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SEKI High Pass Loop 8/30 -9/3
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James Castleberry
SEKI High Pass Loop 8/30 -9/3 on 09/06/2012 15:46:11 MDT Print View

I recently did a loop hike in SEKI that was about 85-90 miles and included three high mountain passes. I used only public transportation (local bus/light rail, Amtrak, and Sequoia Shuttle) to get there and back. My personal auto stayed in the driveway.
Last Wednesday, I took light rail from work to the Sacramento Valley train station and then took the very reasonably priced Amtrak train from Sacramento to Visalia, arriving at 9:30 pm. I stayed at a cheap ($50) motel and then at 6:15 am on Thursday, boarded the $7.50 Sequoia Shuttle to Giant Forest Museum. I then boarded a different shuttle to Lodgepole, picked up my permit and then got on another shuttle to Wolverton.
Day 1: Wolverton trailhead to two miles below Elizabeth Pass 18 miles
First part of journey was through lush forest.After reaching junction to go to Hamilton Lakes or Elizabeth Pass, the views opened up.
Views of the Kaweah Range
Ihiked until it got dark and set up camp a few miles below the pass.
Near first night's camp
Day 2: Cross Elizabeth Pass just before sunrise. Hike down to Roaring River Ranger Station. Rest. Hike up to about two miles below Colby Lake. 20 miles
I crossed the pass when it was still dark, but just as the light is starting to change.
Deadman Canyon in early morning light
That time period, from about 5 am to 7:30 am is one of my favorite times to hike. Deadman Canyon was a wonderful place to walk with broad meadows dotted with large boulders.
Meadows and mountains
Scenery just kept getting better. I rested for a few hours at the ranger station at Roaring River and then started heading up Cold Canyon toward Colby Pass

More broad meadows surrounded by canyon walls.
Day 3: Cross Colby Pass in the morning and then hike down to Junction Meadow and continue on to about two miles before Kern River bridge. 20 miles
Colby Lake is a beautiful alpine lake. Looks like a nice place to camp.
Colby Lake from near Colby Pass
As I hiked down the other side (toward Junction Meadow), I kept looking for the path to Milestone Bowl, which Tom Kirchener recommends. I didn't have time for any off trail exploration, so I kept going.
Looking back toward Colby Pass
Soon I was reaching the beautiful Kern River.
Kern river
At this point, I was starting to have some foot trouble. Montrail Mountain Masochist shoes were comfortable but I was getting blisters on my heels. I had moleskin, and it helped, but by the end of the hike my feet were quite sore.

Day 4: Cross Kern River bridge and then hike up Big Arroyo Canyon. Cross Kaweah Gap and hike to Bearpaw Meadow. 20 miles
Woke up early (as usual). I had given up a lot of elevation gain from Colby Pass down to the Kern River, and I knew I had to make it all up in order to reach Kaweah Gap. Fortunately, I made good time and did most of the hard climbing before the sun got too hot.

The Upper Big Arroyo Canyon is a wonderful place to hike.
So picturesque and scenic.
I was soaking in all the scenery when I heard a most unusual sound - running feet approaching quickly from behind. I turned and encountered an ultra-runner. I didn't know it at the time, but Leor Pantilat was in the process of setting a FKT (fastest known time) for the High Sierra Trail of 15hrs 46 min. He asked me to take his picture, gave me his card, and then was off again. I was stunned and bewildered but later contacted him. Here's his blog entry of the run in case anyone is interested.
Leor Pantilat's Blog
I find the climb to Kaweah Gap from the east side to be fairly moderate.
Here's the view looking back down Big Arroyo Canyon. Not nearly as steep or rocky as the west side approach. Definitely the preferred direction IMO.
Looking back at Upper Big Arroyo Canyon
When I crossed the gap, I got a good look at Precipice Lake.
Precipice Lake
Then down to Hamilton Lakes, such a scenic spot!
Hamilton Lakes
After that, I kept going to Bearpaw Meadow, arriving there in the dark.
Day 5: Bearpaw to Wolverton. 11.3 miles
I was, for all intents and purposes, out of food. I bombed down the final 11 miles of trail in the early morning, eating the last of my turkey jerky and salami and almonds. I arrived back at Wolverton trailhead at 9:30 a.m., exactly 96 hours after I started.

Big Agnes Seedhouse 1
Golite Ultra 20
Neo air all season
Golite Litespeed
BV 500 bear cannister
Day 5

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
SEKI High Pass Loop 8/30 -9/3 on 09/06/2012 17:52:06 MDT Print View

Very nice, thank you. Where in the heck is the bridge that I have read about twice now in the last couple days? I was up the creek (more than one way) last year, headed up from the Kern River to Colby Pass. I not only lost one Croc last year fording the River, but after I crossed the two braids of the river, I discovered my camera had taken a dip in the river along with me. :( I crossed where the trail comes down from Tyndall Creek RS and over the Bighorn Plateau.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: SEKI High Pass Loop 8/30 -9/3 on 09/19/2012 14:03:01 MDT Print View

Great pics. Some brilliant blue skies.