Shepherd Pass?

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Wandering Daisy
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Shepherd Pass?

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri Aug 04, 2017 7:36 am

Anyone been over Shepherd Pass recently? I am considering going into the upper Kern next week and considering two entry points- Shepherd Pass and Onion Valley-Kearsarge. I have been over both before. I hope to do a one-way and come out at Cottonwood. Shepherd is the shortest but I may need crampons, in which case I would have to carry them the entire trip. Kearsarge is longer, but according to the SEKI trail report, crampons are not needed on Forrester Pass. On neither route would I do the passes early in the morning, so I think I can do without crampons. I just would like a little more current information before I go all the way up Shepherd Pass and then discover I cannot make it. Kearsarge is pretty much a sure thing. I could also loop in and out via Shepherd Pass, in which case I could stash the crampons at the pass. This is "Plan C".

Also would like to fish, so hope that the lakes below 11,500 feet are open. Theoreticaly, the south facing open upper reaches of the Kern should melt out fairly early. But this year is anything but theoretical!








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Re: Shepherd Pass?

Post by Vaca Russ » Fri Aug 04, 2017 8:04 am

WD,

Great question! I hope we get an answer with pictures. I have a reservation to enter at Shepherd on the 15th. I would think by now there would be a well worn trail of steps in the snow making climbing easy with trekking poles.

I would be bummed to bring an ax and crampons only to find they are not needed.

It would be really nice if we could get some "Beta". :smirk:

Thanks for asking!

-Russ
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Kahil Gibran.

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Re: Shepherd Pass?

Post by Hobbes » Fri Aug 04, 2017 8:10 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:Anyone been over Shepherd Pass recently? I am considering going into the upper Kern next week and considering two entry points- Shepherd Pass and Onion Valley-Kearsarge. I have been over both before. I hope to do a one-way and come out at Cottonwood. Shepherd is the shortest but I may need crampons, in which case I would have to carry them the entire trip. Kearsarge is longer, but according to the SEKI trail report, crampons are not needed on Forrester Pass. On neither route would I do the passes early in the morning, so I think I can do without crampons. I just would like a little more current information before I go all the way up Shepherd Pass and then discover I cannot make it. Kearsarge is pretty much a sure thing. I could also loop in and out via Shepherd Pass, in which case I could stash the crampons at the pass. This is "Plan C".

Also would like to fish, so hope that the lakes below 11,500 feet are open. Theoreticaly, the south facing open upper reaches of the Kern should melt out fairly early. But this year is anything but theoretical!
Ah, yes, the old spring conundrum (except we're well into summer). While I do love Kearsarge/Vidette/Forester, it's going to be very, very busy this time of year. It's crowded during summer anyway, but with so many JMT permits being cancelled during July, everybody & their brother is going to be on it now. I try not to get down on anything, but I think the JMT will truly earn its freeway moniker this August.

Same will be true heading down to Cottonwood from LSA - the JMT will have lots of traffic heading south of Tyndall. You could go down the Kern, but then the HST will be routing another large number, again funneling into the JMT. It will be one monster party @ Guitar as everyone gets ready for Whitney and out. (Also, last week Andy could neither cross the Kern to heady to Colby, nor could he ford Tyndall @ Kern, so he had to head back to the HST.)

Between the crowds and potential snow on Shepherd, I think your best bet is to do a lolipop. As you mentioned, you could take crampons/spikes and stash them at the top of the pass somewhere. If you want to fish, the original meet-up lake one over is reputed to be one of three top GT fisheries. (The other two being Russ' lake - which I'm headed to in Sept - and Yeager's pond.) Of course, I assume you'd be heading over Crabtree/Miter if you stick with your Cottonwood exit?

The other option is to go over Army from Horseshoe, down to Miter, and then down to Yeager's. You could head down to the PCT @ Whitney meadow, and then power back to Cottonwood. (Both Army pass & Cottonwood originate out of HM.)

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Re: Shepherd Pass?

Post by Hobbes » Fri Aug 04, 2017 8:21 am

Vaca Russ wrote: I would think by now there would be a well worn trail of steps in the snow making climbing easy with trekking poles.
The two times I've crossed Shepherd in snow, there were boot tracks. Once, only a single pair which I was very, very careful to step into each, the other a decent pathway. The problem with Shepherd isn't traction - I don't think there's any real risk of slipping (snow giving out, yes) with a well worn tread. The danger is the freakin' 60 degree slope - I don't think self-arrest would even work. IMO, the key is self belay ie the old 3-points of contact. Again, however, the issue with less snow is there might not be enough to gain purchase with an axe on the uphill side.

This is where I think a Whippet really performs. Since it has a heavy aluminum shaft, you can really drive it down a few feet if so needed (take off the snow basket). Unlike a trekking pole, its tip end is very heavy & pointed. A true hybrid between pole & axe. I know this message can be tiresome, but I've become a real evangelist - everyone traveling in snow/ice should have a whippet. Leave one pole behind, and you still have two with which to walk, etc. If there's full coverage, then the axe is on your pack ready for truly steep sections, while the Whippet is always in your hand the rest of time. In fact, when the axe is out, you can still keep the Whippet in your downslope hand if so needed.

