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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Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Post by richlong8 » Tue Dec 18, 2018 4:29 pm

I have gone to the Upper Kern via Shepherd Pass. I picked up a permit in the afternoon, and waited to start until about 5pm. At that time of day, a great breeze tends to blow down the canyon, and you are in shade pretty quickly due to the time of day. There is a prominent saddle(waterless), around 10K, and you can camp there for the night, then move over to the other drainage in the morning, hitting a good stream in about a mile. Good way to beat the heat, and acclimate. The trail can be a little loose the last section before the pass, but no big deal, if you pay attention. This approach puts you right in the middle of beautiful country quickly, if you are willing to pay the price, but I don't see that Forrester from Kearsage is much easier, and you will have a lot more privacy on the Shepherd trail.

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Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Post by wsp_scott » Fri Dec 21, 2018 1:28 pm

I appreciate all the advice. At this point, I don't think Shepherd Pass will work since I am coming from 1000' and will have to pick up my permit in the morning that I enter, so no early start.

So, I am going to hope to get a permit (1 person and Monday = hopefully not a problem) to enter at Kearsarge Pass and spend the first night somewhere between Kearsarge Lakes and Vidette Meadows (depending on how I'm feeling). I've never been over Forester Pass, so I will go south that way, perhaps checking out Center Basin. That should get me near Lake South America and the Upper Kern by the end of the 3rd day. That gives me a couple days to check out the Upper Kern area as well as Wallace/Wales Lakes and possibly Wright Lake Basin as well. Then maybe go over Shepherd/Junction Passes on the way back to Kearsarge Pass.
My trip reports: backpackandbeer.blogspot.com

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Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Post by wsp_scott » Fri Feb 01, 2019 12:06 pm

So it appears that permits are going to drive this trip. I had been checking recreation.gov for the week leading up to the day my permit would become available (1/29) and it looked like getting a permit for Kearsarge Pass was not going to be a problem. On the 29th I went on a long wet/cold dayhike, got home and dinner and kids bedtime and logged on around 9pm EST and found that everything was already taken for 7/29 arrrrgh!!! Go to bed and maybe something magic will happen overnight :)

Wake up and no surprise, all permits are gone :(

So now I am entering at Shepherd Pass and I am a little nervous about the climb and the heat (picking up my permit that morning). I plan on going slow, drinking lots of water and hopefully not dying before I make it to Anvil Camp :) On the bright side, I should have more time in the Upper Kern and Wallace/Wales areas, so yay! :)

If snow is still a problem on Shepherd, how likely am I to get a walk up permit for Kearsarge?
My trip reports: backpackandbeer.blogspot.com

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Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Post by bobby49 » Fri Feb 01, 2019 12:14 pm

In July 2018, I went all the way over Shepherd Pass and made it to Tyndall Creek that afternoon. I do a lot better in the cool air of the early morning. Kearsarge Pass is similar in that respect, only easier.

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Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Post by wsp_scott » Fri Feb 01, 2019 12:47 pm

Oh yeah, can a crappy rental car make it to the hiker's trailhead? Or do I have to hike the extra 1.5 miles from the stock trailhead?
My trip reports: backpackandbeer.blogspot.com

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Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Post by commonloon » Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:19 pm

I was there last year (late Aug) and lots of 2WD cars parked at the hiker parking. You may need to choose your line on the road to avoid bottoming out/scraping on rocks/ruts if you have low ground clearance, but its doable.

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