Author Topic: Horseshoe Meadow to Shepherd Pass hike  (Read 7178 times)

trouter

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Horseshoe Meadow to Shepherd Pass hike
« on: July 14, 2014, 11:05:42 PM »
My younger brother asked me if I would like to go with him on a 5 day hike from Horseshoe Meadow to Onion Valley a few months ago so I said yes and started training for it. (Tip: there is no way you can train enough for the multiple passes you have to do)

We started out by doing Cottonwood Pass and spent the first night at Chicken Springs Lake.

The next day we did Guyot Pass and camped at Rock Creek. (not the same Rock Creek).

Then we did Siberian Pass which was really dramatic with no trees and a lake at the top.

We did other passes that I can't remember since my brother was the map guy. All I know is that we hiked up and then down and then up again. If you get to the top, you will go back down which is not good because that means you will have to go back up again eventually.

I failed to purchase hiking gaiters to prevent dirt infiltrating my shoes and socks. This resulted in a large blister on the ball of my left foot and because I was walking funny to favor the sore foot resulted in another blister on the heel of my left foot and another one on the ball of my right foot. I have lost two toe nails so far and it looks like I might loose anther one as well.

Because of my foot problems we made the bad decision to cut off about 8 miles from our trip and exit out via Shepherds Pass. The trip up the back side of Shepherds Pass was beautiful with tundra, glaciers and lots of water running. When we got to the top and started back down the 9.3 mile exit to Independence encountered three glaciers blocking the trail at the top of the canyon. The first glacier was small and looked like the most risky with a very steep slope under it with a few hundred feet drop.

We should have turned back and exited out Whitney Portal which would have been a piece of cake compare to what we were about to encounter with this unmaintained trail of 9.3 miles.

I crossed the first small snow pile (glacier) about 20 feet across and at the end of it the glacier collapsed a little bit. When My brother crossed, it collapsed even more and he went sliding down the slope. I threw off my pack and grabbed one of his trekking poles and he was able to work his way up on to the trail before plummeting down many hundred feet to the bottom.

Now we were stuck without a way back so we had to continue. I was wearing trail running shoes and had no micro spikes or ice axe as well as no rope to cross the other two snow piles blocking the trail. I crossed the second one and at the end hit a large flat rock which made me slide down about eight feet onto the trail. I thought I was going to keep going but somehow stopped. This is where wearing black underwear pays off! (if you know what I mean).

OK, here we are with only a 100 foot glacier to cross. This was probably the most terrifying three minutes of my life because although the other two I just crossed were bad, this was a real glacier that went down a long way and if you slipped, it you be a very fast slide and exciting death.

We made it through that and made the decision to hike as far as we could before making camp. We found water and kept hiking. The problem with this trail is that is has not been maintained and we encountered and wash out with a very large cravasse that took out the trail and we had to negotiate a large drop off where my brother slipped and ended up up hanging off another near death experience. Just not his time I guess.

We hiked until 10:15 that night when we finally go to a spot where we could set up camp. I was almost ready to set camp right on the 12" to 18" wide trail next to a tree so we would not roll off a thousand feet to our death. The canyon is so steep the trail is cut into the side of the mountain which is mostly decomposed granite and seems to go mostly uphill. Hiking with a head lamp on a 12" to sometime 6" trail with many hundred feet drop off at 12,000 feet elevation on a moonless night was very exhilarating.  This day ended up being 17 miles and 12 hours of hiking.

We set camp without tent and hiked out about four miles the next morning.

Anyone looking to do the Shepherds Pass trail from Independence should be very experienced and although the snow is probably gone by now, should be prepared for technical hiking. We were technical. Technically stupid!

It was however, fun terrifying and beautiful. We encountered many PCT'ers (all very skinny people) along the way who started at the Mexican border on May 1st. We shared some of our extra food with them and a camp fire when we were below 10,000 foot level. I think it was Rock Creek where we were able to have a fire.

We only saw one Ranger along the way and he did not check permit or bear canisters. We witnessed PCT'ers using alcohol stoves as well which I wanted to do but was afraid I would be cited or ticketed for.

There are so many rules that don't get followed like "no firearms allowed" but if you read the government websites it says firing a weapon is only allowed in an emergency. If no firearm is allowed? How could you use it in an emergency?

911 does not exist in the back country so you are on your own. Although the government will do a thorough investigation on you dead body when they find it. They will most likely determine you should have had a firearm!

















































Topwater Terry

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Re: Horseshoe Meadow to Shepherd Pass hike
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2014, 11:13:42 PM »
Great report Jon!  Awesome pics,  sounded a bit scary though!  Missed you up at the club gathering,  hope to see u up there next year...
Once I arrive at Tom's Place...well,  you know...nothing else matters...

trouter

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Re: Horseshoe Meadow to Shepherd Pass hike
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2014, 11:43:13 PM »
Thanks Terry, I wanted to go to club but had this trip planned and could not swing it.

I will be going up to the creek next week with the grandkids. My 6 and 8 year old will be going up with me for the week. The 8 year old has been there although she was so young she would not remember and my 6 year old grandson will be going up for his first time. 
I hope to make it a fun experience for them and look forward to creating a new generation of creekers.

