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Round track at Yosemite - help is needed!

PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2016 10:35 am
by Serj
Dear all,
I am living outside of US and plan Yosemite track at mid October.
Since this will be my first time backpacking in Yosemite, and US as well, I would like to ask for your assistance in planning my track correctly. Although there is a lot of info at different sites, but nothing better than experience...
Any comments and suggestions are welcome!
The idea is to leave a car at the Valley, enter with Muir Trail and finally get to Tuolumne Meadows camp through Sunset High Sierra camp. Then come back using different way - the Tenaya lake trail, down to the Valley (about 70km in total).
1. The problem is that as far as I can see, the camps on the way are closed at that period. Is it still allowed to stop at them or we must sleep at wild area?
2. My estimation is that the track will take around 4 days, what solution you use for water? Filters? Can one enter rivers/lakes for body wash without soap?
3. What average weather conditions at that area at mid October? Can make fire at wild area?
4. Any special precautions regarding ticks? Bears? :)
Any additional info will help!
Thank you in advance,

Re: Round track at Yosemite - help is needed!

PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2016 2:05 pm
by balzaccom
A quick answer...

The biggest challenge may be weather. The reason those camps are closed is because they could be snowed in in October-- or at least the trail could be covered and invisible.

That said, your route is fine...although I would hike through Tuolumne Meadows and the back via Vogelsang and the Merced Canyon.

Yes, you can filter water and swim in it. It will be very cold. No soap please, anywhere near any water.

Fires may well be restricted at that time. They are illegal above 9400 feet at any rate...

And to get a permit you will be required to use a bear canister for all food and anything else that might attract bears..including sunscreen. Lip balm...shampoo, etc.

Re: Round track at Yosemite - help is needed!

PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2016 8:27 pm
by Serj
Thanx a lot!
Couple of additional questions please:
1. Do I have to get the bear canister myself? REI? What volume you would recommend for 4 days?
2. Are knives permitted? Pepper spray?
3. If I apply now for the wilderness permit and denied, can I count on fist come? All my trip to US is built around this track...
4. Any suggestion for alternative round tracks for about 70 km, please?

Thank you!

Re: Round track at Yosemite - help is needed!

PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2016 9:12 pm
by MadDiver
From your first questions: while the (full service) camps are closed the backpackers area is open for camping. Bring a water filter and the outhouses will probably be closed in october.

Knives? Normal pocket knives/ multitools are fine, you don't need anything else. I believe bear spray is illegal, nor is it needed.

Bear cans (one sizw) can be rented for $5 (deposit required) at the wilderness stations. Not negotiable, you must carry one. You could buy but might as well just rent it.

Re: Round track at Yosemite - help is needed!

PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2016 9:33 pm
by Serj
Ok, great!
The picture becomes more clear now.
Regarding the weather conditions, I understand that snowing is possible at mid October, so is it still possible to hike/follow trails?
Did anyone (sure yes) hike Muir trail from valley to Tuolumne meadows? Is it difficult trail with 20-25kg pack? Doable in two days?

Re: Round track at Yosemite - help is needed!

PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2016 6:43 am
by Phil
I believe everyone answered your questions, but I wanted to follow up with a little more clarification on a few points. I have no doubt you'll have more questions as they occur to you and your trip date gets closer. Please don't hesitate to ask.

Pepper spray is absolutely not allowed. Whatever knife you normally prefer is fine, although you will not need it defensively. Also, ticks shouldn't be a problem.

You should have no problems at all with either a reserved or walk-up permit.

The bear canisters that are available for rent within Yosemite are Garcia 812 Backpacker's Cache. Typically, one will hold approximately 6 days of food for one person, but that is very much dependent on what you pack and how you pack it. After checking it out on say, REI's website, if you believe you need more room, canisters such as Bearvaults (REI will also have them on their website), are approved for use, but you'll have to buy that model. There's also a company called Wild Ideas that can rent you several sizes of a very nice, lightweight model called the Bearikade that can ship it to you internationally prior to your trip.

As Balzaccom already mentioned, mid-late October, the weather can transition very quickly to winter conditions. That fact can't be stressed enough. Be very aware of forecasts prior to and during your trip, and make absolutely sure your navigational skills and equipment reflect the possibility of snow covering some or all of the trail and, with very little doubt, freezing temperatures. If at all possible, hike with a companion, as well as leave a copy of your route and itinerary with someone that can effectively reach and speak to local authorities.

Finally, remember that stove fuel of any type is not allowed by any airlines, even in checked baggage, so make sure your stove is compatible with what's available in the US, and try to purchase what you'll need before you enter the park. We generally have readily available both white gas and fuel canisters that use a Lindal EN417 valve (Snow Peak, Primus, MSR, Soto, Jetboil).

Re: Round track at Yosemite - help is needed!

PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2016 8:21 am
by Serj
Thank you so much for your detailed answer! Every piece of information is new and important for me.
Now the canister, knife and weather issues are pretty clear.
Although I was quite sure (before making this topic here) that the Muir trail up to Tuolumne meadows and Tenaya back is a great idea, now listening to what you all say I have serious doubts in this regard.
Can anyone please share his/her experience hiking Muir from Valley up to Tuolumne? Difficulty level, elevation, speed? Although I have large hiking experience, but never did it so high in mountains...
On the "paper" it sounds doable in two days (about 35km), but with so high elevation and weather maybe real hell, I guess?!
Can anyone please also suggest alternative 3-4 days Round tracks starting and ending at the Valley with nice views, lakes etc..?

Re: Round track at Yosemite - help is needed!

PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2016 9:26 am
by Phil
Plan for the worst, but hope for the best. It's not that it isn't possible, or even advisable, because of what WILL happen, it's what MIGHT happen, and you should be ready for it in case it does. There's no way to know for sure until you're there and have the current weather forecast to go off of.

The biggest issue with hiking out of Yosemite Valley on all trails leading into the wilderness is that the elevation increases quickly. You'll go from about 1500m to over 2500m within the first few miles. If you aren't used to the altitude, it will probably be a big factor that slows you down. The John Muir Trail (JMT) from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows is about 35km. It can be done in 2 days if you're a strong hiker, but most people do it in 3 because of where the best camping is located. From the Valley, I would call it a "moderate" hike. There are some sections that require some steep or long climbs though, and you'll be at over 3000m at times.

Once you reach Tuolumne Meadows, as Balzaccom mentioned, I also wouldn't necessarily recommend the Tenaya Lake Trail as the best route back to the Valley. From the last place on the JMT that you're allowed to Camp legally at Upper Cathedral Lake to the next area that you're again allowed to camp along the North Rim near Snow Creek, the minimum total distance for the day is going to be around 27km...and it is not negotiable. Instead, I would also recommend the same return route that Balzaccom mentions via Rafferty Creek, Vogelsang, Merced Lake, then back to the Valley to where you began at Happy Isles, although this route is going to again take you back to altitudes over 3500m at least for several miles.

The problem with hiking Yosemite in October is definitely a) the possibility of bad weather and cold temperatures, b) the fact that most of the trails are at higher elevations, and c) that parking access and/or transportation options for the trailheads at higher elevations (ie: Tioga and Glacier Point Rd) are severely limited or restricted completely. But, I wouldn't cancel my plans necessarily, just know that these are all factors you might, or will in some cases, have to deal with.

Re: Round track at Yosemite - help is needed!

PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2016 10:07 am
by Serj
Totally agree with your first sentence. J
You made very good point, which completely escaped my notice, that camping might be forbidden at some areas. Will consider it at further plannings. I was sure tuolumne camp is accesible for backpackers, and tenaya camp as well...
Unfortunately, it seems that valley is the only option for me to leave a car, therefore making first miles too difficult.. Moreover, I will have only 4 days for the track, so it is crucial to understand that I can do it (maybe can extent to 4.5 days). Since anyway wilderness application form has 3 options, I will look for additional directions to explore...

Re: Round track at Yosemite - help is needed!

PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2016 10:25 am
by Phil
Just to be clear: with the backpacker's camps such as Tuolumne Meadows and White Wolf, if the regular campgrounds are closed for the season (which they will be a month before your trip) the backpacker's camps attached to them are also closed, and you will not be allowed to stay there. However, the backpacker's camp in the Valley attached to the North Pines Campground will most likely still be open. If not for some reason, Camp 4 is your other option.

At the High Sierra Camps (HSCs) such as Sunrise, Vogelsang, etc, while the water, toilets and cabins will be long shut down in preparation for winter, you ARE allowed to use the campsites reserved for backpackers.

Also, regardless of what some maps may indicate, there is no longer a campground at Tenaya Lake.

This link is a trailhead map for the entire park. Camping is absolutely restricted in some areas and it's a good idea to know where those are. What you'll see are colored lines and arrow heads. Within those colored lines, there is no camping allowed, but beyond the arrowhead, it's fully allowed, although they prefer that you use existing campsites. ... lheads.pdf

Re: Round track at Yosemite - help is needed!

PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2016 2:19 pm
by Serj
Thanks for camp map! I did compose two additional tracks, so at least one of them has to be OK at the end.

Re: Round track at Yosemite - help is needed!

PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2016 5:25 pm
by AlmostThere
If you are not able to navigate without visible trails and have no snow experience, that would be a bad time to go high. There are places in the park where you can spend the four days hiking and camping without so much risk -- either of the rim trails along the edge of Yosemite valley, for example.

Permits go on a walk in basis in October and stay that way til May, because the vast majority of folks want to go when there is no issue with snow.

You could go from the rockslides trailhead in the valley floor, climb up and then go along the north rim to El Capitan, North Dome, etc. and then descend on Snow Creek trail. there is a possibility of departing early via Upper Yosemite Falls trail to the valley floor if storms hit. Or, you could go from Tunnel View trailhead up to the viewpoints along the south rim, camp at the legal spots the ranger will show you on a map, descend via Illilouette trail and Panorama trail to Happy Isles. Either of these would allow you to see all the BIG SITES that Yosemite have to offer while backpacking, which if you go elsewhere to backpack the entire time you are here you will not see. And you can be below 8000 feet elevation the entire time, negating issues with elevation sickness.

Re: Round track at Yosemite - help is needed!

PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2016 10:03 pm
by Serj
Excellent! The south rim option I did check yesterday and it looks great to me.
Regarding the north rim, I can't see where you can climb in Rockslides area, on my map the Big oak flat road is the only option, so I thought about half of north rim from from Snow Creek to Yosemite Falls and then Four mile trail to illiluoette basin and back via happy isles. Anyway, I keep the option of hiking to Sunrise high sierra and Merced lake, if the weather conditions will be suitable.
Thanx a lot!

Re: Round track at Yosemite - help is needed!

PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2016 10:36 pm
by AlmostThere
Rockslides is an old road -you can get a permit for it. It is in the valley floor at milepost 7, just past El Capitan. It is easier to get to than the Old Big Oak Flat trailhead if you don't have a car. The old road joins the trail eventually. There is a little bouldering in the rockfalls across the old road.

Re: Round track at Yosemite - help is needed!

PostPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2016 12:13 am
by Serj
If I apply now for a wilderness permit with 3 different options of tracks, can I later change/modify it at place, when I pick it up?