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TR: Backpacking Yosemite HSC Loop 8/5-8/11

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TR: Backpacking Yosemite HSC Loop 8/5-8/11

Postby sambieni » Tue Aug 23, 2016 3:24 pm

This winter had some major setbacks on family home front healthwise so I woke me wanting get back into the outdoors now that my kids are not wee babies. So started with some training/personal trips, but I knew I wanted a weeklong trip with a few guys. In mid-winter before backcountry permit reservation season heated up, I sent out the email to friends thru the ages. Lots expressed interest so put in for a 4 person permit and hoped for the best as we finalized plans in spring time. Unexpectedly my college roommate from 20 years ago was on board from day one. And he remained the only person who joined in the end. So it was the two of us - we had options w SEKI or Yosemite and he chose Yosemite.

Our planned trip: Tuolomne Meadows for 2 nights and then Glen Aulin TH to Pollydoom -> Cloud Rest or Sunrise -> Merced Lake -> Vogelsang Area -> Tuolomne CG or elsewhere -> home.

How it unfolded:
Our trip was aimed at getting into good backcountry, but not quite as remote as I would have hoped given our (and primarily his) more limited backcountry experience. I was nervous all winter whether he'd have the right gear, pack light enough, be in shape, etc. But all no matter. When I picked him up Friday a few weeks back from LAX it was old college guys ready to hit the trail.

Day 1: LAX to Tuolomne Meadows CG. Nothing to speak of, but great chats in the car with my buddy and nice relaxing campfire by night

Day 2:
Waking up in Tuolomne was just great. We took a while the first morning to sort out our permits. I failed to get the Glen Aulin pass-thru so we had to wait in line w walkups for 1 hour+ to get it sorted out. The rangers rocked and gave great group talk about permit process, bears, safe camping, etc. Post permits we did easy warm up hike to/from Elizabeth Lake. My buddy - from the Midwest - was already in shock-n-awe with the Sierra mtns and lakes.

Day 3:
Trek started. Already I was experience my buddy's lack of experience - his pack looked too heavy, he took forever to sort/gather/organize his things, and to get going. My goal was 730 am start time on the trail. I don't think we got on the trail until 9 am. To be continued.... Weather was glorious though and not to be deterred! Great easy hike in down to Glen Aulin

P1080008.jpg


Waterfall nearby was gorgeous. We were doing alright although I was a bit shocked by the heavy steps/rocks going down - fearful of my shoddy knees going forward. Turn to McGee Lake was nice. Not the best 4 miles, but it was clear to me my friend was gonna struggle a touch w the altitude going forward. He was spent those 4 miles and the trip up to Polly Dome Lakes took well longer than should have. What I envisioned was an arrival by 2 pm at latest turned into arrival closer to 4 pm. But we snagged a great campsite in the area and settled in quite nicely. I calmed his nerves about bear canister and placing it in a nice rock-lodged area nearby and we were good.

polly dome.JPG

polly dome2.JPG



Calm great evening and only a few skeeters hit us given the "swampy" lake area. A bunch of guys nearby were a touch loud at night and a family was across the way. We settled in and felt good although the start of much of our trip had begun. This guy here became source of much frustration and attention:

polly dome2.JPG


Methinks the muddy water we filtered from in Polly Dome started a clog in the filter and it set us back the rest of the trip. Already filtering a few liters that should have taken 30 minutes or so was progressing beyond that... More to come...

Day 4:
My buddy was convinced he was doing great. He was stoked and eager to head up to Cloud's Rest and possibly camp there. I was more nervous because a) water and b) I am terrified of exposed heights. :crybaby: :eek: :D . So once again we set out - not around 7-730 as I envisioned and normally prefer, but past 830 or so. Our trail was down to Tenaya Lake via Murphy Creek exit and then around the bend, up Sunrise to the ridge, hang the turn to head up towards Cloud's Rest, sort out water, and see if we camp in the valley or keep going. And that is what we did.

