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[Yosemite]

Water Options In September-Snowcreek to Half Dome

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

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Water Options In September-Snowcreek to Half Dome

Postby Indianatom » Tue Jun 08, 2021 9:59 am

Hello,

My group is starting at Mirror Lake-Snow Creek going up around to Sunrise Lakes, then to Half Dome and out Happy Isles in Late September. I have a couple questions about perspective water availability that time of year. Do Snowcreek and Sunrise Creek have water flow year round?
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Re: Water Options In September-Snowcreek to Half Dome

Postby balzaccom » Tue Jun 08, 2021 10:21 am

Most years, yes. This is an extremely dry year.
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Re: Water Options In September-Snowcreek to Half Dome

Postby Indianatom » Tue Jun 08, 2021 11:46 am

Are there other options in those areas?

Would Hidden lake be an option or is that too difficult to get to?
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Re: Water Options In September-Snowcreek to Half Dome

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Jun 08, 2021 1:59 pm

Hidden Lake has no inlet, so it's likely nothing but a tarn depending on snowmelt to fill it. So it's likely not even there.

I would suggest calling a few days prior and asking whether those creeks are still running. If they aren't, you'll have to carry enough water to get to the first lake, and go lake to lake.
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Re: Water Options In September-Snowcreek to Half Dome

Postby Phil » Tue Jun 08, 2021 5:41 pm

Hidden Lake is below Olmstead Pt, and it's not going to be worth the time and effort. Assuming you have any flow on Snow Creek (if not, trip killed right then and there), you should be able to bypass Hidden Lake and just refill at Tenaya Lake/Creek for the climb up to Sunrise. It'll be faster, easier, and it's only about another mile and a half further, all downhill.

Sunrise Creek was sketchy last year at that time, so you better hope, because this year is definitely dryer. Crazy what a good pump will do though. If it is dry, you could always consider accessing the Merced by going past the Sunrise HSC and through Echo Valley, and just bite the bullet by rerouting and doing HD up from LYV, with your required and largest water load for just up and back to the dome pumped out of the river, not a creek (you add a 2 mile climb, but you would have to carry just about as much to HD anyway, anyhow)... If you have to, even if Sunrise Creek is totally dry, to save the trip, as long as there's something pumpable in Snow Creek, except for the extra work involved in the Merced diversion, you really shouldn't have to alter much or lug anything more that what you might otherwise need to carry normally. Your fill points would all roughly be the same up until that point, regardless. It might suck, but it'll work if you really need it to.
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Re: Water Options In September-Snowcreek to Half Dome

Postby AlmostThere » Tue Jun 08, 2021 6:45 pm

A pump filter like the Hiker Pro, with a prefilter with a bandanna or 2-3 coffee filters rubber banded on, can suck water out of a puddle cleanly. Have done in low elevation parks like Henry Coe, when the only water for miles was a really yucky algae filled spring box.
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Re: Water Options In September-Snowcreek to Half Dome

Postby balzaccom » Tue Jun 08, 2021 8:44 pm

Yep. We've been known to cover our cook pot with a bandana and then pour water into it through the bandana. Then we filter out of the pot, and it works fine.

Just make sure you boil/clean the pot before using it to cook!
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Re: Water Options In September-Snowcreek to Half Dome

Postby Indianatom » Wed Jun 09, 2021 7:05 am

You guys are fantastic!

I knew water options were probably going to be sketchy in September, but as with life you make plans when people are available. We do have good water filters and have filtered from some pretty dank puddles before.

I think I might go ahead and change the trip to start at May Lake-Snow Creek Trailhead on Tioga Road, hauling 6 liters up Snow Creek Trail from Yosemite Valley isn't high on my priority list. Then follow through Sunrise Lakes HSC down to Merced Lake. Instead of going to LYV fill up 2 days worth of water at Merced Lake drag that back up to the John Muir Trail, to save elevation gain.
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Re: Water Options In September-Snowcreek to Half Dome

Postby Phil » Wed Jun 09, 2021 7:43 am

Unless you want to see it anyway, you don't have to go all the way over to Merced Lake for water. You can hit the Merced River at the footbridge, if not sooner at Cathedral Fork or Echo Creek (if they have water) much closer to the JMT, and only backtrack a little by then picking up the Forsyth Trail back to where it intersects the JMT. You're still going to have to do some extra miles to get back on track, but that particular climb is a lot easier than slogging up from LYV, and you're right back where you need to be.

Yep, the May Lake/Snow Creek trailhead is a lot easier to start out at than the bottom of Snow Creek at Mirror Lake, especially with all the extra weight. You shouldn't have to carry more than a liter apiece before you refill at Tenaya that way. Just make sure that they'll allow you to do your entry and then go directly up the Sunrise Trail and spend your first night at Sunrise Lakes under that permit. They like to close backdoors pretty effectively or make you really have to work at it on the heavily impacted destinations.

And, just so you know, even in heavy drought years, I've never heard of Sunrise Creek going completely dry beyond any ability to pump from it, but there's always a first time.
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Re: Water Options In September-Snowcreek to Half Dome

Postby Indianatom » Wed Jun 09, 2021 9:45 am

That's great info on Cathedral Fork and The Merced Footbridge. This is all helping me with contingency plans if the creeks are dry. What I've deduced is call a couple days before figure out what creeks have water then solidify the plans. Fingers crossed the sunrise creek still has some water in it even the lowest of flows, will make the trip much simpler.

Another Option I am looking at is Glacier Point to Illilouette Creek, then to LVY. Any idea of how is Illilouette that time of year?
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Re: Water Options In September-Snowcreek to Half Dome

Postby snowcreek » Wed Jun 09, 2021 3:39 pm

you dont want to hike the snowcreek/zigzags trail with a full pack. its a brutal/hot trail that is pretty loaded with rattlers at the top third. snowcreek at the bridge crossing at the top of the zigzags should be good year round. should
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Re: Water Options In September-Snowcreek to Half Dome

Postby Phil » Wed Jun 09, 2021 9:08 pm

Illilouette will for sure have flow that time of year. It's a big drainage from lots of lakes and tributaries at higher altitudes. It's also a nice area to explore that takes you out of that crowded core area of the park. Instead of your trailhead being GP and then to LYV, think about using the Mono Meadow trailhead and just continuing up Illilouette itself up to maybe Ottoway Lakes. You could even go over Red Peak and loop back down the upper Merced watershed and catch LYV toward the end of the trip on the way back down to the Valley. Not only aren't you going to have to worry about water in the main creek for most of the trip, but you can go lake to lake for the most part until you get over to the Merced River itself. Lot's of little tarns that do retain water as well. Great camping, incredible terrain, geology and views. Harder and more altitude gain, but maybe a 4-5 day trip if you want to take the time to enjoy it with reasonable daily distances.

Something to think about since you want to look at options, and September should keep you well enough inside the front end of shoulder season to not have to worry, as well as be much cooler at those altitudes.
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