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[Yosemite]

Suggestions for Challenging 3 Day Backpacking Trip

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

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Suggestions for Challenging 3 Day Backpacking Trip

Postby rbm » Thu Jan 12, 2017 12:31 am

I am visiting Yosemite in July. I am looking for suggestions for challenging three day backpacking itineraries. I would love to experience some of the main sights but I know the park will be crowded in the summer so some "off the beaten path" suggestions would be great. Or just suggestions on a solid, first Yosemite experience. I hope this isn't my one and only time to visit the Park, but if it is, I want to know I saw and hiked as much of it as I could within my timeframe.

Thanks!
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Re: Suggestions for Challenging 3 Day Backpacking Trip

Postby Phil » Thu Jan 12, 2017 7:22 am

"Challenge" is a very relative term. And so is "off the beaten path". Ability? Experience? Average daily mileage at altitude? Visual preferences?

You're right, July means crowds. Available trailheads are going to be hard to find, but by the time you're done getting suggestions, you'll have no shortage of ideas and options.

I'll start with two off the top of my head and pre-coffee, and assume you have a map in order to check them out. Both are going to be a day or two longer than you might have time for, but we can see if we can mix/match/adjust as our thoughts come together as this thread evolves:

Murphy Creek trailhead at Tenaya Lake > Tuolumne Peak > Ten Lakes Basin > exit Yosemite Creek

Tuolumne Meadows > Lyell Canyon > Vogelsang > Merced Lake > Echo Creek Trail > Sunrise Lakes > exit Sunrise Trail at Tenaya Lake

These two are to start, slightly off the beaten path, but not way out there, crowds not too bad, definitely challenging in terms of getting climbs out of your system, beautiful areas...
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Re: Suggestions for Challenging 3 Day Backpacking Trip

Postby Justin-T » Thu Jan 12, 2017 7:32 am

I don't have enough experience to suggest an itinerary, but wanted to make sure you are aware of the wilderness permit you'll need, a sizable chuck of which go on a first-come first-serve basis for each day, 24 weeks (168 days) ahead of your start date. So, for trips starting Jul 1 you need to be submitting your application tomorrow. Some permits are kept back as walk-ons for the day ahead, but they make long-term planning trickier. Some routes go faster than others. Details here:

https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wpres.htm

I've done almost all the second suggestion Phil made, great route, if you can somehow squeeze in Clouds Rest you won't regret it, although its much harder to do that in the direction he suggests.
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Re: Suggestions for Challenging 3 Day Backpacking Trip

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Jan 12, 2017 9:06 am

Anything with a high pass will be challenging. 160% of normal snowpack and still snowing. You may find that (depending on the progression of snowmelt) that you hit the high country in the thick of the mosquito hatch in July. You might find yourself postholing and glissading.
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Re: Suggestions for Challenging 3 Day Backpacking Trip

Postby rbm » Thu Jan 12, 2017 9:46 am

Justin-T wrote:I don't have enough experience to suggest an itinerary, but wanted to make sure you are aware of the wilderness permit you'll need, a sizable chuck of which go on a first-come first-serve basis for each day, 24 weeks (168 days) ahead of your start date. So, for trips starting Jul 1 you need to be submitting your application tomorrow. Some permits are kept back as walk-ons for the day ahead, but they make long-term planning trickier. Some routes go faster than others. Details here:

https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wpres.htm

I've done almost all the second suggestion Phil made, great route, if you can somehow squeeze in Clouds Rest you won't regret it, although its much harder to do that in the direction he suggests.


Yep, I know permits open up Friday (tomorrow) for July 1st. There are so many options for where to hike that it'll be great to finally select a route and then just get prepped for the trip. Thanks for the reminder! And I have heard great things about Clouds Rest.
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Re: Suggestions for Challenging 3 Day Backpacking Trip

Postby rbm » Thu Jan 12, 2017 10:13 am

AlmostThere wrote:Anything with a high pass will be challenging. 160% of normal snowpack and still snowing. You may find that (depending on the progression of snowmelt) that you hit the high country in the thick of the mosquito hatch in July. You might find yourself postholing and glissading.


