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[Yosemite]

Mostly aborted trip conditions report- Pt 1

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

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Mostly aborted trip conditions report- Pt 1

Postby Phil » Mon Jun 13, 2016 11:36 am

That was....interesting.

Original route was Sunrise>May Lake>Glen Aulin>Young Lakes. Ended up Sunrise>May Lake, exiting Murphy Creek because of health and safety issues.

Trip started out fine. Parked at Sunrise. Weather was so-so. A few mosquitoes in the parking area. Don't count on that being the norm this time of year or as temperatures rise. It was raining when we hit the trail and maybe in the high 40s.

**As of Saturday, 06/11/16, the crossing at Tenaya Creek is about 50 ft wide, knee deep on a 6 foot man if you use the stepping stones, just under mid-thigh deep if you don't. Water was clear enough to see the bottom, but it rained almost all of Saturday night, all day Sunday and into Sunday night. From the road and higher points on the trail across the canyon, the forested area for camping just below the summit of Cloud's Rest appeared to be mostly covered with snow of unknown depth, but you should get some idea of how much based on the following conditions at similar altitudes and similar aspects from the following.

Small patches of snow up to about 3 ft here and there in forested areas (mostly north aspects) from about 8000ft.

Walk up to May Lake parking lot was no problem- clear, mostly dry except for some runoff.

May Lake parking lot up had a few intermittent drifts of maybe 3-4 ft on the trail within the first few hundred yards, but only in deeply shaded areas. no big deal, and the rest of the trail was clear up until the HSC. The HSC at 9360 ft was a completely different story- at the campground, roughly 60-70% snow coverage at 1-4 ft deep. May Lake is still largely frozen over. Not solid ice, but slushy ice maybe 2-6" thick. South and SW shores are clear about 50 ft out around the Snow Creek outlet and the cove on the trail up to Mt Hoffman. The trail up to Hoffman is snowed over for the most part, and while the granite is/was free from snow, all the talus has about 1-3 ft of coverage. There's also a big cornice between the two peaks. If you climb up any time soon, you will need spikes, and it will be somewhat dangerous.

So here's what began to happen to us:

I'm setting up the tent and sleeping gear, pull out my son's bag, and it's not the right bag for the conditions. Nobody is EVER allowed to use my personal bags, but the kids rotate all the others. All their bags are supposed to be in certain stuff sacks that indicate what they are based on temperature ratings. My daughter had a sleepover a while back where she let a couple of her friends used our bags. A 30°synthetic bag ended up in a 0°down stuff sack, and my son just grabbed it without looking. Nighttime temps were supposed to be in the 30s, they were, and he spent a miserable night not sleeping. I had to unzip my own bag, give him what I could, and share body heat to keep him anywhere near warm. It was raining hard and windy all night. Around midnight, we had a nice thunderstorm that was right on top of us for about half an hour. Flash, zero delay in the thunder. No big deal, but it just added to the already sleepless night. Mt Hoffman had a dusting of a couple inches of snow the next morning, and it was cold and wet. We always suspected my son had a minor case of Raynaud's Syndrome, and now it seems like it's possibly confirmed. He was absolutely unable to get his hands and fingers warm enough to even manipulate the buckles on his pack, and he was in constant pain. He neglected to pack his gloves, and I would later find out, his neoprene socks, which would soon become another kiss of death for the trip. Besides that, with May Lake at only about 9400 ft, there goes Young Lakes at 9900 ft. I wouldn't do that to anyone, much less my own kid.
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Re: Mostly aborted trip conditions report- Pt 1

Postby Phil » Mon Jun 13, 2016 11:40 am

Part 2:

So, aside from our own personal trip-ending issues (which had already started, but were far from over), back to the conditions-

From the May Lake campground, through the area of the HSC itself, about 3/4 mile beyond, down to the drainage basin above Raisin Lake at about 9200-9100 ft, snow cover was probably 80-100%-ish. Drifts were 3-6 ft deep, completely covering the trail in most places, except for a few spots that took some scouting to find, or that knowing the trail already was helpful for. As we came into what you would see on your map as a bowl or small valley above the switchbacking trail down to Raisin Lake, the entire area was draining in a big way. We ended up having to swing wide to the north and go down the granite slabs on the face because the trail itself was a waterfall...a big waterfall. We went wide, then swung back to the SW and crossed the creek when it leveled out somewhat near the bottom. The rest of the trail to the lake was clear of snow, but wet. We spent some time at Raisin Lake scouting campsites for about an hour or so, and when we left it began raining harder. From the lake up to the pass over to the Murphy Creek drainage, the trail was wet and runoff covered most of the trail. As soon as we got to the top and began to descend the other side, which is fully exposed, it began raining really hard. The trail was solid runoff. When we got down into the trees, we found scattered drifts that were again, no big deal. However, once we hit the trail junction up to Tuolumne Peak (8750 ft), we came into snow cover on probably 70% of the trail. Drifts were 3-4 ft deep, lots of snow bridges, tons of runoff everywhere. The rain didn't help to stability of the snow, and what we though would've/should've been solid enough to hold our weight, didn't more than once. It was a wet, snowy, slushy mess. Regardless of full rain gear and pack covers, we were soaked.

