Kaweah Basin

28-30 August 1992

by Bill Finch

All during the summer of 1992, I saw flashes of light in my right eye when I blinked. On my annual visit to the optometrist in July, I mentioned the flashes. He took a close look at my retina and set up an appointment with an ophthalmologist who confirmed that I had a torn retina. The good news was that I would be able to take the hike I had planned to the Kaweah Basin if I promised not to jump around too much.

This was my sixth hike of the summer and I was especially looking forward to it. I had visited the Kaweah Basin once before and was longing to return. I planned an ambitious three day hike which would take me over three cross country passes I had never crossed before (see map). In my ignorance, I figured it would be no big deal. Upon reflection, I realize that I never would have been able to complete the hike unless I had been in top shape and experienced with cross country travel.

I was up at 4 am on the first day and got to the permit office at Lodgepole almost a half hour early. This allowed me to be on the High Sierra Trail at Crescent Meadow by 7:35. My goal for the day was Precipice Lake some 19 miles distant. The day was cloudy and cool and I made exceptional time. I passed through Bearpaw Meadow shortly after noon, finished eating at Hamilton Lake by 3, hiked the final few miles with views of Eagle Scout Peak, Eagle Scout Pk
Eagle Scout Peak, High Sierra Trail above Hamilton Lake

and arrived at my Precipice Lake camp a little after 5. Precipice Lk
A different view of Precipice Lake

The next morning, I awoke early and was atop Kaweah Gap a little after 7. Kaweah Gap
Kaweah Gap from South Kern-Kaweah Col

I moved quickly across Nine Lake Basin and stood on South Kern-Kaweah Col at 9:25, KK Ps S
South Kern-Kaweah Col (dark cleft) from the west

looking down into the Nine Lake Basin through the steep cleft. cleft
The last several hundred feet involve a class 3 climb

In a couple of hours I had crossed the pass Picket Col
Pass to Picket Creek (named herein Picket Col) above glacial tarn and moraine

into Picket Creek canyon as a light snow fell. Picket Crk Cyn
Picket Creek Canyon

The snow let up and by 1:45 I was crossing into the Kaweah Basin with a great view of my favorite Kaweah Basin lake. Island Lk
My favorite campsite is on an island in this lake

I hiked toward Pyra-Queen Col taking many photos along the way. KPR
Kaweah Peaks Ridge

Views were gorgeous despite the light snow that continued to fall off and on. tarn
Kaweah Peaks Ridge reflected in tiny tarn

At 5:45, I was reading the only entry in the log on Pyra-Queen Col that had been made since I had visited on 23 August 1991. PK Col fm E
Pyra-Queen Col from Kaweah Basin

Nine Lakes Basin looked gloomy from Pyra-Queen Col. Butch Lk
Largest of the Nine Lakes, known to some as Butch Lake, rests below Black Kaweah

After a long slog down loose talus and around a few cliffs, I arrived at the lake and looked back at the col far above. PK Col fm W
Pyra-Queen Col from the west

I stopped at around 7:30 where several other guys had set up camp on a bench above the lake.

After a good night's sleep I was ready for an early start at 7 the next morning. It was so cold that as I was washing up from breakfast, the lake water froze on my cup and spoon. The trip down to the trailhead was inspiring and a few years later I wrote a poem about that day's hike. view W from Kaweah Gap
Looking west from near Kaweah Gap

By 7 that evening I was heading home from the trailhead.

11 February 2007
One Page Version 30 January 2013