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[Yosemite]

Trip Report and Thanks to Forum Contributors - LONG POST

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

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Trip Report and Thanks to Forum Contributors - LONG POST

Postby Soonernation » Tue Sep 27, 2016 12:13 pm

I returned yesterday from my first backpacking trip. The contributors on this forum were very helpful in getting me prepared and providing useful tips for my trip.

A little history:
I visited Yosemite for the first time last year with my family. We thought we would try for Half Dome permits the day before our planned hike but we weren't successful. Based on ranger recommendations, we hiked Clouds Rest instead. This turned into a wonderful hike that pushed us all to our limits physically. Once finished, I told my son I wanted to return next year (more physically fit) to do my first backpacking trip with a hike up HD. I was successful in getting permits and then it was all waiting and getting educated by following threads here and asking questions. Unfortunately, I failed at the being fit part. While no slouch, I am not in the best physical condition. Somehow I've always managed to finish lengthy day hikes so this was going to be the ultimate test for me.

Day 1
I flew in from Dallas to Fresno. My son picked me up at the airport and we drove up to the valley (stopped at Wowona for permits) with the idea we would get a ride up to the Cathedral Lakes trail head. No such luck. By the time we ate lunch we were up against our 2pm deadline to leave the valley as we still had a hike to the lower Cathedral Lakes that evening.
We were on the trail by 4:15pm with a starting temp of 42 degrees. I knew the temps that day/night were going to be cold based on the weather link someone provided on this forum. We arrived at the lower lake by 6:15pm. Just in time to set-up camp before it got too dark. We ate our dinner in the dark and went to bed since it was too cold to sit outside. I was concerned about the temps as all I had was a 20 degree bag. It ended up being just fine with extra layers of clothing.

Day 2
It was 24 degrees inside my tent when I got up. Fortunately there was no wind or it would have been brutal. Everything was frozen with a layer of frost on our tents. We waited for the sun to rise over Cathedral Peak so the frost would hopefully melt. It did some and we packed up for our hike to Sunrise Creek.
The hike that day was uneventful except the end. Beautiful views. We stopped at HSC for lunch. We didn't realize how much downhill hiking we would be doing. While going downhill sounds great, my feet did not enjoy it too much. Based on feedback from here, we changed our initial plan to stay at LYV to somewhere along Sunrise Creek near the HD trail head. Best piece of advice provided (more on that later). Ultimately, we ended up going all the way to the HD trail head which was too far. My feet and shoulders were hurting so we planned to stop right there except we were too far from water. We backtracked and found some great camps spots off in the bushes with an excellent view of Half Dome. This was a great spot for us to spend the next two nights as it was only about two tenths from the HD trail, no one else was around (no one seemed to even know about it when mentioned to others) and water from Sunrise Creek was close. Temps that night were cool but nowhere near the first night.

Day 3
We got up, ate breakfast and then made our way to Half Dome ~9:15am. Maybe I missed it in my preparation but I don't recall seeing anything on how difficult the sub-dome is. Personally, I struggled more on that than actually going up HD.
Going up HD was smooth. There was a large gap in front of me so I didn't have to wait on anyone. 3 boards, stop and catch my breath, 3 boards, catch my breath, so on.... We spent several hours up there checking out the view, taking pics, etc. Coming down was a different story from going up. It took a while because there was someone apparently more scared to go down and they kept stopping at each pole for what seemed to be way too long. We got back to camp and relaxed until it was time to eat. I actually ended up taking a nap as I was exhausted.

Day 4
We took our time getting up and packing up as this was the day we were heading down into the valley. Our only time commitment was to be at the YARTS stop by 5pm to catch the bus back to the trail head.
More downhill hiking - OMG my feet were killing me. I had formed a couple good size blisters on my pinky toes after day 2. I was putting mole skin on there but it wasn't doing much to help. I was actually thankful for the few times we were able to do some uphill hiking.
When we finally got to the LYV campground, I kept telling my son how much I appreciated the information provided by the people on here. I couldn't have imagined hiking down to LYV on day 2 only to hike back up to the HD trail head on day 3. Staying near Sunset Creek saved us so much time. My feet definitely appreciated the reduced mileage.
For whatever reason, we ended up taking the mist trail down to the valley instead of the JMT. I wouldn't do that again. It was a beating with all the people there and there were several tight spots going down the steps with people constantly stopping to take pics of the waterfall, etc. Worst part of the hike in my opinion as this was when the reality of coming back to civilization sets in.
Once at the bottom, we took the bus to Half Dome village for some much deserved pizza and beer. Yum. We got to the bus stop in time and caught the bus back to the meadows.

Finally
I bought all my gear new for this trip with the intent of making backpacking trips at least an annual activity. We don't have many spots to go here in Texas and the summers are so hot that tent camping is very low on my list of things to do. My son is in the Navy stationed in Cali so he goes on backpacking trips somewhat regularly. I am please with all the decisions I made on gear. My only major issue was with the blisters. I have to find something to determine a method to prevent them from occurring in the first place and effective treatment once they occur.

