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[Yosemite]

Thoughts on late July trip - Snow Creek -> Happy Isles

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

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Thoughts on late July trip - Snow Creek -> Happy Isles

Postby dgilman » Thu Feb 09, 2017 11:43 am

As much as I don't want to be in Yosemite in the Summer, it's the only time my (professor) wife can take five days away.

After trying for several weeks to do a Happy Isles roundtrip, I got a permit starting at Snow Creek and including Half Dome (also not on my list, but I like my wife and she wants it).

So right now it's looking like the last week of July for:

Snow Creek -> Top of switchbacks // out of bear area (any thoughts on where to camp?) -> Sunrise Lakes -> Clouds Rest (camp before the peak) -> JMTxLYV -> Happy Isles (with detour up Half Dome).

Any advice from the wizards here? I think the first day will suck going up Snow Creek, but then the days should be easy enough that we actually enjoy them.

As always, thank you for your help - you guys made my first solo backpack in November great and really appreciate the wisdom on this board.

David
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Re: Thoughts on late July trip - Snow Creek -> Happy Isles

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Feb 09, 2017 3:00 pm

I assume you got the HD permit on the wilderness permit? Late July will probably be mosquito season, with plenty of runoff still happening. There will be creek crossings. Probably patchy snow especially up toward Clouds Rest. Snow Creek some years has a pesky bear canister stealing bear that tosses them off cliffs - rangers will be able to tell you if he's there, they have him gps tagged and keep a close eye on him.

I would call the entire length of your trip 'bear area' as it is all the most heavily used area of the park. So the habituated bears will be everywhere.

There are a lot of "no camping" areas between the top of Snow Creek and Clouds Rest. Anything within a mile of the road is no camping.
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Re: Thoughts on late July trip - Snow Creek -> Happy Isles

Postby dgilman » Thu Feb 09, 2017 5:04 pm

Yep, got HD on the permit. Good to know about the creek crossings and possible snow. Was hoping it would be late enough to miss the mosquito season - we'll get some nets.

My permit email ended with this - "You must camp beyond the top of the switchbacks. Bears are active in this area. Do not put your bear canister next to a cliff." I'll of course check on the latest when we get up there in July.

For anyone else playing permit lottery, I did six previous submissions where the start was 1st choice Happy Isles and 2nd Choice Sunrise Lakes. No luck until I moved the trailhead start to Snow Creek.

David
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Re: Thoughts on late July trip - Snow Creek -> Happy Isles

Postby Phil » Thu Feb 09, 2017 5:24 pm

Pray that camping restrictions aren't in effect at Snow Creek, but it sounds like they're just at the precautionary stage right now based on the email. Whew! That's a rough slog up to the flats, then more not far after the bridge if it comes to that the first day, so hit it early. Not restricted, on the flats or over the bridge and out right. If the creek's still ripping, get your water well upstream from the falls. Restricted, get up to about the next trail junction (the one up to the road and May Lake) and find somewhere flat with some nearby water in the vicinity of the ranger's cabin. You can get up higher along the trail over to Olmstead and find some decent flat areas somewhat near some small streams, but there are some areas that are buggy, and then you also have to know where you are to stay within regs and keep a mile off Tioga Rd. The saving grace for Snow Creek restrictions is that they don't generally kick in until later in the season, but it's always catch as catch can. Or maybe they're finally going to shoot the bear. Whatever happens, just psyche up for a tough climb. Hard, but absolutely worth it when Half Dome, Watkins Pinnacles, and all of Tenaya Canyon are in your face.

Another thing to consider is to try to take that whole section from the Valley up as light as possible. Olmstead might have a few bear lockers, but with all the tourists it would make me nervous about doing a food drop there, but if you can, try to put the remainder of your provisions beyond what you absolutely need the first couple days down at the Sunrise Trailhead. So if you're following basic guidelines of calculating food at 2lbs per person, per day, it should save you from having to haul an extra 8-10lbs during the first leg up, and it may also save you from carrying a second can if you pack the first one right.

I take it you've got it figured out from there in terms of route and camping?
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Re: Thoughts on late July trip - Snow Creek -> Happy Isles

Postby dgilman » Thu Feb 09, 2017 5:40 pm

Thanks for the info on the Snow Creek section. I hadn't thought about caching food at Sunrise - not sure I'll have time as we'll be driving from SF and hiking the first leg on day one, but something to consider.

From Snow Creeek on I have down, I think. Camp at Sunrise Lake #2, then a nice spot I found in Nov before the main ascent of CR, and then at the JMTxCR split. Hoping that will give us good positioning to start up HD early and avoid as much of the crowds as possible. Those middle days should all be short, allowing us to rest up from Day 1 and be ready for HD and getting out of the park.

I've only ever been to Yosemite in winter (Nov and Jan), and honestly, I'd take the mosquitoes over the people. I know that won't happen on this route in July, but I'm sure it will be great.

Thank you!

David
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Re: Thoughts on late July trip - Snow Creek -> Happy Isles

Postby Phil » Thu Feb 09, 2017 8:57 pm

Hey David,

I'm not sure if you're saying that you're going to be driving in from SF and then hitting the trail on Day-1, but don't underestimate the climb. It's the steepest out of the Valley, and it gets blazing hot if it's sunny. You'll probably be heavy with at least a couple liters of water apiece. If they do close the flats to camping, you then have another significantly steep climb without a lot of switchbacking after that and with a pretty good elevation gain. If that was the plan, do try to find some way to come a day early and stay at the Valley backpacker's camp the night before and leave from there as early as possible.
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Re: Thoughts on late July trip - Snow Creek -> Happy Isles

Postby dgilman » Thu Feb 09, 2017 8:59 pm

I was saying that but will take this under advisement. I had done the Mist to Bunnell after driving in, but it sounds like this will take more out of us - and I had been hiking in November.

