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[Yosemite]

Current water sources in backcountry

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

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Current water sources in backcountry

Postby HikerJIB » Sun May 30, 2021 2:55 pm

Hello and thanks for your time and help. Backpacking next week from 4 mile trailhead up to Glacier Point, through to Little Yosemite Valley (day 1), then LYV up to half dome (day 2), and down to the valley back to the car via Happy Isles (day 3). Was wondering if anyone could advise me on current water sources for filtering during my trip so I can plan accordingly (given it is a particularly dry year). Specifically, if anyone has any current information on water sources:

1) From 4 mile to GP
2) Is there water at GP
3) From GP to LYV
4) LYV to half dome
5) LYV to valley via mist trail/JMT/Happy Isles.

Thank you so much once again!!
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Re: Current water sources in backcountry

Postby snowcreek » Sun May 30, 2021 3:23 pm

Year round creek on the four mile.. And water at Glacier Point? Your choice of bottle! Ice cream too! Oh boy!
Its a hot dusty hike to GP... Gonna need that its it....
Seriously though from GP to LYV i am not sure if there is any in between.
From LYV to Half dome there is a spring but its unlikely you will find it- so expect no water.
From LYV down to the valley there is water everywhere but dont drink it. There will be a faucet at mid point on the mist trail
Start training now- thats all tough hiking
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Re: Current water sources in backcountry

Postby balzaccom » Sun May 30, 2021 9:10 pm

Between Glacier Point and LYV you'll cross Illilouette Creek.
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Or just read a good mystery novel set in the Sierra; https://www.amazon.com/Danger-Falling-Rocks-Paul-Wagner/dp/0984884963
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Re: Current water sources in backcountry

Postby Phil » Mon May 31, 2021 6:43 am

In spite of all the advice to the contrary, you're still going to make the whole group haul packs up the Four Mile? OK then.

For the Four Mile, start out with at least 2 liters per person. You can pump that creek if it looks like anyone is going to run out too soon, but it's lower and not higher, so, get it right. It is hot, and honestly, it is sort of a pointless exercise in suffering for no real reason. Start early.

GP has water to buy and water from a tap. Not an issue.

GP to LYV is only going to take pretty much even the slowest of hikers maybe about 3 hours (~5 miles to the Merced), and it's decidedly all downhill. Yeah, you have Illilouette Creek, but you shouldn't need to bother. Since everyone will already be prepped for extra water load on the Four Mile, might as well just carry the same 2 liters there too, but it's really only about a 1 liter proposition unless it's blazing hot. You might have a short area of surface seeps below the Illilouette x Panorama junction, but pumping isn't really practicable. Your next water is the Merced just above Nevada Falls. There's a big slab that's pretty convenient and safe, but it is close to the top of the falls, so you just want to stay aware of where you are. If you don't need it, skip it since LYV is only another mile.

I haven't done HD in years, but I always considered that a 3 liter deal. Yeah, you have the spring, but Snowcreek is right about whether you'll find it or not. Again, see where everyone is with their consumption as you get right to the HD trail spur and, if necessary, scoot up-trail on the JMT about a couple hundred yards and pump out of Sunrise Creek. Better yet, send one or two people to do it. Same thing on the return trip to back down to LYV.

Back down to Happy Isles, you should be good with whatever you pumped at LYV. They may or may not have that tap running. Might as well just carry the same 2 liters you started out with (your loads should be pretty light at this point), but with the Mist Trail, be ready to jockey for position with a bunch of people that have no concept of just how precarious in spots it can be for a person with a full-sized pack on, especially the exuberant little kids and people that look like they just walked out of REI with a bunch of new gear and/or selfie-sticks...bithchin', shiny stuff, but nary a friggin' clue as to trail etiquette and a sense situational awareness as it pertains to others.
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Re: Current water sources in backcountry

Postby HikerJIB » Mon May 31, 2021 9:32 am

Phil wrote:In spite of all the advice to the contrary, you're still going to make the whole group haul packs up the Four Mile? OK then.

For the Four Mile, start out with at least 2 liters per person. You can pump that creek if it looks like anyone is going to run out too soon, but it's lower and not higher, so, get it right. It is hot, and honestly, it is sort of a pointless exercise in suffering for no real reason. Start early.

