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Colby Pass and Kern river crossing
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christopher smead
(hamsterfish) - MLife

Locale: hamsterfish
Colby Pass and Kern river crossing on 06/14/2012 01:00:39 MDT Print View

I asked this question in "post trip" reports, but then it occurred to me that "pre trip" is probably more appropriate.

Todays update here http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/trailcond.htm
mentions Colby Pass is under a good amount of snow. Has anyone been up there recently? I'm also interested in reports about the kern river crossing at junction meadows just south east of Colby.

Thanks!

Steven Thompson
(stevet) - M

Locale: Northeast
Colby Pass/Kern River on 06/15/2012 22:27:44 MDT Print View

When do you plan to be out there. My last time was 5 years ago, August. Kern River crossing was mid calf, not difficult, and Colby Pass was snow free. Guessing with the low snow pack this year you would see the same early July.

christopher smead
(hamsterfish) - MLife

Locale: hamsterfish
Colby pass on 06/16/2012 01:52:55 MDT Print View

Im leaving Friday June 22nd

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Colby Pass/Kern River on 06/16/2012 20:04:17 MDT Print View

"My last time was 5 years ago, August. Kern River crossing was mid calf, not difficult, and Colby Pass was snow free. Guessing with the low snow pack this year you would see the same early July."

I'm not so sure I'd make that assumption. Even in a low snow year, there may well be a lot of melt/ground water feeding into the Kern upstream from Junction Meadow in early July. This doesn't mean it will be impassable but, for example, I crossed there last year ~August 10th in a high snow year and the water was up to my nuts. I'd say be prepared to get wet, but don't stress about not being able to cross. It'll be a "go", but I doubt you'll get away with ankle deep. If you're coming over Forester, the JMT Tyndall Creek crossing will be a pretty good indicator of what to expect. Remember, it flows into the Kern above Junction Meadow, along with Milestone Creek and the water from the Upper Kern Basin, which is potentially a lot of water.

I'd appreciate if you'd post on your experience there when you get back, so I can update my knowledge base with an example from an exceptionally low snow year.

christopher smead
(hamsterfish) - MLife

Locale: hamsterfish
Colby/kern crossing on 06/16/2012 22:52:17 MDT Print View

Thanks Tom! Yes I will post pics and report when I get back :)

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Colby/kern crossing on 06/17/2012 16:37:22 MDT Print View

"Yes I will post pics and report when I get back"

I'll be looking forward to them, Christopher. I hope you have a great trip. You're gonna love the Kern-Kaweah River valley going up to Colby Pass.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Re: Colby/kern crossing on 06/18/2012 12:25:18 MDT Print View

My last time up Colby was 7 years ago. There had only been 1 other person that went over from the west 3 weeks prior and I could see his footprints.

The pass is very exposed but if there was snow it would make it a lot more difficult. You are climbing over some big 6 foot rocks that if you had to step in between with snow and fell through, it would be dangerous.

I found that when I went from the east I could not tell which way the pass was. I had a very large scale map and couldn't tell if it was N or S of a little rock peak. 90% of the trail usage is my animals and the animals went S and so did I.
This was a big mistake and ended having to throw my pack and let it tumble about 150 yards. The descent was so steep, (like 75% grade steep) that I could not have made it with the pack on.
I was expecting to land about 50 yards down and a semi flat spot. It built up so much speed it just wizzed by and continued on another 100 yards. It was actually amusing to watch. This brought me down a steep butt sliding ditch just south of the lake and I met back up with the trail about 3/4 mile past the lake.

Edited by awsorensen on 06/18/2012 12:26:43 MDT.

christopher smead
(hamsterfish) - MLife

Locale: hamsterfish
Colby pass on 06/18/2012 14:39:23 MDT Print View

Yipes!
I'll be bringing an ice axe and microspikes. I'm hoping that will be adequate.
Does anyone know if Colby lake is a good place to camp? Is there a lot of snow there now?

John harris
(vivid19) - F
re: colby pass on 06/18/2012 17:12:28 MDT Print View

I'm also heading up Colby Pass soon, a week after you Chris. I'm doing the loop in the opposite direction, and heading back on Bubbs. I'm also looking for information on the current conditions of Avalanche, Colby, and Forrester Pass.

For Avalanche Pass, the nps website states that Avalanche is free of snow.

For Forrester Pass, the nps website has no update but I've been reading some pct blogs, which said the usual scary snow chute is clear. One said there was barely enough to slow them down.

For Colby, I'm not sure ... I'm reading the same thing on the nps site that you saw... that the north side is solid snow and trecherous.

I'd appreciate a trail update, although I'll be gone by the time you are done.

[edited after trip]
there ended up being no snow over any pass during our trip from june 30 to july 9.

Edited by vivid19 on 12/27/2012 09:20:02 MST.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Colby pass on 06/18/2012 17:28:57 MDT Print View

"Does anyone know if Colby lake is a good place to camp?"

Colby Lake is a good place to camp. It is hard to say what conditions will be like if there is snow on the pass, but if it is snow free it is no big deal, IF you stay on route, which I did not find difficult when I crossed it. If you get into terrain where you encounter 6 foot boulders and a lot of exposure, you are off route, pure and simple. Back off and try again from where you lost the trail until you find the correct spot to cross the pass. It is, after all, a trail. If there is snow on the pass, it would be wise to make your crossing in the afternoon, when the snow has softened up a bit. That will give you the best chance of a safe, stress free crossing. An ice ax and spikes are a good idea going in early, even in a low snow year, so I think you are wise to be taking them.

