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Olmstead Point Trip Report

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Olmstead Point Trip Report

Postby copeg » Tue Mar 31, 2009 11:13 am

This past weekend I took a snowshoe trip up to Olmstead Point in Yosemite. This was similar to a trip I did a few years ago where I camped at Tenaya Lake. Having been up there on skis, and not wanting to carry my skis up the Snow Creek Switchbacks, I thought I'd try it with snowshoes.

Friday was a very late start from the valley, and with what little sleep I had the night before I was surprised to have as much energy as I did, reaching the top of the switchbacks on the Snow Creek trail in a few hours. With camp set up I sat back and enjoyed the view and the quiet afternoon, but soon the winds picked up and the clouds moved in, covering Half Dome quickly and ruining any chance for a nice sunset.
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Every time I've camped at the rim of the valley near Snow Creek, I've been hammered by winds all night, and Friday was no exception. Amidst the winds I could hear avalanches crash off Tenaya Canyon all night long, including a large one off of Half Dome.

After a restless night I somehow drug myself out of my tent the next morning, an hour later strapping on the snowshoes for the hike up towards highway 120. I was still a bit undecided in my destination, although May Lake was on my mind.

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The snow along the way seemed in transition between winter and spring, and it seemed every step alternated between sinking 6 inches and skating on ice...never knowing which I was tiring pretty fast. It was hot, especially with the snow firing all the sunlight back into my face. Finally reaching 120 around noon, I stopped for a break, melt some snow, and eat some lunch.

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Despite the snow, the mountains seemed to be alive: butterflies passing by, woodpeckers hammering at the tops of the trees, birds singing hear and there, Blue Grouse making their drumming call, and coyote tracks along the road.

There were lots of ski and snowshoe tracks, including several going to/from Olmstead Point. I have always feared avalanches, and feared treking to Olmstead Point given the route along 120 being renowned for this danger. But having a line of sight, I could see many of the spots melted out enough to make me laugh. Following the road I was at Olmstead Point by 1:30, enjoying the nice day and hunting down a campsite for the evening. I climbed to the top of a nearby knob, and had amazing views east and west:

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View from camp:
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From atop the knoll, I could look down the steep slope to the road below, seeing remnants of rollerballs and point release avalanches. The ski and snowshoe tracks avoided this zone by going toward the flats to the south, but there at the bottom was a group of skiers, either ignorant to the danger, or perhaps knowing a lot more than I.

I had considered climbing back up to the top for sunset, but by 5:30 the clouds began to move in, and an hour later a dense fog had lowered over camp, accompanied by a descent wind. That night I heard crack after crack of avalanches in Tenaya Canyon, each one seemingly larger than the next.

The following morning I awoke to a very moist tent, with much of everything covered in a layer of frost. I somehow managed to emerge from my tent in time to watch a nice dawn, which disappeared in a matter of moments as the clouds move in again.

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Winds and lack of sun made me get an early start, and I made quick progress back along 120, following my tracks down towards Snow Creek, reaching it by mid-day. I talked to a nice family camped along the valley rim for a while, and finally ended up torturing my feet on the switchbacks down. It seemed very quiet and peaceful along the Mirror Lake trail, despite the havoc it sustained from the slide a few days earlier. A nice end to a short trip.



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Re: Olmstead Point Trip Report

Postby ERIC » Tue Mar 31, 2009 11:18 am

Awesome. :thumbsup:
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Re: Olmstead Point Trip Report

Postby maverick » Tue Mar 31, 2009 12:34 pm

I was waiting for this report since you mention that you may be heading
out soon.
Look like a fun trip, lots of snow.
Does it seem like there was more snow than on your Tenaya trip?
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Re: Olmstead Point Trip Report

Postby STRETCHMAN » Tue Mar 31, 2009 3:39 pm

Great report,the photo's are even better! :partyman:
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Re: Olmstead Point Trip Report

Postby copeg » Tue Mar 31, 2009 4:54 pm

Thanks Eric, Mav, and stretchman. Glad you enjoyed it. I sure did :D

Mav, I'd say about the same, although on south facing slopes there seemed like there was less on this trip. That last trip was in 2006.
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Re: Olmstead Point Trip Report

Postby hikerduane » Tue Mar 31, 2009 7:15 pm

Very nice! I wish I lived closer for a trip like that. One of these days, next year I get an additional week of vacation if we aren't sourced out by then, I could do a annual Spring snow trip.
Piece of cake.
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Re: Olmstead Point Trip Report

Postby Shawn » Tue Mar 31, 2009 9:14 pm

Beautiful stuff; thanks for posting the TR.
Last edited by Shawn on Wed Apr 01, 2009 10:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Olmstead Point Trip Report

Postby The Other Tom » Wed Apr 01, 2009 3:53 am

Greg,
Great report and pics. Thanks for posting.
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Re: Olmstead Point Trip Report

Postby copeg » Thu Apr 02, 2009 12:02 pm

Thanks Duane, Shawn, and Tom.
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