GP has water to buy and water from a tap. Not an issue.

GP to LYV is only going to take pretty much even the slowest of hikers maybe about 3 hours (~5 miles to the Merced), and it's decidedly all downhill. Yeah, you have Illilouette Creek, but you shouldn't need to bother. Since everyone will already be prepped for extra water load on the Four Mile, might as well just carry the same 2 liters there too, but it's really only about a 1 liter proposition unless it's blazing hot. You might have a short area of surface seeps below the Illilouette x Panorama junction, but pumping isn't really practicable. Your next water is the Merced just above Nevada Falls. There's a big slab that's pretty convenient and safe, but it is close to the top of the falls, so you just want to stay aware of where you are. If you don't need it, skip it since LYV is only another mile.

I haven't done HD in years, but I always considered that a 3 liter deal. Yeah, you have the spring, but Snowcreek is right about whether you'll find it or not. Again, see where everyone is with their consumption as you get right to the HD trail spur and, if necessary, scoot up-trail on the JMT about a couple hundred yards and pump out of Sunrise Creek. Better yet, send one or two people to do it. Same thing on the return trip to back down to LYV.

Back down to Happy Isles, you should be good with whatever you pumped at LYV. They may or may not have that tap running. Might as well just carry the same 2 liters you started out with (your loads should be pretty light at this point), but with the Mist Trail, be ready to jockey for position with a bunch of people that have no concept of just how precarious in spots it can be for a person with a full-sized pack on, especially the exuberant little kids and people that look like they just walked out of REI with a bunch of new gear and/or selfie-sticks...bithchin', shiny stuff, but nary a friggin' clue as to trail etiquette and a sense situational awareness as it pertains to others.


Thanks Phil (and snowcreek and balsaccon)! My group spoke about it, and we are going to change the route a bit (original route up the 4 mile was an attempt at doing some extra training for more difficult hikes later in the season (Rainier/Whitney). But I decided Ill take other opportunities to train and enjoy this one! Anyways, We are both (wife and I) going to pick up permit in Wawona VC and start at GP, hike to LVY, set up tent/gear, and then if still have time, climb up to clouds rest with a light pack and then back to LYV. Then the next day wake up early and do half dome, back to LYV to pack up camp, and then hike down the Merced Pass trail to Buena Vista Trail and camp somewhere along Illiouette Creek. Then the next day hike back up to GP from Buena Vista trial/Panorama.

I assume there will be water down by Illiouette creek near where we can camp the 2nd night? Also, has anyone camped in that area and could suggest where exactly would be a nice place to set up camp (nice view and maybe near a water source). Thank you all so much!!
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Re: Current water sources in backcountry

Postby snowcreek » Mon May 31, 2021 10:43 am

You are going to want to try for Half Dome first. Clouds Rest is just as hard if not harder than HD. But on Half Dome you have exposure- lots of it. You are going to want fresh legs for that- its harder than it seems and the exposure will make it seem even harder unless you have a solid head for that sort of thing. bring gloves too- the cables are not kind on the hands. And if your boots are old and not sticky- you will be better off with some trail runners for that section as I got shut down (in part) my first attempt because my old boots simply would not get traction on that polished granite.
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Re: Current water sources in backcountry

Postby Phil » Mon May 31, 2021 11:35 am

Oh yeah, that south ascent of CR is much harder than HD. There's your training for Rainier. It also has better views and sort of makes HD pale by comparison. You have your permits and your itinerary, but for future reference, for HD, my personal preference is to do CR first, use the altitude you already have to your advantage, camp up high between the two, and then essentially just contour across to the trail to the saddle. And, with that, you beat just about everybody to the top with an early enough start. Yep, gloves and traction are a must!! In this day and age, maybe some hand sanitizer...

Illilouette will have no shortage of water and camping along the creek and around the trail junction. Poke around a bit if your "group" is just you and the wife, but there's a big group site across the creek on the NE side overlooking the gorge, and with plenty of access to the creek. Do be sure to check flow reports this early, as the crossing you'll have to make can be tricky, if not impossible this early in the season. Also, DO NOT neglect to bring head nets and lots of repellent. It'll be bad anywhere there's water. Real trip wrecking- live in the tent the whole time- I now understand what it's like to be driven to the brink of insanity type of stuff.
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Re: Current water sources in backcountry

Postby HikerJIB » Mon May 31, 2021 12:59 pm

Phil wrote:Illilouette will have no shortage of water and camping along the creek and around the trail junction. Poke around a bit if your "group" is just you and the wife, but there's a big group site across the creek on the NE side overlooking the gorge, and with plenty of access to the creek. Do be sure to check flow reports this early, as the crossing you'll have to make can be tricky, if not impossible this early in the season.


