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TR: Day hike to Kearsarge Pass

Posted: Mon Jan 26, 2015 7:26 pm
by shan1203
A beautiful forecast, an open weekend, and some new-ish snowshoes!

We had such a good time hanging out in BIg Pine Basin a few weekends ago, we couldn't wait to come back to the Sierra Eastside and do another winter hike. This time, we decided to spend the night at the Mt. Williamson Motel and snowshoe up to Kearsarge Pass the next day.

It was 8:00 AM and just over 30 degrees when we left the truck at Onion Valley. There's not much info on what to expect from the trail at this time of the year, except of course to say that you should always be prepared for the unexpected, even more than usual.
The trail definitely has a different color scheme in the winter, the greens are a little muted, with a much larger array of browns...and the sound of hiking the trail is altered, too. Instead of the crunch, crunch, crunch of the dirt beneath our feet was the swish, crack, crunch of snow and ice underfoot.
The thing I love about hiking this trail is how familiar I am with each lake and landmark - don't get me wrong, there are still a million more things to notice along this trail, but I already know so many. I guess that's one thing I love about nature. It has a never ending ability to educate us. I will always take more education.

The trail was packed down for a good portion of the way to Gilbert Lake, however, we stopped to put our snowshoes on during the switchbacks that lead to the boulder field just before Gilbert Lake. We kept them on most of the way until just before Big Pothole Lake on the approach to the Pass. Here we left them leaning on a rock while we went and had lunch at the Pass.
It was as beautiful as I remember seeing last April when we were here, although I was expecting (hoping) for more snow...Hopefully, the SIerra will get the snowfall they need soon. The picture below doesn't show much beyond us, but for some reason, I enjoyed the Pass with my eyes more than my camera this time :)
It took a bit longer than usual, and we enjoyed more breaks along the way - snowshoeing is hard work! I really enjoyed the hike, and once again, we found ourselves looking at the calendar to determine how quickly we could be back for another hike in our favorite mountains.

Happy Hiking,

Re: TR: Day hike to Kearsarge Pass

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 12:12 am
by gary c.
Sounds like a great hike. I wish you would have had a pictures of Kearsarge Lakes and the mountains as background. Thanks for sharing.

Re: TR: Day hike to Kearsarge Pass

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 11:15 am
by KathyW
Shannon: Nice report, but it's pretty sad how little snow is up there. Do you have any pictures you can post that show the west side of Kearsarge Pass or over toward Robinson Lake and Independence Peak?

Re: TR: Day hike to Kearsarge Pass

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 2:00 pm
by giantbrookie
Neat report. The scarcity of snow is really stunning. This storm that is currently hitting the Sierra is a pretty light one. We sure need more.

Re: TR: Day hike to Kearsarge Pass

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2015 3:02 pm
by Bluewater
Thank you for your TR and photos! I love the Sierra in winter, but it is surprising to see so little snow. Definitely a great trip[emoji106]

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Re: TR: Day hike to Kearsarge Pass

Posted: Wed Jan 28, 2015 7:06 am
thanks for the great photos...yes,if possible do post any pics looking west from kp...thanks

Re: TR: Day hike to Kearsarge Pass

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 8:04 am
by shan1203
Thanks everyone, for your kind comments :)

I agree, the lack of snow is startling. We found ourselves looking up at the snow survey signs thinking, 'Is the snow supposed to be that high?'

As I mentioned, I didn't take any photos looking west, but my husband did take this short video which pans the entire scene your looking for! ...

Happy HIking,

Re: TR: Day hike to Kearsarge Pass

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 9:21 am
by jessegooddog
A friend and I and our 2 dogs made it only to Little Pothole on the 18th with microspikes, but a late start and slushy afternoon snow prevented us from heading up further. Looks like the snow isn't too deep for the dogs, and we will head up again after the next 2 minor systems (which barely do anything other than add more ice to the road!) pass through. Did you happen to head over to Mattlock? Are Gilbert and Flower frozen solid yet?

Re: TR: Day hike to Kearsarge Pass

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 4:32 pm
by shan1203
Gilbert was frozen completely solid - it's the ice we are standing on in the second photo from my post. We took the 'Gilbert Lake shortcut' and walked right across the lake to the trail on the other side. I didn't really see much of Flower Lake from the trail, so I can't say whether or not it was frozen, and we didn't walk over to Mattlock, so I can't comment on that one, either. I will say that all the lakes I did see were frozen solid, the one slight exception being Big Pothole, which had some very thin ice on one side.

Here a good picture to give you a sense of the Gilbert Lake conditions :)
And here are a couple of the only 'thin ice' I saw.
Happy Hiking,

Re: TR: Day hike to Kearsarge Pass

Posted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 5:52 pm
by KathyW
Thanks for that video - it says a lot.

It's pretty sad north of there too unless things have changed recently. I was north of Mammoth on the 17 and 18th of this month, and there wasn't much snow on the south facing slopes. I only went as high as Oneida Lake at about 9600' (starting at Lundy Lake), but looking across to the south facing slopes there were pretty bare up a lot higher than that. Oneida Lake was really pretty - frozen solid. I also did a hike to Parker lake and there was minimal snow and no need for snowshoes. It was dry all the way to the Parker Lake Trailhead and to Lundy Lake.