The road has been repaired and I parked at the new low clearance parking area a bit over a mile from the trailhead. The creek washout was not problem, too. The trouble came when I saw Tim below the pass, the only other person I saw the entire trip. He turned around because he only had spikes and the snowfield was exceptionally icy. So icy that a dozen deer had recently slid to their death trying to get back into Owens Valley. Thankfully, my petzel's earned their keep and I fared much better.
Camped at the first lake and the next morning, I startled another herd of deer trying to go over the pass. I hope they found a different route. Summit day was sunny, calm, and smooth. If you left a blue bag at camp or a treking pole at the base of the snowfield, hit me up. I'd be happy to return either of these to their original owner.
I can confirm what AdventureUSA posted on Sept. 19, 2022: Foothill Road is closed where it crosses Symmes creek at the alternative (lower) start to the Shepherd Pass trail (adds roughly 1.3 miles & 600' to the hike). There is some heavy equipment there now working on repairing the road crossing. No way to drive through period. The flash flood ripped the Symmes creek drainage to shreds! We had success finding the Symmes Creek crossings by following the trail marked out on Gaia maps. Even with this it was difficult finding our way around this newly teraformed section of the trail in the dark. And beware the sediment left behind is very slippery (ball bearings on concrete kinda stuff).
Other than that, this is a great hike to test the limits of physical and mental strength. The maintained trail up to Shepherd Pass is a long but beautiful hike. Boulder hopping through Williamson bowl takes longer than you think. Just prepare for it and try to enjoy the trip. We brought climbing approach shoes for the bowl and both mountains in addition to our trail runners for the easy hiking. We both agreed it was well worth the extra weight.
Another note: temps were very low in the upper elevations. We hit Shepherd Pass around 5:30a, so still dark and using most of our layers at this time.
Hope this beta helps someone. Based on the progress with rebuilding the Symmes Creek road crossing, I'm guessing it will be completed within the next month or two.
The normal route to the trailhead is cut off 1 to 1.5mi before the parking area due to a washout from the flooding last month. It can not be crossed even by a strong 4x4. The flash flood carved a deep ravine in the creek with 8ft ledges on either side which extends up even past the TH onto the main trail. You can not reach the TH via Foothill Rd OR Symmes Creek Rd.
We made it to the TH in a 2wd Tundra via 34E402, which is just south of Symmes Creek. The route via 34E402 is rough and requires a vehicle with decent ground clearance. It's labeled 4x4 road, but there are no spots where 4wd is required. There is a brief water crossing about 1/4 of the way in that will likely dry up in the next week or so. Similar to the road to Red Lake, there are scratchy bushes and some rocks that can mostly be avoided. The trail starts out smooth then heads into a wash shortly after the water crossing. The wash is the narrowest part of the trail and we had to get out several times to hold back scratchy bushes from scraping the truck. It is greatly beneficial to have a spotter help with the narrow sections. I would recommend an SUV or light truck for the easiest transport to the TH. 4wd would help but is not necessary on the hard-packed road. We were the only vehicle at the TH when we arrived on Friday and when we left on Sunday. It took us about an hour to get to the TH from the highway.
Once on the main trail, you're able to follow it for a while before it becomes completely washed out. I believe we crossed it three times getting to the base of the switchbacks. There are cairns set up at several of the crossings. The main trail is about 50% intact and mainly on the North side of the creek, but there are many viable use trails along the dirt. Once you make it to the switchbacks after the final crossing, the trail is very straightforward.
This made for one long day of 18 hours car to car (and a total of 34.25 miles) from where the new trailhead is located. For who doesn't know (and I didn't) the little creek (Symmes Creek), coming down by the hiker's trailhead, completely obliterated in a flash flood the dirt road, entire valley and the trail portion from the trailhead and leading to the switchbacks. The road to the trailhead was destroyed and the new trailhead is the stock trailhead, located 2 miles down that road. I had a tough time finding the way up (and down) inside that one mile long canyon, in the dark (I started at 4AM and finished at 10PM.) There are five crossing of the creek, but the 4th one going up was the most difficult to find (and I didn't). I bushed waked on the South hill until I found the trail, for a long time. Hikers beware!
This unfortunate change of treailheads adds another 1.5 miles, one way, to the trip. It also added more than an hour and a lot of wasted energy and frustration to my hike. The rest of the trail up to the Shephard's Pass is as it always was. This time around it felt easier than the first time I've done it, for some reason. Other than that, crossing that Williamson bowl, and finding the best way, is torture, heart aching, frustrating, takes a lot of time for the distance and requires a lot of energy. I see a lot of people pointing this out, so I'll do it too: It took me a total of about 5.5 hours from Shepherd's pass to the summit and back.
The couloir/ chute/ gully is a mile of a long slog and the chimney is just a marvelous class 3 or 4 (whatever it is, it is easy to climb with no gear and a small pack on one's back.) which is the only pleasurable memory I have of this hike. And to my surprise, the plateau up there can easily accommodate two jumbo jets, with room to maneuver. Impressive.
