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Need Route Suggestions for 2 Nights of Backpacking ~May 20

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 6:08 pm
by doctor_science
Hi all. I'm looking for a suggested backpacking route for May 18-May 20.
2 nights seems ideal, but that isn't rigid.

I've car camped and hiked in Yosemite a few times before.
Last August, I hiked to upper Yosemite falls and LOVED it because of the waterfall-fed swimming up top.
I'm thinking of repeating that trail for the beginning of my trip, but I'm not sure where to go from there-- or if swimming is even possible in mid-May. Perhaps Half-Dome after that?

I will be traveling by myself. I have lots of experience hiking, car camping and a fair amount of backcountry camping experience.
I am capable of ascending 3k+ ft of elevation per day, and up for a challenge.
Also hoping not to get too destroyed by mosquitoes.
If anybody has any recommendations, I would be really grateful.

Re: Need Route Suggestions for 2 Nights of Backpacking ~May

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 7:43 pm
by Phil
You're very limited the third week of May. Because of snow pack and road closures, you're going to again be up by Yosemite Falls. The other options are the south rim or out by Hetch Hetchy, assuming Rancheria Falls is passable with the runoff. If you want a challenge, try going up the Snow Creek Trail from the Valley and camp up there if the area is open. Huge difference between late May and early August. Not only is that water pure snow melt, where you were probably swimming happily last time you were there is going to be a fast-moving, churning cauldron of hypothermic death...right up until the time when you're swept uncontrollably over the brink. Even filtering water is a risky proposition if you're too close to the falls. But the upside is that all the falls will be at their peak, so if you can just stand back at a safe distance and take it all in, it's an incredible sight to see. That narrow channel above Yosemite Falls is mind-blowing at peak flow! Ascending Half Dome that early this year is questionable, and the cables even in a light snow year generally don't go up until Memorial Day weekend, so that's likely a non-starter.

Also just make sure that your gear is still suited for colder temps, you track the weather forecast closely, and that you're comfortable with possibly having to do some navigation across long stretches of snow covering the trail in forested areas.

Re: Need Route Suggestions for 2 Nights of Backpacking ~May

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 9:15 pm
by doctor_science
Phil, thank you very much for your reply.

If I understand you correctly, you are suggesting that the snow will make navigation beyond either the Yosemite Falls or Snow Creek Trails very difficult.
In other words, there won't be much easy access beyond those ascending trails.
Or are you suggesting that I might be able to climb up to Upper Yosemite Falls, continue to Yosemite Point, and then head to Snow Creek (by catching the trail that connects Snow Creek, Yosemite Point, and Porcupine Creek, just West of Indian Rock), and then loop back down to the valley floor?
The latter seems like a pretty epic plan, if those trails are passable.

For reference, I am looking at these maps: ... il-map.htm ... ls/map.htm

I am pretty comfortable navigating in the snow. If I did my homework ahead of time, I should be able to keep my bearings.
My biggest concern would be traversing steep, icy terrain.
Also, how cold do you expect temperatures to get at night? My backcountry gear is essentially "3-season" and warm, but not ideal for anything below 20F.
For the record, I camped for 4 nights in Yosemite in May 2015. But I was sleeping closer to Valley elevation, and it had not been a particularly snowy winter.

Thank you again for your response. I really appreciate your expertise.

Re: Need Route Suggestions for 2 Nights of Backpacking ~May

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 9:40 pm
by Phil
It's so hard to call it this year. We would all usually consider the North and South Rims earlier season recommendations, but you're still just in late May and at ~7500+/- ft. There might be more snow than normal, there might not. That's all I've got. Other than the climb up the Falls Trail and the descent from Snow Creek, it's not steep or icy by any means, just forested and shaded, which, depending, might entail some residual snowpack. Most of the south aspects at lower elevations should be in good shape though, maybe just wet and a little sloppy in places. Unless there's an uncanny amount of snow remaining up in the trees, that route is easy enough and fairly leisurely once you hit the top. You can't legally camp within a 1/4 mile of the top of the falls, but over to Lehamite Creek/North Dome can easily be achieved on that first day for anyone in-shape. After that, to the top of Snow Creek Falls is a cake walk. Then down and back to the Valley. Generally considered two-nights, no means epic.

If your bag rating really is a legit 20f and you have a good pad with a decent R-value, you should be fine at night. You can always dress for bed or heat up a couple Nalgenes too. No shortage of sites with fire rings and downed wood to take the chill off either. Just be aware of the weather and layer up and accessorize appropriately for the conditions. And any 3-season tent will be all you'll need for shelter.

For the time of year and the time out you're looking for, that area is your best bet.

Re: Need Route Suggestions for 2 Nights of Backpacking ~May

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2017 10:54 pm
by doctor_science
I really like this plan. And as you said, this isn't much travel for 3 days/2 nights. So I will have lots of time to wander/explore/whatever.

As for temps, I'll keep an eye on the weather. My gear + clothes should be ok. Good suggestion to heat up some water bottles.

Thank you very much for the advice, Phil. If you have any other suggestions, I'm all ears. Otherwise, I'll let you know how the trip goes.

Re: Need Route Suggestions for 2 Nights of Backpacking ~May

PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2017 8:30 am
by Phil
The flipside is that the weather and temps could be perfect, but you'll have no idea how to reliably prepare for whatever it ends up being until about a week before you go. You should also plan to use the park's webcams to get a rough indication of the conditions of that area before you go.

Re: Need Route Suggestions for 2 Nights of Backpacking ~May

PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2017 1:16 pm
by bob13bob
i for one, am not a fan of cold weather backpacking, just warning you because this will a completely diff trip than an august trip. Ignoring the problems with navigation which isn't that hard with gps and maps on smart phonese these days.

Be careful of sleeping bag ratings, you need to add about 14 degrees to the stated rating to be "comfort rated". I found this to be true and I still wear clothes under it. eg a 20 F rated bag is only good till about 34F.

As soon as you stop hiking you start chilling quickly, no time to lounge around the camp grounds, you tend to eat as fast as possible then jump in your sleeping bag as you get cold very quickly. Campfires don't keep me warm at those temps. I love the aspect of sitting around the fire and it sucks to give this up. no dipping your feet let along swimming.

Then you need to deal with snow and wet moistore with gear = extra weight. neoprene socks and fleece balaclavas are a god send here. I bring a beanie as well if temps are hitting below freezing.