Thanks again so much Phil and Snowcreek. Phil: What (where exactly) crossing are you thinking may be problematic? And where can I check the flow reports?

Also, any other hikes around LYV that we could do before or after we set up camp at LYV (if Clouds rest is not smart/feasible the day before our hike up to half dome the next morning). Just want to extend our hike a bit that first day from GP to LYV.

Thanks again!
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Re: Current water sources in backcountry

Postby Phil » Mon May 31, 2021 3:49 pm

You've altered it since your first proposed itinerary, but if I'm interpreting your new return route correctly, in order to get to Glacier Point via Illilouette Creek, you're going to go back up the Panorama Trail. In that, I'm assuming you've decided not to head down to Happy Isles your last day? From that JMT x Panorama junction you're go a mile and then cut left on what I call the Illilouette Trail (Merced Pass Trail), which is what leads to the Buena Vista Trail and where you're proposing to spend that next night along the creek, then back to GP on what is the Buena Vista Trail. To get to that point, you're inevitably going to have to cross Illilouette Creek unless you want to backtrack, the other side of which is where you'll also find the majority of the nice sites. If you have a map, you'll see it. If you don't have a map, get one. In a general sense, you can find somewhat vague and dated info on the status of river crossings on the YNP Wilderness Conditions website: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildcond.htm, but even at 25% of snowpack, this is still peak runoff time. Your best source of info is going to be the rangers themselves. Ask at the Wawona permit office. If they don't know, make a trip to the Valley and ask them there. They're usually pretty good, if not through personal experience from having been out themselves, from trail reports by others. Another (the best) source is other backpackers coming down from where you're going. Hit them up for whatever you want to know about conditions ahead, ie: water availability, crossings, bugs....

Ever been to LYV? Does your permit specifically state that you "must" spend the first night at LYV? If not, and you really do want some extra distance on day-1, or you're able to modify the permit in person (yes, it's doable when you pick it up) ask for a LYV pass-through for the JMT, first night up at Sunrise Creek. It's better camping, great views, and it's 2 miles closer to HD (CR x JMT junction). Otherwise, drop your main gear, grab your day packs, and then head up the Merced through Lost Valley up to the area of Bunnell Cascade. That's a beautiful area and a nice hike. It'll certainly compel you to want to come back another time to see all you missed.

Don't be surprised if you encounter bears throughout your trip, inclusive of at LYV. Keep your food always tight and you won't have any issues.
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Re: Current water sources in backcountry

Postby HikerJIB » Mon May 31, 2021 4:36 pm

Got it. Thanks Phil. You have my revised itinerary right. I have a map/navigation skills and see where it crosses Illilouette Creek. I will try to get some info from the rangers and/or the other backpackers. Worst case, I suppose I could just not cross if impassable and double back the way we came until we were back on the Panorama (not ideal but..). Also, we both have bear canisters and will have all of our scented items contained properly at all times.

As for LYV, I have never camped there. We actually have 2 permits (one my wife got a while back, and the other I got in the 14 day lottery). Both are paid for and confirmed, however we will be canceling one in the next day or two in order to free the space up for another backpacker. The permits both enter through GP. One permit specifies the first night MUST be spent at LYV. The other is starting at GP, through to Illilouette, and only specifies the first night CANNOT be spent in LYV but needs to be anywhere past the Buena Vista junction. So, I suppose with that pass we could spend the night at/around Sunrise Creek? Or do you think we would need to try and change it to specify Sunrise Creek?

Other than being 2 miles closer to HD, what do you think are the benefits of camping at Sunrise Creek/downsides of LYV? Better views/not as populated? If I read the map right, looks like you can camp anywhere past the JMT/junction breaking off to HD. How far would you suggest we go to set up camp if we do this option? Otherwise, setting up in LYV and doing some day hiking towards Bunnell Cascade looks great!

