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Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:28 pm
by freestone
If you are going to rent a car, why not get something that can handle that road? Two season ago I was on that road and bent a wheel causing a flat tire. Last year I rented a truck for the road to Taboose and was glad that I did. That flat tire out there really spooked me away from taking suburban style cars ever again.

Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 8:05 pm
by SSSdave
I've been trying to work a trip into the upper Kern River basin areas for over a decade but have resisted doing so until conditions are worthwhile as reaching those areas from the Owens Valley requires a notorious 6,300 foot elevation climb from often hot sagebrush elevations at 6,300 feet over a 12,040 foot pass. And for this 137# old guy that is especially difficult because my carrying weight with a load of camera gear is likely to be about 65 pounds. Although climbers often reach Shepherd Pass in a single day and then climb Mt Tyndall or Mt Williamson, both over 14k, in my plan I have conservatively given myself 3 days to do so thus won't go over the pass until the third day morning. The below crop of that same files shows the first 3 days of that route to get over the pass:


I also created a text file of ideas mostly for figuring out how to best make use of my time when running around to photo spots when light is good but also all the camp and route/trail strategies. This is the starting 3 days of my 10 day trip out of that text file:

Now with the flexibility of retirement have changed plans, especially between version H and current I. Thus can drive up and start the trip at any time of day on a flexible day when weather and forecasts appear reasonable. Currently if a normal winter am looking at starting the week before the end of July. Before leaving Independence at noon will eat a large fast food meal that will remove a need to use water later in the day for cooking.

The first day may not start the route from the trailhead until mid day, hiking the hot initial section from the 6300 foot trailhead to the second Symmes Creek crossing at 6890 up 590 feet and then resting hours until late afternoon shadows to begin a climb up the north facing switchbacks. Tentatively have listed a goal of reaching the 7670 (2500) elevation at the 2.9 mile point up another 1310 feet or a total of 1900 over the day and if up to it could continue higher. May bring an extra water container to fill up at the creek that will on day 2 stash before continuing and then retrieve on the hike out. May simply bivy and not tent along those steep slopes as is possible.

On day 2 am targeting reaching Anvil Camp, a climb of 2460 with 640 feet down over 5.1 miles. Would start before sunrise in the cool morning and reach the 9070 (2770) ridge shoulder up 880 feet early enough to possible take some photos at Knob 1 up towards Williamson. In some sections the topo mail trail is significantly different so a GPS track would help. Given modest mileage with all day to hike could stop frequently and take long breaks. Above Anvil Camp there are other spots to tent as much as 500 feet higher. After that too much talus until a spot at upper Big Pothole at 10950 so unlikely to reach there.

Day 3 would again set out before sunrise and try and set up for some shots towards rugged Mt Kieth. Last water is about Big Pothole. This leaves an even 2000 feet to climb over 2.5 miles to the pass at 12040 (3780) in the sun on my back though certain to be cool due to high elevation. Thus might reach the top by 10am while frequently stopping. Thus too late in the morning for any serious photography down Tyndal Creek basin that does not look that aesthetic anyway. The target by mid afternoon another 4 miles...
Will stash backpack at saddle about 6:45am then hike with photo gear to across H7 hill to Jelly Bean Pond and down to B9 bench with 3310 and 3312 ponds for shots w to KPR and GWD at 7:30am. Then return up H9 for a shot and back to retrieve backpack about 8:45am. Then will drop w down to Lower Gator Creek Meadow at 11090 (3390), cross Gator Creek then head up draw to B4 and lake...

Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Posted: Fri Feb 01, 2019 11:16 pm
by Harlen
Harlen wrote:
I reckon Harrison Pass is the most common as it used to be the regular route before Forester was created.
and seikihiker corrected me:
Actually, Junction Pass was the one replaced by Forester.
... and he is right of course.

Sorry about the lack of permits Scott, which causes you to lose the crossing of the Kings-Kern Divide. There is so much to see and do in the vast Upper Kern Basins that you will still have endless great places to explore. We really recommend the beauty of Milestone Basin, and the fascinating upper lakes of Wallace Creek.

