6 - 7
FATMAP difficulty grade
This trail is infamous among California peakbaggers as the brutal approach to Mount Tyndall and Mount Williamson, two 14ers near Shepherd Pass.
The trail climbs just under 6,000 feet in net gain, but with a long downhill section near the middle and short downhills throughout, your legs will notice far more elevation gain than that.
Finishing at the 12,000-foot pass, your whole body will feel the altitude as well. A short section of snow is commonly encountered near the top, but by July it does not usually require tools due to high traffic.
In early season or in a heavy snow year, however, crampons and maybe an axe could come in handy. The trail is graded for stock (though rarely used by pack animals anymore).
Therefore, the grade is never super steep, but the insane number of switchbacks and periodic elevation losses make it an arduous journey. The views are incredible most of the way, of course.
You'll watch the Owens River Valley falling farther and farther away as the granite peaks grow larger overhead.
The ultimate reward is camping in the alpine at Shephard Pass, in the gaze of Mount Tyndall and beside a snow-rimmed alpine lake. Camping at the pass is at-large, and there are a handful of good spots near the lake.
You can continue upward, to a smaller and higher lake, to find more spots and get views of Mount Williamson.
There is also a good camping area around mile 8, called Anvil Camp.
Many parties choose to camp there instead of making the push to Shepherd Pass in one day.
A [wilderness permit](https://www.recreation.gov/permits/233262) is required for all overnight trips. Sources: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/inyo/recarea/?recid=20796