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[Yosemite]

First-Come Permits & Early June Backpacking

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

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First-Come Permits & Early June Backpacking

Postby ErinJ86 » Mon Feb 15, 2016 4:09 pm

Hello! This is my first time posting on this forum. (I apologize to anyone who has read these or similar questions from me via other forums :D )

I have a wilderness permit for Sunrise Lakes on June 8th for four people. Ideally we'd do Clouds Rest and Half Dome, but as winter progresses I'm realizing it's been a snowy year and things aren't looking good for this route in early June. However, it is great for the drought! Most of the group has experience camping and hiking in the snow (and we're Minnesotans!), but we're mainly concerned with when Tioga Road will open and the high creek crossing. Say things don't go as planned, here's my questions:

1. What would be some decent options for a four day/three night trip in early June? I know it all depends on how winter progresses, but what's usually a good go-to route with minimal snow? Any routes that could feasibly include Half Dome?

2. Has anyone successfully scored first-come, first-served for four people in June? June 8th is a Wednesday so I'm assuming that increases our chances.

3. Lastly, we have Half Dome permits included in our current wilderness permits. Can anyone speak to our ability to "transfer" the HD permits to another wilderness permit if we decide to cancel our current reservation and reserve something else or do a first-come, first-serve permit? Or do we have to request HD permits with our new wilderness permits and hope we get them? (I realize this a question much better suited for someone who works at Yosemite, but I'm sick of hearing the busy signal on the phone!)

Sunrise Lakes to the valley is our first choice and I don't really want to let go of the permit if the weather pans out in our favor, but I also need to be realistic and plan some other options in the meantime.

Any and all advice is greatly appreciated!
Last edited by ErinJ86 on Sat Apr 02, 2016 6:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: First-Come Permits & Early June Backpacking

Postby Phil » Mon Feb 15, 2016 7:19 pm

Hey Erin,

Well, there's good news and bad news.

First the bad- As you might already know, on Sunrise in early June, you're going to get less than 100 yards into your hike and come to a huge, probably deep, maybe fast crossing at Tenaya Creek. It'll stagger anyone with any sense of survival at all. You cross it at your own peril, if everyone agrees to cross to begin with. It can get deadly. Then you get mosquitoes, big time. If there's no snow, there will be swarms. Tioga Rd will probably be open, but that may or may not happen by 06/08. You're going to almost 10k, so being from Minnesota and used to hiking and camping in snow is going to come in handy. Enough bad news...I'm starting to bum myself out. It all remains to be seen.

Look at this: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/u ... lheads.pdf

The good news- For those of us that know the drill, there are either a lot of desperate people, gamblers, masochists, people that know something the rest of us don't, or wishful thinkers. I've gotta laugh, but the point is, other than that, there are some big holes in reserved trailhead availability in June for all but the usually, what I would consider, less desirable trails, and walk-ups are going to be there, either by default or via cancellations by people that are likely in for a dose of high country reality.

Stick with the plan, but if it doesn't work out, there's no harm in switching gears and changing routes on a walk-up basis when you get to the park and talk to the permitting rangers. There are lots of really incredible trails that keep you lower and out of trouble. You guys could even mix it up with a few days and nights of overnighters, and see a lot more of the park... Half Dome and Cloud's Rest via LYV, Glen Aulin-Waterwheel Falls, Yosemite Falls-North Dome and Snow Creek...........additionally, Balzaccom probably has some great ideas and pictures on his website/blog: http://sites.google.com/site/backpackthesierra/home

Also, yes, new permit, and I believe you'll also have to reapply for the Half Dome permit, but since you're already in the quota, it might be a given or at least easier to transfer it. I just don't know for sure. If this isn't the number you've been calling, try it. It's the Valley Wilderness Center, and they usually answer their phone if they're not super busy.
(209) 372-0245
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Re: First-Come Permits & Early June Backpacking

Postby balzaccom » Mon Feb 15, 2016 7:28 pm

Hmmm. I just posted a reply to this and somehow it didn't show up....

Phil is right about conditions. But nobody knows what June will be like. Tioga road could be closed, or it could be wide open and with very little snow.

