know. That is an area I'd like to check out, and I don't do technical routes :).
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Re: Shepherd pass trail conditions

Postby SPeacock » Mon Jul 08, 2013 11:02 pm

Bill, easier to follow the 'trail' over Junction from the east side. Still a lot of trail left, just has not been maintained since they put in Forester Pass. You can catch what remains of the trail directly north of the Pot Hole. I don't think there is any indication remaining for the Junction Pass trail off from the main Shepherd trail. The way down to Center Basin on the west side is obvious from the top.

Forester is one of my all time favorite passes - for scenery and the trail. Better from the south, however. South America Lake is not one of those beauty spots you make as a destination. Looks more like the moon. But Harrison Pass is a nice walk up (from Tyndall Creek) to take a look around. Especially a photo op looking east. Just before you crest Shepherd take another picture(s) back looking west. Some nice WOW! Tyndall is a tempting summit since you are so close. If you have the time, energy and inclination, be sure to check out the trail on the west side of the Kern drainage. You will more than likely be the only ones there this year.

When hiking from Symmes Creek to the Onion Valley road, just one of you do it, then come back for packs and the rest of the gang. That should make for an easier hitch. It's about an hour or so trudge. I'd leave the car at Symmes and do the pack and people shuttle to Kearsarge trail before you begin. If you get down from Shepherd when it is hot, you will par broil, waiting for the one that got the short straw to return.
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