Letting It Slide

16-18 Jun 2010 - by Steve Eckert

Note: I went back the next year and climbed Slide and Kennedy from a different trailhead - see my June 2011 trip report

Backpack from Kings River to Frypan Meadow:

See the trailhead page for info about permits and finding the trailhead. See below for GPS waypoints and live maps for the trail and both peaks. Aaron said in 2002, "We noted, as others have before us, that the trail was moved after the 1953 map was printed, but that the more detailed 1978 map is right. Graybeards still in possession of the old fifteen-minute quadrangle should get in step with the times." Well, the technology keeps changing and modern GPS receivers work quite well in the tall trees, so I can assure you that the 1978 map isn't right either! The red line from Hwy 180 to Frypan Meadow is a continuous GPS track log, and trail junctions were stored as waypoints after verifying the GPS signal.

The trailhead for the Deer Cove Creek trail (waypoint DEERCK) is almost a tenth of a mile west from where the USGS maps show it, but it's well marked and there's plenty of parking. This is an alternative to the Lewis Creek trail (waypoint LEWISC), which is about half a mile shorter but crosses many streams and can be difficult in the spring. The trail starts off going northeast, but quickly turns (waypoint FRYP01) and traverses mostly west. The red line on my map is an actual GPS track log, showing the trail does not match the map. The traverse reaches a ridge (waypoint FRYP02) which the trail follows up for a bit before switching to the left side (waypoint FRYP03) as the ridge turns and climbs to Stag Dome. I thought about going over the dome on the way out, but the brush is too thick to make it worthwhile.

The only water on the way in is where you cross the stream in Deer Cove (waypoint FRYP04), around 5.6k. Note that this crossing is below where the map shows it, so you have to climb out from the stream in both directions. The switchbacks climbing west from Deer Cove are radically different than on the map, ending (waypoint FRYP05) in a long northern traverse below the ridgeline to Deer Cove Saddle (waypoint FRYP06) where there is a marked trail junction. This junction is not where the map shows it, and there aren't as many trails there as the map shows. Go northeast on the ridge for Grizzly and Frypan (the sign says Wildman Meadow), or turn left if you want to drop to Grizzly Creek (the sign says Choke Creek). The traverse below this saddle is notable because there are only a few very tall trees surrounded by grass and low brush. Since the fire that cleared this area many years ago, no pine seedlings have managed to grow!

The trail again diverges from the map, staying on the right side of the ridge until it crosses the ridge and levels out in a tall forest (waypoint FRYP07). Dropping slightly toward Wildman Meadow, the trail gets vague about where you see the grass - just parallel the grassy meadow and ignore any animal trails that climb out of the drainage. A corral and a trail sign (1.2 miles to Frypan) marks Wildman Meadow (waypoint WILDMM). Horse people camp here, and built quite a campsite with chain saws. Of course horse people also seem unable to pick up their trash or avoid driving large nails into trees. There was only a trickle of water here even when there were still patches of snow on the ground in June.

Around Wildman the trail vanishes because there are horses trampling it near the meadow, but it soon reappears right along the wet green strip north of the corral. Just after the grassy meadow ends, the trail angles left and reaches a signed junction (waypoint FRYP09): left to Burns Meadow or straight to Grizzly Lake. This junction is southwest of where it is shown on the map, probably having been moved by packers avoiding fallen trees (lots of those here). Soon there is another junction (waypoint FRYP10), not shown at all on the map. For the first time a sign mentions Frypan Meadow, indicating you should go straight even though the trail goes to the right. Turn left for Grizzly Lakes if you want to bypass Frypan Meadow on a trail that's not on the map.

Immediately after the signed junction (waypoint FRYP10) there are signs indicating you are entering Monarch Wilderness and Kings Canyon National Park (waypoint FRYP11). Beyond here, a wilderness permit IS required for overnight use even if the Deer Cove trailhead doesn't require one. (See the trailhead page for permit info.) The trail COMPLETELY vanishes at these two signs, but if you go straight over a small hump and bear left a bit you can pick up the trail as it crosses a draw. The now-faint trail sidehills almost level around Point 8030, crossing a rocky shoulder (waypoint FRYP12) before joining the trail from Lewis Creek (at waypoint FRYJLC). Here there are two signs, ten feet apart, that disagree on how far it is to Frypan Meadow (0.1 or 0.2 miles). Those signs also indicate Cedar Grove (probably the pack station at CGPACK, not the store at CEDARG) and the Lewis Creek trailhead (waypoint LEWISC) are both 6.1 miles from here. (My GPS track log shows the Deer Cove trail is 6.7 miles to this junction.)