We will likely do another small trip to Yosemite or Sequoia next year before a planned hike next year in the Rockies (Maroon Bells - 4 pass loop).

Thanks again for taking the time to share your extensive experience of the area.

Camp for Night 2 & 3
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Pre-Cable Climb
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Re: Trip Report and Thanks to Forum Contributors - LONG POST

Postby Phil » Tue Sep 27, 2016 1:29 pm

LOL! I told you to go ahead and take the car up beforehand and leave the logistical hassles for the end. Worked out good though when you finally became a convert :lol: ...too many trips over too many years to do it differently here.

Nice site on nights 2 and 3...the rocks. Nice!

Now, here's a trick for the downhills and jamming into your toe box that we've found pretty reliable: Obviously, good boots. I used to wear Scarpas, but got tired of annual toenail regrowth rituals, only to do it all over again the next May. Then I found Zamberlans. I currently use the 960 Guide and the older 760 Steep, but they're all great boots. The second trick is good footbeds with a nice heel cup to lock you in. Superfeet greens. Also obviously, lace up extra tight to keep your foot from moving around a lot. Socks are always REI expedition weigh Merino wool. I don't care how hot it is. Finally, if I know I have a lot of downhill coming that day, I throw on my poly liners. So, I'm locked into good boots with a good footbed, have a nice thick sock for padding, and a poly liner to relieve the abrasion. Bottom line: it's no one component, it's a footwear system, just like layering for the cold.
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Re: Trip Report and Thanks to Forum Contributors - LONG POST

Postby Soonernation » Tue Sep 27, 2016 1:47 pm

Thanks for the info Phil. You were the one that provided me with the tip on the pre-HD camp spot so for that I owe you a beverage if ever in the area at the same time. That little extra bit down to LYV from Cathedral Lakes would have been brutal.
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Re: Trip Report and Thanks to Forum Contributors - LONG POST

Postby Phil » Tue Sep 27, 2016 2:06 pm

I'll take that...and help you eat your pizza. Glad we could help out. Just doing my small part to make your life better and eliminate the concept of bulk camping in the semi-wilderness.

Next year, consider Ten Lakes or Red Peak.
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Re: Trip Report and Thanks to Forum Contributors - LONG POST

Postby balzaccom » Tue Sep 27, 2016 10:10 pm

Looks (and reads) like you had a great trip. We'll look forward to seeing you out here again next year!
Check out our website and blog at: http://sites.google.com/site/backpackthesierra/home
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Re: Trip Report and Thanks to Forum Contributors - LONG POST

Postby MadDiver » Wed Sep 28, 2016 8:28 am

Now that is a good looking campsite! Looks like your weather was nice other than being cold at night. Is there any piece of your new gear you really liked or thought performed beyond expectation? I've had that same foot issue over the years on/off, as recently as last month. The one thing to really do (which I often fail to) is at the very first twinge of discomfort, STOP! It is not going to get any better. Treating after you get a nasty blister is at best a small pain reduction or prevention of increase, at that point you're kinda screwed. Immediately get the boots and socks off, wash (if possible) if not dry off, moleskin up (not sure if that "glacier gel" stuff works or not) and swap to fresh dry socks then make sure your boots are laced up to keep your feet from sliding as Phil mentioned. I'm really looking at some of Phil's other recommendations for my next trip, especially a liner sock, might moleskin up before even starting too. If the weather is good I might try next week as the fall colors are starting to pop here in the NE US.
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Re: Trip Report and Thanks to Forum Contributors - LONG POST

Postby Phil » Wed Sep 28, 2016 8:58 am

Yeah, clean and not crusty is good, and damage control after-the-fact isn't a substitute for prevention. I used to hike with a friend that, no matter what, everyday at lunch would wash his feet and throw on fresh socks. A huge part of his load was socks. He swore by it, hardly ever had foot issues, and insisted that changing socks gave him a whole new outlook on the rest of his day. I tried it a coiple times, and he was right, but I just couldn't ever fully justify the extra weight or do laundry enough to make it work for me.


The poly liners are great because they're not only easier on the skin, but you get this kind of sweaty lubricant effect, and the heavier wool socks tend to absorb just enough of it to keep it from becoming unpleasant. Some people swear by silk too, and it has a natural antimicrobial properties. I've also been known to wear my 0.5mm neoprene Hydroskins, even when it's not wet or snowy, with good results.
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Re: Trip Report and Thanks to Forum Contributors - LONG POST

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Sep 28, 2016 9:03 am

After getting wool socks, the correct shoes, and treating for foot fungus (soaking in apple cider vinegar worked where prescriptions failed) I have not had blisters. The liners I used to use sit in a drawer. I keep a blister kit but end up offering it to less prepared people.
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Re: Trip Report and Thanks to Forum Contributors - LONG POST

Postby Phil » Wed Sep 28, 2016 9:23 am

I like the liners sometimes, they work, but I usually find myself saying, "eh, nah". The key is the good boots and heavy Merino wool in my book.

