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Trail conditions Beehive--Lake Vernon--Morraine Ridge

PostPosted: Sun Jun 06, 2010 2:37 pm
by Kpeter
I have a 4 day pack from Hetch Hetchy planned beginning June 17. I had hoped to get to Vernon the first night, then head up the Morraine Ridge trail and either cross country to Bearup Lake or continue on trail to Jack Main Canyon for the second, spend a day layover for the 3rd, then out on the 4th.

For obvious reasons, I'm concerned about how much snow I might hit--though there is still more than a week of melt before I start. The highest elevation on the way to Vernon is about 6900. Morraine Ridge gets as high as 8100 before you start down to either Bearup or to Jack Main.

1. Has anyone been in this vicinity recently? How is the melt progressing? The latest snow gauge data I can get still shows 4-5 feet of snow at 8100 feet (Lower Relief Valley gauge) but that the snow is completely gone at 6700 feet (Kibbie Ridge gauge.) That sound about right?

2. Assuming there is still a fair bit of snow at 8000 feet, how easy would it be to get over Morraine Ridge with some crampons to get to Bearup or Jack Main?

3. If you have been to Jack Main Canyon, is it impressive, scenic, a suitable destination?

4. Anyone have experience reaching Bearup from the Morraine Ridge trail? Advice?

Many thanks!

PostPosted: Sun Jun 06, 2010 4:15 pm
by bill-e-g
How about a picture first:
Looking east from Nance Peak on May 29th, 2010:


Edith is on the right there. Richardson Pk on the upper left.

PostPosted: Sun Jun 06, 2010 4:27 pm
by bill-e-g
1. Ya. Huge huge huge amount of snow. Over the eyeballs over 7500 ft.
2. Uh... park service is almost assuredly gonna tell you that thru
Beehive is flooded... Jack Main Canyon is flooded....
Prob. they gonna say don't even try getting to Vernon.
Some would say Morraine is never easy... even in good conditions.
Can you get down the Golden Staircase into Jack Main?
That depends on your will and desire. I wouldn't bother with
crampons... I'd just posthole my way down and feel the pain.
3. JM has and will always be one of my favs. But at that time
this year... you'll probably get stymied unless you have the gumption
at the first pond before the Isthmus. Beyond that Paradise
Valley will be a mosh pit with streams to jump, etc.
And.. after the trail junction the trail will almost assuredly be
flooded and you'll have to wade your way thru.
4. I wouldn't go to Bearup now unless you've been there in
low water. It's narrow at the outlet... if you wanna walk around it
on the west you'll have bushwack-a-doodle galore to do.

I dunno... just go with an open mind ... go to Vernon if you want...
dayhike around Vernon some... go to the inlet... go up the granite some...
come back... hike down the river some... relax...
Then hike back out...

Or do what you say and come back and tell us how it went.

Have fun

PostPosted: Thu Jun 10, 2010 11:36 am
by Kpeter
Thank you Bill for the photo and wisdom. I'm thinking about changing plans and going up behind Kibbie instead--looks like there might be more low(er) elevation choices there than out of Hetch Hetchy. I take it you probably passed that way recently on your way to the top of Nance Peak?

Of course, there has been 20" of snowmelt in the last 10 days....

PostPosted: Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:32 pm
by bill-e-g
That was over Memorial Day weekend and it was 100% snow
coverage above 7K. Spent 3 days hiking around in the snow.
Didn't see a single person. It was a good time to go because
the snow was just brilliant with the recent storm.
All lakes above 7K were completely frozen over with about 2ft.
of snow on them.
Kibbie even still had some freeze but looked like it was
opening up nicely (it's prob. free of ice now).
It has melted quite a bit since then but ... there was well over 5ft.
of snow... so it will get worse for awhile IMO...
before it settles down...
(I'd rather hike OVER creeks, etc. in the snow than IN them)

Vernon itself is very nice. Definitely worth visiting.

Anyway, have fun. Please post how it went.

PostPosted: Sun Jun 20, 2010 5:52 pm
by Kpeter
Just back. I hiked from Hetch Hetchy to Vernon and set up base there and dayhiked. Beautiful lake--especially the inlet and outlet areas.

The bridge at the outlet is now safe to cross--I did not even have to wade to get to it. 10 days earlier a hiker trying to wade across waist deep water on the bridge approach was swept under the bridge and medivacd out.

I dayhiked up the Morraine Ridge Trail into Jack Main canyon--I believe I was the second person in since snowmelt, since I met the first person as he was coming out! The snow at the very top of Morraine Ridge had recently melted to the point where you could follow the trail 80% of the time. The "Golden Staircase" down from the top of Morraine Ridge to the beginning of Jack Main canyon was very nearly snow free, but at the point it crosses the stream it was knee deep in water, which ran along the trail for a hundred feet or so. It required some wading.

I explored the lower pools and cascades of Jack Main canyon and agree that it deserves to be a favorite spot. Especially with a lot of water coming through it was a photographer's paradise, and a visual playground.

Thanks for the advice and suggestions, it helped make this an excellent trip!

PostPosted: Sun Jun 20, 2010 8:28 pm
by bill-e-g
Very very cool. Glad you had a great trip.

PostPosted: Mon Jun 21, 2010 7:41 am
by bill-e-g
I have no idea how you can be swept under the bridge by Vernon
and live to tell about it. To me that's amazing.
In the past we've had to wade a bit to get to the bridge also
and the river after the bridge is almost a chute. Screaming.

How far did you go up the Canyon? Did you get to the first huge pond
you have to go around? Usually that is so high early and people
get stymied there.

PostPosted: Sat Jun 26, 2010 8:36 am
by Kpeter
When I got into Jack Main I was dayhiking from Vernon, so I did not have a lot of time. I left the trail next to that excellent campsite above the second pool and explored and hung out on the slabs nearby. I made my way as far as the downstream end of the very long snakey "pool", although that pool had quite a visible current in it. The fellow I met coming out had been further up and had said he could not get through yet, said something about sidestreams and snow on north faces, though what north faces he meant I am not sure.

With regard to the medivac, I don't actually know if that hiker survived. I only know that both a ranger and some other hikers had heard of the incident and described it to me--but not the outcome. I wondered as you did--there is a jagged log pinned just under the bridge and a boulder there that cause the rushing water to put on a great display. It does not look at all like a survivable situation. The water on the approach to the bridge was down to knee deep a few days before I got there and boot sole deep at the time I arrived.

PostPosted: Mon Jun 28, 2010 7:21 am
by bill-e-g
Thanks for the response.

By sidestreams he almost certainly means the Paradise Valley area.
That area can get really water logged early.
North facing ... he must be talking about the area just after the
first trail junction. You go by a nice pond and then
are squeezed a bit and have to go up some. It must be that area.
(S of Mahan... S. of BM 9373
No biggie though. The trail after getting thru that would have
certainly been flooded nicely.