From this junction continue north, down across a small stream that drains Frypan Meadow, then turn left uphill along the right side of the meadow until you approach another stream. There's a great campsite at 7.8k next to a bear box in tall trees between the meadow and the stream (waypoint FRYPAN) which I'm considering Frypan Meadow even though the map labels Frypan on a ridge northeast across the stream. This stream is the second one west of Lewis Creek, and the bear box is 100 yards south of the junction (waypoint FRYJCT) where the trail splits for Kennedy Pass or Grizzly Lakes. The map shows the trail on the wrong side of the stream where the bear box is! The north-south red line on the map above is an actual GPS track log from 2010.

2011 Update: The trail from the meadow stream to the bear box has been completely obliterated by huge fallen trees. Make your way up the west edge of the meadow, because the trail on the east edge is now complete gone under a dozen or so downed big trees. Two huge (3-4 ft diameter) trees fell at right angles to each other just below bear box, and one of them was tall enough to reach all the way across the meadow. Walk across that tree to the bear box to avoid damaging the meadow. The trail to Grizzly Lake is being maintained, but NOT the trail to Frypan or Kennedy Pass.


Louise and Lisa joined me in camp, arriving about 6pm after driving and packing in from 2-6pm the same day. We talked until it was dark, and got up before it was light, about one week before the shortest night of the year.

The Kennedy/Grizzly trail junction sign points directly to a 4' diameter tree in a thicket of bushes - they must have hired a rocket scientist to position THAT sign! Go 50' beyond the tree, then turn left on an unmarked and vague trail (waypoint FRYJCT) to Grizzly Lakes or go straight to Kennedy Pass. This unmaintained use trail leads west to the Grizzly Lakes trail (waypoint GRIZ01) where you would have come if you had stayed left at FRYP10. Once again, the junction is not where it is shown on the map.

We crossed the creek near GRIZ02, and climbed 200' on a trail along the creek. Louise then led us on what she said was the best of at least 3 routes to climb a steep pine duff slope. The map shows the trail going way out on ridge, but went up the red line and came down closer to the stream. It's a maze of fallen logs and use trails, just keep going up until the slope eases at around 9.3k, then climb easier footing to the ridge east of Grizzly Lakes (waypoint GRIZ04). We completely ignored the trail here, as it climbs higher on the ridge for no apparent reason before dropping back down to the lakes.

We dropped slightly to the drainage above the lakes, never getting as low as lake level, and followed the drainage up into solid snow cover. We fought our way onto the north ridge of Harrington near the bump north of the peak, but coming down we decided this shortcut wasn't worth the effort. Just climb to the broad easy saddle 0.4 miles north of the peak (waypoint HARIDG), then follow the ridge over a small bump to the saddle where the 3rd class climbing starts (waypoint HARSAD).


The flake that is Mount Harrington is pretty impressive from the bowl above Grizzly Lakes, but it's even more impressive from this saddle. All the tough parts are turned on the right (west) and the climbing is never hard enough to justify a rope. Surprisingly the exposure feels less than it looks.

Louise did a fine job leading, and we reached the 11009' summit of Mt Harrington shortly after 10am, 4.5 hours after we left camp. Lisa and Louise cranked up their SPOT beacons to send "we're OK" messages, and I tried in vain to place a cell phone call. We spent quite a long time on the summit, enjoying the perfectly blue sky and celebrating the joys of being there in good weather before the mosquitoes hatch. Then it was back to camp, where I took a nap and the girls started backpacking back to their car at 230pm (reaching it at 5pm and getting home the same night).



I wanted to position my camp better for Slide, but didn't have far to go, so I hung around Frypan until the temps dropped a bit. Around 4pm I started up the trail to Kennedy Pass, which is detailed in my June 2011 trip report, leaving the trail (waypoint LEWIS1) by turning left up the ridge which parallels the west side of Lewis Creek. I didn't have any beta on this route, but it looked good on the map! Lucky for me there was a fire here some years ago which burned off most of the brush low on the ridge. The burn extends up to about 8.4k (waypoint LEWIS2), and this part of the ridge is basically Class 1. There was bear scat everywhere, from the meadows and high onto this ridge, with so much grass in it that we wondered if burros lived here.


