What can I say? The southern High Sierra has forever been tattooed on my brain since my 30 day trek from Matterhorn Peak to Whitney 21 years ago in 1991. The upper Kern plateau especially, and Shepherds Pass is the quick ticket, the bee-line so 2 speak.
It had been 4 yrs since my last sierra trip [i live in southern oregon now] and 10 yrs since my last Shepherds Pass foray. Lets just say I was overdue.
This was my 1st lightweight trip - I cannot tell you my base wt but my big 3 weigh less than my old school Osprey pack empty [7 lbs], all 3 items obtained here on BPL, thanx people. Also my 1st trek using poles, and they were a huge surprise, esp how much they helped on the Uphill.
Shepherds is tough. No other E side pass makes you work for it thus: you go from 6400 to 12000, but whats unique is, once you get to 9000 you lose about 700 ft as you drop into another canyon from the one you started in. Therefore approx 6300' climb over 11 miles.
But for me theres nothing like the E sierra approaches to the high country; the pungent aromas of sage primarily, and everything from willow to juniper/pinon to mahogany, then the sun-warmed duff and needles and streams. "O glory" as John Of the Mountains would say.
Entering Sequoia NP @ Sheps Pass 12k
I really enjoyed the foxtail pines this trip:
Single fave spot on the JMT: Bighorn Plateau, 21 yrs after 1st visit:
Mini gorge @ Wallace Creek, Kaweah Peaks Ridge:
Wallace Lake and the route to Lake Tulainyo:
Alpenglow - where else have you seen light soften the scene in such a way?
Wallace Lake Inlet:
Lake Tulainyo elev 12,818 sits on the very crest of the range a mile N of Whitney w/ no inlet & no outlet. Over the low saddle in the next image is a drop down the E side; it sits almost precariously on the knife-edge spine of the range, incredibly. It is the highest lake in the range, and I always wanted to visit. And since it is large, over 10 acres, it is said 2b the highest true lake on the continent [the competition consists mostly of tarns, ponds, and 'lakelets'].
A significant snowbank still hugged the shore in Sept of a drought year up there; the large broke-off chunk of snow at waters edge behind me is at least 10 ft tall!
Mt Whitney, center, from the N, Wallace Creek:
In Wrights Lake basin, off-trail, a large momma coyote alerted her pups to my approach; 2 took off but one was dreamin of catchin easter bunnies and i almost stepped on it (!) i got w/in 20' for a coupla nice pix:
The gentle trailless golden grass stroll thru the basin was memorable: a fam of coyotes, a fam of deer, and a pair of nesting peregrine falcons high on the slopes that rimmed the area. Just moments E of the JMT yet I had it all to myself.
Coffee time - cowboy camp along a gorgeous old Foxtail Pine at approx 11,500; I never once pitchd the tarp, whats the point?! Yes thats a Starbux cup - doubled, and lid, which I must say was a gr8 LW mug solution.
Toward Shepherds along Tyndal Cr Headwaters from Wrights Basin Saddle:
before leaving, a Golden Trout to show my young son back home; attached 9' leader and fly to trekking pole [this was a first], as my tenkara woulda been overkill:
Shepherds is mostly used by peak-baggers aiming 4 Mt Williamson [2nd highest in CA] and Tyndall pictured here:
Nosebleed view straight down from the pass:
And lookin back up:
Ahh the trailhead, after 15 mi and 6500' of descent. 4 days 3 nites out. Now to find the can of Oregon microbrew I stashed in the creek ;)
** In the end the message seems clear: the gear is just a means to an end, isnt it people? Lightening my load, using trekkin poles, and doin a few training hikes helped me enjoy this trip Immensely. More than I can say really.