Shepherds Pass, Forester Pass, Kearsarge Pass
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Erik Dietz
(erikdtz)

Locale: Los Angeles
Shepherds Pass, Forester Pass, Kearsarge Pass on 07/27/2012 23:14:39 MDT Print View

I had originally planned on doing the Evolution Loop but because of time constraints I can't start on my original date. I read a great trip report from Ken Helwig and several from Tom Kirchner singing high praises about Shepherds Pass even though it can be quite rugged. I'd like to do the loop I mentioned in the subject line and I'm looking for any info...good campsites, lakes/areas I should visit, how far apart the two trail heads are, trail conditions, etc. I have between 4-5 days but I would like to do it in four and I'll be going solo.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Shepherds Pass, Forester Pass, Kearsarge Pass on 07/28/2012 08:19:10 MDT Print View

Erik a few questions...
Firstly are you solo or with a group? The reason I ask is because both trailheads are about 30 minutes apart. If you end your hike at the Shepherd Pass trailhead you will be at the valley floor where the heat can be stifling. The odds of you hitching a ride is much less than if you end it at Onion Valley. Now, if you were to end the hike at Onion Valley hitching to the road junction (I forget the name of the dirt road that takes you to Shepherd Pass trailhead...I think it is Foothill??), I don't know if anyone would be kind enough to take you the distance to your car. Just a thought.
That is why I am asking if you are solo or not.

Just saw that you mentioned solo....so what I listed is what difficulties you would have getting back to your car. You could sleep at the Shepherd Pass trailhead and then hike/hitch to your car the next day. We did this loop in 3 days and that was a perfect amount of time. If you were solo I think going over Shepherd Pass and completing the hike at Onion Valley would be more conducive for a solo hiker getting back to their car.

With that said, how strong of a hiker are you? There are two options available for you to camp along the Shepherd Pass trail. Mahogany Flat and Anvil Camp. We passed up Mahogany because it is exposed and HOT...lots of Manzanita (I think that's what it was...I was on a hiking mission at that point and was not paying attention). It's basically a "dry camp". Anvil Camp is shaded, nice and has a creek running through. Their are many places to camp and it is a nice place. Oh and a third option if you make it up that high is The Pothole. There are some nice bivy sites and you have a nice view of the crux of the pass from there. The trail is unmaintained. It is very similar to the trail that takes you from North Lake to Lamarck Col...that is a point of reference if you have hiked that before. If you are strong enough to make it over the pass, we camped at a lovely lake that is north of the trail heading down and basically situated at the middle of Diamond Mesa. It's easy to find and the view are sublime. From there to Forester camping options are rather limited and bleak. The other side of Forester has many beautiful sites once you enter the treeline. You get great views of the Bubbs Creek Drainage. The Center Basin Jct. has a nice spot with a bear box. You could spend a day there and head into Center Basin to do some exploring if you would want to expand your trip to 4 hiking days. From there it is around 7 miles to Kearsage Lakes which is situated right below Kearsarge Pass. There are many lovely sites along the lakes and it is a very beautiful area to camp. From there it is a 1000 foot climb to the pass and a fast boogie down to the trailhead. This trailhead is quite busy and would be your best best for hitching back to your car.
I hope this helps. This is just my opinion, and I am sure others will chime in. Have fun on this hike, it is a butt kicker as you tackle a pass a day, but the scenery is amazing!

Dave Grey
(dapperdave) - F
An Alternative on 07/28/2012 10:02:58 MDT Print View

If you want to avoid hitching, you could head out over Junction Pass (pre-1930 JMT route) which links up with the Shepherd Pass trail at the Pothole.

I used this route last month, the trail on the north side of the Pass is still in surprisingly good shape, Center Basin is picturesque and the views from the top of the Center Peak ridge are fantastic, but the descent is a long gravel/scree ski followed by some boulder hopping and a bit of bushwhacking. The trail is marked approximately on the USGS topo and is reasonably accurate but be aware that the pass itself is incorrectly placed (about 1/3rd of a mile too far east).

This option will certainly be a lot less busy than Kearsarge Pass if solitude is your goal.

Ken's info on campsites is good, also just in case you don't know, there is a camping ban at Bullfrog Lake.

Feel free to ask for any more specific info,

Dave

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: An Alternative on 07/28/2012 10:13:30 MDT Print View

Dave, I was going to do the Junction Pass route last year. How was the scree coming down into The Pothole. I looked at it as we headed down Shepherd Pass. Did you veer to the left as you were facing down to The Pothole where the water comes down the chute. I was trying to figure out where you would head down. As I was going up Forester I did see two hikers making there way up Junction Pass from Center Basin...