Above 8.4k, the ridge gets narrower and the brush gets thicker, but I could still pick a way through it without getting scratched up. By 8.8k (waypoint LEWIS3) the ridge was broad, the brush was thicker, and there were more large boulders: tougher going, but careful route picking still worked and I didn't have to plow through dense brush. Here the west side of the ridge seemed less brushy and I tried to find a place to camp near the stream west of the ridge. No chance. At 9k, just over an hour from Frypan, I found some flat spots on the ridge well away from the stream (waypoint LEWIS4) and decided there probably wouldn't be a better spot to camp. It turns out I was right. This was the only viable campsite on the ridge above the trail. This spot can be reached in a single day from the trailhead, then you could do Slide and pack all the way out the second day.

Once again I was amazed at how perfect the weather was. Warm but not hot, no frost at night, deep blue sky, no clouds, and no bugs. Even the ants seemed to respect my space. The next morning I climbed about 200' to where the ridge steepens, then traversed right (east) toward Lewis Creek. I went too high on the way in, but found this route on the way out: Cut above the boulder field at the head of the gully east of camp, being careful not to go too high. Staying below 9.3k keeps you out of a huge field of tedious boulders-and-brush. On the way down, look again for that boulder field in the gully to avoid descending the wrong ridge.

The markers for the correct route are being above the boulders in the gully (waypoint LEWIS5) and then being barely above a stand of aspens (waypoint LEWIS6). Then it's a matter of climbing parallel to and west of Lewis Creek on easy Class 2 to the 10.7k saddle northwest of Lewis Lake (waypoint LEWSAD). I got to the saddle at 730am, 2 hrs from camp, almost entirely on dry ground. (In my June 2011 trip report I describe following the ridge from here to Mt Kennedy.)

Beyond the saddle, however, it was 100% snow. Early in the morning I needed crampons to sidehill northwest to the outlet of Upper Slide Lake (waypoint SLILAK), which was still mostly frozen over. It was Class 2 from the saddle, on mixed snow, sand, and rock. Secor rates it as Class 1, but I didn't see any slope gentle enough to consider trail-like, and the loose scree made most of the approaches look unappealing. I went directly to the low point on Slide's south ridge (waypoint SLISAD, above the lake) and basically followed it to the summit.

I reached the 10915' summit of Slide Peak (waypoint SLIDEP) before 10am, thinking I'd go over to Hogback before returning to camp. Slide gets climbed every 5 or 10 years on average, last time was in 2004 (making mine the first ascent of this decade). In contrast with Secor's Class 1 rating, there is a 10' Class 3 summit block with a glass jar register on top. The view of the Sierra Nevada is much better from Slide than from Harrington, since Slide is further in and just as high.

15" deep suncups and random postholing convinced me the traverse to Hogback wouldn't be any fun, so I hung out a long time on the summit and headed back to camp (sans crampons). I had time for a pot of tea and a nap in camp before packing 1.5 hours down to Wildman Meadow for dinner. Here I saw my only mosquito of the trip, who died before scoring, although Lisa reported that mid-day there had been some at the trailhead. It was another 2.5 hours from Wildman to the trailhead, where smoke from a controlled burn was flowing down the Kings River gorge.