At the junction of the Murphy Creek trail, I gave the kid the option of going on to Glen Aulin or bailing. He was the one suffering, so it had to be his call. He made the call to bail. Murphy Creek was entirely free of snow, but the runoff was intense. The snow melt combined with the rain turned the Murphy Creek trail into Murphy Creek. It was unrelenting, and some of the flows going down and across the trail were at least 4" deep or more. Murphy Creek itself, usually no big deal, was raging, and what's normally a nice little creek was probably averaging 20 feet wide in the upper drainage, and up to probably 100 feet wide and at least a couple/few feet deep in low-lying areas. We gave up on even trying to keep our feet dry, and that is usually a big deal. We enjoyed it all in all (I did anyhow) but there was enough going on with us and the environment that, all things considered, it was largely a rough couple of days. not one of our better trips.

Once back in the car, we drove up to the May Lake parking lot. With the rain and snow melt, the road was basically covered with runoff for a good part of the two miles. Snow coverage was up to intermittent and 2-3 feet deep in heavily forested areas, with snowbanks along the road up to 6 ft in a few spots. Snow Creek was moving fast, deep, and wide.

So, I hope the report helps those with plans for backcountry travel in the near-term, but the moral of the story is; be prepared, and know what's going on up there, because it's not summer in the Sierras just yet.
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Re: Mostly aborted trip conditions report- Pt 1

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Jun 13, 2016 1:58 pm

I have determined friends trying to get to Clouds Rest from Sunrise -- they've been getting into snow, post holing to the waist, and turning around.

I'm just going fishing... At lakes around 7-8000 feet. This weekend we will be clearing trees out in Dinkey on the loop trail and fishing. No post holing for me....
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Re: Mostly aborted trip conditions report- Pt 1

Postby Phil » Mon Jun 13, 2016 8:02 pm

I'll tell ya, the second I saw the color on that sleeping bag, I knew it was as good as done. Besides that and the ice cold hands that nothing I could do would warm up (including a fire), the conditions were secondary. Spent the day drying our gear here at home, and I'm ready to go back and start over. Safety always comes first, but there are two things I hate most; backtracking, and not finishing what I start.

It's always awesome to be out there alone, but one of the highlights of the trip was when we were leaving May Lake and a group of three Brits were coming in. They spotted a marmot and asked us if was an opossum. :lol:
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Re: Mostly aborted trip conditions report- Pt 1

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Jun 13, 2016 8:06 pm

The whistle pigs are coming for you, and your salty gear....

I saw a pine marten on the doorstep of the Lodgepole visitor center, Memorial Day weekend. I was in line for a permit -- none of the 20 people standing in line with me even noticed it. It bounced into the door, looked around, and bounced away again. One of the coolest sightings any time, any where -- last time I saw one it was someone going, "Oh look a lost dog" -- turned around and there was a marten big as a dog loping off.

Some day, I will have a camera ready.... but until then, it's opossums and squirrels and marmots, and people who show me a picture of a ground squirrel and swear it's a marmot...
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Re: Mostly aborted trip conditions report- Pt 1

Postby Phil » Mon Jun 13, 2016 8:17 pm

Almost as rare as finding firewood at May Lake.

Dad, why is that marmot licking a rock?

Well son, because you didn't bring half the gear you were supposed to and you were still wearing your bandana.
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Re: Mostly aborted trip conditions report- Pt 1

Postby robow8 » Tue Jun 14, 2016 7:15 am

Phil,
I have Raynaud's as a result of years of air tool usage, and I find that it is much more important to me to keep my core warm. I do tend to use warmer gloves than most, but keeping my torso warm is the key.
I hope your next attempt is more successful!
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Re: Mostly aborted trip conditions report- Pt 1

Postby Phil » Tue Jun 14, 2016 7:46 am

Thank you. It will be.

He was in agony and completely focused on the pain and lack of dexterity. It was hard to watch, and impossible to alleviate. We had his core temp handled while hiking, but it didn't help. We've seen occasional moments where it hit him just a little and left us wondering, but this was by far the worst yet.

