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White Wolf - 4 Night Backpacking

PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 8:26 pm
by paleogirlfl
Hello All - is this totally crazy?

4 night permit, in/out of White Wolf Campground. Mid/Late September.


North from White Wolf to Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne to Glen Aulin (2 nights) ~25 miles
Back South through Ten Lakes pass to White Wolf (2 nights) ~25 miles

Is my mileage accurate-ish? Is this crazy in this time? Would love any thoughts.

Re: White Wolf - 4 Night Backpacking

PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 9:02 pm
by balzaccom
Where will you leave your car? You may not be able to leave it at White Wolf, depending on the weather and the park regulations. They'll decided closer to the date.

But many people (young and fit people?) have hiked the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne in three days from White Wolf to Tuolumne Meadows. It's easier as a four day trip--that first day is a knee-buster heading downhill about 5000 with a full pack--But once you get down, the route along the river is relatively easy hiking. Bear in mind that the spectacular part of this hike is the waterfalls and they will be subdued this time of year. Fishing should be decent---but you won't have too much time for that.

So if you get a couple of miles up the canyon on the first day, and then get to just below Glen Aulin on the second day, that's about 22 miles over the first two days. Then you have a nice long climb up over the pass into Ten Lakes...that's about 16 miles, and then five miles out from there. But once you make it to Glen Aulin, you don't have to stick with the program. You could bail early by heading out to Tuolumne Meadows, or Murphy Creek, or May Lake. Lots of options for cutting it short if you get worn out.

We often hike ten miles a day, but we don't like doing it four days in a row without a break, so this trip is more than we would usually tackle...but we're old. And we did two different trips this summer that were 4 days and more than 40 miles...

Re: White Wolf - 4 Night Backpacking

PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2016 7:23 am
by Phil
Balzaccom is correct about the rigors of the descent that first day. It's steep. It hurts. Also, from a practicality standpoint as far as how you might feel, and the best camping opportunities, I think you might want to hold that first night at Pate Valley. Second night, again hold up short of Glen Aulin for the best sites that are in the vicinity of La Conte and Waterwheel Falls. You can definitely make it through to Glen Aulin on day-3 and stay at the campground there, but again, you need to make sure you don't come up short or overshoot and end up either getting into restricted camping zones prior to GA, or just plain lousy camping options from beyond GA, past McGee Lake, and for most of the May Lake Trail, with the exception of a few places like around Cathedral Creek, a detour to spend a night at Polly Dome Lakes, or just a few scattered sites trailside. Water might also be an issue the higher up you go if you do need to stop trailside. But yeah, to answer your questions: your 25+/- miles from WW>GA is correct, and you can pull it off in 3 days with some hard work. If it's hot, do not discount the fact that it's going to be blazing on the switchbacks down from WW, in Pate Valley, or in the GCT.

The second leg, GA> TenLakes>, 2 days is a push, and it might just mean you have to bypass some great camping. If you're climbing up from GA, or from anywhere still at lower elevations, it's a long, tough slog up to Tuolumne Peak. I would plan on stopping for the first night at either the tarns on the east side of the peak, maybe just over the pass if there's water and you can find an adequate site, or if you're wanting to push a bit, down in the valley along the South Fork of Cathedral Creek. Second night, Ten Lakes, either #1, #2, or maybe #3. Third and final day out to White Wolf.

And White Wolf is tentatively scheduled to close the 15th of this month, but right after Labor Day has also been known to happen. Check the website for dates and/or call. They also sometimes close the road down to the campground, so if you might get locked out, you'll have to find a place to park up on the shoulder of Tioga Rd and walk in. For sure, check.

Re: White Wolf - 4 Night Backpacking

PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2016 8:35 am
by paleogirlfl
Thank you both so much - super helpful information here. I definitely have some more to consider.

Re: White Wolf - 4 Night Backpacking

PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2016 9:22 am
by Phil
You're quite welcome. Don't hesitate to ask any more questions you might have.

In your planning for this route, don't so much think about distances and time, think about how you want to approach it strategically for dealing with topography, water availability, stamina level, what you want to experience en-route, and mostly, where you want to camp. If you only have just so much time available, adjust. If better camping/water is slightly more or less distance than you could otherwise walk in a day, again, adjust. The only thing that's going to be written in stone is your trailhead entry date. How long it takes is not a matter of what's initially stated on your permit for trip length, as that's open-ended to whatever you think you'll need and can be easily changed when you go in to pick up that permit. In other words: they don't care about how long it takes you, just that they comply with trailhead entry quotas on a fixed date.

Do watch the weather. After all, it is coming into shoulder season.