This was a nine day backpack over Shepherd Pass into Lake South America and the headwaters of the Kern River. We had a great trip and climbed seven peaks. Our group included Mirna Roach, Charlie Knapke, Rich Gnagy, Daryn Dodge, and RJ. Secor.
There were dark thunder clouds over Lone Pine as we drove up highway 395 Friday evening. The last glow of the sun in the west shone through the black clouds lighting up the skv with an ominous looking orange glow. We wondered whether this was going to be a wet week in the Sierra. That night as we sat talking at the Shepherd Pass Trailhead it started to rain.
The next day there were clouds in the sky which made the backpack up to Anvil Camp with nine days of food much more pleasant. We left the trailhead at 7.15 a.m. and were happily in camp by 3:00 p.m. That was enough for the first day. We had gone seven miles and 4200 feet of elevation gain. That evening there was a thunder storm on the west side of Shepherd Pass. The sky was dark and the wind blew, but we only got a few sprinkles at our camp.
We left camp at 7:30 a.m. and were up to Shepherd Pass about 10:00 a.m. We followed the trail down a couple of hundred feet in elevation and headed due east cross-country toward the Lake South America Trail. This route saved us a little mileage over taking the Shepherd Pass Trail south to Tyndall Creek and then north again on the Lake South America Trail. We had lunch at the top of the small pass before one heads down to Lake South America. About 3.00 p.m. we had camp established on the west side of Lake South America. This would be our camp for climbing Stanford Ericsson Jordan, and Genevra. That afternoon R.J. Secor climbed Caltech Peak while the rest of us rested or went fishing. R.J. reported that Caltech Peak was Class 2 from a chute just north of the lake. The fishing is not very good at Lake South America. I caught only one lonely fish while we were there.
It was clear and breezy. We left camp at 7:00 a.m. and headed north for Stanford and Ericsson. We hiked north to the top of Harrison Pass and then up the ridge to the top of Gregory's Monument. Here is where the climbing starts. Continue north from Gregory's Monument on the west side. Soon there is a seven or eight foot drop off onto a large block. One can climb down onto the block or jump. Here we set up some webbing so that we would have something to hold onto on the way back. (On the way back this was helpful to the shorter members of our group. Others didn't like the webbing and free climbed it.) Once past the block drop down on the east side and continue north. Soon one will see the route dropping down a class three chute. Then it continues north on a small ledge, which gets smaller before one climbs up another chute and then continues on the ridge to the base of Mt. Stanford where the climbing is easier. The summit was reached by 10:00 a.m. We all thought this peak worthy of a class 3 rating. In fact it was the majority opinion that Stanford and not Ericsson was the better climb and should have the mountaineer status. The old register was gone unfortunately:. It had been moved to Berkeley for "safe keeping."
After a short lunch break at Gregory's Monument, we headed down to Harrison Pass (which looks like a very difficult pass on the north side especially if one has a heavy pack). From the easy south side of Harrison Pass, we headed up the ridge to Mt. Ericsson. The ridge is class 2 and then turns to class 3 as one climbs up through a notch on the ridge and crosses to the west side. Here it is easier going class 2 until one reaches the summit block which is class 3. We crossed over to the east side for a short bit and then went up to the top from the south. We summited at 2:00 p.m. It was a clear, beautiful day. We would have good weather for the remainder of our trip. We were back in camp that afternoon by·4:00 p.m.
We left camp at 6:30 a.m. and followed the trail back to the trail junction at the small lake south of Lake South America. Here we took the trail west down to about 1500 meters( a little over 1/2 a mile) and headed cross country for the bowl between Mt. Jordan and Mt. Genevra. We were at the base of Mt. Jordan about 8:20 am. We climbed the first broad scree and rock chute on the eastern side of Mt. Jordan almost to the ridge, then traversed around a large buttress into the next chute south and climbed to the top left side of that chute. From here we could see the summit block. It was now 10:00 a.m. We set up a belay for the step across from the north to the summit block. A 65 foot rope was just long enough for me to belay everyone up to the summit block and back down. One member of our group decided he didn't need a belay and before I knew it he was standing on the summit beside me as I got ready to belay someone else. This was a fun 4th class summit block we all enjoyed climbing. Everyone had a different way of down climbing it. We had lunch near the summit at 11:45 a.m.
