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Yosemite's Northern Section - Above Hetch Hetchy

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Yosemite's Northern Section - Above Hetch Hetchy

Postby Aviprk » Thu Apr 26, 2007 11:12 pm

For my first trip of this season on Memorial Day, I'm going on a warm up hike up to Wilma Lake via Tiltill Valley and return via Jack main canyon. I also plan on going cross country to Upper Otter lake and to the lakes on the base of Tiltill mountain. Does anyone know especially what the cross country is like to Otter lakes? What has been your experience with snow and water level around that time? Also, is there lots of elevation gain and loss?



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Re: Yosemite's Northern Section - Above Hetch Hetchy

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Apr 28, 2007 9:37 am

Aviprk wrote:For my first trip of this season on Memorial Day, I'm going on a warm up hike up to Wilma Lake via Tiltill Valley and return via Jack main canyon. I also plan on going cross country to Upper Otter lake and to the lakes on the base of Tiltill mountain. Does anyone know especially what the cross country is like to Otter lakes? What has been your experience with snow and water level around that time? Also, is there lots of elevation gain and loss?

I don't know how much time you are allotting for this trip but I hope it's more than just the 3 day weekend otherwise it will be hardly a "warmup"--it would be a hike to make John Muir proud. Normally on Memorial Day weekend you might be into some seriously heavy runoff and you might encounter a lot of snow at the higher elevations of this route (ie in the Wilma-Otter area). However this is a real dry year and with a warm spring there will be much less snow and the peak runoff will probably be before Memorial Day. I've never been to the Otters, but a quick glance at the topo shows it to be pretty trivial. You'd simply ascend the outlet stream westward from the PCT from a point a bit north of Wilma. I believe I've heard that Otter is fishless (perhaps someone else will chime in here). If that were the case, I'd rather spend my time headed for Tilden instead, but if you don't care about fish, this won't be a factor.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Yosemite's Northern Section - Above Hetch Hetchy

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Sat Apr 28, 2007 10:47 am

Aviprk wrote:...Wilma Lake via Tiltill Valley and return via Jack main canyon. I also plan on going cross country to Upper Otter lake and to the lakes on the base of Tiltill mountain. ..What has been your experience with snow and water level around that time? ...Also, is there lots of elevation gain and loss?


To answer the last question first, yes, there is a whole heck of lot of elevation gain and loss. A good first day of hiking to Tiltll Valley is nearly 3000 feet of elevation gain counting all the ups and downs. I have made it that far on a first day.
On the trail above Tiltill valley, say "Hi" to the bear that lives there (last I was there), and when you descend to TilTill Valley, you better have your wading shoes handy because the trail is under water a good distance early season. The valley is a great place to spend the night, and there is no point going further for that day. Look for native american morter holes and drawings.
The trail up towards TilTill mountain is very steep, exposed, hot, and dry for a good distance so start early and have plenty of water. After about 4 miles at 8000 feet, the worst of the climbing is over, but it is well over 11 miles to Wilma Lake with a great deal of elevation gain thrown in. From there it a do-able hike to, say, Vernon Lake to camp, and nice day of hiking back to the Hetch Hetchy eye-sore dam. I would say this is more like a hard 4 day hike.
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Postby Aviprk » Sat Apr 28, 2007 6:36 pm

I don't know how much time you are allotting for this trip but I hope it's more than just the 3 day weekend otherwise it will be hardly a "warmup"--it would be a hike to make John Muir proud.


I will give about 4 days to do it. Know it's hard but want to get to the base of Tiltill Mt via Tiltill valley the first day. For the elevation I'm working almost everyday climbing stairs and doing tons of quad and workouts. Then head over to Upper Otter lake the second and Wilma Lake the third and return to the reservoir by the fourth day.
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Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Sat Apr 28, 2007 7:50 pm

but want to get to the base of Tiltill Mt via Tiltill valley the first day.


Well OK! :D But that would be 14.5 miles, 6843 feet of gain and 2335 feet of loss. Go for it. "Can't" could never do nothing, my father always said. John Muir could do more but that is a heap of work. But nothing ventured, nothing gained! Good luck! :thumbsup: :twocents:
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Postby Aviprk » Sun Apr 29, 2007 12:57 am

Well OK! big grin But that would be 14.5 miles, 6843 feet of gain and 2335 feet of loss. Go for it. "Can't" could never do nothing, my father always said. John Muir could do more but that is a heap of work. But nothing ventured, nothing gained! Good luck!


Yes, I know. I plan on starting really early and hopefully getting there before sunset. If not, we will just camp along the creek on Tiltill valley and add the rest on the trip to Upper otter lake. I understand 15 miles can be quite unrealistic especially on a first day that includes going up from the reservoir but that is why I'm training for it :D
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Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Sun Apr 29, 2007 4:40 pm

Yes, I know. I plan on starting really early and hopefully getting there before sunset. If not, we will just camp along the creek on Tiltill valley...


