TR: Yosemite - Lyell Canyon Aug 7-8 | High Sierra Topix  

TR: Yosemite - Lyell Canyon Aug 7-8

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TR: Yosemite - Lyell Canyon Aug 7-8

Postby old and slow » Thu Aug 13, 2015 3:47 pm

Since I had broken my toe in early July and hadn't done any significant fitness training in the meantime (and since it takes me 4 weeks to get into shape and only 4 days to get out of it), the plan was for a nice and easy but scenic High Sierra backpack trip. I didn't have a reservation but decided to drive up to Yosemite on Thursday Aug 6 with my 18 year old grandson DeVante and his 21 year old cousin Jalen to see what kind of wilderness permit we could score. Important note: this was not only Jalen's first time camping but his first ever backpack trip, something I should have given a little more thought to ahead of time. Another note: even though I am still very much a beginning level backpacker but because I mainly go on trips with my children and/or grandson, I usually end up taking a new backpacker with me i.e. one of their friends. Anyway, we got to the TM Wilderness Office at 11am sharp and secured a permit for the next day out of Lyell Canyon. So far, so good; if I just stay along Lyell Canyon, I would have my nice easy scenic trip.

First day, we set up at the backpacker's campground and took a day hike to picturesque Elizabeth Lake. The skies were gray and overcast but it was still a good warm-up for the next day and a cool experience for Jalen to kind of check out the Yosemite sights and scene, mingle with a lot of JMT and other hikers, etc. BTW, had a big although brief downpour that night.

Next day, Friday, while waiting for the Yosemite shuttle at the TM Market picnic tables, I was fortunate enough to meet and chat it up with Markskor (who was finally on his way back home after 2 months of dirtbag advetures in the Sierra and Sawtooth). After a brief discussion about the peculiar nesting habits of Brown-headed Cowbirds (we actually talked about a whole lot of other stuff too), Mark was kind enough to show me his 2015 Summer Sketchbook. Simply Awesome!! See the Campfire section for fotos of his drawings. Anyway, we finally made it to the trailhead and were about 3 miles or so down the trail when Jalen finally determined the hiking shoes he had borrowed did not fit and that his feet were absolutely killing him. Jalen ended up wearing some old, hole-riddled, thread-bare Vans tennis shoes for the remainder of the trip. Soon after Jalen changed shoes, it began to rain, then hail with some nice thunderclaps and a flash or two of far-off lightening. Jalen didn't want anymore of it, so we found a nice spot well away from both the trail and Lyell Fork, and set up camp a mile or so past the Ireland Creek junction.

It rained softly and intermttently for awhile but the temps were just perfect. I took a nap, took a walk, read my kindle, and just relaxed while the cousins explored along the creek. We had a nice dinner, talked awhile and I turned in around 830pm; the cousins an hour or so later. Although the night was bitterly cold, I wanted to spend one more night at this site and day-hike up to the Lyell Canyon base camp the next day but was outvoted. We left for home early Saturday the 8th.

Take-aways from this trip:

1) even though I handed out a list, double check everyone's gear (including quality and condition of the gear) and especially that of a first-timer.
2) my 32 degree bag was just barely warm enough even while wearing a long-sleeve t-shirt, a long sleeve hoodie and a puffy jacket. I think I need to invest in a 20 degree bag!
2) since I had some altitude issues on my last trip, I think staying at the BP campground the previous night helped me acclimate to the elevation. I also hydrated pre-trip and during, and ate better than the last time.
3) the Bear Creek brand of soups worked out well-- both Creamy Potato and Tortilla soups were easy to carry in the canister, simple to make and very flavorful.
4) I think I'm finally ready for a solo hike next year -- it's getting harder to organize a trip around other people's schedule, their issues, etc.

Some fotos:
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The motley crew selfie: my grandson Devante with the wild hair in the foreground; his cousin Jalen and Old and Slow grandpa in the background.
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Re: TR: Yosemite - Lyell Canyon Aug 7-8

Postby old and slow » Thu Aug 13, 2015 4:36 pm

a few more pictures:
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approaching Elizabeth lake
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the cousins at Elizabeth Lake with Unicorn Peak in the background
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the Lyell Fork runs parallel to the trail off and on for miles
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meadows along the way
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Re: TR: Yosemite - Lyell Canyon Aug 7-8

Postby rlown » Thu Aug 13, 2015 4:59 pm

Nice TR! Thanks for sharing. sorry you had to run into Mark ;)
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Re: TR: Yosemite - Lyell Canyon Aug 7-8

