Sunday, August 30, 2015

Kearsarge Basin

Dale Matson

About 7 miles from Onion Valley To Bullfrog Lake
About 2,500’ Of Altitude Gain To Kearsarge Pass (11,709’)

Kearsarge Basin reminds me a bit of Humphrey’s Basin. They both have water much of the way on the civilized climbs to their respective passes. Each climb includes several lakes. For those who want a more leisurely pace to Kearsarge Basin, there are camping places at these lakes. I say “civilized” when compared to say, Taboose Pass. They are both “Trans Sierra” hikes that follow eastward flowing creeks. In this case the trail follows Independence Creek.

Kearsarge pass was named after a silver mine and a Union ship that sank the Confederate ship the Alabama. That is how the Alabama Hills (A Confederate Ship) got the name. The pass is a favorite of folks who are resupplying others on the John Muir Trail (JMT) and PCT. It is also a good way to get to the Rae Lakes Loop instead of coming east from Road’s End in Cedar Grove. Those who want to do a trans Sierra hike in one day go from Onion Valley to Road’s End in Kings Canyon Park. Sometimes two groups will head out. One will come from Road’s End and the other from Onion Valley. They will meet along the way, switch car keys and drive out at the other end.

This is the most popular pass over the Sierras with hikers and backpackers and one where you might see the endangered Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep from the Mt. Baxter herd unit. The most convenient wilderness permit station for multi day hikes is in Lone Pine.  Make certain you resupply with filtered/purified water by Flower Lake. Heart and Pothole Lakes are too far below the trail to be practical sources.

When you reach Kearsarge Pass, the view will be both impressive and expansive. As you face west, Mt. Gould will be on your immediate right. You will be able to see the Kearsarge Pinnacles towering above Kearsarge Lakes. Ansel Adams has a photograph including both. Further west, you can see Bullfrog Lake that remains closed to camping but has excellent photographic opportunities.

After leaving the pass, you will come to a trail junction. Although the two trails parallel each other, the northern trail travels about 400’ above the trail to the south. The northern trail is intended for those folks intending to meet up with the JMT/PCT and head north over Glen Pass. The southern trail is intended for those wanting to go to Kearsarge Lakes, meet up with the southbound JMT/PCT or those headed to the popular Charlotte Lake. There is a wilderness ranger station at that location. Charlotte Lake is visible from the [upper trail] to Glen Pass.

Although I have passed above Kearsarge Basin on my way to Rae Lakes on the upper trail twice, I did have the opportunity to take the lower trail on my way to Center Basin.

 Click On Photographs To Enlarge

 Independence Creek
Gilbert Lake
 Flower Lake

 Heart Lake
 Big Pothole Lake
 Kearsarge Pinnacles And Lakes
 Bullfrog Lake In Distance

 Trail Heading To Bullfrog Lake

 Bullfrog Lake

 East Vidette Left Center
 Small Unnamed Lake West Of Bullfrog lake

   Sierra Resupply
Bullfrog Lake From Upper Trail

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