Author: Don Otis
The Shepherd Pass Trail on the eastern escarpment of California's Sierra Nevada is not for the faint of heart. The trail winds through three climatic zones off the desert floor at 6,500' and up to Shepherd Pass at 12,000' in the alpine zone. Ken Emerson and I made our way up the 12 mile trail in July 2015 and camped at the pass. On day 2 we made the pass and immediately set out to climb Mt. Tyndall - one of California's 12 ranked 14,000' peaks. With storms converging from the north and west we set up camp and immediately left for the North Rib - a class 3 climb notorious for loose rocks and steep granite. We reached the top, spent little time there and headed to safer ground before the rain, hail and wind assaulted us. Early the next morning we set out for 14,375' Mt. Williamson -- across the Williamson bowl and skirting five lakes in route to the base of the step scree slope that leads to a 100' chimney that leads to the summit plateau. While guidebooks say the chimney is class 3 climbing, there is some exposure. If this is wet or icy the climbing can be treacherous. Permits are required for the pass and these can be found at the White Mountain Ranger station in Bishop. Overall, a classic trail that incudes 10,000' of vertical climbing over 30 miles of hiking and scrambling.