We wonder if you noticed the fairly recent Post by Wandering Daisy about the George Creek area, which is just one drainage south of Shepherd Cr.
She discusses crossing the Main Divide from up there? [ viewtopic.php?f=1&t=19107 ] In the comments on her post is a link to a "peaksforfreaks" post which has some good photo doc. of the area. Does anyone think that wsp_scott might enjoy a circular trip- in Shepherd and out via George Creek?... and then wandering through the high desert like a dried up Bedouin back to the car at Symmes Creek? Scott, do you find suffering ennobling? You might get to see a few bighorns for your troubles too.
Best of luck, Ian and Lizzie.

Upper Kern with Whitney in the distance.
Upper Kern from west slopes of Erickson.

Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Posted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 9:33 am
by Wandering Daisy
Upper Kern is one of my main trips planned for this summer. We ought to have an "upper kern meet-up"!

Being retired I am flexible, so I have 4-5 different exit and entry plans, ready to get whatever first-come permits that are available. This strategy works well for solo, but if in a group, getting a reserved permit is wise- you can then check on other entry/exits when you pick up your permit. I am now torn between several of my travel plans, each one looking good; guess that means there are a lot of good routes into the Upper Kern!

And yes, George Creek is one of my exit plans. Going in George Creek with a heavy pack would be too brutal. Because there were mountain sheep restrictions when I went into George Creek in the past, I have never been on the route later than mid-May. Our reason for going in were to climb Mt Williamson (success)and Carl Heller (backed off due to ice on the route). I have never tried to cross the crest into Wallace Creek. Highly recommended to do Mt Williamson if you are in upper George Creek. I really do not know what it would be like in the summer or fall. Definitely need ice axe and crampons in May. If water levels are down, you may be able to avoid some bushwhacking by walking in the stream at some points' definitely helps to be able to cross the creek anywhere needed. Once above the initial bushwhack, travel is pretty open. It is an amazing area. Sorry, no photos- I did not carry a camera when I climbed in those days.

Others do not like the Whitney trail, but in spite of the crowds it is SO scenic. First-come permits are not that hard to get after mid-Sept. You actually can camp in relative solitude by avoiding the standard campsites. You can also do a loop, going up the trail and returning via Arctic Lake, Iceberg Lake and lower Boy Scout Lake. You just have to be willing to do the ledges, which are not that bad; better done going down with an end-of-trip pack.

Not sure if Harrison has changed, but I did it in the late 1990's with a very heavy pack (14-day trip), and tennis shoes. I had to use my ice-axe to make a stable point to pull up on. It would be bad news if you fell down. But the misery was actually pretty short. It is an efficient way to get into the upper Kern. Although longer and more crowded, Forrester is more scenic and you can travel faster. Once down on the south side you can cut across to the trail that goes up to Lake South America.

Entry from Kearsarge is much longer, very scenic, all trail so you can make good time. Another of my entry/exit points is Cottonwood, New Army, Sky Blue and Crabtree Lakes. And there is Shepherd Pass, better to go down than up, but easy to get permits.

When I have gone up Shepherd Pass, I camped along a little snow-melt stream on a bench above the Pothole. From that site, we made it across to the meadow on Milestone Creek in a day.

Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Posted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 12:24 pm
by wsp_scott
I'm renting the cheapest car possible since it is going to spend 8 days sitting at a trailhead and only 2 days driving :)

It sounds like the road might be doable so I will just have to see when I get there. If bad, then a little bit more hot hiking won't kill me.

The bushwacking at George Creek looks like my idea of hell, one of the reasons I'm flying across the country is to enjoy alpine scenery. If I want to bushwack in 100 degree heat, I can stay in KY :) And I am not a climber at all.

I think I will aim for my first night to be at Anvil Camp and then over Shepherd in the morning before it gets too hot. From the pass I will either head over to Milestone or go over Rockwell Pass and spend a couple nights in the Wright Basin and then Wallace/Wales before heading towards the Kern area.

An Upper Kern meetup sounds great, I'll be in the area the first week of August, look for a mid-40s solo hiker with a floppy camo hat. There is a good chance I'll be on my knees photographing flowers.

Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Posted: Sat Feb 02, 2019 5:58 pm
by SSSdave
A nice facet of Shepherd Pass is, a solo retired person can get a walk-up permit any day thus no need to bother with reserved permits. Will likely understand snow pack consideration by late May, then fix the general date period. The week before would check the weather to fit the trip within the best fair weather period and not start during any especially hot 3-digit weather. Generally the Upper Kern areas is not a basin I'd welcome during Mexican monsoon weather so that could disrupt or abort my own plans at short notice as would smoky skies..

Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Posted: Sun Feb 17, 2019 6:45 pm
by stevet
For altitude why not drive up and stay at the Portal or at the Horseshoe or Cottonwood Trailheads instead of the Alabama Hills. At most the drive is another hour, but it gets you one night sleeping high before your hike.

Route-wise if looping out of Onion Valley...Kearsarge Lakes...Center Basin...over Junction Pass to the Pothole...Shepherd Pass then over the saddle south (Rockwell Pass?) into Wright Lakes Basin...down the basin to the JMT and head north then turn east on the L South America/Milestone Basin Trail and the north to L South America...over Harrison Pass to East Lake...then north to Junction Meadow...over Kearsarge Pass and out. Can backtrack from L South America and cross Little Joe Pass to Lake Reflection then to Junction Meadow as an alternate. All told, roughly 65 miles with enough busy trail where you can be sociable and enough off trail for some nice solitude.

Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Posted: Sun Feb 17, 2019 8:36 pm
by Wandering Daisy
There are different views on how to acclimate. Climbers use the saying "climb high, sleep low". This theory says that when advancing in altitude on a big mountain, where you have to ferry up loads, you come back to a lower altitude to sleep. Not sure it this is necessarily true at lower "high elevations" such as 10,000 feet instead of 15,000 feet+

Sleeping at 10,000 feet when driving from living at sea level, may only cause you to get sick or not sleep well. Everyone is different. This does not bother me, but may others. Definitely do not go up to 10,000 feet and over-exert. May be wiser to camp the first night no higher than 8,000 feet. Plenty of places on the east side to do that.

If you have done the drive and then sleep at whatever altitude before and it worked, just do the same thing.

I drove up to the start of the trailhead in the White Mountains where you start to walk up White Mountain. I had already done a week in the Sierra and was just tagging White Mountain before I went home. I think the trailhead is above 11,000 feet. I was in my tent, heard commotion, looked out and here comes a van full of people. Two step out the door and immediately puke. Next morning I met them starting the hike. They had driven from San Diego and half their group was altitude sick, the ones who puked the night before too sick to get up.

Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Posted: Sun Feb 17, 2019 10:06 pm
by bobby49
Puking from high altitude is a time-honored tradition.

However, some of us have gone up and down, up and down, so many times that it is almost wired into our brains exactly how to adapt. In the last 45 years, I have never gotten sick from altitude. I am neither exactly pushing hard on the way, nor it is just lazing around. I have treated quite a few people for altitude illness of different sorts. I keep thinking that this will get more difficult as I get older, but it is just the reverse. Go figure.

Re: Trip Advice: upper kern area

Posted: Mon Feb 18, 2019 12:26 am
by Harlen
wsp_scott wrote:
An Upper Kern meetup sounds great, I'll be in the area the first week of August, look for a mid-40s solo hiker with a floppy camo hat.
X2 on the meetup, but you gotta do better than that if we're going to locate you. Can you spray paint the floppy hat Orange? If not, how about carrying a long-stemmed rose in one hand, and a novel by Dostoyevsky in the other? I'm sure many of us would love to find you and hear about the great Cumberland Ridge. Have you been up on Black Mountain- 4,125'? It looks like really nice country. And how's the Ohio River- nice to float? What is it about Kentucky bourbon, will you have samples?

Sorry, I get all excited about the Upper Kern country- it's just brilliant! You've been pumping us for knowledge about the Kern, so I figured you'll have to break with some Kentucky stories. My sometimes ski buddy tells me that there's some real climbing in Kentucky- something about %&#@i^g great sandstone in the Red River Gorge?
Best of luck in the Kern, Ian.