North face via Center Basin

Page Type
California, United States, North America
Route Type:
Time Required:
One to two days
Class 2-3

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North face via Center Basin
Created On: Jul 8, 2003
Last Edited On: Jul 8, 2003


The approach in itself is an adventure. There are two ways to get to Center Basin, one via Shepherd’s Pass, the other starting at Kearsarge Pass trailhead, which will be described here. Take 395 to Independence, and turn west onto West Market St, which turns into Onion Valley Rd. Follow this up into the mountains until reaches the parking and camping area for Kearsarge Pass. The trailhead begins between the two sets of bathrooms. Follow the Kearsarge Pass trail up and over Kearsarge Pass, and then down into the valley on the other side. About a half mile down bare left onto the trail to Bullfrog Lake. Follow this trail past all the lakes, until it meets up with the John Muir Trail. Continue on the John Muir Trail South, as it descends into Vidette Meadow 1000ft below. Once in Vidette Meadow you will come to the junction with the Bubbs Creek Trail, continue on the John Muir Trail South. Three miles after that junction the trail for Center Basin takes off up the hillside on your left. This trail is a seldom-used unmaintained trail, so be sure to follow it carefully. The trail runs up into Center Basin where one may camp at any of the many lakes. From there your adventure begins.

Route Description

From your campsite in Center Basin head south toward Mt Keith's North face, which appears as a wide open bowl. Stay low on the rock, just to the east of the lakes and drainages. Right before you reach the first of two big lakes in the end of Center Basin, take off northeast up the hillside where the boulder field levels out into a plateau. This shelf curves back, almost like a large set of switchbacks, before it does this pick your route up the gravel/boulder infested hillside. There is no single route up this, just be careful of loose rocks. Keep climbing up and southeast until you are above the set of cliffs that run into the ridge on the West side of the bowl. Pick a high line, as to avoid snow and the steep cliffs just below you, traversing around to the East side of the bowl in front of you(left). The easiest way up the bowl is to stay just below the eastern ridgeline on a mixture of loose rock and boulders. Make sure to stay well left(east) of the horns in the middle of the bowl. Once you reach the ridge there are some semi-warn trails that lead up the gravel hillside to the summit. Head strait up to the summit, straying too far right or left brings you to very shear drops. The small summit canister is located in the boulder pile on the top. From the summit you have awesome views of Mt Williamson, Mt Tyndall, Junction Peak, and its neighbors. To get down, follow the same ridge back to the North bowl. The fastest way down is to slide/skate down the loose rock in the middle of the bowl. Be careful of rock slides, since the slope is very loose. Then follow your approximate route back to base camp or where ever you started.

Essential Gear

A very sturdy agile pair of boots is needed, since a majority of the climb is through giant boulder fields and over loose rock. Bring lots of water as well, because once you leave the lakes there is no water source. In winter months when snow is present crampons and ice axes would be needed to climb this route. No ropes are needed when ascending the North face.

Miscellaneous Info

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North face via Center Basin

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