info Show the Waypoint+ data below as a
GPX file for your GPS

Datum,North America 1983,GRS 80,0,-1.6E-7,0,0,0
RP,D,DEERCK, 36.8038567305,-118.7154998779,11/13/2001,04:29:37,DEER COVE CREEK TRAIL
RP,D,FRYP01, 36.8042999506,-118.7150299549,06/14/2010,23:44:29,
RP,D,FRYP02, 36.8073199987,-118.7246199846,06/14/2010,23:44:37,FOLLOW RIDGE
RP,D,FRYP03, 36.8097000122,-118.7228499651,06/14/2010,23:44:55,LEAVE RIDGE
RP,D,FRYP04, 36.8153899908,-118.7174999714,06/14/2010,23:45:01,DEER COVE CROSS STREAM
RP,D,FRYP05, 36.8165060282,-118.7226939201,06/14/2010,23:45:12,
RP,D,FRYP06, 36.8261400461,-118.7222299576,06/14/2010,23:45:16,DEER COVE SADDLE JCT
RP,D,FRYP07, 36.8326599598,-118.7072299719,06/14/2010,23:45:25,CROSS RIDGE INTO FOREST
RP,D,WILDMM, 36.8365913630,-118.7022094727,06/14/2010,23:45:38,WILDMAN MDW 7500
RP,D,FRYP09, 36.8431235552,-118.7016601563,06/14/2010,23:45:46,JCT GRIZZLY BURNS
RP,D,FRYP10, 36.8466700315,-118.7009700537,06/14/2010,23:45:54,JCT GRIZZLY FRYPAN
RP,D,FRYP11, 36.8470462561,-118.7001954317,06/24/2010,18:38:42,PARK BOUNDARY
RP,D,FRYP12, 36.8507362604,-118.6983795166,06/24/2010,19:25:40,
RP,D,FRYJLC, 36.8518199921,-118.6985000372,06/14/2010,23:46:01,JCT LEWIS CK TR
RP,D,FRYPAN, 36.8535599709,-118.6985599995,06/14/2010,23:46:27,FRYPAN MDW BEAR BOX 7800
RP,D,FRYPAN, 36.8535599709,-118.6985599995,06/14/2010,23:46:27,FRYPAN MDW BEAR BOX 7800
RP,D,FRYJCT, 36.8545426130,-118.6985015869,06/24/2010,17:45:20,TRAIL JCT N OF FRYPAN
RP,D,GRIZ01, 36.8538644314,-118.7032135725,06/14/2010,23:47:08,JCT FRYPAN GRIZZLY
RP,D,GRIZ02, 36.8547931910,-118.7082254887,06/14/2010,23:47:13,CROSS CREEK
RP,D,GRIZ03, 36.8595850468,-118.7122356892,06/14/2010,23:47:22,
RP,D,GRIZ04, 36.8640830517,-118.7184722424,06/14/2010,23:47:33,RIDGE EAST OF GRIZZLY LAKES
RP,D,GRIZ05, 36.8661143780,-118.7226122618,06/14/2010,23:47:43,GRIZZLY LAKES DRAINAGE
RP,D,HARBWL, 36.8710218668,-118.7310355902,06/24/2010,20:38:52,BOWL BELOW HARRINGTON
RP,D,HARIDG, 36.8756246567,-118.7320251465,06/24/2010,17:37:12,HARRINGTON N RIDGE
RP,D,HARSAD, 36.8718099594,-118.7342499495,06/14/2010,23:48:25,
RP,D,HARRIM, 36.8700300455,-118.7335699797,09/02/2005,14:31:54,11_6 HARRINGTON MT 11009
RouteName,5 ,SLIDE
RP,D,FRYPAN, 36.8535599709,-118.6985599995,06/14/2010,23:46:27,FRYPAN MDW BEAR BOX 7800
RP,D,FRYJCT, 36.8545426130,-118.6985015869,06/24/2010,17:45:20,TRAIL JCT N OF FRYPAN
RP,D,LEWIS1, 36.8534599543,-118.6949270964,06/14/2010,23:52:50,LEWIS CK RIDGE JCT KENNEDY TR
RP,D,LEWIS2, 36.8599451780,-118.6935729980,06/24/2010,20:58:28,TOP OF OLD BURN
RP,D,LEWIS3, 36.8640953302,-118.6925506592,06/24/2010,21:00:32,BROADER RIDGE MORE BRUSH
RP,D,LEWIS4, 36.8655837774,-118.6923680305,06/24/2010,21:08:58,ONLY VIABLE CAMPSITE 9K
RP,D,LEWIS5, 36.8675824404,-118.6895751953,06/24/2010,21:09:36,TRAVERSE
RP,D,LEWIS6, 36.8695715666,-118.6871185303,06/24/2010,21:09:50,TRAVERSE
RP,D,LEWIS7, 36.8707871437,-118.6851501465,06/24/2010,21:15:01,
RP,D,LEWIS8, 36.8772947788,-118.6813507080,06/24/2010,21:15:11,
RP,D,LEWSAD, 36.8834463358,-118.6804199219,06/14/2010,23:51:59,LEWIS CK SADDLE
RP,D,SLILAK, 36.8901407719,-118.6901539564,06/14/2010,23:55:25,SLIDE LAKE
RP,D,SLISAD, 36.8926577568,-118.6925954819,06/14/2010,23:51:29,SLIDE PK SOUTH SADDLE
RP,D,SLIDEP, 36.9001899958,-118.6918200254,06/14/2010,21:29:02,SLIDE PK 10915
RP,D,SLIDEP, 36.9001899958,-118.6918200254,06/14/2010,21:29:02,SLIDE PK 10915
RP,D,P11087, 36.8890700340,-118.6960200071,06/14/2010,23:51:02,
RP,D,P10432, 36.8889399767,-118.7096799612,06/14/2010,23:50:24,
RP,D,HOGBAK, 36.8765200377,-118.7116899490,06/14/2010,21:59:32,HOBGACK PK 11080

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