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[Yosemite]

Options for Backpacking July First Week

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

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Options for Backpacking July First Week

Postby Cee » Tue May 23, 2017 4:59 pm

This year I *THOUGHT* I had my act together and got my wilderness permits for Lyell Canyon for the first week in July. The plan was Lyell Canyon, Evelyn Lake, Vogelsang, and back along Rafferty Creek. Now, I am not so sure we will be able to do this with the snow (and the possibility that Tioga Rd may or may not have opened). So, we, like everybody else, are looking at alternatives. Although we have not yet ruled out the Emigrant Wilderness (Gem Lake area), we would really like to do something in Yosemite.

Is Hetch Hetchy's Rancheria Falls an option? Would it be too hot and exposed in the beginning of July? Or, would this year be an exception, that would allow us to backpack in Hetch Hetchy, a part of Yosemite that we have missed so far.

I would also welcome suggestions on any 2 or 3 night trips that would have great scenery and be accessible early July WITHOUT technical gear (ice axe, crampons, etc).

Thanks in advance
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Re: Options for Backpacking July First Week

Postby balzaccom » Tue May 23, 2017 6:55 pm

You are correct. The last news I had from Yosemite was that they might get Tioga Road open in time for the 4th of July....but that doesn't mean that hiking would be fun. We've hiked out of Tuolumne Meadows the week they opened the road, and it was pretty much snow in every direction except down to Glen Aulin.

So you need to look for destinations that are below 9,000 feet, I would suggest. That would include the North Rim and Little Yosemite Valley, as well as Hetch-hetchy/Rancheria Falls, Lake Vernon. But Tilltil Valley will be a mushy mess, and the rivers and creeks will still be very high and dangerous.

We have a list of early season hikes on our website. You could look at shorter adventures in Carson-Iceberg or Emigrant Wilderness (Disaster Creek and the Walker River, Sword and Lost Lakes, Relief Reservoir, etc.)
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Re: Options for Backpacking July First Week

Postby AlmostThere » Tue May 23, 2017 7:51 pm

You should be absolutely sure, when I tell you the dude who clears the trails to High Sierra camps encountered 20-30 feet of snow. No way. Not without snowshoes. Those camps probably won't even open this year.

Remember that when the water is in high snowmelt stage, the bridges at Wapama Falls will be closed, and the streams farther up the hill above Hetch Hetchy will also be dangerous -- don't die for this. I really doubt you will get to Rancheria the easy way. If you can't cross the creeks on the trail farther up that loop, you can't get there that way either.

I will recommend you to visit other places and save Yosemite for August or September this year, when the mosquitoes won't be eating small children and dogs, and draining livestock... and creeks will be crossable again. There are routes in Emigrant that will be more do-able. You could get a permit from the Groveland FS office and go in via Lake Eleanor, into that corner of Yosemite, and look down at Hetch Hetchy -- the creeks in that area can be high as well but that side melts out quicker. I'll be going up Kibbie Ridge in June, to try my hand with some cross country fun. We may dip into Emigrant and back on the way around.
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Re: Options for Backpacking July First Week

Postby Phil » Wed May 24, 2017 1:20 pm

As I suggested to someone else recently, if you're going out of the Hetch Hetchy area, you can head up above the dam toward lakes Laurel, Vernon, Eleanor and avoid any closure issues at Wapama/Rancheria Falls. You'll be limited in your overall distance, but you should be able to find plenty of places to camp, as well as a fair amount of open trails without any major crossings or snow. But no shortage of mosquitoes! Then there is the North Rim of the Valley...

If you're able to travel a bit and don't mind leaving the Sierras, I was up in the Trinity Alps/Six Rivers National Forest over the past few days, and while there is some residual snow at higher elevations and high water in most of the major rivers and streams, the altitude is much lower overall and the hot temps are taking the snowpack out quickly, so the first week of July should be just about perfect conditions.

This link will give you a pretty basic and decent overview of some of the trailhead options available:

http://www.7x7.com/everything-you-need- ... 24437.html
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Re: Options for Backpacking July First Week

Postby balzaccom » Wed May 24, 2017 5:22 pm

To get to Laurel Lake from Hetch-hetchy you'd have to cross Frog Creek as some point. I don't think that will be easy or fun.
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Re: Options for Backpacking July First Week

Postby Phil » Wed May 24, 2017 9:27 pm

balzaccom wrote:To get to Laurel Lake from Hetch-hetchy you'd have to cross Frog Creek as some point. I don't think that will be easy or fun.