As a sufferer, do you have any solutions medically, or advice on the best gloves that can keep his fingers warm and dry, but still allow him to manipulate small objects?

My girlfriend has severe Raynauds, and I've watched her fingers go almost completely black when the temps are only in the 50s. She just suffers through it. It's frightening. She's told me that she's heard that adding cayenne pepper to your food is supposed to help by increasing your blood flow and metabolic rate, but she has no taste for it.

Whatever other thoughts you can share would be very much appreciated!
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Re: Mostly aborted trip conditions report- Pt 1

Postby Bachus » Tue Jun 14, 2016 8:12 am

@AlmostThere,

Thanks for sharing the update from Sunrise to Clouds Rest. We were planning on through hiking from Sunrise to CR to LYV mid next week.

Would you know or be able to find out if your friends were able to make it to the trail junction (ie skip CR) which would allow us to follow the trail to the south of CR following Sunrise Creek and meeting up with the JMT near LYV? (Sounds like it’s time to start contingency planning)
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Re: Mostly aborted trip conditions report- Pt 1

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Jun 14, 2016 8:41 am

Bachus wrote:@AlmostThere,

Thanks for sharing the update from Sunrise to Clouds Rest. We were planning on through hiking from Sunrise to CR to LYV mid next week.

Would you know or be able to find out if your friends were able to make it to the trail junction (ie skip CR) which would allow us to follow the trail to the south of CR following Sunrise Creek and meeting up with the JMT near LYV? (Sounds like it’s time to start contingency planning)


The problem is the north side of the ridge, with all the lingering snow. Multiple people lost the trail and ended up wandering -- and these are not people who have never gone, we are all locals with favorite hikes, of which this is one. Elevations above 8-9000 feet on north faces are particularly prone to this issue. I was in Kings Canyon over Memorial Day weekend, and the same problem occurred - we made it to our destination because we know what overgrown blazes on trees look like, but many people were turned around by extensive snow coverage at higher elevations.

You can, however, go from Happy Isles and encounter no snow at all -- no north facing slopes on that route.
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Re: Mostly aborted trip conditions report- Pt 1

Postby mebgardner » Tue Jun 14, 2016 9:41 am

AlmostThere wrote:I have determined friends trying to get to Clouds Rest from Sunrise -- they've been getting into snow, post holing to the waist, and turning around.


C'mon now, it's only a mile or so of north facing aspect. Tell'em to get back out there, and try again!

They can be first! I won't mind, really :)
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Re: Mostly aborted trip conditions report- Pt 1

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Jun 14, 2016 9:43 am

mebgardner wrote:
AlmostThere wrote:I have determined friends trying to get to Clouds Rest from Sunrise -- they've been getting into snow, post holing to the waist, and turning around.


C'mon now, it's only a mile or so of north facing aspect. Tell'em to get back out there, and try again!

They can be first! I won't mind, really :)


They went to Happy Isles and went up from there. 22 miles and a lot more gain, but who cares?
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Re: Mostly aborted trip conditions report- Pt 1

Postby MadDiver » Tue Jun 14, 2016 10:41 am

Wow, bummer Phil. I was at May Lake a year ago (actually a week earlier) and only saw two or three piles of snow well hidden under trees, but I understand last year was not "normal". Too bad your son had to call the trip - we have a saying in scuba diving that's applicable: "Any diver can call any dive at any time for any reason." Talk about it later but survive to talk about it. Sounds like the right choice even if it's a bitter pill at the time.
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Re: Mostly aborted trip conditions report- Pt 1

Postby mebgardner » Tue Jun 14, 2016 12:08 pm

AlmostThere wrote:
mebgardner wrote:
AlmostThere wrote:I have determined friends trying to get to Clouds Rest from Sunrise -- they've been getting into snow, post holing to the waist, and turning around.


C'mon now, it's only a mile or so of north facing aspect. Tell'em to get back out there, and try again!

They can be first! I won't mind, really :)


They went to Happy Isles and went up from there. 22 miles and a lot more gain, but who cares?


They were fortunate to get the permit, I'm assuming on a walk-in basis. Good for them!
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Re: Mostly aborted trip conditions report- Pt 1

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Jun 14, 2016 12:12 pm

mebgardner wrote:
AlmostThere wrote:They went to Happy Isles and went up from there. 22 miles and a lot more gain, but who cares?


They were fortunate to get the permit, I'm assuming on a walk-in basis. Good for them!


You don't need a permit for a day hike. That's a day hike for us....
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