Really, thank you again for all the time you have spent to help out!!
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Re: Current water sources in backcountry

Postby Phil » Tue Jun 01, 2021 5:00 am

No problem. It's nice to see people getting back out and wanting planning help instead of just chatting amongst ourselves or arguing policy changes, so thanks.

There are lots of restrictions associated with permitting in that area of the park that are basically designed as a system of checks and balances for limiting traffic on the JMT and Half Dome and dissuading people from using "backdoors" that are too easily gotten through. I can't say that I'm an expert or up-to-date because it's just no longer a section of the trail system that I use for entry, rather only exiting if I have to. But, based on my current understanding, just that LYV permit stops you cold right there. Pass beyond and spend the night on the JMT (Sunrise), get caught, get cited. With your second permit, again, as it's always stood, you must stop short of LYV and spend that first night past the restricted zone, which mandates the area of Buena Vista/Illilouette. Everything beyond there and up to LYV itself is the restricted zone, inclusive of the entire stretch of the Panorama Trail. This also says nothing of water availability beyond the obvious. To camp at Sunrise Creek you must pass-thru LYV with a JMT permit. Keep in mind, this precludes you staying at LYV at all, and that first night must be spent at BV/Illilouette before moving forward to at least Sunrise Creek. That's not a bad thing at all. In fact, that would be something I would personally prefer. It's just nicer. So, subject to you verifying this information, this is my current understanding of what I'm assuming is still the case in how it's always worked since these restrictions were implemented...trust but verify, and make the call as to permitting as suits your needs.

Unfortunately, the entire area of the park is extremely crowded and impacted heavily (why there are such restrictions to begin with). In fact, aside from your short time and distance out to Illilouette, it isn't technically "backcountry" at all. That said, and with regards to LYV itself, it's pretty much a campground that you just happen to have to hike in to get to...a backpacker's camp. You get a mixed bag of people and experiences, some better suited and more pleasant than others. Hit and miss. It is generally crowded, you'll share a site if necessary, no privacy (apartments without walls, with neighbors that you may or may not like), no fire ring if that's a thing you want, heavy oversight and enforcement of "da rules" out of necessity, no view to speak of as it's in a dell...definitely not what I would call a "wilderness experience" at all. Truthfully, it's a place that we only consider as a necessary evil if it works strategically for an exit plan from somewhere else.

Aside from better views, some semblance of privacy in having your own site, and closer proximity to HD, while Sunrise is by no means unimpacted, it's just a nicer place to be and worth that extra couple miles of climb that you would have to make to get to HD anyhow. It's really all about what you want out of it. The CR x JMT junction or just short of there past the HD spur is where you'll begin looking for sites. Drop your packs, pull your cans, poke around and you'll find something nice.

A couple other things re: bear canisters and proper storage: with just you and your wife, even though you both have canisters, for a 3-4 day trip, unless you like to go heavy or she has a lot of scented cosmetics or lotions, etc, you guys should easily be able to get comfortably by with just one canister and lighten your loads. I'm not a gram counter, but I am about shaving obvious weight wherever possible, and it is something you'll appreciate when you hike back out the Panorama to GP after having done HD just prior. It'll be hot, it's steep, and it'll hurt, so up to you entirely, obviously, but take it where you can. As far as food protocols go: don't underestimate the resourcefulness and aggressive tenacity of the bears in that area. We all have stories that would be funny and amazing if it happened to someone else and didn't cost us lunch or dinner, even when we thought we were doing everything right. Arm's distance and right in front of you is really the way to go. Just sayin'.
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Re: Current water sources in backcountry

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Jun 01, 2021 6:33 am

I'm becoming ever more increasingly pessimistic, that we will lose our wilderness. I've avoided the Half Dome area for the last decade because it's so, so, so very overrun with people. The fact that I end up sharing water with people who should know better keeps me off that trail system. The bears! that sneak up on you! Was just in the Emigrant and found it similarly hammered, cars parked for miles up the sides of the road at a trailhead where 50+ spaces already existed.

And when I told people that normally there would be feet of snow on the ground, they just :o

So, so dry. So sad.

Please enjoy your trip. Take lots of pictures.

I'll be hiking lake to lake this year. I have the feeling the streams will be drying up and unreliable.
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