June 8, 2012:
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Re: Shepherd Pass?

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri Aug 04, 2017 11:07 am

I am not concerned about a crowded JMT. I will only be on the trail a bit over 2 days and the point of going in Kearsarge is simply to go fast and avoid Shepherd Pass. In fact a well beaten path over Forrester Pass would be quite helpful. Once in the upper Kern I will go off-trail. And yes, I would go to Sky Blue via Crabtree Lakes. The only section of this I have not done is the short section from the upper Crabtree Lake to Crabtree Pass. I have done the south side of the pass early season before (and did not use crampons).

If I could see that I could avoid the steep snow on Shepherd Pass, I would prefer that route in a heartbeat. One reason is that I want to do a day-hike into Williamson Bowl since I have never been there.

I also have a trip in SEKI out of Roads End planned, and I was going to do it first, except for all the reports of horrible mosquitoes on that route right now. My hope was that the upper Kern would still be high enough and windy enough to have less mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are also the reason I am avoiding the northern Sierra right now. This sure is a difficult year to plan a trip!

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Re: Shepherd Pass?

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sat Aug 05, 2017 8:43 am

SEKI website says as of 7/31, the upper switchbacks are 100% snow covered. Does not sound good.

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Re: Shepherd Pass?

Post by Hobbes » Sat Aug 05, 2017 9:13 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:SEKI website says as of 7/31, the upper switchbacks are 100% snow covered. Does not sound good.
Given the amount/degree of snow patches on the top mile (east side) of Taboose last week, I can certainly believe it.

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Re: Shepherd Pass?

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sat Aug 05, 2017 11:45 am

Unless I hear otherwise, my plan now is to add the extra day and go in from Kearsarge/Forrester and come out Cottonwood where I will be picked up.

I would consider coming out Whitney Portal, but not sure how to do the permit. I would NOT camp in the Whitney Zone, but how does one get a day-permit if one cannot pick it up? The Whitney zone exit allows camping in the Whitney zone, something I do not need. There are many more permits for day-use. At any rate, Whitney is an emergency exit if needed, if I get drastically delayed, permit or not.

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Re: Shepherd Pass?

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Aug 07, 2017 8:55 pm

I am leaving tomorrow for this 11 day trip to the Upper Kern. I decided to loop in and out from Onion Valley, even though it takes 2.5 days to reach the Upper Kern and I have to repeat the miles returning. This gives me more flexibility if anything is impassable. I did not want to commit to getting to Cottonwood, and have my husband sitting there waiting for me if I got stuck. Even if Forrester Pass is a problem, I can now just turn around and visit Center Basin, go over to Rae Lakes, or 60 Lakes Basin or even Gardnier or Baxter Lakes. If I come to an impassable stream, I just turn around and go back. Lots of flexibility. I do hope to get to Williamson Bowl. Maybe I can peek down Shepherd Pass and have some photos to show when I get back on the 20th.

If all goes as planned I will do a loop from the south side of Forrester Pass: traverse by the lakes below Diamond Mesa to Williamson Bowl, Wright Lakes, Wallace and Wales Lake, across the basin to Casper Lake, and the cirque below Mt Jordan, Lake South America and back to Forrester Pass; or the reverse direction, depending on snow conditions. Not sure I will make all my destinations. I am out to catch a huge fish that eluded me a few years ago! Haven't seen Wallace and Wales Lake in many years. And I will go to the lake in Wright Lakes basin that I call "ugly lake with fish" where I hope a few nice fish in the pot are guarenteed. By staying in the upper part of the Kern Basin I hope to avoid any horrible crossings. Tyndall at the PCT is reported to be difficult, but that was more than a week ago.

Total pack weight is 32 pounds, 13 pound of food plus bear can. Not taking crampons or ice axe. SEKI trail reports say they are not needed unless you do Forrester Pass early morning, which I will not do. Lots of PCT and JMT traffic over the pass, so there should be a well worn path in the snow. Supposedly less stormy as the week goes on.

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Re: Shepherd Pass?

Post by Vaca Russ » Mon Aug 21, 2017 9:33 am

I climbed up on 8-16 and down on 8-18. Here is what I can report.

The trail is quite socked in with snow.
1 Pass.JPG
But, it is melting fast. For example this is the lower snow crossing on 8-16:
2 Going Up 8-16.JPG
This is the crossing on 8-18:
3 Going Down 8-18.JPG
The only other snow crossing is on the top.
4 Snow Xing 8-16.JPG
5 Snow Xing 8-18.JPG
6 Snow Close Up.JPG
It is only about 8 steps and it is easy to kick in secure steps. It is, however, exposed if you did slip.

I brought my crampons but did not use them. Once you clear the snow on top you are free to go. There are many people climbing Shepherd with no issues.
7 Top Clear.JPG
The biggest issue is the climbing the pass where there is no trail.
8 Ugly Rubble.JPG
9 Looking Down 8-18.JPG
The loose sand / rocks / scree is a real PITA with a full pack.I hope this helps.

-Russ
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"...Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host and then a master?"

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