Trip Advice: upper kern area

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Mike M.
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Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Post by Mike M. » Sat Dec 08, 2018 11:06 am

If you enter at Kearsarge, I would do the loop clockwise, moving through Center Basin, over Junction Pass, Shepherd Pass, Forester Pass and then out Kearsarge. Note though that because it is so convenient (it gets you into the high country quickly and has a generous trailhead quota), Kearsarge Pass is extremely crowded, more so than the JMT itself. For much more solitude, you could start and exit at Shepherd Pass, but it is a long, hot, grueling hike from the desert floor, starting at 6,300 ft as opposed to Kearsarge, where the trailhead starts at 9,200 ft. I prefer entering at Kearsarge because it's easier on my old bones.

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Rockyroad
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Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Post by Rockyroad » Sat Dec 08, 2018 11:43 am

I hiked Onion Valley to Whitney on the JMT about 5 years ago and after the crowd at Kearsarge Pass, I only saw 2 other hikers (Catra aka Dirt Diva and her friend) on the trail until Crabtree Meadows. I did detour to Lake So. America and actually, there was a crowd camped at Wallace Creek which I avoided. I would speculate that most people on the JMT are southbound so you really won’t run into too many people on the trail if also traveling southbound, as long as you avoid the popular camping spots. Besides, for me, I don’t mind the occasion hiker on the trail as long as I find seclusion while camping. Choose the route based on scenery and be creative where you spend the night.

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Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Post by sekihiker » Tue Dec 11, 2018 6:25 pm

Harlen wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 10:29 pm
I reckon Harrison Pass is the most common as it used to be the regular route before Forester was created.
Actually, Junction Pass was the one replaced by Forester.

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Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Dec 11, 2018 8:47 pm

I have backpacked Shepherd, Harrison and Forrester passes and day-hiked in Center Basin to the upper lake. You can easily do a side-trip up to Center Basin while still going over Forrester. A few years back I traversed x-country above the trail from the lakes at tree line north of Forrester Pass directly to Center Basin; it was really not worth the effort. Better to just go down the trail and back up. I agree that Forrester is the most scenic but can be crowded. Avoiding the surge of PCT'ers helps. By August most are already gone. In my opinion, the misery of Harrison is not worth the lesser scenery (a side trip to Reflection Lake, although, is worthwhile). Harrison does land you right at the head of the Kern which is quite handy. Shepherd Pass is grueling but I like it. The 500-foot loss on the way up is mainly a psychological hurdle; a real shocker if you are not anticipating it! If the weather is good there is nice scenic camping just above timber, above Pothole. Shepherd Pass gives you an extra day or two in the upper Kern too. The key to Shepherd Pass, like Taboose Pass, is a crack-of-dawn start. It seems to me that if you do Junction, why not just go in Shepherd?

Kearsarge is logistically nice because I can still hike in a few miles the same day I drive down. Matlock Lake is a great first night camp. Onion Valley is becoming a standard resupply TH for the PCT, so it is getting more crowded. One trip I hiked up to Vidette Lakes the second night and then dropped back down to go over Forrester Pass. You can easily day-hike up to Vidette Lakes too. Fair fishing at the first Vidette Lake too.

There is one advantage of Forrester if you go early season; the PCT'ers will have already broken trail through the snow. The snowfield at the top on Shepherd Pass can be quite difficult if you are the first ones up.

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