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[Yosemite]

5 Night High Sierra Trip Report

Hiking, backpacking, running, biking, climbing, rafting, and other human-powered activities in Yosemite National Park

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5 Night High Sierra Trip Report

Postby MadDiver » Mon Sep 14, 2015 5:30 pm

Hi All. I finally pieced together some time to write a trip report from my June 6-11 High Sierra Loop(ish) trip. I'm sorry it's so delayed but just a week or so after the trip my work announced they're shutting my site down and I'm soon to be out of a job so I've been a bit busy with other things.Trip planning thread here: viewtopic.php?f=7&t=3342 Thanks to balzaccon and AlmostThere for answering my planning questions. This was my first but hopefully not last Yosemite trip. Additional pics here: http://s823.photobucket.com/user/WreckD ... t=9&page=1

I left the Bay area ~10AM on Saturday the 6th and headed east on a bright sunny day and the temp began to heat up once I was across the bay. By the time I was in the foothills the dashboard was showing 89°F. Then the temp started dropping and was 74° F when I arrived at the park gate. Paid the $30 to the quite friendly ranger, zipped passed Crane Flat managing to avoid the plague, turned up Tioga Rd then briefly stopped at the Tuolumne Grove, the first stop since departure. Back on the road I very soon came across a group of cars stopped and people milling about. Praying someone hadn’t taking a header down some rocks I was thrilled instead to see this little guy:

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I'm not sure where momma was…

Continuing on the sky was growing darker, the clouds getting thicker and the temp dropping rapidly

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It finally started raining, a bit of a sound and light show, and was 46°F by the time I reached the Tuolumne Outfitter store where I bought a new mug but they didn’t have a lighter - gave me a pack of matches. Stopped at the camp store – little bottle of wine, babybell cheeses – no lighter. They had one but the guy said it was worthless and gave me a pack of matches – I appreciate the honesty. Off to the wilderness station to grab my permit and a bear can and listened to the friendly (and quite cute) ranger gal lay down the rules. Back to Lembert Dome to park and hit the trail – well after I packed the bear can and this and that, then another thunderstorm ran through chasing me back into the car for 15min. Finally it cleared and I was car locked, boots tied, and pack on (with cover) hitting the trail at 4:10PM heading for Glen Aulin with plenty of scenery on the way:
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Here's the route going counterclockwise:

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Crossing the Meadow was lovely and a great way to begin. These plants don't really look like they belong but that makes them all the more interesting

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I saw a really big hare of some kind but he was too fast to get a pic of. It started drizzling a bit, not heavy but enough for the raincoat to come out.
I feel like I should have brought a gold pan…

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Finally the rain stopped, the clouds parted, the sun came out a bit and this was the view:
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Following the trail down along the many falls

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The variety of sights on the way to GA were quite impressive and the trail in good shape. I arrived right about 7PM and there were probably six or so groups present (mostly already eating dinner) with a pretty good blaze going in the fire pit. I made camp and dinner and chatted a bit before hitting the rack. I don’t know the exact temp that night but it was certainly in the lows 30’s but I was plenty cozy in my 20° bag which I was glad to have brought over the 40° bag (last minute decision, I had both in the car but the recent nighttime temps were posted at the wilderness station and made it a no brainer).

The next say started cold but bright and sunny and then pleasant by the time breakfast had disappeared and camp was struck. I took a photo or two for a Couple on the bridge and some of the falls as it had been getting a touch dim for good pics the evening before

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Then it was on the trail to May Lake. I also caught up to Marc and Megan who I had talked to the previous evening and at breakfast. We were generally heading the same way and decided to hike together. I was glad we did. They were a fun couple, talked enough but not too much and our paces matched up well. I like being out and away from it all but I'm not a hermit :wink:

McGee Lake:

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A really beautiful day:

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Strange, cold (slightly dirty), white stuff:

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I loved this section of trail:

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Megan spotted this little guy!

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No, I'm not making this up, I was really there.

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Megan was in the know and said these are dynamite blast marks. I saw them in many different locations on the trip.

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Arrival at May Lake with Mt. Hoffmann rising from the shore

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We didn’t see a single person between GA and May Lake. There were a few other groups at the camp but it certainly wasn’t crowded and we grabbed primo spots for the tents.