After lunch we went back down to the bowl between Mt. Jordan and Mt. Genevra. From here we climbed Mt. Genevra, angling up from the southwest until we were just below the summit. Mt. Genevra is class 2 with many large blocks of granite making it easy climbing. We reached the summit at 2:00 p.m. Our descent was down the eastern side of the peak which went quite well. We then went due east back to camp, passing a large beautiful lake at 3580 meters. The people camping there reported good fishing. Camp was reached at 4:30 p.m.
This was a lay over day. All we did was move camp about 2 1/2 miles down to lake 3340 meters at the mouth of the canyon that runs east from the ridge between Thunder and Table mountains. We left camp about 9:00 am and said good-bye to RJ. Secor, who headed back to L.A. to celebrate his 40th birthday. The rest of us spent the day relaxing and fishing at a beautiful lake. The fishing was excellent.
We were up early. The full moon and the sun were both in the sky that morning, which made for some interesting pictures. We left camp at 6:10 a.m. for Thunder Mtn. and hiked east up the canyon from lake 3310 meters through pretty alpine meadows. At about 3150 meters there are some water falls and cliffs. so we climbed up on the north side of the canyon and didn't rejoin the stream until right below lake 3740 meters, the highest lake in this drainage. We contoured around the lake on the south side and up the southwest side of Thunder Mtn. to just below the south summit. Here the real climbing starts. We climbed down to the notch between the south and middle summit to "the airy bridge", then followed the ledge out to the south summit. The route goes as high class 3 with a 4th class summit block.
We only used a short belay at the summit block. We all climbed up and down the crack on the south side with a chockstone in it except for Mirna who got tired of waiting for a belay and free climbed down the crack on the west side. We climbed back to the south summit and had lunch and returned to camp by 2:45 p.m. We broke camp at 3:35 p.m. and moved downstream about a mile to lake 3260 meters. This is were the trail that joins the Kern River with the John Muir trail meets the upper Kern River. Our camp was about 1/2 mile north of Milestone Creek. There was good fishing at this lake. We enjoyed fish for dinner a second night.
We left camp at 6:35 a.m. for Table Mountain. Our route went over some slabs from camp and into the Milestone basin. Where the creek forks at 3380 meters, we took the north right hand fork and followed it up to a lake at 3500 meters. From here we could see the stream coming out of lake 3620 meters and we followed the stream up to lake 3620. From here we could see the route up the south side of Table Mountain. There is a brown ledge that comes down across the south side of the mountain and leads into the predominate gully on the south side. Start on the left hand side of the mountain at a bearing of 318 degrees from the inlet of the lake. Climb up a scree chute and up some sand covered ledges and traverse above the brown ledge until you can drop down to it. Then follow the brown ledge up. You will go through a keyhole on your way up. The summit is on the north end of the plateau. We had lunch on the summit at noon and were back in camp by 4:30 in time for fishing.
We left camp at 8 30 a.m. and headed east back to the John Muir Trail. There were good views of the Kern Trench along the way. and we stopped to identify peaks and enjoy the view. We crossed the John Muir Trail and headed cross country back to the Shepherd Pass Trail. Our route joined the Shepherd Pass Trail just about due east of Mt. Tyndall. and so Daryn Dodge decided to climb Mt. Tyndall that day. The rest of us headed for the pass. We had lunch at the pass at noon. We said good-bye to Rich and Charlie, who decided to head for the cars that day. Mirna and I set up camp above the Pothole on the old Junction Pass Trail. Daryn joined us later that day at our new camp. We heard later that Charlie and Rich made it back to the cars that evening at 7:00 p.m.
Mirna and I were up early this morning and left to climb Mt. Keith just as it was getting light. We said good-bye to Daryn and headed up the old Junction Pass Trail. This trail, which was part of the John Muir Trail before Forester Pass was built is over grown with willows near the Pothole but gets better near the pass. Then just before the pass it gets steep again. We followed the ridge up from the pass; it goes as class 3. a good route suggested to me by RJ. The wild was blowing; it was a clear crisp morning. We reached the summit at 9:20 am and enjoyed a good view of the Owens Valley and the Sierra. After a short break we headed down the nice scree-filled chute on the south side of the peak arriving back in camp by 11:20 a.m. We left camp at 11:50 a.m. and were back at the cars by 5:00 p.m.
This was a very enjoyable trip with good company and good climbs. Thanks to everyone for coming. I would highly recommend this trip, it is a beautiful area.