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#49012 - 12/20/16 11:33 AM Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year
WanderingJim Online


Registered: 02/09/15
Posts: 179
Loc: California
So my goal next year for the Whitney area is to do Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney in one hike. Have other hikes planned for other areas (including a big Salkantay to Machu Picchu trek in Peru), but wanted to do some planning on this one now (since I'll have to get the permits soon).

So my first possible starting point is at the Shephard's Pass Trailhead (naturally).

Alternately, I was thinking of going in via Onion Valley. A little longer (okay, a lot longer since I'll have to pop over to Mt Williamson and back to the JMT), but would give me more time to acclimatize before trying to summit Williamson.

I rushed my acclimatization this year when I did Mt Langley first and it cost me my 2nd Whitney attempt. This would force me to spend some time at lower altitudes on the way to Williamson.

Looks like Kearsarge Pass is the entry point.

Any thoughts on which is the better hike? (scenery and hiking difficulty).

Anyone have rough mileage for the two hikes.

I'm planning on a full 9 days (Sat to Sun) to do either of these hikes, but what are the likely number of days for each starting point, summitting both peaks, and exiting via the Portal?

July or August would be the timeframe.


Thanks.

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#49013 - 12/20/16 12:10 PM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: WanderingJim]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7195
Loc: Fresno, CA
The Onion Valley / Kearsarge entry is definitely an easier hike, since you start at 9k elevation rather than 6.3k. It is an easy cross-country walk (~2.5 miles) east-south-east off the JMT to join the trail from Shepherd Pass. (But then with the Kearsarge and Forrester passes, it's about the same elevation gain as Shepherd Pass alone.)

The Shepherd Pass trailhead requires a high-clearance (if not 4wd) vehicle.

As for AMS, when I hiked from Onion Valley to Whitney, I had AMS until the third day, and we even spent the night before at OV. Climbing the Shepherd Pass route is just a suffer-fest that will certainly get you into AMS-ville sooner.

The most difficult part of this trip would be getting the Trail Crest Exit permit along with the entry permit. Alternately, you could exit via the Mountaineer's Route on Whitney, or via Horseshoe Meadows.

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#49015 - 12/20/16 12:28 PM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: Steve C]
WanderingJim Online


Registered: 02/09/15
Posts: 179
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: Steve C
Alternately, you could exit via the Mountaineer's Route on Whitney, or via Horseshoe Meadows.


I actually have a Horseshoe Meadow exit in mind depending on how I feel at that point. It would let me go down via Crabtree pass which I missed going through since I aborted my Mt Whitney approach this year.

The portal would be my planned exit point.

Descending via MR... that would probably depend on how I feel at that point.

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#49016 - 12/20/16 05:44 PM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: WanderingJim]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7195
Loc: Fresno, CA
Crabtree pass west side is about as gnarly as the "easy walk-off" route on the MR. If you can do one, you can do the other.

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#49018 - 12/20/16 11:37 PM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: Steve C]
psykokid Online


Registered: 07/28/15
Posts: 48
Loc: Pasadena, CA
Originally Posted By: Steve C

The Shepherd Pass trailhead requires a high-clearance (if not 4wd) vehicle.


When I was up there in September the road to the hiker TH was in good shape. No high clearance needed. There were many small subcompact cars with about as much ground clearance as a skateboard parked. There were a few bigger rocks here and there but if you go slow and know how to drive around the rocks you'll have no problem.

Originally Posted By: Steve C

Climbing the Shepherd Pass route is just a suffer-fest that will certainly get you into AMS-ville sooner.


Shepherds Pass, while not my favorite trail by any means (it is a big suck fest with the elevation gain and then loss only to have to regain it) is the quickest way up the Tyndall-Willi area. I broke it up by starting later in the afternoon when things had cooled down and hiking up to Mahogany Flat and camping there for the first night. Second day was up to the pass and saddle between Tyndall and Polychrome. My hiking partner and myself had no AMS related woes on this trip.

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#49019 - 12/21/16 01:32 PM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: WanderingJim]
Glenn Offline


Registered: 09/16/11
Posts: 103
Loc: Oklahoma
Hey WanderingJim,

I've taken the Shepherd Pass Trail a few times and I really enjoy it for the experience of climbing out of the desert right up into the alpine environment. Starting as low as it does and with a first night at just 10,000' (Anvil Camp) I think helped me a lot with acclimatizing. The times I've done it have been in September when all that was needed to beat the heat was an early start.

I did have car trouble one time but that was my fault. I ran over a large loose rock. That road should normally be passable for any kind of car with appropriate care.

By-the-way, the Salkantay trek is amazing.

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#49078 - 01/15/17 01:11 PM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: WanderingJim]
WanderingJim Online


Registered: 02/09/15
Posts: 179
Loc: California
With permit dates coming up for late July/August, I'm narrowing down my plans.


