Trip Report Kearsarge to Shepherd Pass

Discussion about winter adventure sports in the Sierra Nevada mountains including but not limited to; winter backpacking and camping, mountaineering, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, etc.
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Hobbes
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Re: Trip Report Kearsarge to Shepherd Pass

Post by Hobbes » Sat May 27, 2017 7:36 am

I was just looking at your dates and realized we might have passed on each on the road. I drove up to Lone Pine on Wed (5/24) just after noon. After picking up my permit, I figured that rather than sit @ Portal all day, I'd mosey on up to Onion to see if any PCT hikers had come through and were looking for a lift. This was a win-win-win situation since I could burn some time, get some trail intelligence, and of course, do a good deed. :\

There were four hikers who had arrived shortly before and were in the process of packing up their snow gear: an Aussie (Rattler), a couple from Utah (forget their trail names), and a geology professor (Rock Doc) from Texas. They had been part of Ned Tibbit's group that formed up @ Chickenspring and went over Forester, Kearsarge and out.

It turns out Ned had aggravated a sprained knee from a previous injury up @ the Pothole, so he was waiting to be helicoptered out. As we were driving back down to Indy, we saw the helo fly overhead, assuming he was ok. When I dropped them off @ the Mt Williamson hotel, the owner mentioned the helo couldn't land in the wind, so Ned had to hike out on his own power. I took off back to LP, so I didn't stick around to see how the situation resolved.

One thing we did discuss on the way down, however, was the resumption of their hike after a 2 day layover. I asked them if they had heard anything about Glen or Mather; empty silence. They hadn't yet studied the next section of their maps, so the names were completely foreign. I'm not one to engage in fear mongering, but I mentioned I thought both were more difficult than Forester. Empty silence again.

I went on to explain that Forester has that narrow 10-20 yard exposed section between the two rock sections, but that both Glen and Mather have long, 200 yard completely exposed sections traversing over 45+ degree slopes with 1k run-outs. As an added bonus, Mather has a nice cornice above the standard east trail route, so it's necessary to create a winter switchback going up the west side. Silence. So, to cheer them up, I suggested that they check around on the 2017 class boards for input, talk to Ned, and perhaps team up with some others (who it turns out you had met) who might lead the way. What I did say is that they probably wouldn't want to be the first across - let someone else make the initial boot tracks.

Now with the news of the Woods creek bridge maybe being damaged, I wonder that if they did go back in, whether they still had to turn around (and do Glen twice - yipee). This Swiss couple, who might have been the first hikers across Tyndall, initially bailed @ Cottonwood, tried again, and decided to chill for a few weeks at the coast. You can check here - the comments and input are interesting as well:

https://www.instagram.com/with_a_blonde/








Cross Country
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Re: Trip Report Kearsarge to Shepherd Pass

Post by Cross Country » Sat May 27, 2017 11:43 am

You're the "only" person except for me who had a dog named bear. It's actually a very interesting story, but it's not about backpacking. It's about a dog.

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Re: Trip Report Kearsarge to Shepherd Pass

Post by rlown » Sat May 27, 2017 11:46 am

Had a JRT named Bear. Left him with my mom while on vacation. Escaped and was hit by a truck. Ashes are sitting on my desk.. Dogs seem to like the open road.. Bubba, another JRT still with us escaped one morning.. found him in about 40 mins just before he was going to a deadly intersection. Dogs walk into the wind or the sun. Not sure why, but that thinking helped in my search..

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Re: Trip Report Kearsarge to Shepherd Pass

Post by DAVELA » Sat May 27, 2017 11:56 am

WOW,incredible.It is a dream of mine to be able to do one of these trips but i would have to improve my skillset considerably.

Harlen,when do you think the summer trail will emerge from all this snow?Or is it a question of 'if' ?!

Thanx for the beta as im thinking about doing kp and bf lake area.
Strictly a snowshoe guy at the moment.
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Harlen
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Re: Trip Report Kearsarge to Shepherd Pass

Post by Harlen » Sat May 27, 2017 3:23 pm

First, let me says thanks to the forum for your general tolerance of my errant behavior- more on that later. Let me reply to the few points, and questions that have come up:

Question: is the line the same path of the up-route you took 25 years ago? Hobbes.

Sorry to say I don't recall the exact line we took way back when. I do recall that one of my crampons loosened up at a critical juncture, and how very uncomfortable I felt with only one good foot on the slope until I had hacked out a sort of platform. So that means I was probably on the steeper slope, nearer to the summer path. The reason I drew in that line is because I could see that others had used it, and it was definitely a lesser angled slope under this year's conditions.
Kudos to you Hobbes for your good advice and assistance to the PCT'ers. While I too appreciate good steps where I find them, what I really appreciate is pair of light aluminum crampons, and an ice axe. I'll go weigh that stuff now .... okay, the light crampons weigh ~2lbs., (my heavy steel ones weigh 3lbs+.), and the light axe weighs 2lbs. My super light Stubai helmet (good for one small rock hit only) seems to float, but the 3 light items together weighed 5lbs.
I know those folks like to go light, but I'll take safety gear over lightness every time. 6 trips over Shepherd, eh Hobbes? I wonder where all you explored on those trips- ever get up Wallace Creek to see those beautiful lakes?