Other options? If it's snowy, look at the North Rim, Snow Creek to Yosemite Falls trails. That's got a lot of southern exposure, so the snow melts quicker there. Or head over to Hetch-hetchy and hike to Rancheria Falls, or Laurel Lake. Those hikes are lower elevation...

But if it's too snowy for you to use your permit at Sunrise, there's no way the cables will be open on Half Dome--so you don't need to worry about transferring that part of your permit.
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Re: First-Come Permits & Early June Backpacking

Postby ErinJ86 » Tue Feb 16, 2016 6:37 am

Good point about the HD cables if we can't access Sunrise Lakes. Any thoughts on starting at Old Big Oak Flat Road or Tamarack Flat?

Thanks for the advice!
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Re: First-Come Permits & Early June Backpacking

Postby Phil » Tue Feb 16, 2016 7:35 am

Yes, that was an excellent point.

You could do Tamarack, but if Sunrise is shut out because of snow, and Half Dome is shut out by snow, then Tioga Rd is also potentially going to still be closed, and they won't open any section of it until it's all plowed. The gate for winter closure on Tioga Rd is just after Crane Flat, and you need to get a ways past that to get to the trailhead at Tamarack Flat.

You could come in on the trail spur right across from the town of Foresta that crosses Wildcat and Tamarack Creeks and pick up your trail 4 miles up, then take the trail along the North Rim of Yosemite Valley, exiting down Snow Creek or the Falls Trail, but that's it for trails anywhere off Big Oak Flat Rd.

I would still stick to your plan for the time being, but not forget the crossing of Tenaya Creek at Sunrise, which is going to be by far the biggest deal in terms of what's got a very high likelihood of stopping you cold...not even a question of IF it will be high water, but how much and what you decide to do when you're actually standing there looking at what you have to ford, assuming you can get there because Tioga is open. Seriously, come out of the Valley somewhere as Plan B if Plan A doesn't pan out. If you need to do it as a walk-up and everything else is impacted, suffer a hard first day and go up the Snow Creek trail. You'll have incredible views of Half Dome and Tenaya Canyon, great campsites, and be happier with your overall trip experience in the long run.
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Re: First-Come Permits & Early June Backpacking

Postby mebgardner » Tue Feb 16, 2016 5:10 pm

I am certainly glad I've read this thread!

I was certain I knew of a foot bridge across the south end of the Tenaya, but nope! If there ever was, it's not there now!

I looked around for another route across, maybe at the north end, but it looks like it gets tougher to cross at that end. (Many streams instead of just one).

Time to get wet! Very Wet.

(End June / Beginning July, permits in-hand for entry at Sunrise).
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Re: First-Come Permits & Early June Backpacking

Postby balzaccom » Tue Feb 16, 2016 7:33 pm

You would certainly add a couple of miles to your hike if you parked at the Sunrise trailhead and then hiked all the way around Tenaya Lake to avoid the outlet crossing.

You could always park at the Murphy Creek Trailhead (the other end of Tenaya Lake) and cut at least one mile off the detour. But you are right, the inlet stream to Tenaya Lake can also be deep--although slower moving and pretty marshy around the edges as I recall.
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Re: First-Come Permits & Early June Backpacking

Postby Phil » Tue Feb 16, 2016 9:33 pm

Yeah, you would add a couple miles by going up and around the lake, but crossing the creek behind the picnic grounds toward the base of Pywiak Dome on the other end of Tenaya as an alternate route will get you to the other side. Tenaya has a lot of drainages feeding it. The biggest problems with crossing at Sunrise are that it's the culmination of all that water funneling down and trying to drain out beyond capacity, and it's moving. In fact, it's not so much like crossing a creek, per se, it's like crossing an extension of the lake itself, and unless you know it, it's turbid enough that you have no idea what the depth is. All you see is a very long and daunting ford. And don't even bother to look downstream for a better place to cross, there isn't one. Go to the north end. You could always drive up the road, get out of the car and do a little recon before you commit to the extra slog, too. Narrower is better, and you might even find a log to cross on, instead of watching the log float by. Whatever you decide, make sure you face into the current if you get into it and it's more than knee-deep, and don't forget to unbuckle your hip belt and sternum strap any time you absolutely have to cross moving water (through it, or over it).

Don't forget your DEET (lots!) and head nets...yes, even at the end of June and into July!

