TR: 5/19/19 Yosemite Merced-Clouds Rest-Panorama

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mckee80
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TR: 5/19/19 Yosemite Merced-Clouds Rest-Panorama

Post by mckee80 » Fri May 31, 2019 5:44 am

In January, I found out I was going to have 5 free nights near Fresno in May. I scoured this board looking for trip reports from 2017 and 2011. I saw several questions asked about early season trips in the Sierra (by the way, this forum is exceedingly useful and you people are very kind). I found out that it wasn’t a good time to be doing what I wanted to do. I looked into Skyline to Sea and Henry Coe, but I really wanted to be in the mountains and I had the gear for it. The melt was going well and it was 70 and sunny in the valley leading up to my trip. Glacier Point Road opened up and we had an itinerary starting at Glacier Point to LYV and beyond. Then they started calling for a winter storm watch, then warning. So, that was a bummer. But my buddy had never been to Yosemite and I really love it there, so we figured we would lower expectations a bit and make the best of it.

Sat, May 18
We headed up 41 to the valley. I stopped to get a picture from Tunnel View (it is a sentimental place for my wife and I and I told her I would get a couple pictures we could stitch together for some wall art). Got pretty lucky everything wasn’t clouded over yet. And stopped at the Bridalveil turnout for a view of El Cap that I’m fond of.

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We got to the backpackers campground and got set up right before the rain started. There were four groups there, I think. One group had about a dozen people with big coolers and bikes, which was confusing. I found out later that it was a group of volunteers working on one of the Pines campgrounds. With Glacier Point Road closed, we changed our permit to start at Happy Isles (there were only 15 spots left!).

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Sun, May 19
It was raining in the morning, and it looked like it was going to stay that way. We decided to get going, more time to dry out in our tents at LYV. I saw a coyote, which was pretty cool. It’s a longer walk from the backpackers campground than I thought. It was around 8:30 and we didn’t see many people at all. In fact, we didn’t see another person until a solo hiker passed us on the footbridge. We had rain all the way up Vernal Falls. It wasn’t too bad, it had a different kind of feel to it with fog and mist and low clouds. We had the top to ourselves.

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It started to snow as we made our way up Nevada Falls. We saw maybe 5 people. Then it really started to snow. It was really pretty, but I was getting a little nervous about the snow and ice collecting on the little mini stairs on the trail.

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We got to LYV and there were a couple inches of snow. But then the sun came out and it was crazy how fast the snow melted. It was so cool how the trees were dropping snowballs everywhere.

Mon, May 20

It was absolutely beautiful in the morning. I just walked around with my camera and enjoyed the sun.

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ImageBear! Very cropped picture

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This was supposed to be the nicest day, so we headed up towards Clouds Rest. The trail was covered in snow starting at the junction with the JMT (7200 feet) at 9:00 ish. We headed up through the woods and the maybe 3-4 inches of snow. Around the quarter domes, it was 6-8 inches and very wet and slushy. Every step was accompanied by a half step slide back it seemed like. My microspikes were defeated, and in time, so was my spirit. My legs were rubber and I fell a couple times, so I called it right there. Still some pretty good views from there, but the clouds were getting lower. The snow was significantly melted on our way down, ending at around 7500 feet. We stayed in LYV again that night.

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Tues, May 21

The next morning was fog and rain. We decided to hike out to Glacier Point and hope that things cleared up, at least for a little bit. Spoiler alert – that did not happen. We missed the turn for the Panorama Trail and went through the ice cut. I guess we didn’t look far enough ahead, so we got stuck clinging to the wall in the middle of it while a pack train came through. Luckily, we realized our mistake and got to go back through it. It was deep in places. You could keep your feet mostly dry with precision rock hopping. There were a couple trees down over the trail, including a huge one we had to bushwack around near Panorama Point. The “view” from Panorama Point was a disappointment. And we decided to turn around there. But the sun came out for about 5 minutes as we crossed back over Nevada Falls.