I'll probably spend a night or two at the Onion Valley campground.

Then two days from Onion Valley to Shepherd Pass.

A day to summit Mt Williamson and maybe make my way towards Whitney in the afternoon.

Two days to Whitney (last night before submitting spent at the bivy sites or the summit if possible).

A day for the Sunrise there and to get back to the Portal and an extra day in the schedule just in case.

So 6-7 days on the trail and looks like 60 miles. Sound reasonable?

Is there hiker parking at the Onion Valley trailhead? Figure leaving my car there would be best, then arrange to get back to pickup my car after my hike. That also leaves my car available for an abort back to Onion Valley if needed.

About how long from Shepherd Pass to the summit of Mt Williamson and is the path navigable in the dark? Trying to figure if a pre-dawn hike to see the sunrise from the top is possible.


Edited by WanderingJim (01/15/17 01:12 PM)

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#49080 - 01/15/17 08:37 PM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: WanderingJim]
RenoFrank Online


Registered: 08/06/11
Posts: 411
Loc: Reno, NV
Originally Posted By: WanderingJim


Is there hiker parking at the Onion Valley trailhead? Figure leaving my car there would be best, then arrange to get back to pickup my car after my hike. That also leaves my car available for an abort back to Onion Valley if needed.




I left my car at the Onion Valley trailhead for 5 nights. I started there, went over Kearsarge Pass, took JMT to Whitney, and exited at Whitney Portal. Lots of parking, water faucets, bear lockers, and a campground that you can not only reserve sites but they keep several for walk-in hikers.

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#49106 - 01/18/17 03:47 PM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: WanderingJim]
Hobbes Offline


Registered: 03/28/14
Posts: 109
Loc: The OC
Do I understand correctly that you're going to start @ Onion, go over Kearsarge/Forester, then divert from the JMT in order to summit Williamson? And then you're going to backtrack/return to the trail in order to hit Whitney on the way out?

Have you considered just going up Shepherd, summit Willy, traverse the ridge-line down to Wallace, then go up over Russell-Carillon, down to Iceberg and then up the MR and out? If it sounds ambitious, it is. However, anyone who can solo Williamson should be able to deal with the cross-country challenges as well.

I've been up/down both Shepherd, Kearsarge & Forester a number of times. While I haven't done Williamson, I've been off-trail throughout the region.

Having done the Onion to Whitney hike myself, I think you'll find yourself deciding to skip Williamson. It's both out-of-the way and adds an unnecessary fatigue element to the equation.

If you don't want to traverse x-country from Williamson, then a much more straightforward & logical hike would to still go in @ Shepherd. Williamson (or Tyndall) are right there. Thereafter, the Shepherd trails joins the JMT @ Tyndall creek, making it a more logical continuation on the way to Whitney.

PS I've driven my Sienna mini-van 3 times to the Shepherd hikers' TH without any problems. Just watch out for rocks.


Edited by Hobbes (01/18/17 03:49 PM)

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#49129 - 01/24/17 12:26 AM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: Hobbes]
Hillbasher Offline


Registered: 11/21/16
Posts: 4
Loc: San Dimas, California
Originally Posted By: Hobbes
Having done the Onion to Whitney hike myself, I think you'll find yourself deciding to skip Williamson. It's both out-of-the way and adds an unnecessary fatigue element to the equation.

If you don't want to traverse x-country from Williamson, then a much more straightforward & logical hike would to still go in @ Shepherd. Williamson (or Tyndall) are right there. Thereafter, the Shepherd trails joins the JMT @ Tyndall creek, making it a more logical continuation on the way to Whitney.

PS I've driven my Sienna mini-van 3 times to the Shepherd hikers' TH without any problems. Just watch out for rocks.


Am in complete agreement with "Hobbes" on this. If you want to do Williamson, then do Tyndall also seeing how you are there and it is the more enjoyable climb of the two. If your goal is to do Williamson no matter what, then I would also recommend coming into the area over Shepherd Pass. But if you do start at Onion Valley and want to get over to the Williamson/Tyndall options,once you are a mile or two south of Forester, LEAVE the JMT right as you get to the south face of Diamond Mesa at the 11,800 elevation. Cut under DMesa and head XC to the tarn North of Tyndall. In doing this you save 3 miles or so, which you will appreciate latter on in your trip. Once you head back to the JMT, take Wallace Creek up to Tulainyo Lake and get over to Upper Boy Scout Lake via Russell -Carillon pass. This gives you the choice of doing Rusell instead of Whitney, which I would suggest 95 out of 100 times. I have been to the Williamson Bowl area multiple times via both Shepherd Pass and starting at Onion Valley, and have to say Shepherd gets my vote. Williamson,Tyndall, and Russell would be three 14,000 foot peaks, and an epic trip. I have climbed all three, trips starting both at OV and up Shepherd, and no matter which starting point and peaks you end up doing, you will have the time of your life. Good Luck.
P.S. Another thing Hobbes is right about is that getting to the TH for Shepherd should be doable in just about any car as long as you drive smart. 4WD and high clearance is not mandatory.

