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Kearsarge Peak 12,618′

Location: Independence, CA
Elevation: 12,618′
Elevation Change: 3,433′ up, 5000′ down
Recommended Map: Kings Canyon High Country – Tom Harrison


Assessing conditions for skiing Kearsarge Peak is pretty easy, you can see most of the terrain from hwy 395. Although you could ski this peak from the highway wherever the snowline is, you might as well wait until the Onion Valley Trailhead at 9200′ is open above the town of Independence. Technically you aren’t supposed to camp overnight at this trailhead, but skiers do for sure. I have never heard of a parking ticket here or anywhere on the east side.  Land managers must be skiers. They also must appreciate the economy bump from out of towners.  You will need to leave a second car down lower where you will ski out Sardine Canyon, which leads to an old miner’s dirt road. This is a right turn, and the road is a double track which holds a consistent contour heading south, back to the lower vehicle. This lower parking spot is pretty obvious at a hairpin turn with a gate blocking the dirt road. There is room for a few cars here off the highway. If the road is blocked past this spot, I guess you could park here and skin up and ski down the same route. My perception is that if they plow and clear rocks to this location, they have finished the job to the top. Snow melts out on this road early in the season but rockfall can delay seasonal road openings a bit longer. And if you drive up to ski Onion Valley, only to find the road is blocked miles below; then settle for Independence Peak instead. This is a steep 2700′ East facing avy path right above the road with a KILLER view on top. You can see this entire route from hwy 395 as well as from the access road.
From Onion Valley Trailhead, skin north towards Golden Trout Lakes along it’s outlet creek for a short while and bang a right when the terrain allows you to point yourself towards Kearsarge Peak. You’ll skin the first half and probably walk on low angle rock to the summit up high. There are great views of Independence Peak and University Peak, which are excellent half day ski tours above the same trailhead. You should also ski Mt. Gould in this zone for corn snow and get a view west at your next multi day ski trip.  Looking at Kearsarge, University, and Gould from my summit pictuers will give you an understanding of the routes. 



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