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We decided to pack up and head up the Merced for the next two nights. The rain and snow hung overhead like we were in a peanuts cartoon. I love the idea of finding cool campsites, but in practice, I suck at it. And my incompetence was exacerbated by low visibility and reluctance to poke around too much in the rain. We ended up finding a previously used campsite right by where the trail washes out beneath what sounded like water coming off the cliffs. We got warm and dry in the tents and sat beneath the little tarp I brought (really came in handy), ate, had a little whiskey, and hit the sack.

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Wed, May 22

Woke to a drop dead gorgeous scene. The sun came out, there was snow everywhere. We could see the cascades from the cliffs we heard the night before. I walked around in my last pair of dry socks, garbage bags, and crocs. Besides being stylish, they worked perfectly until I got cocky and crossed the stream in them. Apparently, I had created some holes in the bags wandering through the brush.

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We had a leisurely morning, then headed up to Merced Lake on a day hike. This was actually the best weather day we had. It was sunny, and there was water EVERYWHERE. We saw two people at the cascades and that was it for the day. And for the first time this trip, we made it to our destination.

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And, I was secretly hoping to see waterwheels, and I got to!

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Thurs, May 23

We got up and moving early and got to the valley by noon. Those switchbacks down the JMT seemed like they would never end. We were re-introduced to the throngs at the footbridge. I talked with a guy who was there chaperoning a sixth grade field trip. I saw one woman come around the bend on the paved part and half whisper “oh my goodness”. It was cool to see everyone enjoying the scene, although there was a serious lack of trail manners. Made me glad we didn’t come down the Mist Trial.

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I had some family stuff to do, then stopped by Kings Canyon on the way back to Fresno.

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So, basically, those who said “don’t go” were right, and so were those who said “go anyway”. We had the gear to stay comfortable, and it was great to be out in the wilderness, but it would have been nice to catch a few more views.








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Re: TR: 5/19/19 Yosemite Merced-Clouds Rest-Panorama

Post by rightstar76 » Fri May 31, 2019 7:00 am

Hi mckee80. You have some really beautiful pictures. My favorite one is https://www.flickr.com/photos/mckee80/47952431516/. I like how the two burnt trees lead the viewer's sight to just center left. Also, the snow on the bottom and left hand side of the photo contrasts nicely with the bare granite on the right.

Glad you got to see SEKI on the way back. It sounds like you had a great time!

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Re: TR: 5/19/19 Yosemite Merced-Clouds Rest-Panorama

Post by SSSdave » Fri May 31, 2019 9:27 am

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The fire in those Merced canyon areas has really made those areas a poor choice for more serious landscape work.

Decades ago Memorial Day was infamous for storms setting up in the Sierra. One of our first trips was Laurel Lake during similar multi day snow conditions. At first it was novel and fun, but by the second day our inappropriate gear and clothing were taking a toll on our patience and enjoyment so left the third morning wiser for the experience. The worst conditions are not when it is well below freezing and snowy but rather in conditions near the freezing level with a mix of snow and water. In this era I will only backpack out short distances from trailheads if snow is forecast. I find during late spring, melting freeze thaw old snow aesthetics generally mediocre with harsh light most of a day with monotone color landscapes, however will go out during late spring storms like you did as fresh snowfall is far more aesthetic much as during winter storms. Because during winter I ski Tahoe resorts frequently, snow itself is not at all the interesting as with those non-winter visitors that find such novel.

In a few later years with better gear, I also went out purposely during a spring storm that dropped nearly a foot of snow as forecast. That was atop one of the trail-less no-name domes behind Daff Dome east of Cathedral Creek. I had an excellent experience over 3 days and captured some nice photos with my 35mm Kodachromes of the day. I also learned much about how tricky it is moving across snowy late season forest terrain. Steep sided icy slippery snow humps are below every tree shadow with puddles of standing water in sunny spots between trees. Many places one may step that look solid cave in postholing down into icy shin deep puddles. After a couple days it is difficult keeping wet gear isolated from dry gear unless one is more experienced than I was at the time. One needs a lot of plastic bags to isolate items in and eventually towels to dry things off with get wet too. One's hands are always wet and cold. The inside of gloves get wet of course making them difficult to push into and will never dry out. Overnight wet stuff freezes solid making getting up for early photography sessions unpleasant. Worst is having to pack up tent and ground sheet. Spring melt streams are everywhere and even small ones can be difficult to cross as every rock and log one normally would use is wet and slippery.

