OverviewSouth Guard and North Guard flank Mt. Brewer. These three California Thirteeners comprise the northern terminus of the Great Western Divide, just west of gorgeous Lake Reflection in Kings Canyon National Park. South Guard is an easy walk-up from Longley Pass, though a nearly permanent snowfield just below this pass makes the easiest route from the east class 3 on most days.
Getting ThereAlthough it is possible to climb this peak from the west, I wouldn’t miss a single opportunity to camp at Lake Reflection:
Take Highway 180 (Kings Canyon Highway) to its very end, about 92 miles east of Fresno. Pick up your permit at the Woods Creek Trailhead, go 2 miles up that trail, and then continue for another 8.5 miles to Junction Meadow. Turn right onto the East Lake Trail, cross Bubbs Creek (you can do this in bare feet in late season, but it may be more difficult/dangerous in early season), continue for another 3 miles to lovely East Lake, and then climb the final 2 miles to breathtaking Lake Reflection.
Follow the use trail along the northwest side of Lake Reflection, then stay on the benches and slabs above the northwest side of the Lake 3496m drainage, pass this lake on its north side and then follow the use trail that materializes below Longley Pass. There is usually a snow barrier just below the top of the pass which becomes hard ice in late season. The class 3 rocks just to its right are not particularly difficult, however. As mentioned, South Guard is a walk-up from the pass.
I highly recommend R. J. Secor’s The High Sierra, Peaks Passes & Trails (now in its third edition). This is the definitive climbing guide to the Sierra and was the source for many of the details on my SummitPost pages.
Red TapeLike most places in the Sierra, you need a Wilderness Permit for overnight camping in the summer. Thankfully, it’s not that hard to get a permit for the Bubbs Creek Trail, as more people seem to do the “Rae Lakes Loop” clockwise.
Note: Although you’ll actually be starting your hike on the Woods Creek Trail, the Sequoia Rangers refer to the quota for this approach as “Bubbs Creek (Rae Lakes Loop counter-clockwise)”.
CampingAs mentioned above, Lake Reflection is the obvious choice.
Please see the “Sky Pilot Peak” page for more information about this and other campsites along the east side approach.