I know I have moleskins in my kit, but I haven't seen them in years. We've always used tea tree oil as an antifungal. The side-effects of some of those prescription medications are insane...cured my fungus, destroyed my liver. Awesome, sign me up doc. And I promise that if I have suicidal thoughts, I'll call you immediately.
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Re: Trip Report and Thanks to Forum Contributors - LONG POST

Postby Soonernation » Wed Sep 28, 2016 10:06 am

MadDiver wrote:Now that is a good looking campsite! Looks like your weather was nice other than being cold at night. Is there any piece of your new gear you really liked or thought performed beyond expectation? I've had that same foot issue over the years on/off, as recently as last month. The one thing to really do (which I often fail to) is at the very first twinge of discomfort, STOP! It is not going to get any better. Treating after you get a nasty blister is at best a small pain reduction or prevention of increase, at that point you're kinda screwed. Immediately get the boots and socks off, wash (if possible) if not dry off, moleskin up (not sure if that "glacier gel" stuff works or not) and swap to fresh dry socks then make sure your boots are laced up to keep your feet from sliding as Phil mentioned. I'm really looking at some of Phil's other recommendations for my next trip, especially a liner sock, might moleskin up before even starting too. If the weather is good I might try next week as the fall colors are starting to pop here in the NE US.


Since I have nothing to base a comparison on when it comes to gear, all I can say is what I liked or didn't like.

Osprey Atmos 65 - Awesome pack. The suspension system was great and I rarely had issues with it on my back. I weighed in at 37 pounds without water.
Klymit KSB 20 bag - Worked well in the cold weather but the upper section is too narrow for my broad shoulders. I'll likely be looking for something different.
Kelty TN2 tent - this was a luxury item as far as size went. I don't like feeling claustrophobic so I was willing to take a small weight penalty to have a 2 person tent.
Trekking Poles - I used some old ones I had. Nothing special. I considered buying some new light weight ones but I'm glad I saved the money as they ones I had performed just fine. They are not as light as some of the new ones but I also didn't have to fork out 150 bucks.
Bear Vault 450 - Not a fan. It was a real pain in the ass to open in the cold. My son had the Garcia and opening that with a multi tool was a breeze.
Salomon GTX 4D Boots - Very comfortable. I need to use some of the suggested preventative measures for foot care and they will be fine. This might include taping these areas before the hike begins. I need to test some things at a local trail before implementing out in the back-country.

Overall, I was pretty happy with my selections except for the bear canister. I know they rent them at Yosemite but I wanted to pack it at home so I wouldn't have to deal with it for the first time in advance of hitting the trail-head.
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Re: Trip Report and Thanks to Forum Contributors - LONG POST

Postby MadDiver » Thu Sep 29, 2016 12:01 pm

For a bag with a bit more shoulder room check out the Kelty Cosmic bags. From your pics I'm not quite your size (6'0 190) but I'm fairly broad shouldered and hate feeling shrink wrapped. I have the 20° Cosmic, and 45° Lightyear and am very happy with both (both are down). The specs are typically (for the long) wider than most other bags. Not the absolute lightest, but past their price point you are typically paying hundreds more for a couple less ounces. Also I finally bought a sleeping pad that was 25" wide, made a huge difference in comfort as most are 20" wide and my elbows inevitably ended up off the pad on the ground.
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Re: Trip Report and Thanks to Forum Contributors - LONG POST

Postby Phil » Thu Sep 29, 2016 6:02 pm

It's a chunk of change, but the Western Mountaineering Badger MF can't be beat for a warm and wide bag. And WM is one of the few companies that, when they put a temp rating on their bag, they're being conservative.
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Re: Trip Report and Thanks to Forum Contributors - LONG POST

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Sep 29, 2016 6:46 pm

I spent money and got 20-25F Jacks R Better quilts almost ten years ago. They pack to the size of a large grapefruit and weigh 22 oz apiece. I bring both to use with the hammock and just one when I'm in a tent, and have been quite happy - not a cold night to be had, and I go out year round, 1-10 nights per month, though for winter snow camping I will take the 0 degree quilt with twice the down instead.

They did not cost less than a hundred dollars, but I do not regret a penny. They get washed every year and a half properly with down wash in a front loading machine at the laundromat. The past few months, I have noticed some loss of loft -- they have had 100+ nights on each of them, so it is probably time to send them back for a re-up on the down, which probably can be considered normal wear and tear. For someone who only manages a trip or two per year -- these things would last a lifetime. And they aren't mislabeled, which is common with cheap bags -- my first bag was horrible, cheap, heavier and bulkier than it needed to be, and I got cold in the high 40s where the label said 30. No, thank you. The really cheap bag is the one that keeps you warm and happy for a decade.
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Re: Trip Report and Thanks to Forum Contributors - LONG POST

Postby WanderingJim » Tue Oct 18, 2016 8:46 pm

Soonernation wrote:Bear Vault 450 - Not a fan. It was a real pain in the ass to open in the cold. My son had the Garcia and opening that with a multi tool was a breeze.


For the Bear Vaults, I've found that instead of my fingernail, a little stone or some other small item (titanium spook is one thing I sometimes use) helps to open it up.
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