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#49148 - 01/30/17 09:27 PM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: Hillbasher]
WanderingJim Online


Registered: 02/09/15
Posts: 179
Loc: California
Okay, so would this be the possible route:

Day 1: Shepherd Pass
Camp near the lake near the pass

Day 2: Mt Williamson
Return to same camp

Day 3: Mt Tyndall
Return to same camp. Depending on time and body condition smile break camp and head towards JMT and camp when I feel like it.

Day 4-5?: Hike towards and along Wallace Creek.
Camp near Tulalnyo Lake

Day 6?: Climb Mt Carlillon and Mt Russell (not sure of the approach to Russell, this seems like a natural path looking at the map)

Day 7?: Is it possible to traverse the ridge from Russell to Whitney? This may be a long shot by this point in the trip anyway.

Day 7-8?: Return to portal (by MR or Whitney Trail).

Not too sure of the approach to Russel and if going over to Whitney is possible.

Do you have any GPX tracks for some of these routes you're suggesting?


Edited by WanderingJim (01/30/17 09:35 PM)

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#49149 - 01/31/17 08:44 AM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: WanderingJim]
Paul Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 172
Loc: Santa Clarita, CA
After descending Tyndall, consider heading toward Rockwell Pass. The pass is an easy hike and allows you to drop down into Wright Lakes. from there you follow Wright Creek down toward the JMT. This saves miles and time. Rockwell pass is just west of Tyndall, actually it is the ridge from Tyndall. The pass is just a low saddle, class 2.

Camp at Wright Lakes.

This next suggestion requires you to feel comfortable with some cross country hiking. As you descend Wright Creek, maybe a half mile, off to your left, you will see trees and level hiking, just head through the trees and in about a mile, you come to the Wallace creek drainage and use trail. This saves about 2 plus miles.

Only do this if you feel comfortable in route finding and reading maps.

I take this route frequently to Wallace and Wales lake.

paul

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#49151 - 01/31/17 09:54 AM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: Paul]
psykokid Online


Registered: 07/28/15
Posts: 48
Loc: Pasadena, CA
I'll second going over Rockwell Pass. Pretty mellow hike from the Tyndall Creek drainage down into the Wright Lakes Basin. Wright Lakes is pretty wide open and easy to navigate. My hiking buddy and I didn't see another soul when we cut through there last year after coming down the backside of Tyndall.

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#49153 - 01/31/17 05:42 PM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: WanderingJim]
Hobbes Offline


Registered: 03/28/14
Posts: 109
Loc: The OC
My hiking buddy Andy did the SoSHR last summer. Here's his TR:

http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=15001

He also has a personal blog linked from above, so if you have any questions, you could contact him directly.

He went over Rockwell from Shepherd, then up R-C, down to UBSL, up the MR, down Discovery to Crabtree, through Miter, up to Langley and out to Horseshoe.

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#49155 - 01/31/17 09:54 PM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: Hobbes]
WanderingJim Online


Registered: 02/09/15
Posts: 179
Loc: California
Okay, after reading your suggestions and digging up some gps tracks from various sources (the blue section) and eyeballing a satellite picture between what I think is Rockwell Pass (it's not named on any of my maps) and Mt Russell (red section), I've put together a possible route.

Exit via the MR or WT.

The trail between Mt Russell and Mt Whitney (green section) I didn't have a GPS track, but some maps showing people going between there in that rough track.

Is that a possibly good route? (particularly the red and green sections since I couldn't find any GPS downloads that corresponded to those hikes)


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#49156 - 01/31/17 10:06 PM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: WanderingJim]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7195
Loc: Fresno, CA
Jim, in your first post you wrote:
"I rushed my acclimatization this year when I did Mt Langley first and it cost me my 2nd Whitney attempt."

Shepherd Pass is 12,000' elevation. First, you aren't going to want to haul a pack with 7 days' food from the trail head at 6,300' up to 12k in one day. Second, you are setting yourself up for a repeat of last year's AMS, but this time ruining a 7-day trip!


Last summer, I took the route up Wallace Creek and the use trail to Wallace Lake. It was sometimes difficult to follow and I lost it several times. I used my gps unit and paper map to find my way each time, and was successful following it most of the time. If I ever go that way again, it will be much easier due to being familiar with the area.

I camped at Wallace Lake, and then hiked out next day to Whitney Portal over Carillon/Russell Pass. I could have and should have climbed Russell.

