Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

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bobby49
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Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by bobby49 » Sun Aug 04, 2019 8:12 pm

On 7/31, I ascended Shepherd Pass with very poor information on the snow status. As a result, I carried microspikes. The main chute was covered in snow that varied in consistency. However, the main trail actually goes around the right side. Upon reaching the top of that right side, I found the very top of the snow field was a little too dicey for me, so I donned the microspikes to get across 100 feet of side angle snow. That will likely be gone in another week or two. I reached the JMT at Tyndall Creek, and there was nobody there for camping. I reached Crabtree Camp the next day. I reached the Whitney summit (#43 time) on the following day and returned to Crabtree. On 8/3, I retraced my steps back over Shepherd Pass down to Anvil Camp, and the mosquitos were not too bad. Then 8/4, I hauled down from Anvil Camp to the Shepherd Pass TH, reaching my car at 11 a.m.

I'm too old for this crap!








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Wandering Daisy
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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Aug 06, 2019 8:24 am

Can you elaborate on what you mean by "dicey"? I will be descending from Shepherd Pass on Aug 20, give or take a day. I really hate to carry crampons (or microspikes which I would have to buy) for that one small bit of snow. Was the snow icy or just poor steps and steep, runout bad?

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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by bobby49 » Tue Aug 06, 2019 9:20 am

"Dicey" = not safe. Roll the dice and take your chances.

When I was there on 7/31 and 8/3, there were some boot tracks that must have been made at times of the day when the snow was soft enough. There were also microspike tracks made at times of the day when the snow was icy and hard. There was only about 100 horizontal feet of snow field at the top, and that will be all or mostly gone in a couple of weeks. Also, even if the snow field crossing is still present, you might be able to walk around the sides and top of it then. However, it is difficult to predict completely.

The problem is that if you try to diagonally cross the snow field when it is icy and hard, it is highly possible that you will go for a long, quick ride.

What is important, I feel, is to stay on the main scree trail to the right of the big rock. That gives you the best options.

There is an adult marmot that lives at the top, but he cannot issue any guidance until you get up to the top.

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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by cgundersen » Tue Aug 06, 2019 1:33 pm

Bobby,
#43 on the big hill is dang impressive. Is this an annual event? And, in this big snow year, how were the crowds up there? cameron

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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by bobby49 » Tue Aug 06, 2019 1:45 pm

First of all, Mount Whitney has the east side and then the west side. For 40 years, I always went up and down the main east side trail in a day (annually). My best one way time was 4 hr 15 min from Whitney Portal.

However, that was getting harder and harder. When I tried for #41, I failed when I felt like crap. So, the following year I hiked across the park on the HST and went up the west side successfully. That was good, and I exited out over Cottonwood Pass on the sixth day. For #42, I entered at Shepherd Pass and did the west side of Whitney. Just last week I repeated that one for #43. This pass getting more difficult when I've reached a certain age. For next year, I don't know yet. I might enter over Cottonwood Pass to the west side.

As for snow, there was a normal amount for this time of year. There were a couple of insignificant snow patches on the west side. Then there was a bigger snow patch near the summit where the standard trail makes its rise and curve. There were three options. Option 1 was to simply walk up the slick snow path and hope that you didn't slide. Option 2 was to walk it using microspikes. Option 3 was to turn and take the steeper talus shortcut immediately before the snow field. For a variety of reasons, I chose Option 2.

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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by cgundersen » Wed Aug 07, 2019 2:22 pm

OK, I get it: the annual jog up Whitney! Man, you must know that trail like the back of your hand, so I can understand coming at it from a different direction. If you opt for Cottonwood, that stretch coming from Miter basin over Crabtree pass for the western approach is pretty sweet with the Kaweahs looming across the valley and the rest of the Great Western divide. cg

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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by bobby49 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 3:29 pm

I'm not sure that "jog" is the correct term. From Crabtree to the summit, my speed was a mere 1 mph. I was passed by an extended family of 14 that was camping at Guitar Lake. There were family members from age 7 to age 68.

Going over Crabtree Pass might be a lot shorter, but it doesn't have much of a trail.

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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by Captain Slappy » Wed Aug 07, 2019 6:52 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Tue Aug 06, 2019 8:24 am
Can you elaborate on what you mean by "dicey"? I will be descending from Shepherd Pass on Aug 20, give or take a day. I really hate to carry crampons (or microspikes which I would have to buy) for that one small bit of snow. Was the snow icy or just poor steps and steep, runout bad?
Ditto. I'll be ascending the pass eight days from now (on Aug. 15 or 16) so wondering how much of a gamble not having spikes is. If there's a real risk of a serious slip or fall, I'll be purchasing some. There are also knock off spikes which are much cheaper and have variable reviews for reliability. Since I'll also be descending from Shepherd a few days later, I might be able to stash them near the pass somewhere.

Congrats on your Whitney ascent!

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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by bobby49 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 7:23 pm

In 2018, I did this trip the same way. I got near the top of Shepherd Pass, and there was some snow. However, it was only thirty paces or so over a path that was relatively flat. I did not have microspikes, and it might have been overkill then. A few days later when I returned to descend, the snow was almost gone. For 2019, it was more snow, and the path angle was upward. If you fall, you would take a very long ride down. The good news: it probably would not be lethal, because there weren't a lot of big rocks embedded in the hard snow.

The snow will be receding in the next week, due to heat, but it is difficult to predict how fast that happens. It might recede enough that you can walk around the upper edge of the snow field.

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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by Wandering Daisy » Wed Aug 07, 2019 7:33 pm

Dicey is a climbing term meaning potentially dangerous. I knew that. I just wanted to know exactly WHAT makes it so. Snow is often "dicey" because it is a changeable medium- can be perfect in one minute and then go really bad an hour later. Dicey snow becomes a dicey route when a fall would result in serious injury or death. Rocks or a lake below the fall line is not good. Snow steep enough to get you sliding at a great speed quickly is not good. Hard icy snow, even at low slopes, is not good without traction.

I have been eying micro-spikes for a year, so I just bought some today from REI. I got the Kahtoola MICROspikes. $69. They got very good reviews. I wore my hiking shoes and the small fit perfectly! They weigh 11.45 oz including the sturdy carrying bag. I do not need very deep spikes since I already have crampons for those conditions.

The biggest advantage to me, is that traction devices allow you to cross snow more hours during the day. There was late snow in 2010 and from Iceberg Lake to Cecil Lake (the snowfield where someone recently died), I had to sit and wait 3 hours before it softened, and lucky for me, waited for a large group to descend, so I had fresh deep tracks to use.

I am going from Cottonwood to Shepherd Pass, one way; if I were looping from Shepherd, I too would leave them at the pass.

My Crocks weigh the same, so if I wanted to keep my pack weight the same, I could just cross streams in my hiking shoes and take an extra pair of socks. I never use the Crocks as camp shoes - only purpose is wading streams. And if the crossing is swift, I use my hiking shoes anyway. Wet shoes are annoying but not critical for me.

PS- weather report shows cool temperatures well into next week. Days high 50's, nights near freezing at 11,500. Even predicting some snow at 12,200 if it rains the next few days.

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