Quickly, my buddy had to get used to the rock dotted trail markers - more accustomed to paint swatches on tree trunks every 100 yards back east like on the AT.

trail from pollydome.JPG
trail from pollydome.JPG (81.37 KiB) Viewed 220 times


Tenaya was gorgeous. A quick stop turned into well over an hour - the filter trudged and trudged and could not filter out our water quick enough. We did not drink enough back in the camp so we were pounding some hydration along the trail 2.5 mile trail. Both our bodies somehow needed it post-am coffee. And so we had to filter again. This quick stop turned into way too much time. And then once complete even more as buddy fussed w his gear.... But darn if this lake isn't beautiful so happy days regardless. And it was still early in the day so not too crowded - unlike our drive by after the trip when hundreds / mobs descended on it for summertime play.


tenaya.JPG


Then up Sunrise ridge:
trail up to sunrise.JPG


My buddy was spent from the 800 foot climb in that final mile. It was definitely tough and our late start had us pushing it in the middle of the day with more heat on our backs. He was struggling. Yes, definitely a slower climb. He was not quite prepared, but we pushed to the ridge and then stopped for quick rest and bite once there. And he pulled out his cell phone! And even got a line out to his wife back home! We were def. not as backcountry as I envisioned. No matter, we fueled up on food or family and plodded on to Cloud's Rest. We had to take a break to fill all our reservoirs, etc for the evening and following morning at the lake along the way, which was another 90 minute setback! ](*,)
Sorry, the attachment water cloud rest.JPG is no longer available


And then the climb to Cloud's Rest. I felt amazing, but the altitude and second major climb of day was kicking my friend's butt whom I learned night before had also brought along a Crazy Creek chair and another 5-6 lbs of gear that likely put his start weight pushing up to 45 lbs or so. So he struggled.I was scared of the final bit up knowing my fear of heights, but the views were looking great and excitement was high. I rushed along quickly and waited periodically for buddy to catch up.


And then near the ridge. I was excited and scared:

up to cloud rest 4.JPG


My buddy at this point was gung ho. He went for it and sorted out the perfect rest stop for the night. By then everyone had gone down as we pushed going up. I wound up stopping on ridge while he sorted a camp spot up ahead. Once he gave the signal, by then I had stopped for too long and froze from the height. So he came down, grabbed my pack and showed me the route. Somehow my nerves got best of me in that moment, but his quick work helped and I was fine getting up. The site was great. Perfect spot for our tent, blocked from wind and we had a ledge for a dining room and organizing for the night.

Our spot was perfect and evening light was unreal. My buddy spent time outside that night gazing at the stores, while I just kept poking head out to take a peak. He covered sunset, I got sunrise. The early morning was also gorgeous, if not more so.

cloud rest pad.JPG


cloudrestpad3.JPG
cloudrestpad3.JPG (84.01 KiB) Viewed 220 times


cloudrest night.JPG

clouderestpadhalfdome.JPG
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up to cloud rest 4.JPG



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Re: TR: Backpacking Yosemite HSC Loop 8/5-8/11

Postby rlown » Tue Aug 23, 2016 3:33 pm

Nice report! Cell phone, not so much..

I actually "help" cull the pack of those who go with me if I sense overload. Mine gets a going over a second time as well.

I am getting into the chair idea, but I haven't found one that makes sense yet, and it's not like you can/should lay your neo-air pad against a nicely sloped granite rock.
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Re: TR: Backpacking Yosemite HSC Loop 8/5-8/11

Postby sambieni » Tue Aug 23, 2016 3:37 pm

Day 5:
Next day woke well before sunrise, my buddy even facetimed w/ his family from the ridge! We got camp packed up and down by 730! A new record.
Envisioned the next day would go smoothly, but alas…. We were making amazing time on the trail down towards Merced Lake towards eventual JMT junction. However, somehow about ½ way down we came thru a new creek. My buddy thought the trail stopped. He retraced non-existent steps. Rather than retract the actuals… And so I followed him. We took another hour or so for water refill. And rather than return to where we got turned around, we stupidly plotted a course to re-join the trail on its exit from the point we lost it. Yea, I knew not to do it, but it was an amazing day and it seemed easy enough. Ha!

Pretty quickly, realized we were on fools errand x-country and too lazy to hike ½ mile back up trail to top of the creek. So we followed the map down creek running down into Sunrise Creek assuming we'd hit Sunrise and then could overland to JMT or rejoin the trail. Well, it worked out – we kept pushing thru and my map skills worked perfectly to get us up over the burnt out Meadow Fire ridge and re-join the JMT. IT was 1 hour+ scrambling, but felt like forever. The biggest casualty in it all – my I Phone.