Postby The Other Tom » Thu Aug 13, 2015 5:06 pm

Great report and pics. I've been in that area several times with my son. It's always good to hike with family, IMO. Looks like you enjoyed it.
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Re: TR: Yosemite - Lyell Canyon Aug 7-8

Postby maverick » Thu Aug 13, 2015 5:18 pm

Great to see some African American youths in the backcountry!!! :thumbsup: Being married to an African American woman (25yrs), it has always been hard for me to get her into backpack, she appreciates the beauty of the wilderness, but the concept of it all just doesn't jive with her. She always asks me if I have seen any African Americans while out, and my answer most of the time is no.
Thank you for this TR, will show it to my wife. :nod:
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Re: TR: Yosemite - Lyell Canyon Aug 7-8

Postby old and slow » Thu Aug 13, 2015 7:21 pm

Tom, we had a great family time out there -- and although he was unprepared, even Jalen had fun.

Mav, please share our report with your wife. I took DeVante backpacking for the first time when he was 12; he's gone about once or twice every year since. He's pretty comfortable out there and could probably be fine on his own now. However, based on my own very small sample, DeVante is the only African American backpacker I have seen in all my backpack travels. This could be an interesting campfire topic although I feel many comments would just be conjecture.
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Re: TR: Yosemite - Lyell Canyon Aug 7-8

Postby maverick » Thu Aug 13, 2015 7:28 pm

HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: TR: Yosemite - Lyell Canyon Aug 7-8

Postby Scouter9 » Fri Aug 14, 2015 7:36 am

Cool report, and a great location for an introductory trip!

As you hiked up Lyell Canyon in the rain, we were up above you, passing over Vogelsang and then Evelyn Lake and eventually down to Lyell (we made camp slightly downstream of the Ireland Lake trail we descended). That rain was hail at Vogelsang, light snow at the Ireland Lake cutoff and (beautiful) light rain descending Ireland Creek to the Lyell Fork.

If only we'd been faster, your young men could have met mine: our Troop is colored like a box of crayons.
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Re: TR: Yosemite - Lyell Canyon Aug 7-8

Postby gary c. » Fri Aug 14, 2015 12:45 pm

What were the night time temps? I would have thought a 32 degree bag should have been enough also this time of year. If your bag hasn't had a washing in a while it might be time. I know that if my down bag is dirty the oils from my skin and sweat will prevent it from lofting and I get cold even in my 15 degree bag.
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Re: TR: Yosemite - Lyell Canyon Aug 7-8

Postby old and slow » Fri Aug 14, 2015 7:35 pm

Gary, good point about cleaning the bag although it seemed to me an unusually cold night. THE NEXT Day we ran into some hikers camped not too far away at a similar elevation approx 8950 to 9040 who stated it had been a low of 25 degrees!
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Re: TR: Yosemite - Lyell Canyon Aug 7-8

Postby alc101ma » Sat Aug 15, 2015 10:23 pm

Temps at altitude have always been tricky for me. I camped 8-10k feet (Tenaya -> 10 Lakes) 4th of July weekend and was way too hot in my winter bag. I was surprised but sorta happy that I didn't need to always bring my winter bag. We had even made a last minute stop at REI to pick up an extra layer for one of the gals when I told her she didn't have enough insulation. I had to eat my words.

A week ago we spent a few nights in one of the campgrounds just outside of Tioga pass along the Lee Vining which is about 7k feet i think. I brought my summer bag and froze. I resorted to combining my bag with my wife's for body heat and even bought a Yosemite sweatshirt at the Tuolumne shop. I felt like a total noob tourist :(

At lower elevations, say 6k feet and down I feel confident bringing a summer bag.
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Re: TR: Yosemite - Lyell Canyon Aug 7-8

Postby Scouter9 » Mon Aug 17, 2015 6:30 am

I can answer to the nighttime temps on August 7 and 8, based on in-tent temps taken off the watch set in my sidewall pocket: 31 at Emeric Lake and 28 at Lyell Fork near Ireland Lake trail. At both locations, our bear canisters were frosted and, at Lyell, the tents in open air were, too.

I use a Big Agnes down bag, a product known to be less insulative than the ratings they advertise. 15 degree bag was just about at comfort limit those nights, on an insulated pad and with a skin layer worn. A compatriot in a synthetic BA rated the same, chattered teeth all night and our Scouts in Cosmic Down 20's said they were cooler than they liked.

Both nights had high humidity.
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