Headlong into destiny!
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Re: First-Come Permits & Early June Backpacking

Postby mebgardner » Wed Feb 17, 2016 7:34 am

Thank you both for the tips. I'm grateful to you,

Warm Regards,
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Re: First-Come Permits & Early June Backpacking

Postby ErinJ86 » Thu Feb 18, 2016 11:35 am

Phil or balzaccom, either of you know if the hiker's bus from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows is going to run this summer? I'm wondering if we'll be able to rely on this if our current plans go as scheduled. I've read a few places that it might not be a thing anymore.

If I'm looking into a Plan B for our June trip, I also need to consider transportation options as we'll only have one car.
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Re: First-Come Permits & Early June Backpacking

Postby Phil » Thu Feb 18, 2016 6:04 pm

I've heard some rumblings to that effect too, so I called YARTS. They won't be posting their schedule for the summer of 2016 until the beginning of May, and there is no current plan to eliminate the hikers shuttle from what they tell me.

http://yarts.com/about/ 877-989-2787

So as you know, the hikers shuttle is basically Yosemite Valley-Tuolumne Meadows, then back. If it's safe to drop you at a trailhead, ie: they have the room to pull out with a big bus (think Greyhound sized), you can let the driver know and they'll accommodate you if they can. Scheduled stops are; Curry Village, Yosemite Village, Yosemite Lodge (or whatever ridiculous names they're going to call them now), then Crane Flat gas station, White Wolf, May Lake Junction, Olmstead Point, Tenaya Lake, and the Tuolumne Visitors Center. Anything else in between, ask...their drivers are masters at squeezing those buses into places you might not want to even drive your car into.

The schedule I have in front of me from last year is as follows- Several stops in Yosemite Valley beginning at Curry Village. They pick you up right in front of the lodge, and run 7 days a week. Leaving from there, the first bus is at 7:45 am, another at 8:45 am, then the last at 1:30 pm. They used to have a later bus at 3:30 pm, but they cancelled it. The hikers shuttle is free, and the last stop is the Tuolumne Visitors Center. There is also another bus that goes from the Valley Visitors Center leaving at 5 pm to Lee Vining. It costs a few bucks per person, but you still can't beat it with a stick.

In reverse from the Tuolumne visitors Center to the Valley; the first bus is at 10:15 am, the second at 1:15 pm, and the last bus is at 7:00 pm.

As I said, this was last year's schedule, so make sure to check back on their website or by phone when they post the new one in May. I make no guarantees on what they'll offer. You can also pick up a full printed stop-by-stop schedule at the major stops in both the Valley and Tuolumne.

And last but not least, there's the Valley shuttle, and then the Tuolumne shuttle that runs from the Tuolumne Lodge up to Olmstead Point in both directions every half hour or so I think it is.
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Re: First-Come Permits & Early June Backpacking

Postby ErinJ86 » Tue May 03, 2016 1:07 pm

I know I originally posted this a couple months ago, but I figured I'd give some updates:

First, thanks, Phil, for suggesting I call the Valley Wilderness Center in regards to transferring our HD permits. Unfortunately, they couldn't help me so I had to call the permit line. Luckily it seems like the early season madness has died down and I was able to get through. We will not be able to transfer our HD permits to a first come, walk up permit. However, we can cancel our permit starting at Sunrise Lakes, book a new permit, and transfer the HD permits to the new one. It just all has to be done in advance.

Second, we're still a month out, but it seems like there's quite a bit of snow on Cloud's Rest. I have no point of reference on the webcams, of course, but I'm starting to really consider a Plan B. Not due to the snow, but because of the melt and the creek crossing at Sunrise Lakes. With the current conditions in mind, any thoughts on starting at Chilnualna Falls and finishing in the valley? If the cables are up on the HD we could feasibly take that on. Or should I just consider Hetch-Hetchy?