I will take them up to Hidden Lake to go for a swim. It is a dead lake with no fish and one of the kids working the cash register at the store told me it was a favorite spot to swim because it is a lake with no incoming water and warms up more than other lakes.

After almost 40 years I actually hiked up there last year and it is really nice. No fish though. Too bad nobody drops in some brook trout fry from time to time. It wouldn't take much. Probably put you in jail for double life time for that crime. What the hell have we come to?

wshawkins

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Re: Horseshoe Meadow to Shepherd Pass hike
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2014, 08:35:36 AM »
Thatís some trip report!  They may look dorky, but gators are great for keeping the dust and debris out of my shoes.  Did you fish?  You walked through or near some of the best golden trout fisheries in the Eastern Sierra.  Your photos are great.  Thanks for sharing them.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2014, 09:45:23 AM by wshawkins »
"It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

SN

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Re: Horseshoe Meadow to Shepherd Pass hike
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2014, 02:41:02 PM »
thank you for a great report and pictures.

dying to camp that area.

Gary C.

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Re: Horseshoe Meadow to Shepherd Pass hike
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2014, 04:59:59 PM »
Thanks for the pictures and report. I watched my wife almost slip down an ice chute once, scared the heck out of us both. I won't take that kind of risk again.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2014, 03:12:34 PM by Gary C. »

Little Hardrock

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Re: Horseshoe Meadow to Shepherd Pass hike
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2014, 10:57:27 AM »
wow jon!   glad you survived this trip in one piece!  well mostly in one piece:)

love the photos...   thanks for taking us along with you on this report.. from the safety of our chairs:)

Hardrock, may his spirit live on in all of us.....

trouter

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Re: Horseshoe Meadow to Shepherd Pass hike
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2014, 05:13:02 PM »
Unfortunately I did not check the California fishing regulations book to find out the area I was in has a season that starts July 1. I purchased a 10 day license for $46.00 so I guess that was a donation to Cal Game & Fish. (I'm sure they will use the money wisely) LOL! Maybe the money will go toward killing the trout in one of the back country lakes to save the frogs they have been coexisting with for 150 years.

I have been hiking in trail runners a lot and usually get a few pebbles which I empty out when it gets too annoying. That trail is like beach sand and has very fine dirt in it which infiltrated my sock. I stopped and emptied my shoes and socks but didn't realize the fine dirt & sand had welded to the inside of my socks. It felt uncomfortable but not bad enough to stop and change socks. That was a fatal mistake. I thought I was tough but when you get a one inch diameter blister on the ball of your foot and you are in twenty five miles with no way out but to keep walking another twenty five miles. That is rough.

I only lost the two middle toe nails on my left foot due to walking funny to avoid the blister. Who needs toe nails anyway.

At least it took away all the other pain away, like the shoulder straps of my pack and oh ya, my legs! Actually, I was in pretty good shape from the training I did prior to the hike so I didn't have as much problem as I thought I would. Doing burpees, deep knee squats, and local hikes up one of our mountains sort of got me prepared.  Nothing can prepare you for all the passes you have to summit at those elevations.

I am looking forward to my next outing but think I will stay close to the area I know better around the Rock Creek area. Doing 15 to 17 miles a day is too much for me. I will leave that to the twenty somethings. At 57 I am in pretty good shape but time takes it's toll no matter what we would like. I still have another 43 years to go so I will keep on truckin in the back country.

I will also reduce the weight in my pack as I had a base weight of 24 lbs. but with water and food had about 50 lbs most of the time. I noticed the PCTer's up there eating a lot of Roman Noodles so I don't think they worry about calorie count like I did. I took way too much food and actually gave away a lot of it once I realized it. One guy told me that is was a good problem to have (too much food). I spent a lot of money to get my pack that light so I will be looking to do without a few things.




fitness

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Re: Horseshoe Meadow to Shepherd Pass hike
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2014, 08:00:18 PM »
trouter- Thanks for posting the report and photos.  I was really quite surprised, the water levels shown in Chicken spring lake and Rock Creek are not quite as low as I would have imagined given the last couple of years drought so I am wondering if a backcountry trip is not out of the question for me this late summer=fall.  I have been to both areas Cottonwood pass and climbed Mt. Tyndall (14,100') via Shepherd pass many moons ago.  It still hurts to think about that climb.  thanks again.

trouter

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Re: Horseshoe Meadow to Shepherd Pass hike
« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2014, 08:41:14 PM »
Yes, water was a little better than we had heard but the first part of our trip there was not much water causing us to carry three to four liters of water which was kind of tough due to the weight. The further north we went, the more water we encountered.

There is still quite a few glaciers on the higher peaks than in past years where we had less snow. I don't think the drought is as bad as some people are portraying as far as snow pack.

I would be cautious though starting from Cottonwood hiking north and going south would be a real challenge. Maybe I am weird because I live in the Sonoran Desert so I am a freak about water but I witnessed a lot of the PCTer's going with one liter of water for 8 to 10 miles. I could not do that without major suffering.

I expected more water because I am used to hiking around the Little Lakes Valley & Mammoth areas so I was expecting to carry minimal water which means less weight.
 
There are sources to find out how much water there is on the PCT sites that are pretty accurate.

We saw many creeks that were dry so don't go by the map.


« Last Edit: July 27, 2014, 09:28:08 PM by trouter »