Brian, you’re correct. the routes I’ve been looking at don’t use the north fork of the whitewater. instead, each I’ve been looking at is some combination of all-ridge and ridge-and-valley scrambles around hell for sure canyon. My assumption was always that sticking to the ridges for the most part would avoid the falls-bypasses, blow down, and boulders and junk that tumble to the bottom of the steep in those canyons. I have not been below big tree on the north fork, nor have i been up the north fork beyond its confluence with the middle fork from the whitewater preserve.
Perhaps what i’ve envisioned isn’t possible, or safe. The most likely routes I’ve seen are a combination of the ridges west of hell for sure and a little time in the canyon bottom, and the ridge east of hell for sure, in each case, starting up the ridge from that spot marked “camp 1” on my second image. What i really need to do is go in there and camp at walthier, spending a day exploring the lowest parts of the ridges. They look like a real mess, but they don’t look impossible, and from the end of 10k ft ridge, I can see that each of the ridges will go for a long way, with not much more work that, say, the south ridge of Dobbs.
The fact that you were able to almost connect your trips up and down the north fork make me wonder if that’s a better idea. To me, the “holy grail” is any thru-trip from whitewater to highway 38 or vice-versa. I only know a couple of people who have ever done it.
Getting to walthier landing from mission creek preserve is probably a mile or more longer than getting there from whitewater preserve, assuming you leave the PCT at red dome and just bomb up the wash to walthier. It is, however, way, way more casual, being a trail the entire way. In all of my trips up there from Whitewater, it’s been a hell of a trip up, and an easy trip back. Something about those old dry meanders makes them super easy to find the “best way” from above, but vex me on the way up. ha!