It rests somewhere near here:
somewhere near here is my phone.JPG
somewhere near here is my phone.JPG (126.33 KiB) Viewed 217 times

:puke: :crybaby: ](*,)

Juggling the map in my pocket for constant looks, I stupidly popped my phone (ie camera) into same pocket so one point pulled out map out fell the phone. It wasn't until we joined the JMT realized my error. 1+ mile of x-country to find it. Needle in a haystack. Say goodbye phone and hope the cloud had all my photos backed up (it did – all but my Yosemite shots… great one stoo from cloud's rest  ).

Regaining the ridge to the JMT:
to jmt.JPG



The trail meandered down well and popped us in after 3-4 miles to near Merced Lake and final 2.5 miles to the camp. My buddy got lots of flower shots and some of the numerous trees cut down near the junction where trail joins up w trail coming down from Sunrise.

tree.JPG


Overall day was long and unventful after the phone debacle, but my mood was sour all day and with the uber uber slow Gravity Filter, I resigned myself to drinking little water the latter 3 hours of the day until finding camp. Definitely arrived parched.

Night was mellow at the nice backpackers camp. Caught a Ranger's bear talk in the High Sierra Loop Camp across the trail. And caught a momma bear and her yearling near the camp as well.

camp merced.JPG



Day 6:
Next day was amazing. I awoke from cold sleep and we were stoked to set out. Lots of up, but I felt amazing after great dinner and breakfast. The climb up was tough going, but just kept powering and was great. On this day my buddy and I realized we were best not always side-by-side and could/should split up for some time. So we did. I pushed the climb harder than he, but waited over lunch for him to top the ridge around 3.5 miles or so. Once my buddy hit the peak– we filtered water – again – for another hour+. GRRRR. And then I rushed it out of there for the final 4.2 miles to Vogelsang.

The meadow across Fletcher Creek Trail was little slice of heaven on Earth. My spirits after the day before were 100% restored. I was rocking the trail at 9-10K and feeling amazing. Pushing my speed faster than I envisioned and loving the surroundings despite missing my IPhone camera. Perfect few hours of solitude. And got to backpackers camp out from the HSC and set up a nice spot and fueled up on super yummy Pack-it-Gourmet smoothie. Wow was that perfect.

to vogelsang2.JPG


to vogelsang.JPG


That night we did lots of looooooong water gathering – again – at the creek behind the high camp. We had nice tent spot in the distant – poorly signed –backpackers camp.
Ranger came by and checked our permits. Got to talking. And let on our Cloud's Rest evening. He def was suspicious and ears peaked. Turns out we were not allowed to camp there – he was shocked no Ranger at the wilderness center said anything or asked despite us roughly indicating our route. We had no idea and based on indications on this board and elsewhere we had understanding it was kosher. Well, Ranger says no and be glad got away with one. There you have it.


Day 7:
Woke up and I packed quick for an early bail out. We originally planned a night in the park and return next day, but decided ot hike out, rush to the Valley for photo ops and drive back towards LA for a night time return.
7-730 on the trail turned into 830 on the trail, but its all good.

Hike down Rafferty Creek(bed) was beautiful. Some pack horses passed us by a few times and one other hiker couple. We saw few folks until we made the turn at JMT/PCT junction up to Tuolomne. Not much to say about this hike other than my desire to rush down trail competed a bit with my buddy's desire for last trail photos.

horse pack.JPG



That’s alright. We both were stoked in the end. We got back to Glen Aulin and our car by noon, did a scrub/swap to clean clothes, hit the Meadow's grill, said by to the TM, and took a run down to the Valley for photo ops and racing back to LA.
bye tuolomne.JPG




All in all amazing trip. My buddy learned a lot about need to pack light and the stress of high alpine hiking. I realize the need to take a touch slower and ease up a bit at times, while learning to manage need go w/ the flow. It was a blast. More populated than I had wished, but still an unreal trip. We're already talking about a next time. He in his own tent next time and minus a few pounds on his pack. Stoked. :rock:
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Re: TR: Backpacking Yosemite HSC Loop 8/5-8/11

Postby sambieni » Tue Aug 23, 2016 3:40 pm

rlown wrote:Nice report! Cell phone, not so much..