Getting to Whitney from Russell: Carefully study the descent route off Russell, down-climb into the Arctic Lk drainage, then over Russell-Whitney pass descend to Iceberg Lk. You can climb the Mountaineers Route to Whitney. I have only seen anyone successfully climb the north slope of Whitney when there was a good snow/ice blanket so crampons could be used.

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#49159 - 02/01/17 08:24 PM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: Steve C]
WanderingJim Online


Registered: 02/09/15
Posts: 179
Loc: California
Steve, yeah... I keep vacillating between Onion and Shepherd.

I guess I could do something like this:



Two Days from Onion Valley to the tarn near Tyndall seems doable.

Is Williamson and Tyndall doable in a single day? Or maybe do Tyndall as a pre-dawn hike for sunrise from the top?

The Russell vs Whitney vs both decision could be made on the trail I guess. If I had managed Whitney last year I probably could forgo it this year, but really want to hit it again.

If anyone has actual GPS tracks for some of the sections, I'd appreciate it.

Particularly the bit between Russell and Whitney. That seems like the only way I'd do both at that point in the trip. Dropping down to Lower Boy Scout Lake and back up doesn't seem likely to work well.

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#49160 - 02/01/17 10:49 PM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: WanderingJim]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7195
Loc: Fresno, CA
About 12 years ago, I did OV to Wallace Cr in 2 long days, with 3 other hikers. Center Basin first night, Wallace Cr. the second. I did your Shepherd Pass route, starting about dark and hiking for hours by headlamp first night. Second night at Shepherd Pass. Did Tyndall and Willi next day. But I was like 35 then.

Take 2 days to get to Shepherd Pass. Do Willi on one day. Next day, do Tyndall in the morning, then take the pack over Rockwell Pass.

Regarding Russell, remember, you are carrying a full backpack. I climbed Russell-Carrillon pass with my pack. It was class 3 in some places. Secor book says the North Arete is class 3. I think I would prefer my route, then climb the east ridge. If you are still feeling strong, you would descend the south face talus. (Read Secor's description carefully -- I'd worry about getting into a Class 4 situation.

You don't have to descend to upper Boy Scout. Above I wrote that you would descend to Iceberg.

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#49168 - 02/02/17 09:45 AM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: Steve C]
Snacking Bear Offline


Registered: 08/09/11
Posts: 446
Loc: Saugus, CA
Great Trip plan WJ!! I'm actually really jealous, I love the idea of a x-country trip like this.

Shepherds Pass -or- Onion Valley

I think Shepherds Pass gets a bad rap, I would say that you should do it!

I would also agree with Steve; I think you should take two days to get up it. I might also add, that depending on the time of year there is a sizable if not shallow tarn at the Tyndall-Polychrome Saddle. Camping at TPS would put you even closer to Tyndall and Willi, AND the TPS is an easy if not sandy walk from the SP Lake. You are also less likely to see people, and you get better views of both Tyndall and the Williamson Bowl that you'd miss from the Pass.

Williamson:

As per Willi: You are right to take a full day, and to answer your earlier question about reaching the top for sunrise... I would say no. Getting across the Bowl is physically, mentally, and spiritually draining and you need to be able to see the black stain on Willi's crude w face. The ascent chute is not apparent until you're right under it. Additionally, unless you are familiar with the terrain or really comfortable on steep class 3, the 80ft w face chimney demands some daylight attention.

Russell-Whitney:

As it pertains to the S Face of Russell I can send you pics of the S. Face descent as I had to do it when hit by a July snow flurry. It was fun and doable, but just about the airiest class 3 I've done.

Once at the Whitney Russell Col descending to Iceberg, camping, and up the MR is your best bet. But you CAN climb Whitney's N. face directly. but I can't promise that it will be easy.

For the whole section from Whitney to Russell I'd most recommend dropping your pack at the Russell Carillon Col, climbing the E. Ridge of Russell, returning, and then take the easy sand slope to UBSL. You can get from the 13,200 to the 11,200 UBSL in 1-2 hours. The sand makes the descent quick, easy, and fun.

From UBSL, dayhike up the MR and then pack out.


Edited by Snacking Bear (02/02/17 09:54 AM)
Edit Reason: More info/ format
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#49173 - 02/02/17 10:15 PM Re: Mt Williamson and Mt Whitney hike next year [Re: Snacking Bear]
RenoFrank Online


Registered: 08/06/11
Posts: 411
Loc: Reno, NV
Originally Posted By: Snacking Bear
But you CAN climb Whitney's N. face directly. but I can't promise that it will be easy.


I enjoyed this trip report. That ridge to Russell looks a little too scary for me. Am I correct that this was a day hike?

Joseph your goal for MWMT is 10 hours car to car, does that also include some jogging? (I do understand this is not your trip report)


Edited by RenoFrank (02/02/17 10:17 PM)

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