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Plenty of critters around
Quack!
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The marmot actually charged at me from about 20' away while I was sitting on a rock by my tent filtering water. He went into a four paw slide about 10' away, backed up, fake charged, then waddled away... It was hilarious, I wish I had it on video :lol:

I had originally planned to summit Hoffman in the afternoon but with a lot of trip left plus some clouds that looked as if they could turn nasty – though they never did - I passed and just relaxed by the lake and the nearby ledges. Now, here's a preview of where I'm heading the next day, but at the time I had no idea what I was looking at. In fact I didn't know until I was editing photos for this report. I kept wondering "what is that prominent dome and ridge? I can't find it on my map!" Ah well, strange angles and distances can do that to you... :oops:

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I probably noticed the elevation for the first time here when I stood up from staking my tent and got a bit light headed. Dinner, dark, bed...

...but not before a nice pic of Venus (center) and Jupiter (upper left) above Mt Hoffmann

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Day 3: Looked to be a beautiful repeat of the previous day. Heading for Cloud’s Rest. High mileage day with a pretty good chunck of down and up. I was going to hike with Megan and Marc again until the saddle near Sunrise Lakes where they planned to peel off to the Sunrise HS Camp.

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Took some morning pics from the ridge east of the camp and saw a big buck run by with his antlers covered in velvet – too fast for the camera.

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Tenaya Lake

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I must say from the May Lake Parking area to Tioga road was my least favorite part of the trip especially the old decaying “road” section. Anyhow, across the road, through the meadow, across the Tenaya Lake outflow and started climbing again. This was the second worst area for mosquitos on the trip.

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I understand in most years this would be a wet crossing but we all managed to keep our socks dry :D

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Cloud's Rest, my destination for the day, still a ways off...

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Looking back at Mt. Hoffmann and May Lake hidden under it

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At the trail crossings near Sunrise Lakes we had lunch, said farewells and I was off south to CR and Marc and Megan to Sunrise.

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I cruised right along stopping for some pics...

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...then at the last steam on my map to fill up water. CR was going to be a dry camp so I fully filled my hydration bladder 3L, dirty water bladder 3L, and extra bottle ~0.6L. For those doing math at home I had just added 10+ lbs to my pack. I began to climb a bit– and I bonked – hard. That last 2 miles or so took place in 50 foot sections with lots of leaning on trekking poles and heavy breathing with the occasional muttered profanity... but the views were worth it.

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This area isn't too bad but is part of the burn which I'll say more about Day 4. You can see there's very little undergrowth and the soil is pretty much burned to sand.

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Once I found the trail was getting very close to the final approach to the summit of Cloud’s Rest I spent a good 30-45min of aimless wandering (still totally bonked) in the wilderness below CR to finally find a camping spot I liked, eventually ending up a 100yds or so on the west side of the trail along the rim of Tenaya Canyon (not a pic of my spot, just a nice first view of the canyon).

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Happy to drop the pack I set up camp, swapped boots for my camp shoes, grabbed a small go bag and headed up to summit Cloud’s Rest. I see why the map says "Hiking in Tenaya Canyon is dangerous and highly discouraged".

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A bit of a stiff wind across the knife edge made it a bit of a cautious climb in spots but once on top it seemed to die out and I got a great view straight down the valley though it was a bit hazy.

Ahhh, there it is...

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It was fairly late by this time and I was a bit surprised to find a couple guys up there. They were having a beer or 2 and waiting for it to get dark to do nighttime photography. You can see their work here: http://www.darkskyphotography.com Very cool. We chatted a bit and one other guy showed up as well. I took a ton of photos watched the sunset then headed back to camp. I hadn’t had dinner yet and didn’t feel like climbing down in the dark. I really wanted to stay and do some stargazing but that’s how it is sometimes. I did do a bit from camp.

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Tenaya Lake center, Mt. Hoffmann center left where the day began

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Not sure what this is but I pried it up and took it home, makes a great coaster

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JOKING!!! :mrgreen:


Echo Valley with Vogelsang to the left and the Clark Range (Clark, Grey Peak, Red Peak) on the right

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Light fading...

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Day4: CR to Merced Lake. I originally planned to skip Merced Lake and go Cross Country and explore around Echo Lake, Matthes Lake (on balzaccom’s recommendation) and Nelson Lake then over Rafferty to Vogelsang but the terrain was a bit different than what I had envisioned and I had worn myself out pretty good the previous day so I decided just hit Merced Lake –Vogelsang – Tuolumne Meadow.

Not a bad campsite though I'd skip it if you sleepwalk...

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Hitting the trail I was surprised to see quite a few people coming up to CR. About halfway between camp and the trail down to the JMT I realize I had left my hiking poles leaning against a tree - at camp! :evil: Dropped pack, hustled back to grab ‘em, resumed the trek… about a mile detour… The hike down to the JMT from here is bad – through the burned area - I really don't recommend going that way. If you like black charred trees, loose soil, dust, and ash on a fairly steep slope this is the trail for you. Even wearing long pants my legs were half black from ankle to knee.

