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[Yosemite]

Route Review and Suggestions

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

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Route Review and Suggestions

Postby ExileOnMainSt17 » Wed Aug 12, 2020 5:10 am

Hey everyone,

My girlfriend and I are going to be setting out on a 4 nighter in the Yosemite back country in September. Our starting trailhead is Rafferty Creek->Vogelsang and our tentative ending one is Cathedral Lakes. I have our camps for the night as follows:

- Night 1: Vogelsang HSC area, which can mean camping near Boothe Lake or along Rafferty Creek, or Bernice Lake if we're feeling ambitious.
- Night 2: Merced Lake HSC area, or near Washburn Lake or other direction toward Echo Valley.
- Night 3: Below Clouds Rest. I've seen posts on other websites on good areas to camp near Clouds Rest. We're planning to climb it the next morning.
- Night 4: Sunrise Lakes. Camps somewhere near one of the lakes.

Now I know you have to camp in designated areas at the HSCs but I just listed them as a general area to stop at. So based on those camps, y'all kinda get the route we're going. So just curious if anyone with more Yosemite experience can give me any information on water availability throughout the trip, is this a solid route, should we do X instead of Y...etc.

Any information is gladly appreciated!

-Exile
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Re: Route Review and Suggestions

Postby balzaccom » Wed Aug 12, 2020 7:03 am

Good itinerary.

Day one:. Bernice is lovely, but that's a long first day with heavy packs and plenty of uphill.

Day two: Merced will have lots of people...and bears. We prefer Washburn...but that's a short day for you from Bernice.

Day three: Another short day...but that gives you lots of time on Cloud's Rest.

Day four: if you want a quieter spot, dip down cross-country to Echo Lake...then back up again to hike out
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Re: Route Review and Suggestions

Postby Phil » Wed Aug 12, 2020 6:05 pm

They say that Rafferty Creek has some flow, but I kind of doubt it's much, if anything beyond water holes. You'll be ready for water by the time you get up to Tuolumne Pass, and Boothe is closest, and nicer than Vogelsang, but with Fletcher Lake in the backpacker's area if you do want the HSC. If you go up and to Bernice, you'll have water first at Vogelsang Lake and in Lewis Creek. Go low, and you'll have Fletcher Creek. Merced River down by Merced Lake, and Washburn over the HSC backpacker's area is the way to go down there. Likely water in Echo Creek, and then at Sunrise, which is the last before you camp or hike thru anywhere near CR summit, unless you drop down to the creek on the Sunrise Trail toward the lakes (check your map). Obviously, Sunrise Lakes. The lower is crowded, middle and upper less so, and nicer sites. Sunrise HSC has no potable water, and Long Meadow Creek will be bone dry. Next water without some cross country over to Echo Lake is upper Cathedral.

You're route looks good. Other than not planning on staying at any of the HSCs, lots of good camping and doable distances between water sources. The best rule for August is to be reasonable in your distances, water up when you find it, and maybe an extra liter if you have any doubts. If you have anywhere where you anticipate dry camping at all or it even seems like it might be remotely sketchy, a 4-6L gravity flow system is worth the price and extra weight.
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Re: Route Review and Suggestions

Postby ExileOnMainSt17 » Thu Aug 13, 2020 4:32 am

Great, thanks guys! Nice to know that it seems like I planned a decent route. Been to Yosemite once before but this will be my first time backpacking it. We're going in the latter part of September, I assume water sources will be a little dryer than? But also cooler weather which will help. I have the 1gal Lifestraw gravity filter and we're planning on bringing 3-4l each of water storage, so we should be good. Altitude will be a change and challenge for us but we're used to hiking in the heat and humidity of south Texas haha so high Sierra September temps will be welcomed. Which to speak to that point, I've read and been assuming that at altitude, we can be experiencing some frigid nights, correct?
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Re: Route Review and Suggestions

Postby Phil » Thu Aug 13, 2020 6:15 am

Weather in late September is often unpredictable and subject to the changes that come from shoulder season. It's going to be getting cold at night, often into the 20s or even lower sometimes; you'll be hitting about 10k a couple times, and then staying at close to that range of elevation for quite a bit of your time out. You'll want to stay well on top of the forecasts and trends beforehand for planning purposes, and with accurate up-to-date info for the time you'll be out. While it's not likely, we've had it snow at exactly the time you're heading out.