From up there I could see where I parked my car, more than 17 miles down the mountain. I can sincerely say that I've seen better views from other summits, but in truth I did not go up there for the views, but rather for the challenge. I could also see the extensive destruction that little creek was able to do.
Coming down, I left Shepherd's Pass at almost 5 PM. From Anvil Camp, about 10.5 miles to the car, I was so done with hiking that I started running and crazy enough, that felt much better. I jogged all the way to the car.
I'm glad I bagged this 14er because I had my eyes on it for many years, but I was never trained well enough to consider it. And with that being said, of the fourteen 14ers in the Sierras, I got 10.
The challenge continues. Hike smart.
Summitted over July 4th week as part of a 6 day trip:
14'er Traverse Backpacking trip starting at Tuttle Creek [day 1]-> Traversed to Mount Langley -[day 2]> through Sky blue lake area [day 3] -> partial JMT/PCT trail [day 4] -> Mount Williamson [day 5]-> Mount Tyndall -> out Shepard's pass [day 6] in 6 days. Two of the group added Whitney/Muir on day 3 and met us the beginning of day 4.
No water source from Tuttle Creek (besides the first mile) to the summit of Langley (found puddles of water inside rocks). No hiking snow around Williamson/Tyndall. Spotted some snow around Tyndall. Tyndall felt harder than Williamson (more exposed on the ridge ...probably because I aimed for the wrong ridge).
Mt Williamson bowl is just a BIG PIILE OF ROCKS, and no trail...so pick your rocks wisely. I think it took us about 6 or 8 hours from where we camped back to camp. I was not a rock climber when I summitted and the chimney wasn't hard (although, I was not the first one to go up or down) and had the knowledge from others I climbed with where to put my hand/feet. It was also the 2nd 14'er I've done, therefore I didn't really know what I got myself into.
Hardest backpacking trip I've ever done (especially the first two days), but so rewarding mentally and physically.
Summited with Ben. This one nearly broke me.
Awesome weekend just before the smoke came in
long couple days
Long 10 hour day for both summits of Williamson and Tyndall. Stop at one of the glacier lake for a quick dip in. Very refreshing for the second climb and get back to Anvil Camp.
Read a lot about the bowl and the chute, it's as long and steep as described!
Feels amazing to reach the top of the chimney.
Hiked to Shepherd pass, summited in the morning and hiked out.
Climbed Bolton Brown Route with Sung, Gary and Darren. Shit chute until the last 100' of nice 3rd class.
A long day, but a whole lot of fun
This was a pretty arduous summit, all the way up Shepard Pass and then traversing the bowl. The final "Class 3" chimney was pretty stout, seemed like class 4 at least. In any case, definitely felt like I accomplished something getting to the top of this one.
Spring is wonderful with snow but weather can be tricky.
We accidentally took someone’s blue nylon bag with glasses, electric shaver, etc from the trailhead container on 5-28-2018. Really sorry and need to return it!! Please comment or email me: ocelo4 at gmail.com
Hiked in on Wednesday morning. Set out from the trailhead at 4:45am which felt too late. Should have started earlier. Hiked (climbed?) Williamson on Thurs. Bailed on Friday. Did not try to do Tyndall due to storms.
My UC Berkeley graduate school colleague, Chuck Mims, and I drove to the Georges Creek road's end, east of Mt Williamson, where there was a rude fisherman's trail to a pristine meadow at treelike. The next morning we continued cross country over the pass to the barren, lunar landscape past Lake Hellen of Troy to the western escarpment of Mt. Williamson, where we ascended the steep gullies to the summit. I remember remarking that I saw unusual spots in my vision, presumably from ascending to over 14,000 ft without acclimatizing. I remember Chuck saying he was experiencing the same thing. After descending the way we went up we continued to Shepards pass and down the trail back to the Owes Valley and a final "death march" skirting the alluvial fans, draining the East side of Mt. Williamson, back to our car. I had been to Shepards pass earlier when I did a winter ascent of Mt. Tyndal. Without the snow, it was interesting to see the bones of animals below the pass from the stock that didn't make it to the high country.
Started at Shepherd pass trailhead a little after 2am. Went up the wrong chute on Williamson which cost quite a bit of time, but summited at 10:50am. Climbed Tyndall next and back to the car around 9pm.
Enjoyable climb. Williamson Bowl is gorgeous, and the gully was loose, but low-angle enough that it never felt uncomfortable. Snow was hard but fine with crampons. Headed up two wrong Class 3 chutes at the end before finding the correct one (not that it's hard to find - I'm just bad at route finding). In my opinion it's most straightforward to climb all the way to the top of the Class 2 gully, then traverse over, rather than trying to choose the correct moment to leave the gully.
Great climb with Boisedoc. Between the long approach, long gully slog, and challenging chimney scramble at the end, this summit was well earned. Trip Report