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Once down past the JMT intersection and cruising along toward Merced Lake (ML from here on) the trail got progressively less depressing as it exited the burn area.

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I stopped in a not too bad spot and had a break whereupon a half mile or so up the trail I realized I had again left my poles!!! :evil: Not as far back this time and a flat trail, still very annoying.

The rest of the trip looking down Echo Valley and along the ledges was scenic

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Looking back at Half-Dome and Cloud's Rest

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I believe the technical term is "flowers"

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I found them! The only non-evergreens in the park! (as far as I know...)

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Road block! To put this in proper perspective: The small grey log in front is a good size to put your foot on to retie your boots...

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Once I hit the footbridge where the Echo Valley trail comes up it started raining, not too hard but the jacket came out and the pack cover went on.

Arriving at the outflow of ML

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The backpacker camp at ML is rather dull, that’s all I can say about it. Fortunately the rain stopped as I was about to set up camp. On the other hand the foot jacuzzi where the waterfall comes down and meets the lake is awesome (and very cold)! I really felt great after dipping the feet for a while and the whole next day I had happy feet.

I went back to camp and was just pulling out the stove to cook dinner when a young guy walks up to me and asks in Spanish accented English if I had seen three other guys speaking Spanish.
“Nope, only two other groups here and definitely not speaking Spanish”, was my reply.
“This is the John Muir trail, right...?” Houston, we have a problem…
“No, it isn’t.”
“Really?”
“No, I not joking, this is not the JMT.”
“Oh, shit, I am #$%&ed!”
So, I pull out a map and show him where he is. He was supposed to be following his buddies to Sunrise on the JMT but missed the turn close to where I had come down from CR. His first backpacking trip with 3 college buddies from Mexico City on a 20+ day JMT trek: No map; Fuel, and food - no stove; Water bottle - no filter; Tent – no idea how to set it up. Oh, it’s after 7PM… So I explain he’s there for the night and he realizes it too. I help set up the tent and let him use my filter. He goes off to see if the ranger is at the ranger station nearby. I make dinner which was Alpine Aire Black Bart Chile –really good, not five alarm – but do you really want that in the backcounty anyhow? I’ll be taking it on future trips for sure. I took my bag of chili over ate over by the waterfall. He returns – no ranger – so we walk back to camp – “yup, you can use my stove” - and find one of his buddies waiting. Well, to say they were happy is an understatement but a big relief for everyone. When they realized he was missing, his buddy had left the other two and backtracked to ML and they planned to meet in the morning where the trail from CR goes down near Half Dome.

Finally hit the rack, they were gone before I got up.

Day5: Now everyone I had run into the previous day said that today, Wed the 10th, was forecast to have heavy thunderstorms. I also recall Marc and Megan describing being in just such a thing a on previous trip – at Vogelsang, where I was planning to go and where everyone says it’s very open – no cover - nope, not gonna happen. While I wasn’t happy I had decided the previous night to bailout to Little Yosemite Valley via Echo Valley, checkout some of the falls and whatnot and catch the hiker shuttle back to Tuolumne Meadow. So I retraced a bit of trail from the previous day and made a left at the footbridge to head down Echo Valley.

A bit of a misty morning:
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I made it about 50steps and said “*^%^%#$ this.” Turned around and started heading for Sunrise via Cathedral Fork.

It wasn't too long before it started raining and I was up on a south facing ledge a bit south of the 1st bridge when it started hailing and the thunder – not too close – started. Well I got on my rainpants under a tree (not the biggest one!) right before it really started raining. I didn’t like my position so a busted up the trail 50yds where it closed in more – and felt the temp drop a least 10 degrees! Not good! Another tree, fleece jacket on under the raincoat – and all good. Oh, it kept raining all day, but no more thunder, and I was perfectly comfortable. I even, somehow managed to keep my feet dry all day. There some tricky creek crossings, which I’m sure could normally be stepped right over, up in the meadow area at about the halfway point.

I finally arrived at the area where I could follow the valleys up to Echo Lake or Matthes Lake or Nelson a bit before the trail makes the hard west turn up to the JMT. I explored the area for a good hour or so but a combination of peaks in the clouds confusing which valley was which, rising stream levels, and it being the 5th day out, I opted to just go to Sunrise.

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Well, Long Meadow. Wow. Just coming up from Catherdral Fork and hitting height of land you could tell this area was a little different. Surprisingly no skeeters. I’ll let the pics do the talking.

