The Wolverton to Pear Lake Ski Hut winter route follows nearly the same route as the popular summer Lakes Trail that leads up to Heather, Aster, and Pear lakes. The primary difference between the winter and summer routes is that the former is marked by yellow blazes, the small reflective triangle markers affixed to trees, since the actual trail is covered by snow in winter months and can't be followed.
This 6-mile, 2,300-foot climb is an advanced winter travel route. It's a serious slog, especially with overnight packs, and it may require map, compass and GPS navigation even though the trail is marked with blazes. Fog frequently rolls into the Pear Lake mountain basin, and it can quickly limit visibility. If fresh powder snow exists, a new set of challenges present themselves. Cutting trail on a steep uphill for much of the way becomes difficult. Other times, however, there is a well-defined skin track that is easy to follow for the full length of the trail.
The trail begins following Wolverton Ridge above Sequoia National Park's Lodgepole area. After 1.5 miles of mild elevation gain along the ridge, the trail heads uphill though a small clearing, cutting off a section of the Lakes Trail. If you miss this cutoff and continue straight, finding yourself following blazes with a panther face on them, do not fret. You'll reach a junction with signs pointing toward Heather Lake and Panther Gap; take the left toward Heather and Pear lakes. Both options rejoin on a bench above the clearing.
From this point the route ascends a steep series of benches for 1,500 feet toward The Hump, the high point on the route. If the weather is clear, you'll get a good view toward the Pear Lake Basin and the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River as it cascades down to Tokapah Valley below. The route descends a few hundred feet eastward toward Heather Lake, a beautiful area that is a good option for snow campers.
From Heather Lake there are longer gaps between the blazes. Low visibility here could prove more challenging than during the forested climb leading up to The Hump. There is a junction beyond Heather Lake: one trail leads to a more southerly high line route that leads between Aster Lake and Emerald Lake (the most direct line to the to the ski hut), and another takes a slightly lower line to the north of Aster Lake, which is the safer route if avalanche hazard is of concern. Both routes have blazes, but both remain difficult to navigate by in low visibility. Pre-programming GPS waypoints is your surest bet in the event visibility deteriorates.
Both the high line and lower route contour around the hillside in a northeast direction for another half-mile toward the Pear Lake drainage and the Pear Lake Ski Hut. The ski hut remains hidden from view within the Pear Lake drainage until you're nearly on top of it. The hut sits on the edge of a cluster of trees in the drainage one-third of a mile down hill from Pear Lake proper.
Follow the same route out. It is also marked by blazes.
If you stay the night in the hut or if you camp near Heather, Aster or Pear lakes, make sure to grab an overnight wilderness permit at the Lodgepole Ranger Station.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.