Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Questions and reports related to Sierra Nevada current and forecast conditions, as well as general precautions and safety information. Trail conditions, fire/smoke reports, mosquito reports, weather and snow conditions, stream crossing information, and more.
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Wandering Daisy
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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri Aug 09, 2019 7:33 am

Thanks again Bobby for the information. Any comments on the following strategy?

Ending at Shepherd Pass with less then a day's food and a possibility (even if very slim) of getting safely down the snowfield leaves me with few good options. Perhaps reversing the route is better; going up Shepherd Pass, in worst case, I could just go back down. Going south also allows me to see conditions of Crabtree Pass (cannot get any recent information on this pass) and getting around the upper lake so I could detour via the PCT if needed. Also concerned about Rockwell Pass (in 2017 it had snow on the north side). And once to Whitney Creek, I would have several options to exit. I have hauled a heavy pack up Shepherd Pass before and it is brutal, but if I camp at Mahogany Flat I can break it into two reasonable segments and hit the pass mid-day instead of in the morning. I will be carrying micro-spikes.

On the other hand, if I go in Cottonwood I would not get to Shepherd Pass until Aug. 20 give or take a day. By that time maybe it would not even matter. This would save 5,000 feet elevation gain, but over an 11-day trip that is not very significant, so not a big factor.








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wsp_scott
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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by wsp_scott » Fri Aug 09, 2019 7:46 am

I was at Shepherd Pass on Aug 1-2 (hiked up from the JMT for the night). I talked to a couple of peakbaggers at the pass and one 60ish solo backpacker/fisher who had crossed the snow below the pass. No one thought that the snow was a big deal. When I looked over the edge, there were very obvious boot tracks that appeared very solid. I suspect that most people here would not have a problem if they are not too focused on the potential of a long slide/fall, i.e. focus on your steps and don't focus on the falling part :)

As far as warming temps, when I woke up the morning of the 2nd, there were ice crystals in my water bottle.

I have no doubt that someone with @Wandering Daisy's experience would be able to cross the bit of snow that is there now, much less in a couple more weeks.
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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:03 am

Thanks. I am not as worried about actually falling, but that the snow would itself be unstable and I would post-hole and then fall. That happened to me before in Ionian Basin. I post-holed, got jammed in such a way that I could not get out without taking off my pack, which then slid down to the lake and thankfully not into the lake! I am more worried about snow at its ending melt stage then solid snow.

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bobby49
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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by bobby49 » Fri Aug 09, 2019 9:06 am

I descended over the top of the Shepherd Pass snow field at 3 p.m. 8/3. My boots with microspikes were sinking in only about a quarter inch. Postholing was the least of the problems.

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Captain Slappy
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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by Captain Slappy » Sun Aug 11, 2019 1:56 pm

bobby49 wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 7:23 pm
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.
I appreciate the intel on this. I went ahead and ordered a pair of the Microspike knockoffs called Uelfbaby Polar Cruisers for $25 from Amazon. I will most likely be hauling them up Shepherd this week just to cover my bases. I'd much rather be prepared and not have to use them. It's worth the weight to me. From Shepherd, I'm headed to the Tyndall Creek cutoff and hopefully to Kaweah Basin as an out and back hike. I'll post an update on the pass conditions when I get back.

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bobby49
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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by bobby49 » Sun Aug 11, 2019 2:27 pm

Before you get to the snow field, consider the time of day that you want to cross the snow. Last year, I crossed at 2 p.m. This year, it was 3 p.m.

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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by dbogey » Mon Aug 12, 2019 6:10 pm

we are heading up shepherd's pass this Saturday and heading into milestone basin. looks like a lot of passes are holding some snow. we are not taking microspikes as of now. crossing milestone pass then into picket creek area for a few days.
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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by TurboHike » Thu Aug 15, 2019 6:15 am

I went over Shepherd Pass on Aug. 9th about 10 a.m. I had trekking poles but did not use microspikes. I followed the boot path and there was a soft layer of snow on top of firmer snowpack. It did not feel unsafe to me, but there were a couple of other people who were putting on microspikes.

I returned over Shepherd Pass on Aug. 12th about 12 p.m. Same situation, soft layer of snow on top of firmer snowpack. The boot path no longer lined up exactly with the trail due to melting, which required descending from the trail about 5 feet on loose granular terrain to get into the boot track.

A few other observations:

Symmes Creek is still running a good flow. The four crossings were easy and only ankle deep, but wet shoes each time.

Crossing Shepherd Creek near Anvil Camp is just rock hopping. No wet shoes here.

There were several small low angle snow fields above the pothole that I crossed.

On the approach to the pass there were 2 or 3 corners of switchbacks that were covered in snow. There was some trail erosion where people had cut the switchbacks to avoid the snow.

Rockwell Pass had a snow cornice on the north side. I did not attempt to cross.

The saddle to get up to the Lake South America junction had a snow field at the top. I did not attempt to cross.

I crossed Tyndall Creek north of the JMT intersection with the Shepherd Pass trail. It was knee deep in areas, but I found a braided section and managed to cross in shin deep water. Dumped the water out of my shoes when I reached the other side.

Lots of snow fields along the Great Western Divide. Very pretty.

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Captain Slappy
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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by Captain Slappy » Mon Aug 19, 2019 8:46 pm

I crossed Shepherd Pass on Friday and again today (August 19). After talking with some different hikers on their way down on Friday, I decided to leave the spikes behind. They thought the snow was very doable without spikes.

Going up in the afternoon on Friday, the snow was soft, which made it easy to plant a hiking pole to help during the crossing. Coming down this morning around 9 am, though, it was tough getting much help from the hiking pole and I crossed cautiously as the snow was harder. It felt okay moving slowly and using the foot prints in the snow.
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Re: Shepherd Pass and Mount Whitney

Post by agfhst » Tue Aug 20, 2019 5:32 am

Thanks, Captain Slappy - this and your bug post are very helpful.

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