Hmm. So do you think it'll be feasible to bag Tuolumne Peak or Vogelsang?
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Re: Suggestions for Challenging 3 Day Backpacking Trip

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Jan 12, 2017 10:31 am

rbm wrote:
AlmostThere wrote:Anything with a high pass will be challenging. 160% of normal snowpack and still snowing. You may find that (depending on the progression of snowmelt) that you hit the high country in the thick of the mosquito hatch in July. You might find yourself postholing and glissading.


Hmm. So do you think it'll be feasible to bag Tuolumne Peak or Vogelsang?


how much snow/ice experience do you have?
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Re: Suggestions for Challenging 3 Day Backpacking Trip

Postby rbm » Thu Jan 12, 2017 10:56 am

Phil wrote:"Challenge" is a very relative term. And so is "off the beaten path". Ability? Experience? Average daily mileage at altitude? Visual preferences?

These two are to start, slightly off the beaten path, but not way out there, crowds not too bad, definitely challenging in terms of getting climbs out of your system, beautiful areas...


Thanks for the great suggestions. Exactly what I needed to get things going! Challenge is very relative term. Ability is strong. Backpacking experience...learning. Deep love for high mileage hikes. However altitude is something that I don't want to underestimate. Now when it comes to visual preferences...I currently live in southern CA but grew up in flat, flat south TX (pretty in its own way) and I'm still daily grateful for the beauty that surrounds me.

Anyways, Route 1:
Would it be possible to bag Mount Hoffman after Tuolumne Peak? AT mentioned snowpack. Do you think that'll be an issue in early July?

Route 2:
Possible to bag Vogelsand on day 1 (leaving my pack at the bottom and switching to a daypack)? Unrealistic timeline? My start time for the day will be after 8am because I'll have to pick up my permit.
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Re: Suggestions for Challenging 3 Day Backpacking Trip

Postby rbm » Thu Jan 12, 2017 10:59 am

AlmostThere wrote:
rbm wrote:
AlmostThere wrote:Anything with a high pass will be challenging. 160% of normal snowpack and still snowing. You may find that (depending on the progression of snowmelt) that you hit the high country in the thick of the mosquito hatch in July. You might find yourself postholing and glissading.


Hmm. So do you think it'll be feasible to bag Tuolumne Peak or Vogelsang?


how much snow/ice experience do you have?


Pretty limited. I've hiked San Jacinto in late winter but that's about it.
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Re: Suggestions for Challenging 3 Day Backpacking Trip

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Jan 12, 2017 11:31 am

You'll have a better idea of snow issues in April/May when the melt generally starts. In good snow years you may not see higher elevations melting until August. It All Depends(tm). Mountaineering and climbing (not backpacking) adds complexity (you need a good skill base taught by a good instructor to use ice gear safely) and weight (crampons, axes, etc.).

If you haven't done a lot of snow stuff, late spring while the snow is dwindling is still fine -- you're just facing a few additional challenges like figuring out what snow is okay to walk on, and what snow is going to send you into ice water when you try to walk on it. A lady got stuck in a stream beneath a massive snowfield in spring a few years ago - fortunately she had the presence of mind to pitch her pack up through the hole, or the passers by wouldn't have found her, and hypothermia would have claimed another victim.
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Re: Suggestions for Challenging 3 Day Backpacking Trip

Postby Phil » Thu Jan 12, 2017 12:00 pm

Yes, I think with the snowpack being what it is/will be you're going to have some issues higher up and aspect dependent. We're in somewhat of a quandary this year...We're about to get slammed with everybody and their brother wanting route advice, and while we know routes, intricacies, and itineraries realistically, there's absolutely no way to predict conditions with any certainty. All we can do is throw it out there and let time tell the tale and hope that people have the sense to tune themselves into whatever they might encounter, up to and including pulling the plug if it's beyond the scope of their abilities or safety.