I actually "help" cull the pack of those who go with me if I sense overload. Mine gets a going over a second time as well.

I am getting into the chair idea, but I haven't found one that makes sense yet, and it's not like you can/should lay your neo-air pad against a nicely sloped granite rock.


oops, my report was across two posts.

yea, i really tried my best to cull his pack down before we set off. we had two nights on the meadows before setting off. I did all the food so I organize d his bear can and reviewed some of his gear. But did not see all of it. Not muhc I could have done. He was really packed heavy and his gear was also older models so also just not very lw regardless. its ok. We backpack differently and we learned that. We could still go together on a trip again, but would take some expectation setting up front again. I think he got a sense of the Sierras and so he knows how plan next time a bit better.
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Re: TR: Backpacking Yosemite HSC Loop 8/5-8/11

Postby rlown » Tue Aug 23, 2016 3:43 pm

:thumbsup: I knew more was coming.. all very nice.. This is how we learn.. And I've done the behind the mules thing a few times. I pull off for a half hour and drink water..
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Re: TR: Backpacking Yosemite HSC Loop 8/5-8/11

Postby sambieni » Tue Aug 23, 2016 3:50 pm

Nice. The mules were perfect timing. They went up as we went down; they passed us right as took a break on the trail. I was eating my bar and the packer gave me clear warning to keep the bar out of mule's reach.... :lol:
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Re: TR: Backpacking Yosemite HSC Loop 8/5-8/11

Postby rlown » Tue Aug 23, 2016 3:56 pm

We were just ahead of a mule train as we were coming out of the Tuolumne lodge parking lot. We stopped at the bridge and watched with great awe as the drovers were crossing the bridge. The last mule busted the lead rope, so there we were. 3 of us just stood tall and spread out our arms to stop the mules escape route. The lady got off her lead horse and tied the mule to the back of the train, and as she mounted and continued their Vogelsang resupply, she asked us to throw small rocks at the mule's butt. Worked! But we still waited another 30 mins to let the dust settle.

Things you only see on the trail..
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Re: TR: Backpacking Yosemite HSC Loop 8/5-8/11

Postby sambieni » Tue Aug 23, 2016 3:59 pm

:lol: :lol:
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Re: TR: Backpacking Yosemite HSC Loop 8/5-8/11

Postby sambieni » Tue Aug 23, 2016 4:01 pm

Have you heard about the ban on Cloud's Rest camping? Ranger was very clear that it is not permissible to do so, yet I know tons folks who have done it and folks here said it was ok too.
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Re: TR: Backpacking Yosemite HSC Loop 8/5-8/11

Postby maverick » Tue Aug 23, 2016 4:50 pm

Thanks for the enjoyable TR and nice pictures, to bad about the phone. Well one of the many things you have learned from this trip is that you need a new filter and add an 1.5 hrs to your expected departure and/or arrival times when hiked with your buddy. :)
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Re: TR: Backpacking Yosemite HSC Loop 8/5-8/11

Postby chulavista » Tue Aug 23, 2016 5:42 pm

There is a camping ban within 100 ft from trail or water source. That prevents you from camping at the summit, but I think you can still camp nearby.
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Re: TR: Backpacking Yosemite HSC Loop 8/5-8/11

Postby wildhiker » Tue Aug 23, 2016 6:29 pm

Your mileage may vary... but I deal with the water filter problem by not taking one. For forty years I have just been drinking the Sierra backcountry water and never gotten sick from it. I prefer to get water from big lakes that have lots of volume (for dilution) and have been soaking up the sun's UV radiation (for disinfection). I also like creeks that flow directly down the mountainsides with no trails above.

-Phil

P.S. - In areas with livestock grazing - for example, northern Emigrant Wilderness - I will reluctantly take a water filter. Cattle are the worst vectors for infectious organisms. I also carry a few iodine tablets just in case I end up in a spot with particularly unsavory looking water. But really, 99% of the time in the high country I can find what I consider to be good water and drink it freely without treatment.
Last edited by wildhiker on Wed Aug 24, 2016 6:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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