Good point. That could be a wade, a detour upstream for a better place to try crossing, or an absolute show stopper. It's such a variable in so many ways, but I'd give it a whirl, but I also wouldn't be too stupid about it, and I would be willing to accept defeat.
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Re: Options for Backpacking July First Week

Postby AlmostThere » Wed May 24, 2017 9:32 pm

I know accepting defeat is hard, when you don't get lots of time to come back, and you may have gone a long distance to be there. But you have more of a chance than if you push through the raging whitewater creek and die....

There's still a young man missing for more than a week now and he was day hiking Yosemite Falls. It's happened before, and usually the body is found in the water much later. We're not exaggerating about this. This is the most dangerous part of the year in Yosemite. More people die in the water than anything else.
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Re: Options for Backpacking July First Week

Postby Phil » Wed May 24, 2017 9:44 pm

Smart decisions involving big water are moments when you've got to really search your soul and be realistic about the conditions and your abilities. Minor mistakes and slips are not forgiven...Even if someone tells you that something is safe to cross in their opinion, you just don't know until you're standing there facing it yourself.

By no means are my statements intended to trivialize the risks and dangers. Just to be clear.
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Re: Options for Backpacking July First Week

Postby Cee » Thu May 25, 2017 9:11 pm

Thank you all for your responses. I have crossed enough creeks in low water to know that it is easy to loose footing on a slippery rock. When the creek is low, it is not a big deal; with high water, a simple slip can be the end. This time of the year with all the snow melt, I am not sure I want to even try a potential "safe" crossing.

So, it looks like Hetch Hetchy will also probably be out of the question. Balzacomm mentioned the North Rim -- are there specific trails you would recommend? Also, would these be from the Valley? I ask because I suspect it is going to be quite challenging to get a permit for entry to trailheads in the Valley. Would the Porcupine Creek Trailhead off Tioga Road be covered in snow and a challenge to navigate in July? I have come down that trailhead to the rim of the valley, and am wondering if that will be an option.

Emigrant Wilderness looks like a possibility -- AlmostThere, you mentioned that you will be up there in June. I would really appreciate hearing how your trip went and what the creeks were like. Balzacomm, you do have several Emigrant trails on your Early Season Hikes link -- any idea how they are this year?

Phil, the Trinity Alps that you mentioned were not on our radar -- I checked distance and it is definitely a bit of a stretch (6 hours drive) than we wanted to do.

I would like to stay in Yosemite, but am now becoming a little more open to other areas as long as the scenery is great and the backpacking will be fun.

Thanks again and please keep the suggestions coming.
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Re: Options for Backpacking July First Week

Postby balzaccom » Thu May 25, 2017 9:34 pm

We'll be hiking in Emigrant in the next week, so I'll get a report out. RIght now the snow level is about 7500 feet there.
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Re: Options for Backpacking July First Week

Postby Phil » Fri May 26, 2017 2:36 am

You might find that Tioga Rd is open by then, maybe not, but open is my bet. The North Rim is likely to be crowded though, and Porcupine Creek is always a popular entry point since it's the main access for North Dome. Barring an absolute snail's pace, all sites considered, the length of the entire trip end-to-end should be about 3-4 days. Best entry trailheads are: Tamarack Flat (#9) from the west, and May Lake>Snow Creek (#16) from the east. If those all all fully impacted, you can try coming in at Luken's Lake>Yosemite Creek (#13), but it's going to be marshy, and there will be a couple small crossings, but more a pain than anything dangerous. From the webcams, experience, and reported snowpack elevations, you'll likely have just a bit of intermittent snow in the trees, somewhat wet ground, big water (but no major crossings), and still some heavy mosquitoes in places. It's a nice area, nice walk, lots of campsites, and some great views.

The whole Frog Creek crossing thing shouldn't deter you from the whole area...you just have to take out Laurel Lake to avoid it. There are ways over it without going into it for those with the tenacity and experience, but we just can't be putting it out for widespread consumption that it should be taken lightly or that it falls within the comfort/safety/experience levels of just anybody. Some of us know when to call it a day, some don't, sadly.