Sounds like a plan. It will be like doing a marathon at high-ish altitude with a pack along a route that can be in the 100's most of the way. You should have no trouble reaching Tiltill Valley: it just that another very steep hot exposed hike awaits you in the next section to 8000 feet, and there is not much camping untill you reach 8000 feet. Be sure to tell us how it went.

...and add the rest on the trip to Upper Otter lake.


Otter Lakes is not a bad place to go: there is a nice waterfall along the way. The lakes themselves are on the average side as places to stay go, timberline country, but there is one good camp there by the largest lake. The real advantage to staying there is the easy access to the summit of Haystack Peak and the view of the lakes just below the peak and beyond, as well as access to the cross-country down Frog Creek (one of the coldest creeks I have ever crossed).
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Postby Aviprk » Mon Apr 30, 2007 11:08 am

Otter Lakes is not a bad place to go: there is a nice waterfall along the way. The lakes themselves are on the average side as places to stay go, timberline country, but there is one good camp there by the largest lake. The real advantage to staying there is the easy access to the summit of Haystack Peak and the view of the lakes just below the peak and beyond, as well as access to the cross-country down Frog Creek (one of the coldest creeks I have ever crossed).


Would you suggest something else then? I was also contemplating Tilden but that might be a bit overkill....
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Hetch Hetchy and Beyond

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Mon Apr 30, 2007 12:19 pm

Would you suggest something else then? I was also contemplating Tilden but that might be a bit overkill....


Maybe not in a 4 day trip.
Well, if you could shuttle and did not mind doing a snow covered pass, you could do what we did, which was to go from Leavitt Meadow TH, go over Tower Pass (Mary Lake) to Tilden Lake, down Jack Main Canyon and to Hetch Hetchy. You could even visit Otter Lakes (like we did) or Wilma Lake (very pretty). A lot more downhill than uphill this direction, more miles possible. Still, coming from Hetch Hetchy, you are less likely to come across creek crossings in flood (or snow) and no options. There are numerous destinations in this area. I have yet to see "Tiltill Mountain Lake", tho it has long been on my "things to see" list. I have been to Vernon Lake many times (even showshoed to it) (visited all the lakes around it)because it is a good early season destination and very nice place to be (the bear there is a real snoop). In a normal year, there would be snow in the way in places, but this is not a normal year....
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Postby TehipiteTom » Mon Apr 30, 2007 12:40 pm

Aviprk wrote:I plan on starting really early and hopefully getting there before sunset. If not, we will just camp along the creek on Tiltill valley and add the rest on the trip to Upper otter lake. I understand 15 miles can be quite unrealistic especially on a first day that includes going up from the reservoir but that is why I'm training for it :D

Be sure you get through the Hetch Hetchy gate before it closes the night before (I think that's 8 pm, but double-check). If you don't, then you have to wait until it opens at 7 am (and it's still a few miles from there to the trailhead).
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Postby giantbrookie » Mon Apr 30, 2007 12:59 pm

Aviprk wrote:I understand 15 miles can be quite unrealistic especially on a first day that includes going up from the reservoir but that is why I'm training for it :D

It aint the 15 miles that's the big deal, its the 6800' of gain with the full pack. That's wicked. As many death marches as I've done, I must confess I've only once done 6800' on day 1 (this was the lower reaches of Upper Basin via Taboose Pass) with a full pack, and done >6k gain on only one other day 1 (Shepherd Pass). As for alternatives to Otter, I am biased toward doing Tilden, instead, because I fish. Same is true of other off trail alternatives that take you closer to HH rather than away from it such as Bearup Lake and Branigan Lake. In other words I'd do Tilden if I were really feeling good, and Bearup or Branigan if I were feeling a bit lazier.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Postby maverick » Mon Apr 30, 2007 2:39 pm

I hope you've included hitting the hills with a pack for you training
besides using the stair climber, which is good, but doesnt get your
stabilizing muscles in your hips or legs ready for uneven terrain.
Make sure you do some glute and hamstring work too, you glutes are
the main muscles that get you up those mountains(calves and quads to
a smaller extent).
Im honestly not to thrilled about that area. Tilden Lake can be really
bad when it comes to skeetrz. Wilma is nice but Im partial to big
mountain scenery which this area doesnt really offer.
I went to Edith Lake a couple of yrs back where I also visited the 3 lakes
north of Kendrick Creek about 3/4ers of the way to Edith Lake from
Lake Eleanor, gorgeous lakes! The area towards Spotted Fawn and
Many Island Lakes is pretty too.
Tilden Canyon and Breeze Creek(Deep Canyon) areas are fun to explore
and quite an adventure too(later in the year). The Branigans are a good
early season place to visit which can be easily reached in a day.
Thompson and Stubblefield Canyons are a good cross country warm up
trip to. Great places to get some x-country experience or prep for a
season in SEKI.
As mention earlier the place is good for an early season trip. There
are stretches that may be dry and not have alot of water(Vernon area)
but you should still be allright.
You may run into snow around Bailey Ridge and above 8500 ft especially
in shaded areas unless we start getting some warmer weather
systems with rain that will melt snow faster than any hot temp ever will.
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