Backpack Mt. Williamson from Shepherd Pass

Mount Williamson Trailhead

You will hike for about 3-5 days with a Relatively isolated climb and some Class 3+ scrambles to the Second highest peak in California. There is Wildlife, with Easy water access for a fairly Isolated for a California 14er with Little bear concern.

This trail starts at the lowest, and generally regarded hardest, trailhead in the Southern Sierras. You quickly gain elevation in what many describe as manageable but relentless. The first section of the hike has nice shade and adequate water access. Very enjoyable company to boot!

Once you cross over Shepherd pass ~12,200', the scenery changes. What was once tree covered and well carved becomes barren and difficult to follow. The route requires talus scrambling (Class 2) and progress is slow. However, you are rewarded with Williamson Bowl, surrounded by two beautiful 14ers. Once in the bowl, you can make camp lakeside and prepare for the talus haul that is Mt. Williamson.

The first half of the climb requires route finding and second half of the climb requires...more route finding. You climb up a talus draped couloir (Class 2) until you reach a Class 3+/4 chimney. While many guidebooks often refer to this as Class 3, I believe this measure is inaccurate and leads many groups to attempt the climb unprepared (bearing in mind that you are well above 14,000' at this point in your climb).

Once through the chimney, you are rewarded with a breathtaking summit plateau, which is quickly met with the harsh reality that a talus ridge still stands between you and the proper summit. However, the ridge is easily tackled and should be over in less than 20 minutes. Ascend the ridge and you are greeted with a big cairn, register, and knowledge that you, Norman Clyde, and a relatively small number of people (for such a high peak in the US), are enjoying the amazing view from atop the second highest peak in California.

Pack List

  • Usual backpacking gear for 3-5 days
  • 30 degree or colder bag
  • Trekking poles
  • Tough boots
  • Rope / Slings
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RT Distance 20 Miles
Elevation Gain 8000 Feet
Activities Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking, Rock Climbing
Skill Level Advanced
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Lake
River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Totally worth the effort

This area of the Sierra is spectacular. The Williamson Bowl is worth the trip alone.


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