Nathan Hays
(oroambulant)

Locale: San Francisco
Owens Valley Hitching on 07/28/2012 10:15:52 MDT Print View

If you call in to Lone Pine sporting goods store you can find someone willing to follow you to drop your car at the exit point and drive you to the hike in point. I haven't done this myself, but was just told by someone who has that the locals love to make extra bux this way.

Dave Grey
(dapperdave) - F
Re: Re: An Alternative on 07/28/2012 10:40:15 MDT Print View

Ken,

It's hard to know exactly where you mean, but if you're referring to the last 1/2 mile or so to the Pothole, we ended up between the two tributaries shown on the USGS topo, but this wasn't the best way; as you suggest further to the east looked a bit easier, but we dropped down a bit too early and it's easier to walk downhill through willow than traverse through it. We did however come across some decent campsites in this area.

Dave

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Re: An Alternative on 07/28/2012 13:01:27 MDT Print View

Thanks Dave, that is the area that I was referring to. I was looking at this section from the trail but it sounds like it is quite doable. Excited to try it in the future

Sean Fraser
(seanter) - F
Re: Re: Shepherds Pass, Forester Pass, Kearsarge Pass on 07/29/2012 03:05:08 MDT Print View

I am planning a trip to Williamson and Tyndall with a friend in mid August 2012. We plan the Shepherds Pass approach to Williamson Bowl the first day. However, I have heard it is 'better' to start up Shepherds Creek rather than Symmes Creek and meet up with the Shepherds Pass trail near Mahogany Flat, which avoids the descent descent to Mahogony Flat on the trail up.

Seems questionable to me, as a super highway trail is usually faster than navigating a less travelled creek and canyon.

Any information on the alternate start to Shepherds Pass trail? Thanks.

Dave Grey
(dapperdave) - F
Re: Re: Re: Shepherds Pass, Forester Pass, Kearsarge Pass on 07/29/2012 04:07:42 MDT Print View

Sean,

Looking down Shepherd's Creek from Mahogany Flat it seemed steep sided and thickly vegetated, I would stick with the trail.

Dave

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re: Shepherds Pass, Forester Pass, Kearsarge Pass on 07/29/2012 08:48:00 MDT Print View

Sean, oohhhhh I would not go that route....no way. Take the trail. Once at the pass Williamson Bowl is a stroll. Don't do it

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Shepherds Pass, Forester Pass, Kearsarge Pass on 07/29/2012 19:26:32 MDT Print View

"I have heard it is 'better' to start up Shepherds Creek rather than Symmes Creek and meet up with the Shepherds Pass trail near Mahogany Flat, which avoids the descent descent to Mahogony Flat on the trail up.

Seems questionable to me, as a super highway trail is usually faster than navigating a less travelled creek and canyon."

Your instincts are sound. I'd recommend following them and take the trail that starts out going up Symmes Creek. It is an excellent, if strenuous, trail. When you get to the divide that separates the Symmes/Shepherd Creeks' watersheds, you can look down on Shepherd Creek and see what insanity it would be to bushwhack-scramble directly up Shepherd Creek to save a lousy 500' descent and recapture. Whoever came up with that idea either has a twisted sense of humor or is borderline nuts.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re: Shepherds Pass, Forester Pass, Kearsarge Pass on 07/29/2012 19:57:42 MDT Print View

+1 on what Tom posted....just gain the pass, it is a stroll over to Williamson Bowl...I plan on spending many trips in this area and cannot think of going up that route.

Erik Dietz
(erikdtz)

Locale: Los Angeles
Question on 07/29/2012 20:08:56 MDT Print View

I was just looking at my map and there's a section going from The Pothole to the top of the pass that's marked as "primitive" trail. I have no experience in off trail travel or route finding...what should I expect?

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Question on 07/29/2012 20:13:00 MDT Print View

"I was just looking at my map and there's a section going from The Pothole to the top of the pass that's marked as "primitive" trail."

Which pass? Junction or Shepherd?

Erik Dietz
(erikdtz)

Locale: Los Angeles
... on 07/29/2012 20:15:31 MDT Print View

Sorry, Shepherd Pass.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Unmaintained trail... on 07/29/2012 20:40:32 MDT Print View

The stretch from the Pothole up to just below the pass is rough in places, but a good trail, nonetheless. The last 600 feet or so, known as The Headwall, is a grungy mess composed of mostly small talus and scree which is falling into disrepair due to lack of TLC by the Forest Service. Still, it is a trail of sorts that zig zags up to the pass is increasingly tight, steep, unstable switchbacks. You won't have any trouble staying on route. It is well to take your time and watch your foot placement, but otherwise not a big deal. Coming down is a bit more difficult. Proceed cautiously, keeping your steps short and legs flexed, and you'll do fine.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Unmaintained trail... on 07/29/2012 20:56:23 MDT Print View

+1 on what Tom wrote ..... just gain the pass and stroll over to the bowl...