In later years I also did such in areas one could make a fire at but learned doing so took way more time and effort with every part of that task. Drying off wet clothing around a modest sized fire was mostly ineffective. In general even with better gear I decided such wet backpacking was not something I would do again unless it was during colder winter snow conditions when one just needs to deal with cold and snow. On the other hand doing so from a car camping base, day hiking, like I do inside my Forester is very much worthwhile and will do so in both spring and especially fall leaf season per aspen trunks image above.

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Re: TR: 5/19/19 Yosemite Merced-Clouds Rest-Panorama

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri May 31, 2019 10:31 am

I liked all your photos, including the dead trees. I do not know if you have hiked that section before the fire, but then the forest was beautiful but totally blocked the views to the granite walls. You can see more now. There is a different kind of beauty to burned tree trunks among the new green vegetation (or snow). I am glad you got a few days of fair weather between the storms. The photos of snow building up as you went up from Vernal Falls to LYV were really unique. Bravo, for heading out in the storm!

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Re: TR: 5/19/19 Yosemite Merced-Clouds Rest-Panorama

Post by mckee80 » Fri May 31, 2019 11:13 am

@rightstar76 - thanks! I appreciate that. I wasn’t getting the classic views, it was cool to get a couple you don’t see that often.

@SSSdave -beautiful picture. Yeah, my gloves never dried out. We did a pretty good job of isolating wet stuff, and it helped not packing up camp every day. Waking up to fresh snow was really cool.

@Wandering Daisy - first, thanks for your trip reports. I read over them a couple times and used one of them for the basis of our trip. I had never been beyond the top of Nevada Falls, so it was all new to me. We only saw two people the last two days. On our way back, LYV was much more crowded. And no bugs :). The burned out trunks and snow gave it a fairy tale kind of vibe. All in all, well worth the effort!

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Re: TR: 5/19/19 Yosemite Merced-Clouds Rest-Panorama

Post by wsp_scott » Fri May 31, 2019 6:01 pm

Looks like lots of precipitation and still a good trip. What did your friend think of Yosemite?

thanks for the report and photos
My trip reports: backpackandbeer.blogspot.com

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Re: TR: 5/19/19 Yosemite Merced-Clouds Rest-Panorama

Post by Harlen » Fri May 31, 2019 8:15 pm

mckee80, you've got some great photos in there! We all like the two tent campsite shots; and #9- the snowy trail; and that one that looks like snow on a pond, bracketed by dark trees; the stormy forest scenes- fantastic! Thanks for posting your nice trip. The Harlens.

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Re: TR: 5/19/19 Yosemite Merced-Clouds Rest-Panorama

Post by wildhiker » Fri May 31, 2019 10:53 pm

The weather may have put a "damper" on your trip plans, but it sure gave you some uniquely beautiful photos! And you got solitude in the Merced Canyon - quite a feat!
-Phil

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Re: TR: 5/19/19 Yosemite Merced-Clouds Rest-Panorama

Post by mckee80 » Sat Jun 01, 2019 7:47 am

@wsp_scott - varied amounts and types of things coming out of the sky! It was cool to get some experience in those conditions. I now understand what consolidated snow, slushy snow, snow bridges, etc. feel like to hike on. And I feel like we were pretty good on gear and strategy. My buddy was pretty impressed when we woke up in Lost Valley. All the cliffs and waterfalls coming off of them were not visible the day before.

@Harlen - thanks! I’m still trying to figure out how to capture the feeling of a place. It’s harder for me than taking the classic pictures.

@wildhiker - thanks! We saw how lucky we were when we passed LYV on the way out. Even when we stayed the first two nights there, there were only a few other sites occupied. When we passed by, there were at least a dozen. I guess that is the trade-off.

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