Barnard Fun

How do you spell relief? There isn't a lot of flat terrain on this tour. In fact, some pretty exciting ski ascents and descents go with the territory. This one's a real barnburner of a ski trip, with the most elevation change per mile (1100'), and the highest average elevation (11600') of any of the tours in the series. The scenery on this tour is nothing short of outrageous; Barnard Fun takes you to the shores of the Sierra's highest lake, within a mile or so of five 14000' peaks (plus pretty close to about another half-dozen nearly-14000' peaks), and right to the summit of 13990' Mt. Barnard. However, it is worth noting that snow coverage and quality can be pretty variable due to the route's high wind exposure.

  Whitney and Barnard
Whitney viewed from near Trojan Peak; that's Barnard's east slope to the right
This tour may be done in either direction; I've chosen north to south to take advantage of the higher trailhead at Onion Valley. Shorter tours may be done from either direction, by exiting via the Shepherd Pass trail. The tour should be good in early- to mid-Spring; much later and you can expect to lose considerable coverage on many of the high exposed slopes. Hopefully, you'll have open roads to the trailheads when you do your tour (parking is available at both trailheads). Winter closures of these roads are at around 6000' or so; they typically open officially in mid- to late-April. However, unlike most other Eastside road closures, these are not "hard closures", and it is common for skiers to drive around the "Road Closed" signs and then drive and park as high as conditions allow.

Day 1 is short, due to the need to acclimatize. Ascend west of south from Onion Valley towards University Col, the steep pass about a mile southeast of University Peak. Camp 1 should be somewhere along the way.

  University Col
That big steep funnel is University Col (west side)
The next day, climb up University Col and descend carefully down the long 40-to-45 degree slope to Golden Bear Lake. There appear to be at least two "passes" here. The proper pass is the one that is about 0.7 mile southeast of University Peak, but it looks possible that the other one, more like 0.5 mile southeast of the peak, goes just about as well, and may actually be slightly lower angle on the steep southwest side.

Ascend the expansive Center Basin southward, and traverse up the ridge to the west of lake 12090', crossing the Sierra Crest over the rise about a half-mile northeast of Junction Peak (west of the steep notch known as Junction Pass). Drop into the slot east of Junction Peak, and descend to the bowl just north of Shepherd Pass, Camp 2.

Today's another big day (if you or the conditions aren't ready for it, the Shepherd Pass trail can provide an easy bail-out route). Pop over Shepherd Pass and head southeast, between the towering summits of Tyndall and Williamson, to Lake Helen of Troy. Ascend and traverse around the west side of Trojan Peak (crossing very briefly over to the west side of the Sierra Crest and then back to the east side). Drop about 400' into the George Creek headwaters and then ascend Mt. Barnard's east face (which seldom holds snow) right to the top. From the summit of Barnyard, you can toss yer cowboy hat clear up to 14000', yessir. Then put that Stetson back on your haid and ride yerself one heck of a ski descent a half a vertical mile down, and that ain't no tall tale, to Wallace Crick. Camp 3, yeehaw!

An alternate route from Shepherd Pass to the southern base of Barnard is to go southwest from Shepherd Pass for about 2 miles, over a 12000' pass that takes you into the Wright Lakes area, continuing around Barnard's southwest side to Wallace Lake. We took this route in 4/02 to avoid poor snow coverage on Mt. Barnard. Unfortunately, the Wright Lakes route misses a crossing of the spectacular Williamson Bowl.

More excitement ahead... Ascend southeast to the very special Lake Tulainyo, and climb Russell-Carillon Col, which may be a very challenging ascent if there is still a lot of snow coverage in the steep upper section. Descend from the col via Carillon's steep southeast-facing slope (a little less steep if you mostly stay towards the east side of the broad ramp), which drops into Clyde Meadow. From there, follow North Fork Lone Pine Creek down, via that infamous narrow brushy ledgy section below Lower Boy Scout Lake, to the Whitney Trail and the trailhead.

Story & photos of two Barnard Fun trips: 3/01 and 4/02.

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