The biggest problem is that just about everything either starts up high or quickly gets there within the first day's hiking in most of the trail system. That's the nature of Yosemite...it's harder to find 7,000 ft and keep going at that altitude or lower than it is to avoid 10,000 ft before you descend for any trip worth bothering with of more than a day or two. And even in a good year with very little snow and melt, July 1st is coming in early for most every route. Not to mention the fact that where there's no snow, there's going to be heavy water flows and mosquitoes the likes of which you've probably never seen before.
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Re: Suggestions for Challenging 3 Day Backpacking Trip

Postby rbm » Thu Jan 12, 2017 12:50 pm

Hmmm. I see what you're saying. As of now then it doesn't seem that this will be the trip to bag peaks. I don't have much experience in snow. And I would push my trip farther into the year but right now early July is my only option.

Would something like Cathedral Lakes > Sunrise Lakes > Clouds Rest > Half Dome exit Happy Isles be a better choice?

That does get rid of my slightly off the beaten path wish but with conditions and my timeframe that might be closer to what I should do...

I know permits are hard to come by and will be applying asap.
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Re: Suggestions for Challenging 3 Day Backpacking Trip

Postby Dave_Ayers » Thu Jan 12, 2017 5:29 pm

I climbed Tuolumne and Hoffman the first week of July in '14. No snow at all - but that was a dry year. Permits for a trip starting from White Wolf and going past Ten Lakes, T-Peak, and May Lake are usually easy to get via walk in, except perhaps the weekend before July 4th. So if you get some other permit now you'll be able to make a later switch once the conditions are well known.

I'm still not clear what is challenging for you. WW to Highway 120 past May Lake is ~40 miles. If you are a 20 mile per day with serious elevation kinda person, you could continue across highway 120 (don't need another permit) and head up the Sunrise trail to climb Cloud's Rest too. Or even continue to Half Dome (does need a separate permit) and down to Happy Isles. Then catch the YARTS bus back to WW. Or stay high and climb Cloud's Rest and head out via the Cathedral Lakes trail to Tuolumne Meadows to catch the bus or hitch back to WW.
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Re: Suggestions for Challenging 3 Day Backpacking Trip

Postby Phil » Thu Jan 12, 2017 6:05 pm

The thing with the JMT from Cathedral is that it's not only the most popular, crowded, and hard to get permit in the park, it's still going to take you up to 10k at the pass and Columbia Finger. I think last year around late June/early July we had a few reports that showed mixed results, and with <80% of normal snowpack.

Maybe about 5 years ago, we went up over the 4th of July weekend and postholed it up to our thighs to Upper Cathedral for about the last mile and a half. We camped the night in a wicked thunderstorm and then blew it off and descended.
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Re: Suggestions for Challenging 3 Day Backpacking Trip

Postby rbm » Thu Jan 12, 2017 7:46 pm

Dave_Ayers wrote:I climbed Tuolumne and Hoffman the first week of July in '14. No snow at all - but that was a dry year. Permits for a trip starting from White Wolf and going past Ten Lakes, T-Peak, and May Lake are usually easy to get via walk in, except perhaps the weekend before July 4th. So if you get some other permit now you'll be able to make a later switch once the conditions are well known.

I'm still not clear what is challenging for you. WW to Highway 120 past May Lake is ~40 miles. If you are a 20 mile per day with serious elevation kinda person, you could continue across highway 120 (don't need another permit) and head up the Sunrise trail to climb Cloud's Rest too. Or even continue to Half Dome (does need a separate permit) and down to Happy Isles. Then catch the YARTS bus back to WW. Or stay high and climb Cloud's Rest and head out via the Cathedral Lakes trail to Tuolumne Meadows to catch the bus or hitch back to WW.


Thanks for the additional suggestions. I am a 20 mp/day type but it's looking like with the way the winter is shaping up (and my lack of snow experience) that that's going to affect things.
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