High Sierra Trail, Kaweah Gap Conditions / Experience

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aufsess
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High Sierra Trail, Kaweah Gap Conditions / Experience

Post by aufsess » Mon Jun 22, 2009 9:31 am

Hello HST,

I am going to start the High Sierra Trail this Saturday 6/27 and currently have no plans to bring a lot of winter mountaineering equipment (one ice axe for the "guide") -- there are seven of us and a couple are High Sierra virgins and most without a lot of early season experience. Any more recent current updates or experiences climbing the Kaweah gap? I know it has warmed up a lot since the last HST trail report, but the High Sierra Trail conditions recorded by the Wilderness Office Staff mention that winter mountaineering skills and equipment are recommended as of 6/21. Can anyone give me a better idea of what kind of skills and conditions I should prepare for at this time of year? Mostly I have heard from other sierra veterans that I shouldn't be concerned at this time of year (with the warming weather).

Also, I've heard that is a bit of a hazardous snow crossing in the deepest gorge, by the tunnel. Is this likely to still be present and has anyone ever set up an impromptu rope that beginners could hold onto / tie into? Also, it seems that the final climb over the gap from Precipice lake is covered in snow, but on the other hand it doesn't seem to have any exposure. I assume that a group of large men can create the boot tracks necessary for less experience hikers to travel safely and comfortably. Is it advisable to climb the gap late in the day so that the snow is maximally soft?

Finally, how does one say Kaweah?

Thanks for any advice or comments!

Alex








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Re: High Sierra Trail, Kaweah Gap Conditions / Experience

Post by ERIC » Mon Jun 22, 2009 10:10 am

aufsess wrote:Finally, how does one say Kaweah?
Pronounced Kaw-wee'-ah, with both a's pronounced like the a in "awe"
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Re: High Sierra Trail, Kaweah Gap Conditions / Experience

Post by copeg » Mon Jun 22, 2009 12:23 pm

Perhaps cgundersen can chime in as he was just there last week, but in the meantime if you haven't yet check out the trip report from that area last week. Having been through that area there isn't much exposure and travel across the show shouldn't be too much of a hassle, depending upon what time if day it is (usually hard and can be icy in the morning, to postholing in the late afternoon). Something you should keep in mind is creek crossing along the Kern River, Whitney and Wallace creeks in particular. Last I was there a few years ago they weren't too much of a pain but this time of year be prepared for raging creeks, try and time crossings earlier in the day

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Re: High Sierra Trail, Kaweah Gap Conditions / Experience

Post by maverick » Mon Jun 22, 2009 1:04 pm

Check out CG's trip report as Copeg recommends.
Picture #3 has a shot of the Kaweah Gap from the east, and picture #1 has a pic
of the Hamilton lakes area.

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Re: High Sierra Trail, Kaweah Gap Conditions / Experience

Post by aufsess » Mon Jun 22, 2009 2:13 pm

Speaking of difficult creek crossings... is there no longer a bridge over the Kern River?

Is there a protocol for crossing difficult streams? I've heard of people putting up safety ropes --- we were thinking of using a piece of webbing to set up a safety line (to grab onto -- not tie too) to help people cross the stream. One hand on the webbing, one hand with a walking pole.

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Re: High Sierra Trail, Kaweah Gap Conditions / Experience

Post by Mike M. » Mon Jun 22, 2009 4:11 pm

Aufsess, regarding crossing streams in high water: look for an area where the stream has spread out (as opposed to one in a narrow channel). Wear your boots (I remove my socks). As a rule of thumb, if you believe the creek is so swift and high that you might need to resort to ropes, etc, then you should find another place to cross. It won't hurt you to get wet walking in gently flowing chest high water, but a raging stream that deep is unsafe.

As an aside, one of the PCT through hikers blogged about his hike throuh Evolution Valley a week or so ago and made no mention at all of the stream crossing in the lower valley, which is notorious for high water this time of year.

Mike

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Re: High Sierra Trail, Kaweah Gap Conditions / Experience

Post by copeg » Mon Jun 22, 2009 5:07 pm

aufsess wrote:Speaking of difficult creek crossings... is there no longer a bridge over the Kern River?
I was there in 2005 and there was a bridge. No idea about its current status.
Agree with Mike that if you might think you need a rope, try and find another location to cross. Early morning crossings are usually better as the creeks aren't as swollen from the days melt (I've seen creeks lower/rise over a foot between 8am and 4pm). Many times you can find fallen logs to aid in crossing (be careful if they are wet), or a flattened out area or an area where the creek splits up into several creaklets that are easier than the large.

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Re: High Sierra Trail, Kaweah Gap Conditions / Experience

Post by aufsess » Mon Jul 06, 2009 12:03 pm

Just finished this trip. Saturday afternoon to Sunday morning. Easy pace. Not much to report or worry about, except that it was great. Snow is mostly gone from all part of the trail west of Whitney. Kaweah pass has snow, but little of it is on the trail. Creek and River crossings are easy enough or bridges present. Most people didn't get their boots wet or take them off, though it's probably a better idea in a couple places. Water was flowing fast, but never treacherously. Little bits of rain. Most alarming part was climbing up and down Whitney and crossing over icy snow banks. It was a little more exposure than I would have liked to expose to beginners, but it wasn't very bad. Skeeters in Wallace Creek were really bad. Hardly saw a soul between Hamilton Lakes and Guitar Lake. We did see a group of Kayakers coming in to do the Kern. They have trekked 70lbs kayaks over Shepherd's Pass! The River was practically constant rapids.

Enjoy.

Alex

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Re: High Sierra Trail, Kaweah Gap Conditions / Experience

Post by copeg » Mon Jul 06, 2009 12:59 pm

Thanks for sharing the info Alex!
aufsess wrote:We did see a group of Kayakers coming in to do the Kern. They have trekked 70lbs kayaks over Shepherd's Pass! The River was practically constant rapids.
From a few years ago, but there are kayakers that do that sort of thing...a bit psychotic if you ask me :eek: But hey, there are those that say some of the things I do are psychotic, so I guess its all relative. ;)
viewtopic.php?f=7&t=4024

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Re: High Sierra Trail, Kaweah Gap Conditions / Experience

Post by cgundersen » Mon Jul 06, 2009 3:34 pm

Hi Alex,
Even if everything is relative, on my absolute scale, carrying kayaks over Shepherd Pass qualifies as mildly insane. OK, the adrenaline rush of riding the headwaters of the Kern has to be pretty heady, but Shepherds is not your average stroll in the park (masochism comes to mind). Plus, imagine the poor labdlubbers watching the kayaks fly past. I'd conclude that I was hallucinating.

Beyond that, if you or folks in your group took photos, please don't be shy about posting a few. I'd love to see how 9 Lakes basin and the Big Arroyo opened up since early June!
Thanks,
CG

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