Oct 1, 2012 at 10:12 pm #1294637
@b14Locale: Siskiyou Mtns
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 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.Oct 2, 2012 at 12:48 am #1917434
@jaseLocale: A tent in my backyard - Melbourne
Great shots, great account, and great adventure Brian!
Being an ex technical diver/instructor, I often look at lakes like that (Lake Tulainyo) and dream of diving in them. Do you know how deep that lake is? It may perhaps be baron underwater, but would be simply beautiful to dive…even with a scooter.
Anyways, great pics, and thanks for sharing….I really look forward to getting over to the US and experience some of your backyard.
Jase in Australia
Edit: Lake nameOct 2, 2012 at 9:36 pm #1917704
@paul-1Oct 2, 2012 at 9:37 pm #1917705
More on the highest lake competition:Oct 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm #1917870
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Great report…and now I have another place to visit!Oct 3, 2012 at 4:10 pm #1917884
@creachenLocale: East Bay
Nice one Brian. I am happy you posted the trip report and pics.
JayOct 3, 2012 at 5:01 pm #1917903
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Jase: The scuba-diving link described seeing a very small fish. In a quick skimming of several websites, I didn't see a max depth and did find some hopes for such a survey to be done.
A semi-related story: In the early 1980's, I co-led BPing trips in the central Sierra with a guy who was a pretty serious and very accomplished fisherman. He had been sourly tempted to return to Helen Lake (11,617' and almost a mile across) just NE of Muir Pass at the head of Evolution Canyon in the central Sierra because on a afternoon hike out of camp years before, he'd seen some big fish. He scheduled a trip (getting paid to do so) late in the season so it would be ice-free and brought his gear. He got a 21" rainbow that had deep, salmon-colored flesh (no brownish fleshed hatchery fish, this!) from eating krill or eating things that ate krill. He didn't want to think about how old the thing was since its feeding season is probably only 2 months a year.
Since then, my hunter-gather-fisher skills have improved tremendously. I'm still not at his level, but I've caught more total pounds of fish now for three reasons: location, location, location.
Everyone: My life goes better when I have stupid human tricks scheduled in my future that give me more motivation to stick to a conditioning program. Bringing a pack-raft into one of these high-mountains lake to do a bathyspheric survey or just harass the fish would be right up my alley. If anyone else is interested, PM me.Oct 3, 2012 at 5:18 pm #1917915
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
Do you happen to have any pics of that fish David? Did he keep it or release it? That sounds really interesting.
It's always confused me how fish get up in those lakes. Are all the isolated lakes planted? How would a species of fish in one lake get into another lake?Oct 5, 2012 at 9:12 am #1918394
Now for next season. Have thought about this for years through the No. fork from the east but your photos make Wallace Lake a must see. Thanks for posting this.Oct 5, 2012 at 11:52 pm #1918595
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
I can email him and see if he's got a photo. It was dinner – that's how we knew the color of the flesh. The State and Feds used to plant many more lakes than they do now. I've camped at lakes, 8-10 feet deep that historically had fish in them but after a low-snow, cold winter, froze solid and killed all the fish. Without any fish in them, they were really buggy and unpleasant to camp at and what had been a nice campsite no longer was. I've heard tales of sportsmen bringing fish in themselves in 5-gallon pails on burros many decades ago. That still happens today, at least by car, when non-native species get planted (often wrecking havoc) by sportsmen hoping to establish, say, pike in a new lake or drainage.
I've wondered, apart from small-scale and official planting, how do fish ever move from watershed to another?. Get dropped by an eagle or osprey – one of each gender? 100-year floods creating temporary passages? Rainbows and few other species that can go to sea and return up a different river? Weren't cutthroats and golden trout limited to their original drainages until humans started transplanting them? And species we observe as wide-spread, well, maybe white guys weren't the first to transplant fish. I've seen great habitat seperated by only 1/4 mile of impassable cascades keep out salmon, trout and grayling.Oct 6, 2012 at 7:57 am #1918631
Beautiful trip and report. Good job!Oct 6, 2012 at 7:03 pm #1918784
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"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."
That about says it all, and eloquently. I enjoyed your report a lot, Brian. It really enforced fond memories for me. Thanks for sharing a great trip!
And, yeah, Shepherd Pass is a butt kicker alright, but worth every bead of sweat.Oct 6, 2012 at 7:43 pm #1918791
Thank you for sharing Brian, the Sierra never disappoints. I've been interested in using Shepherds Pass as an entry point. Congrats on finding a good balance of lightweight gear.Apr 16, 2015 at 8:09 pm #2192544
I've been looking to get down there at some point this summer and this may have been the tipping point. Thanks for the photos and the report.
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