Finally, if all else fails, it is probably a good idea to have a contingency plan for an alternate route, should you have to retreat, taking into consideration your time constraints, food supply, etc. You will be more than halfway thru your trip by the time you get to Colby Pass, and may not have the time/food to retrace your original route. The shortest routes back to Roads End, over Milly's/Lucy's/Harrison Passes, are all off trail and involve a north facing slope, which will likely prove even more difficult than Colby Pass. That would leave Forester Pass and a straight shot down Bubbs Creek as your most likely route to get back to your car. You might consider taking enough food to support that, and let your family know that you might be a day or so late. My 2 cents.

christopher smead
(hamsterfish) - MLife

Locale: hamsterfish
Colby pass on 06/18/2012 18:21:03 MDT Print View

Thanks Tom!
Yes very good advice. I've actually been considering that exact route (back over forester and down bubbs) as contingency plan. If I move quick, I think I can get out in the same amount of time.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Colby pass on 06/18/2012 19:21:12 MDT Print View

"I've actually been considering that exact route (back over forester and down bubbs) as contingency plan. If I move quick, I think I can get out in the same amount of time."

Then you're ready. Now all you have to do is go out and enjoy the show, a day at a time, without worst case scenarios clouding your mind. Deal with them if and when they arise, knowing you're ready. Best of luck and have a great trip!

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Re: Colby pass on 06/19/2012 10:36:22 MDT Print View

This was the same route I did as well. Roads end, over Forester to Colby. I followed the JMT past Lake South America to see if I could catch some PCT'ers.
It was a beautiful 4 day trip.

It was a serious climb all the way up to Forester. It just never ends.

You shouldn't have any problems at all at Colby. Parts of the east and south side of the lake hugs the steep spur and I'm sure will have snow in the shaded areas but the rest should be fine.

Check out Leor Pantilat's site.

http://pantilat.wordpress.com/

He does some awesome adventure runs, (over 50 miles in a day) and has a sub 7 hour time on the Rea Lakes Loop. His two recent adventures this past month have taken him well over 11,000 feet and everything is patchy even up that high.

Dave Grey
(dapperdave) - F
Conditions on 06/19/2012 12:26:48 MDT Print View

My wife and I have just returned from a 5-day trip starting on the 10th of June:

Day 1- Entered via Shepherd Pass camped about 3/4 of a mile west of the pass - there were 2 small snow patches on the east side of Shepherd. No mosquitos.

Day 2- Over the col into Wright Lakes basin, over Bighorn Plateau to JMT, down Wallace Creek to Junction Meadow, Crossed the Kern (2 braids, mid calf depth @ 3pm no discernable trail to the crossing point but we found it OK using GPS) and headed up the Colby Pass Trail to a camp between Rockslide and Gallats lakes - no snow low to moderate Mosquitos from the Kern crossing until about 6pm.

Day 3- Continued up the Colby Pass trail, then cross-country into Milestone Bowl over Milestone Pass to a camp by a lake with hundreds of Newtpoles in Milestone Basin. A Few Mosquitos and small snow patches when we hit the start of Milestone Creek.
Looking south from Milestone Pass, the Kaweah and Picket basins seemed to have about 40% snow cover.

Day 4- Down Milestone Creek to another Kern Crossing which we boulder-hopped, straight over to the JMT then North over Forester Pass to a camp at the lowest lake in Center Basin. There were a few small snow patches on the trail on the way down Forester and a 100 foot long remnant of a cornice on the ridge that the trail follows before it drops down to the Lakes they could be bypassed or crossed without drama. Mosquitos from about 8 to 11 am and 5-8 pm

Day 5- Over Junction Pass down to the Pothole then out to Shepherd Pass Trailhead, No snow at all on the North side of Junction on the south side there was a fair bit of snow in the base of the valley that you drop down into off the Plateau but much less than I've seen from photos of past seasons. Mosquitos active from sunrise to about 10am.

Dave

Edited by dapperdave on 06/19/2012 12:59:37 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Conditions on 06/19/2012 17:15:17 MDT Print View

"My wife and I have just returned from a 5-day trip starting on the 10th of June:"

Excellent trip, David! You covered yourselves some ground in a short time. That 3rd day was particularly impressive.

Dave Grey
(dapperdave) - F
Re: Re: Conditions on 06/21/2012 05:20:03 MDT Print View

Thanks Tom,

Your Trip reports from the area were my inspiration! Day 3 was a killer, we thought the talus was never going to end, but Milestone basin was well worth the effort. We have a couple of weeks off in September, I'm already thinking about Round 2, in a little more leisurely fashion, with more time to explore Milestone and Upper Kern Basins and a trip into Kaweah Basin.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Conditions on 06/21/2012 17:04:36 MDT Print View

"We have a couple of weeks off in September, I'm already thinking about Round 2, in a little more leisurely fashion, with more time to explore Milestone and Upper Kern Basins and a trip into Kaweah Basin."

September is the best time to be up there, IMO. Have a great trip, and I hope you'll post a report on your experience.

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
milestone. on 06/21/2012 17:09:34 MDT Print View

"Day 3 was a killer, we thought the talus was never going to end, but Milestone basin was well worth the effort."

Oh yes on both accounts. The talus on both sides is semi-neverending, but it's also super beautiful.

Talus fun up to Milestone Pass.
milestone pass

Edited by DaveT on 06/21/2012 17:11:13 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Conditions on 06/21/2012 18:12:52 MDT Print View

I just got home from Mineral King. The conditions are very dry, about like late July instead of late June. Timber Gap > Kaweah Gap > Lost Canyon > Sawtooth Pass > back to Mineral King. That was around 37 miles in less than 72 hours.

Even the worst stream crossings were less than knee deep. The scree coming west from Sawtooth Pass was the loosest stuff that I've seen in a decade.

--B.G.--