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Condition of Shepherd Pass

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Condition of Shepherd Pass

Postby Phil R » Thu Feb 02, 2006 9:48 am

I hope this is the right forum for this question. Last year's heavy snows seems to have severely affected the Shepherd Pass trail and the pass itself. Does anyone know the status of the pass and whether or not there are plans to do anything? Just curious!



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Re: Condition of Shepherd Pass

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Feb 02, 2006 11:20 am

Phil R wrote:I hope this is the right forum for this question. Last year's heavy snows seems to have severely affected the Shepherd Pass trail and the pass itself. Does anyone know the status of the pass and whether or not there are plans to do anything? Just curious!

I don't know how most feel on this issue, but I think, as others who have weighed in on this in various books (Sierra South?, and Secor's guide?, as I recall) that the money spent maintaining the uppermost part of the trail (last several hundred vertical feet) could be better spent elsewhere. The reason is that the rate of rockfall and such on the upper part is so high that one needs pretty much annual trail reconstruction (not routine maintenance) for this section. I recall there was a major re-engineering effort circa early to mid 90's that supposedly rebuilt the upper part of the trail to superhighway standards. My wife and I descended this trail a few years after this reconstruction in July 1996 and found that the upper part of the trail had been pretty much completely destroyed by rockfall. I think the upper part of the this pass is best left as the class 2 pass it almost always is. Frankly I think the funds would be better spent trying to bypass that demoralizing 600' of elevation loss section where the trail crosses over from the Symmes to Shepherd Creek drainages. If you look at the topography and nature of the ground there the amount of trail engineering and cost necessary to pull this off is probably equal to one or two "re-dos" of the upper part of trail.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Postby Phil R » Thu Feb 02, 2006 4:09 pm

Thanks for the reply. My trip on the Shepherd Pass trail was in August 2002 and it was fine. The last 200-400 ft. of elevation gain was in snow, but the trail was easy to navigate. A lot of people probably agree with your assessment.

I agree about the "demoralizing portion"....would love to avoid that.

I am not sure how much damage last winter's avalanche did to the trail or exactly where it was.
People are friendly at 6000 ft...and the higher you go, the friendlier they get.
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Shepherd Pass

Postby gdurkee » Sat Feb 04, 2006 7:03 pm

Yes, sometime in the mid-90s the trail received some major construction work. Alas, the crew hired was from South Carolina (I'm making that up, sort of) and had almost no experience with serious rock. Also, the upper section (last 1/2 mile) is, I'm pretty sure, on a rock glacier so it might actually be moving. The work in the 90s built wall only 3 or 4 courses vertical and was pretty close to useless for more than a season. So the short answer is that a lot of money was spent for almost no gain... .

I'm not sure how much work has been done since, but it's basically routine maintenance. And USFS doesn't have much money for basic maintenance -- they get some large funds for projects, but not seasonal repair.

Also, of course, the last 1/2 mile + is under snow until at least mid-July and some years until September, so that means even more rock rolling onto the trail and the minimal walls collapsing.

Unlikely that will ever change. The several horse packers that use the pass have been complaining for years without effect.

Still, a nice pass to do once... .

George
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Postby BSquared » Sat Feb 04, 2006 8:01 pm

A nice pass to do once


Yeah, I did it once ;) Worst trip of my life, but no fault of Shepherd pass. Went in over New Army, got to Crabtree and climbed Whitney (first time), then out to Tyndall and over Shepherd. Only clear day of the entire trip was (happily) the Whitney climb. Cold, rainy/snowy. Of course that was around a hundred years ago, and mostly what I remember about the pass itself was that we were on our way OUT! Hallelujah! I've had so many great times in the Sierra, I guess it's good to remember that they weren't all good ;)
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Postby copeg » Sat Feb 04, 2006 8:24 pm

I did shepherd a few years back - l loved it. Felt sorry for a few climbing up though, they ran out of water before even cresting the hump. I'd offered water but they refused. This was about 3PM. They passed my camp at Mohogany flat after 10PM.

Phil, go to webshots and search for Shepherd pass. Looks like wingding travelled through that area last summer....http://community.webshots.com/photo/385361892/1385363319028356326OwDyXq
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Postby Phil R » Sat Feb 04, 2006 9:13 pm

Trailblazer - Thanks! I had seen those pics and forgot about them. Wingding actually helped scout out our trip we had planned to Wright Lakes Basin last year. We switched to Kearsarge Pass and then based on here pics decided not to mess with Wright Lakes Basin.

I think Shepherd Pass is going to be a poor choice for people who have to have a class 1 trail all the way.

Thanks!
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Postby giantbrookie » Sat Feb 04, 2006 10:27 pm

Phil R wrote:I think Shepherd Pass is going to be a poor choice for people who have to have a class 1 trail all the way.

This is certainly true. In fact, if you go anytime before mid July (in a 'normal' to 'above normal' snowfall year) be prepared for some steep snow near the top. Depending on the snow conditions the higher snowfields can be potentially hazardous, as they are steep with no run out. In such conditions an ice axe is desireable. An early start from Symmes Creek is also recommended for it is good to get beyond the first hump (and heartbreaking descent thereafter) before it gets too warm.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Postby copeg » Sun Feb 05, 2006 9:35 am

giantbrookie wrote:
Phil R wrote:I think Shepherd Pass is going to be a poor choice for people who have to have a class 1 trail all the way.

This is certainly true. In fact, if you go anytime before mid July (in a 'normal' to 'above normal' snowfall year) be prepared for some steep snow near the top. Depending on the snow conditions the higher snowfields can be potentially hazardous, as they are steep with no run out. In such conditions an ice axe is desireable. An early start from Symmes Creek is also recommended for it is good to get beyond the first hump (and heartbreaking descent thereafter) before it gets too warm.

A picture of that lovely snowfield in late July in a normal snowfall year -

Image
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Postby Snow Nymph » Mon Feb 06, 2006 2:50 am

Here's a view looking down from Shepherds Pass: http://community.webshots.com/photo/163 ... 4790oCnQMe
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison


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Postby Phil R » Mon Feb 06, 2006 9:30 am

SN - Thanks for the pic.

Reminds me of Sawtooth a few years ago where we didn't have a maintained trail through the scree...except there we had a lot more elevation gain and dozens of use trails that didn't go anywhere. Then I feel twice going down the East slope.

Come to think of it, I fell coming down from Shepherd Pass too!
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Postby wingding » Mon Feb 06, 2006 10:49 am

Actually, the Shepherd Pass Trail was in very good condition last July 4th weekend. Trail work had already been done in the avalanche area. Last year was a heavy snow year, so there was more snow to deal with at the pass than there would be in an average year.

Here's a picture of the pass area on July 3, 2005:

Image

We did Williamson over the the 4th of July weekend last year. More pictures of the trip and the Shepherd Pass Trail:

http://kathywing.smugmug.com/gallery/1101326
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