Thanks again!
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Re: First-Come Permits & Early June Backpacking

Postby aaronbmorris13 » Tue May 03, 2016 1:31 pm

If youre wanting to do Clouds Rest and could possibly start your trip a day earlier on June 7th, I see there is availability for Glacier Point->Illilouette. I actually have this same permit beginning on June 8th and plan to hike from glacier point and camp at the the Buena Vista junction, then hike to clouds rest the next day via the panorama trail and camp the second night close to Clouds Rest (depending on the amount of snow). You can also access Half Dome from this route. Then on the third day hike back out to Yosemite Valley and exit at the Happy Isles trailhead. This was the only option I was able to come up with to go to clouds rest.
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Re: First-Come Permits & Early June Backpacking

Postby AlmostThere » Tue May 03, 2016 1:57 pm

By the end of the month I would expect snow to be gone at those elevations. I've been watching the snow levels fluctuate - even if there is another storm it won't be a ton of snow, and temperatures are warmer than normal. A series of weak systems has driven the temps lower for a short time but they rise again in between. The snow on Clouds Rest is mostly gone, with a visible difference between last week and today.

Tioga Road will likely open by Memorial Day - however, I'd expect snow on trails, thin, patchy and crusty, but potentially trip complicating if you rely solely on a trail for navigation. The reports from an early season mountaineer going over high passes on the southern part of the JMT describes the current snow conditions as slushy - not crusty til afternoon but messy and miserable for walking in. It's going to be a little different than the norm. A trip from lower trailheads will likely be snow free. A trip from TIoga Road will vary depending on which trail you're on - the north sides of things can hold snow late and the ridge you climb from Sunrise trailhead will be no different.

I'd take microspikes and go from Sunrise, but I also carry and use map and compass and have the advantage of knowing the route. It's not flagged. If you want a sure thing, Mono Meadow or Glacier Point start might be an option -- but those trailheads get a lot of impact too, as the demand is only increasing year to year. Rather than Chilnualna Falls consider Alder Creek or Bridalveil Campground. Four miles of humping a full pack uphill vs. less than a mile, or no initial uphill lugging at all. There would be a short cross country to the Buena Vista trail along Horse Ridge from Ostrander, if starting at either of the latter two. From Chilnualna you will be going out the back side of the loop.

Don't forget mosquito stuff - it will be miserably buggy toward the end of the melt. I would steer away from the Buena Vista loop altogether myself, as the greener lower elevations are usually swarmy. HIgh granite is less sheltered and the breezes can sweep the little buggers away.
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Re: First-Come Permits & Early June Backpacking

Postby Phil » Tue May 03, 2016 3:22 pm

Your point of reference from the High Sierra cam is going to be Half Dome. Immediately behind it is the highest peak visually in the frame, that's Cloud's Rest. Trace that ridge down from the peak to the left and into the valley where it ends, that's Tenaya Canyon, and at the head of that is Tenaya Lake, your starting point for the Sunrise trailhead. What you're seeing are basically southern and westerly aspects. Less snow- more on the other side that isn't visible. If you want to correlate the webcam location with your map, just go ahead and use Glacier Point as your starting point and draw a straight line up to Tenaya Lake and you'll then have it.

The snow is melting fast, but we are getting these little storms with a few extra inches here and there. Tioga Rd will be almost definitely be open, and any late season snowstorms that close it will only be very temporary and it'll reopen quickly. You'll have that crossing of Tenaya Creek to contend with, the snow on the way up should only be patchy, but it's going to be a huge, wet mess (that's not just the trail itself, it's June on most trails). If you want some idea of how the trail is going to look, again go back to the webcams and see what the ground immediately below the snow-line looks like on the one up at Badger Pass. Microspikes for CR, maybe. Extra socks, definitely!

Sorry you don't get to transfer your Half Dome permit with a walk-up, they guard that like the royal jewels. I would NOT abandon or change your permit yet though, certainly not just to be safe in hanging on to that HD permit. When you get to the park, see how things stand at that moment, and how everyone is feeling about crossing Tenaya Creek when they're standing there looking at it. If the conditions aren't what you want and you're not feeling good about all of it, that's the time to ditch your existing permit, if you have to. From there, either go for it or reassess and move on to something else that will work. I absolutely wouldn't immediately default to Hetch Hetchy without getting closer to your permit date though and knowing for sure. Don't panic. Just have a backup plan that you can go to quickly (AT's suggestions sound like good alternatives). You will be able to go, it's only a matter of if you want to when the time comes and of being patient and waiting for the seasonal conditions to take just a little longer to transition over. After all, it's only May 3rd.
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