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Arriving at Sunrise HSC there were only two other parties so I had my pick of spots. I hadn’t seen another person since I had turned around about 6 hours before.

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It was trying to clear off...

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And succeeded a bit:

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Oh, and who arrived a little later? Four Mexican college students :P . They had met up as planned and pushed on, only losing one day. I chatted with them a bit over dinner then off to bed.

Day6: Last day. Sunrise back to Tuolumne Meadows. A small amount of up to start the day then almost all downhill...

Gorgeous morning. bright sunshine, a bit of breeze. I laid out the tent and raingear to dry off while I had breakfast, filtered water, and packed up. As I finished packing the skeeters started showing up in droves so I hustled my way away up the trail. Surprisingly no skeeters on the trail, only at camp, very strange.

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Back on the trail heading North. Crossing through the meadow was lovely

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Then a bit of a climb up to Cathedral Pass. It wasn't a big climb but I could tell my legs were glad it was the last day. I also kept a lookout for a cross country way down towards Echo Lake that balzaccom had recommended in my trip planning thread – there’s always next time.

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Echo Peaks with cathedral peaking out behind.

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I really enjoyed this section of trail a bit above Upper Cathedral Lake, I even rolled up my sleeves for the first time on the trip!

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Upper Cathedral Lake was very nice. I briefly chatted with a group at the trail branching to lower Cathedral Lake warning them off of the “burn trail” as they were headed towards Cloud's Rest.

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And then it was down, and down, and down some more and seeing lots of people heading up. It’s strange when you’ve been out a bit, then start seeing lots people. Especially stupid people wearing jeans, carrying a single water bottle and you can see the stormclouds building to the N behind them ;) I almost lost it when I saw a guy with a selfiestick!

A touch more wildlife

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...and it was over...

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...almost. Upon reaching the trailhead I decided to stay a bit on the JMT another mile before crossing Tioga Rd. to Lembert Dome. It started climbing again! Uggg, not much but I thought I was down for good! Oh well, made it back, turned in the bear can, then headed to the store and grabbed a beer! Some delicious IPA I forget the name of – the guys on CR had been drinking it so I grabbed one. Then the grill for a burger – started raining a bit and people fled the picnic tables. Lasted all of 5 minutes, I just ate my burger and finished my beer :)

I spent the night in Groveland. Dinner was at Hotel Charlotte, which was braized beef rib along with a nice cocktail and a quite yummy Cabernet. The remainder of the evening was spent at the Iron Door Saloon which is quite a show :lol:
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Re: 5 Night High Sierra Trip Report

Postby balzaccom » Mon Sep 14, 2015 6:42 pm

Nice report! loved the humor. And I am glad you had such a good time despite the weather.

BTW, there are other deciduous trees in Yosemite, including a famous maple in the Valley and some oaks at lower elevations as well...
Check out our website and blog at: http://sites.google.com/site/backpackthesierra/home
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Re: 5 Night High Sierra Trip Report

Postby Grzldvt » Mon Sep 14, 2015 8:09 pm

Excellent report, outstanding pics, and a great documentary.
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Re: 5 Night High Sierra Trip Report

Postby MadDiver » Wed Sep 16, 2015 7:38 pm

balzaccom wrote:Nice report! loved the humor. And I am glad you had such a good time despite the weather.

BTW, there are other deciduous trees in Yosemite, including a famous maple in the Valley and some oaks at lower elevations as well...


Thanks! I tried to keep it entertaining since I found it very difficult (impossible) to keep it short. It was a really good trip and the weather wasn't that bad.Thankfully the rain was during the day and always stopped by the time I was setting up the tent. Keeping everything dry went a long way to keeping it a good time. Only thing I'm slightly bummed about was not being able to take your advice to check out Echo and Matthes Lakes.

Other leaf trees? Yeah, umm sure, if you say so :mrgreen:
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Re: 5 Night High Sierra Trip Report

Postby MadDiver » Wed Sep 16, 2015 7:52 pm

Grzldvt wrote:Excellent report, outstanding pics, and a great documentary.


Thanks! As for the pics, I picked up a new camera the evening before I left for the West Coast. It's a SONY Cybershot DSC-WX350, classified as a "compact camaera" rather than a point and shoot. It has a far larger sensor, close to what DSLRs have but it's smaller than a pack of cigarettes and has 20X optical zoom. It was rated for very good for outdoor scenery on dpreviews but not so much for indoor - perfect for my needs. It was also on clearance since the new model came out a week after my trip :) I took about ~700 pics overall and the hard part was culling down enough for the report and to upload to photobucket as there just weren't many bad ones! I did have outstanding subjects to work with :mrgreen:
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