Though many guidebooks and websites discuss restricted access to this area the Bighorn Sheep Zoological Area - changed designation in 2010 and there are no current restrictions to access the area. for more info see link below:
East facing alpine granite cirque with beutiful camping at a turquoise colored tarn. This area has a remote alpine feel and is guarded by a 6000' approach with a rugged approach trail that is not maintained. The rock formations that have documented climbing include the east pillar of Mt. Barnard and Shaw Spire. The rock in this area is spectacular "High Sierra Alpine Granite" that is loaded with cracks and face holds, and is very enjoyable. As it is in an alpine environment loose rock exists and it would not be advisable to climb below another party. There are no fixed anchors in this area and LNT climbing and camping should be strictly adhered to. It is a remote alpine area - Wilderness Permits are required for overnight use - (fs.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsin…)
There is limited cell service from the camp at the lake as well as good cell service from the top of the route and pretty much anywhere you have a clear line of sight of Independence or Lone Pine.
Inyo County SAR is responsible for rescues in this area though it is a difficult to access area. The nearest Medical Facility is Norther Inyo Hospital in Bishop, CA
As of 8/2014 the driving directions are different than others found online due to recent flooding events and road washouts. From US 395 the turnoff is unmarked but can be seen on topo maps as the point where 395 goes over the LA aqueduct between the towns of Independence and Lone Pine. From the north the turnoff is 7.5 miles from the post office in Independence, and from the south it is 8.1 miles from the Carls Jr. in Lone Pine. The turnoff is on a paved turnout on the west side of 395 and there is a crossing at the median for northbound traffic. Zero out your odometer when leaving 395. you will be on pavement for a short while and cross a cattle gate as the road veers south and parallels 395. At 0.1 miles turn right, and stay straight at any forks. At 0.7 miles turn left and cross a bridge (across George Creek) and then make an immediate right turn (0.8 miles on odo). Continue straight on this dirt road while it parallels the south side of the creek. At 1.9 miles on the odometer turn right and cross the creek - (the crossing is cemented though at times of high runoff or rain - high clearance may be needed). At 2.0 miles (and right after the creek crossing) stay left at the fork...and continue on a well travelled road. At 3.0 Miles on odo turn left ( you will see a USFS sign 3S04) and continue to stay straight passing a few forks in the road but stay on the most well travelled road going straight west. (this is where the road gets a little rough in places but a subaru with a bold driver or a higher clearance stock vehicle will be fine...leave that prius at home) at 8.2 miles on the Odo you will come to a "T" intersection and will turn left on the final mile of road to the unmarked trailhead. Drive as far as your vehicle allows... there are several pulloffs along the last mile and the road progressively deteriorates as you get further.
Once you park your trailhead elevation is ~6350'... and it is a long uphill climb to your camp (a day trip would be burly)
The following approach description uses topographical lines in Meters since that is what the maps for the area use...
(beta complied by Jediah Porter) ... Between 1940m (trailhead) and 2015m. Follow pretty good trail (occasionally in creek bed) along north side of creek.
At 2015m. Cross to south side.
Between 2015m and 2150m follow pretty good trail along south side. You will skirt cliffs sometimes from below and above others. Little to no brush. Some duck and dodge.
At 2150m. George creek goes over a waterfall. Progress along south bank is blocked. Cross twice, in quick succession. Or make 5th class climbing moves to stay on south side.
Between 2150 meters and 2220. Stay on south side of creek. Above brush and below cliffs and through trees. The majority of the time you'll be on side-hill gravelly "trail". But you'll never go above a cliff or into truly heinous brush. Don't settle for no sign of traffic for more than a hundred yards or so. There's also sign of a trail on the north. Reports vary. The south side is scouted.
At 2220m. George creek comes up against a cliff on the south side. Sometimes a series of logs allows hikers to skirt the cliff. Other times two crossings, in quick succession, must be made. Or you can scramble along ledges up above the creek.
Between 2220 meters and Carl heller creek (2700m). Stay on south side of creek. Above brush and below cliffs. The majority of the time you'll be on side-hill gravelly "trail". Occasionally you'll follow cairns through talus or walk along logs. But you'll never go above a cliff or into truly heinous brush more than waist high. Don't settle for no sign of traffic for more than a hundred yards or so.
Crossing Carl heller creek. Campsites on either side of crossing. Cross on a mediocre trail in light brush .07 miles upstream of George creek jct.
Between Carl heller lake camp and jct George creek. Stay on slabs, glades, and talus east of creek and associated canyon. Virtually no brushy travel necessary.
Between Carl heller creek and east pillar Barnard creek. Stay on intermittent trail and gladed forest on south side of George creek.
Between Barnard pillar lake camp and jct George creek. Stay on gravel and scree east of creek and associated brush. No brushy travel necessary.
The approach is aproximately 7 Miles and gains almost 6000' From the lake camp the approach is between 60-90 minutes on decent talus and you travel cross-country towards the base of the ridge coming southeast from Shaw Spire. Most of the climbing on the East Pillar is obscured from camp but the top of the route is seen behind Shaw Spire.
Alternatively you can access this tarn from the "whitney zone" and traveling cross country over the russell Carrillion Pass. We linked a trip to this area with a climb of Mt. Carl Heller and Tulainyo Tower and crossed over Vacation Pass and up and over the top of the east pillar prior to descending down talus and sandy slopes to the camp