Balzaccom's and AT's reports on Emigrant are going to be worth paying close attention to.
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Re: Options for Backpacking July First Week

Postby Cee » Sat May 27, 2017 4:11 pm

Thanks again for the follow-up answers. After reading Phil's response and looking at the Hetch-Hetchy area and permit availability, I am wondering if Miguel Meadows might be an option. Enter from Miguel Meadows TH, set up base camp somewhere near Miguel Meadows (what are good camping areas there). Next day, dayhike to Lake Eleanor and back. Night at base camp; on day 3 hike back out. I read Balzacomm's report from 2011 -- it looked like the hike was done in reverse order and they ran into a roaring creek that they decided not to cross. Going from Miguel to Lake Eleanor, it seems we will be crossing a creek, but no idea if it will be roaring like Frog Creek, or if it will be passable.

The other question has to do with the actual hike into Miguel Meadows -- is it going to be hot and exposed or are there places where we will be in shaded areas? The main reason for coming back to Hetch-Hetchy is I noticed Phil's recommendation to Floater53's query on "Trailhead from Yosemite Valley to Toulumne."

If not Miguel, could we go with one of the other trailheads in HH, backpack in ~6 to 8 miles, set up camp, day hike the next day, backpack out the third day -- any suggestions are welcome.

Balzacomm, you list Rancheria Falls in your Early Seasons Hikes tab -- this year, though, how possible will the falls and creek crossings be? Also, if we got a permit for Rancheria, are there suggestions for a base camp and doable days hikes for this year?

Thanks
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Re: Options for Backpacking July First Week

Postby balzaccom » Sun May 28, 2017 9:15 pm

A couple of quick thoughts from the mountains. I'll write more when we get home.

Rancheria Falls has a nice day hike up to LeConte Point. But make sure the bridge is open below Wapama Falls, or you won't get anywhere.

Neither Crabtree nor Gianelli trailhead is open right now in the Emigrant Wilderness. Lakes at 8,000 feet are iced over...and that means most of the lakes.
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Re: Options for Backpacking July First Week

Postby Phil » Wed Jun 07, 2017 6:40 pm

Lifted from the YNP wilderness conditions page 06/05/17. I'll only include what we generally recommend as "early season/lower elevation" routes. Shaping up like an all bets are off start to the season this year though.

Here's the actual link: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildcond.htm

Paraphrasing what the report states very clearly with regards to "what should I bring?"- It's not what you carry in your pack as much as it's about what you carry in your head. And you better be really good at it...

Hetch Hetchy Beehive Meadows, Laurel Lake, Wapama Falls Trails at low elevations are clear of snow with the exception of a 1 mile section of trail on Mt Gibson between Lake Vernon and Rancheria Falls. Trails are flooded and wet throughout. Wapama Falls footbridges may be covered by the waterfall as flow increases with warmer temperatures and melting snow. People crossing these footbridges do so at their own risk. It is not advised to cross Frog Creek at this time. Snow coverage starts on Moraine Ridge when dropping into Jack Main Canyon.

Valley Rim Lehamite Creek, North Dome, Taft Point, Sentinel Dome Water crossings are tricky with high and swift moving water. On the north rim, Tamarack and Wildcat Creeks are both flowing fast. Ribbon and Lehamite Creeks on the east side of the rim are both water heavy as well. Snow is still abundant in the forested areas along the rim, including Ribbon Meadow and Eagle Peak Meadows. The trail section of trail north of Indian Rock and North Dome has 100% snow cover. On the south rim, there is 75% snow coverage on the Pohono Trail from Glacier Point between Taft Point and Dewey Point. Glacier Point, itself, is mostly free of snow.

Glacier Point Rd Ostrander Lake, Illilouette Creek The trail to Ostrander Lake is clear until the last mile and then is 100% covered with depths of 5 ft. Trail to Mono Meadow is 50% snow covered for the first mile. Mono Meadows are completely flooded. Creek crossing just after Mono Meadows is high and hazardous. Illilouette Creek is impassable at Mono Meadow junction. Hikers will need to go to the panorama trail and use the bridge there to cross Illilouette Creek.

South End Chinualna Creek The trail to Chinualna Falls is clear. Crossing the main stem of Chilnualna Creek to the south is approximately 4 ft deep and not recommened. Once across, patches of snow begin to grow as elevation is gained hitting 100% snowpack around 8,500 feet.
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Re: Options for Backpacking July First Week

Postby robow8 » Wed Jun 07, 2017 8:07 pm

I've got 2extra spots on a GP>Illilouette permit on July 3, plus 2 extra GP tour tickets. Our original plan was to go up over Red Peak Pass and follow the Merced down to the Valley.That won't be happening. I'm hoping we can get up to Lower Ottoway lake, and then down Illilouette to LYV and then down to the Valley. Let me know if you want them.
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