We'll see about coming in the night before and staying in the Backpacker's campground.

Thank you!

David
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Re: Thoughts on late July trip - Snow Creek -> Happy Isles

Postby balzaccom » Fri Feb 10, 2017 3:08 am

I would agree about hitting the trail early. From SF to Yosemite Valley is four hours, not including stopping at Big Oak Flat to get your permit. You won't hit the trail until after lunch. That's hard work.

Take Snow Creek slow and steady and you'll be fine. But get an early start.

The rest of your trip is a piece of cake--cake with steel cables!
Check out our website and blog at: http://sites.google.com/site/backpackthesierra/home
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Re: Thoughts on late July trip - Snow Creek -> Happy Isles

Postby dgilman » Sat Jul 08, 2017 10:15 am

Bringing this back up for advice on the mosquito situation...

After spending some time in the Tetons and Yellowstone, I think my wife and I have decided that snow covered trails and elevation are fine, mosquitos are not. Had no issues in the Tetons with completely snow covered trails, but absolutely despised our time in the backcountry of Yellowstone that had us hiding out in our tent and dreading leaving to make dinner at the campsite. No amount of head nets and DEET is going to make that enjoyable.

Any thoughts on conditions for this trip [Snow Creek -> Sunrise Lakes -> Cloud's Rest -> JMTxLYV -> Happy Isles (with detour up Half Dome)] at the end of the month? Should we bag Sunrise Lakes and find an alternate route to Cloud's Rest?

Or should we bag Yosemite altogether and do something else with 4-5 days and 4-5 hours out of SF? My wife suggested the Lost Coast trail, and I know the folks here have a lot of love for alternatives to Yosemite.

Mosquito-free hiking at the end of July? Possible?

And if we do change, happy to let people know when we release the permit if this trip sounds like heaven to you.

David
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Re: Thoughts on late July trip - Snow Creek -> Happy Isles

Postby AlmostThere » Sat Jul 08, 2017 5:49 pm

Mosquito free hiking is more likely at the end of August, certain by September. July? Everything is a month - month and a half behind normal, and the mosquitos are out and swarming -- I use Ultrathon and a headnet, and permethrin treated clothing, and still get bit. I just got back from a saw trip and swatted bunches.

The Lost Coast is getting slammed. Heavy. People were begging in one of my facebook backpacking groups for rides because the multiple shuttles in the area were all booked solid for when they wanted to go.

Good luck.
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Re: Thoughts on late July trip - Snow Creek -> Happy Isles

Postby dgilman » Sat Jul 08, 2017 6:29 pm

It seems like changing plans this late may be more difficult than we anticipated - looking at just skipping Sunrise Lakes and making it a long day from the top of Snow Creek to just before Cloud's Rest. I can't imagine anywhere being worse than by the lake...

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Re: Thoughts on late July trip - Snow Creek -> Happy Isles

Postby Phil » Sat Jul 08, 2017 7:20 pm

From the bottom of Snow Creek up to the top of Sunrise/CR in one day is going to be absolutely brutal! Mileage is one thing, but the amount of climbing you'll be doing is a combined gain of around 5,000 vertical feet. First big climb is Snow Creek to the flats (steepest gradient out of the Valley), level out for a short bit, steep climb most of the way up to Olmstead, then another big climb of about another 1,200 up to the top of Sunrise. Honestly, I don't think that's realistic for most people...I wouldn't want to do that to myself. The problem is, once you begin ascending from Snow Creek and pass what's available up higher, say Watkins, you no longer have the option of legally stopping to camp until the top of Sunrise (lower Sunrise Lake or the trailside tarn on the way to CR are your closest sites with water). So, you commit past Watkins, you commit fully and irretrievably. All said and done, that entire climb in its entirety is not a user friendly or fun thing to be taken lightly. You will not enjoy it in the least. I would get to the legal area outside the restricted zone at the top of Snow Creek and go poking through the trees to the right of the trail for sites and make it a two day push to CR.
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Re: Thoughts on late July trip - Snow Creek -> Happy Isles

Postby AlmostThere » Sat Jul 08, 2017 7:23 pm

It was quite warm today on the trails around 7000 feet, almost 90 degrees. I am just imagining starting at the bottom of Yosemite valley and climbing all that, with a full backpack. I'd have to start at midnight to avoid heat stroke.
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Re: Thoughts on late July trip - Snow Creek -> Happy Isles

Postby Phil » Sat Jul 08, 2017 7:32 pm

Oh, and with the Lost Coast, shuttles are preferred and usually necessary, but whether you go from Mattole to Black Sands Beach (the north half) or the southern portion from Hidden Valley or Needle Rock to Usal, it's not camp wherever you want, it's restricted to certain sites at certain places, and those sites are severely limited (absolute biggest downfall to the entire route). Both are great hikes that are interesting, unique, and well worth doing, just not when it's crowded. And the south half, I think it's about 19 miles in total...with a combined total ascent/descent of about 12,000 vertical ft......go way up, go way down, go way up, go way down....keep doing it until your knees are buckling on the last downhill to Usal. And to the north, don't forget your tide charts.
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Re: Thoughts on late July trip - Snow Creek -> Happy Isles

Postby dgilman » Sun Jul 09, 2017 12:04 am

Phil wrote:From the bottom of Snow Creek up to the top of Sunrise/CR in one day is going to be absolutely brutal! ..... I would get to the legal area outside the restricted zone at the top of Snow Creek and go poking through the trees to the right of the trail for sites and make it a two day push to CR.


Yes, that's what I was thinking. Would never consider from the Valley floor, up Snow Creek, and around to CR in one day. I'm dumb, but I'm not that dumb. :)
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