Does your dog overheat with his dark fur? Do dogs get sunburn? Those days on snow can really bake a person. Daisy

"Bear's" coat is one outer layer only Daisy, so I worry more about keeping him warm at night. No sunburn for hairy dogs, I hope, but we are right now considering shaving half the fur off "Wolfie"- our Mountain Pomeranian, to keep him cooler on our upcoming trip to the wide open- no shade anywhere- Humphrey's Basin. My real concerns for Bear are dehydration, and burnt eyes. For all I've been told not worry about his eyes, I get a visceral reaction when I see him squinting in the light. I will look further into that, and please- any advice from this forum will be appreciated.

My other concern is about over-work, and dehydration (for both of us!) You're dead right about the heat. As you know, there is often no open water available for days up there, and eating snow provides precious little water- less than 5% water to snow in the high and dry places. I constantly offer Bear boiled water, but he rarely drinks it!? Mixing warm milk in with his food has proven to be the best way to get fluid down him, and I will continue to do it, even though Russ thinks I am ridiculous! And now that he knows I warm up milk and Bailey's Irish Cream for "Bear," I am really in for it!

Okay, now for my defense, beyond Bear's "nolo contendre" :

I can honestly say that this was the first and only time I have ever taken one of our dogs into a National Park. I wasn't sure I would go through with it, right
until I was up there on Kearsarge Pass- the very boundary between right and wrong. My legal option was to ski back down the lovely slope, and spend four more days exploring Onion Valley, or I could go back to my car and drive up to Bishop Creek, and explore that even wider area of legal National Forest land. That appealed to me, and to my clouded conscience, but you may recall that I had spontaneously arranged to have couple of guys drive my car around nearly 15 desert miles to Symmes Creek, immediately below my exit route. Perhaps that tipped the balance- I don't know; I believe I was pulled literally over the edge, and into my life of crime by the stirring landscape of the King's-Kern Divide- land of my dreams. Every trip to Kearsarge Pass is like a pilgrimage to sacred ground for me- being the place where I first viewed the High Sierra.

So off I went. I would move with Bear over very well-traveled ground, for just 18 miles. I would not have taken Bear into a more remote area, nor would I have been so bold had it been summer, and full of people, some of whom surely abhor seeing dogs in the wilderness. I have thought long and hard about all the contending issues, and my painful decision is not to do it again. Thankfully, there are endless possibilities in the dog-friendly Eastern Sierra, right up to the summit of the passes, and there is that legal zone from Glacier Divide to the Yosemite boundary. We'll live there, and in the wild country west of Mt Shasta, the Trinity Alps, the Ruby's?, and many parts of the Rockies- our very favorite being the dog-friendly Wind River Range- the most beautiful range of all, save for that stunning little pocket of peaks- The Tetons.

But for now- for 18 miles, I was guilty. The issues re. people were negligible- I met almost no one. Bear does not chase, (I roped him up for the many deer in Symmes Creek) nor does he bark. I dutifully buried every **** I saw him do, and he did not roam far and wide, so the habitat disturbance factor was minimized.

That brings me to my last point, the real reason I feel guilty is not to do with the human impacts, but one that has not been mentioned per se so far in the posts- that is, the impact of a dog on wildlife. The myriad signs a dog leaves, and the immediate presence of the dog in the area can cause habitat displacement to local wildlife, and that is something I can't condone. I told myself that winter and early spring are the time of least disturbance, but it could still be significant. Interesting questions to pursue farther are whether or not a single dog's presence presents more disturbance than seven raucus humans? And how far can we take the wishful concept that a domestic dog is similar enough to the gray wolves who formerly roamed the Sierra, not to cause such an unnatural disturbance? To me the main stumbling block there, is that domestic dogs are much more likely than the former wolves to carry diseases, worms, and other parasites that can harm the native wildlife.

Again, I thank most all of you for your tolerance, for not casting too many stones at me. I hope you see that I am not the renegade I might have seemed.
I am always happy to carry on a respectful discussion, with the caveat that I will respond badly to any rudeness. All the best, Harlen.
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No dog!
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rlown
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Re: Trip Report Kearsarge to Shepherd Pass

Post by rlown » Sat May 27, 2017 3:49 pm

A very nice Mea culpa.. Still a nice report.. :)

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Re: Trip Report Kearsarge to Shepherd Pass

Post by Hobbes » Sat May 27, 2017 4:21 pm

Cross Country wrote:It's actually a very interesting story, but it's not about backpacking. It's about a dog.
It's also about hardcore cross-country winter camping, skiing and hiking, so perhaps Eric can create a brand new category for trip reports labeled: "Hardcore cross-country winter camping, skiing and hiking with a dog". :rock:

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Re: Trip Report Kearsarge to Shepherd Pass

Post by Hobbes » Sat May 27, 2017 4:29 pm

Harlen wrote: 6 trips over Shepherd, eh Hobbes? I wonder where all you explored on those trips- ever get up Wallace Creek to see those beautiful lakes?
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Re: Trip Report Kearsarge to Shepherd Pass

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sat May 27, 2017 4:35 pm

I am no biologist, so my observations may be bilssfully ignorant. A person is not something wildlife are accostomed to seeing in the winter/spring snow. I would think this would disturb wildlife as much as a dog. People are allowed. I have seen several coyote in the moutains. A dog is just a varient of a coyote. Proabably more a part of that natural environment than us. The rationale that dogs are not allowed because they disturb wildlife doesn't add up. The animals do not know the difference between being in a National Park or the Forest Service wilderness. Why OK on one and not the other? I would guess that the ban on dogs has more to do with complaints and the fact that an ill trained dog can be destructive to wildlife, and unfortunately, rules are written for the lowest common denominator.

My dog often does not drink water when I think she should. You cannot force a dog to drink. Our vet says that you should not cut the hair/fur in the summer and that they are actually cooler with the full coat. I carry an insulating sleeping pad with a fleece cover for the dog. If you have the dog sleep on it at home, it is something familiar for them on the backpack. It is one of those blue foam pads from REI- I cut it to her size. Not much extra weight, but a bit bulky.

If you have been in the Wind RIvers, not sure if you have ever been over "Pain-in-the-Ass Pass' (the col between Mt. Bonnevill and Raid Peak). A stray Great Pyreneese sheep dog followed me over that pass- snow, huge talus and all! The dog actually found a better route than I did. I am always amazed at what dogs can do. I love the Winds too - no permits, no quotos, few rules. I actually wrote an off-trail guidebook to the Winds. I just put out the second edition about a month ago.

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Re: Trip Report Kearsarge to Shepherd Pass

Post by Harlen » Sat May 27, 2017 6:34 pm

Hi Daisy, Is that you and your friends at the lake off Shepherd Pass?

I'm afraid the issue around dogs-humans vs wildlife is sometimes loaded up against the dogs, if only because so many dog owners allow their dogs to pursue wildlife, and to crap up the place. As I mentioned before, the domestic dog as a disease vector, and as an effective harasser of wildlife are significant disturbance factors.

Of course, in the bigger picture, it is the human species, with its barely controlled population explosion, coupled with our insane rate of consumption of the Earth's resources, that is far and away the greatest cause of what Bill McKibben so woefully calls "The End of Nature." His perspective is even bleaker than mine. But my current bedside reading is Elizabeth Kolbert's sad tract: The Sixth Extinction .... the one caused by us. It is not the best book to read before you turn in.

Below are a few points made on this issue that I just quickly searched up online:

.... Indirect Predation. Even when dogs are unsuccessful in catching the object of their chase, the potential prey has had to expend significant energy in order to save their life. Since in many cases animals are just barely surviving, expenditure of extra energy may push them over the edge to malnutrition and allow other predators to kill them. In particular, pregnant wildlife and newborn animals do not have the reserves to repeatedly expend in avoiding dogs. (Effects of Recreation on Rocky Mountain Wildlife: Summary of the September 1999 Review for Montana)

.... Disease Transmission. It is worth recalling that the primary effect on Native Americans due to European immigration to the Americas was the importation of disease which killed off the majority of the Native Population. Dogs can apparently transmit a number of pathogens to wildlife:
•Parvovirus affects other canines, and was the source for wolf pup mortality in Glacier National Park area in the early 1990s.
•Muscle cysts (Sarcocystis spp.) can affect ungulates like deer and elk.
•Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects the kidneys and urinary tract of most species of mammals.
•Parasites such as ticks, keds, tapeworms, and fleas are well-known problems in dogs that can be passed to other wildlife.


I spent my main professional life as a Restoration Ecologist, and I learned firsthand about the intense pressure dogs can put on sensitive species. Working to preserve the Threatened Species, the Western Snowy Plover, we determined that an active dog produces ~ 20X the pressure on the bird's sensitive breeding ground as does an active human (nests are placed right on the sandy ground). It's just that the energetic dogs cover so much area, and that they can key in on small flightless chicks, and sniff out nests that people either wouldn't notice, or would leave alone ... when is the last time you chased a deer a mile through the forest, or charged after a marmot Daisy?! All the best, Harlen.

p.s. On a lighter note, that sounded like a really great route you did up Thunder Mtn., and around Milestone Creek. Some of our very best hikes have been in and around the King's-Kern Divide, and all around the Upper Kern Basins. Have you been into Kaweah Basin, Pyra-Queen Col? In my youth, I once bolted up first Red, then Black Kaweah Peak on the same afternoon- That was a lovely day.
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Harlen, all set to fight off a marauding beer, .. or was it a Yeti?
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