Aside from temperatures dropping an average of 2-3 degrees per 1000' of altitude gain, don't forget that any real altitude issues you might have are physiological, not so much environmental. Along your route, be sure you know when and where to bail and get lower if either of you have problems, or if the weather does happen to turn on you. For where you're going, that would be straight down the Merced River and into the Valley. Plan B is always in synch with Plan A, so you can move on it instantly if you have to....just good practice.
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Re: Route Review and Suggestions

Postby balzaccom » Thu Aug 13, 2020 7:19 am

And stay hydrated. Humidity in the Sierra is extremely low, so you don't notice how much you are sweating...the symptoms for dehydration and altitude sickness are very similar. Keep hydrated !
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Re: Route Review and Suggestions

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Aug 13, 2020 8:08 am

It's so dry out there in SEKI that the outlet streams from lakes are drying up. We were packing water in at the lakes and not relying on any streams because so many are down to stagnant little pools. There were a few streams fed by springs that were running. I think farther north in the Sierra it tends to be wetter, and this may be less of a problem.
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Re: Route Review and Suggestions

Postby ExileOnMainSt17 » Thu Aug 13, 2020 9:34 am

Sounding more and more like I should rely on just the lakes for water fill ups, at least for planning purposes, I'm sure there will be a stream or two along the way.

Yes, I know to watch out for the affects of altitude, this won't be my first trip at altitude.

Do y'all recommend camping at the HSC areas or venturing a little further away from the areas to camp?
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Re: Route Review and Suggestions

Postby Phil » Thu Aug 13, 2020 9:41 am

All things considered, especially since the Sierras only got about 40% of average snowpack last season, you might want to plan to both carry more water and go only lake to lake. Like I said, get water when and where you find it. With the season being what it is with your trip, you're going to get a double whammy: a heavier load for preparedness, on top of a heavier load for water. Throw in altitude issues, the additional stress on your bodies from heavier loads, and you not being accustomed to it, you guys are going to have to be very careful and aware of how you're doing.

Anecdotally, while I live far away from the mountains, I've got wells that are over 300 ft deep, and they're already going dry because we're having to pump them so hard just to keep up. Some vineyards are having to truck in water just to make it to harvest. And I've got a neighbor that's 80 years old and has been around here since he was a kid. The creek that we take for granted as being "year round" is dry for only the second time in his memory. For you, that translates into Rafferty Creek being totally dry (which it would be anyhow), maybe Fletcher and/or Lewis being low or dry, Echo Creek not much better off, Sunrise maybe, the creek up along the Sunrise Trail probably. That potentially takes away a few of your options, and you're going to need to have very timely, reliable and accurate info on exactly what's what before you set foot on the trail, and possibly adjust on-the-fly. Lake to lake on your trip, I wouldn't have less than 3 liters when I leave any of them, and keep in mind that, no matter what, if I don't want to eat dry food and forego coffee, I know I have to make that next lake or bust. And maybe even take the night up in the CR area off the table. The end of Sept is a long way away where water and weather are concerned, but you'll be fine if you can avoid surprises and stay flexible.
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Re: Route Review and Suggestions

Postby Phil » Thu Aug 13, 2020 9:43 am

Honestly, take a pass on the HSCs. There are too many other, better options.
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Re: Route Review and Suggestions

Postby ExileOnMainSt17 » Thu Aug 13, 2020 1:36 pm

All understood. I've always practiced the idea of getting water when you see it because you never know (also being from South Texas, I understand water is not always there haha). That's also why I chose camps, aside from Clouds Rest, at or very close to lakes.

That's a shame about the low snowpack last season, because I know that means Californians are struggling with water but also some water features at Yosemite won't be what that can be, even given being September. But luckily, Yosemite has a lot more to offer than just water features :D
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