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Planning for Yosemite backpack

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Planning for Yosemite backpack

Postby amigo » Sat Sep 25, 2010 7:33 am

Hi. My friend and I are considering a 10-day trip to Yosemite next summer. One consideration is to hike from Mammoth Lakes (ML) to Happy Isles (or vice-versa), or if this isn't managable, from ML to Tuolumne Meadows (TM). We've done some backpacking in the northeast, where we're from.

On this trip, we'd really like to also do a hike up Clouds Rest and Half Dome but not from Happy Isles - preferably from Tenaya Lakes, TM or somewhere else to avoid crowds going up - would rather bump into the crowds coming down.

Any suggestions? How long would it take us at a moderate rate to hike from MM to YV via Clouds Rest/Half Dome? Are the higher elevations on this route mostly in the Mammoth Lakes area or in Yosemite? Acclimatizing to the altitude is something we'd have to consider.

How many permits would we need for such a trip? The scenery looks phenomenal.



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Re: Planning for Yosemite backpack

Postby markskor » Sat Sep 25, 2010 10:48 am

Great scenic trip and much information can be found here using search...Basically you are doing the exact northern part of the JMT. Search Agnew Meadows to Happy Isles - or just Google it.

But, here are some quick answers to some your questions.
The trip is about 60 miles, depending.
One permit is all you need. (Well two - a special permit may be required depending on what day you do the Dome - free but required on weekends - ask ranger when getting wilderness permit.
Start out parking car at Mammoth Mountain lot @ 10,000 feet elevation (main ski lot -- safe and free parking) and take the shuttle (~$7.00 per person) down to Postpile area (~7,500 feet elevation) and check area out for a day - (acclimatization) but when ready to hike, take another shuttle (free) found down there and actually start walking from Agnew Meadows trailhead - not Reds Meadow.
Three or more trails possible up to Garnet Lake - your choice - and from there you are essentially just following the JMT.
Here you are at 10,000 ft and the highest point on the trip is Donahue Pass, just ahead - 12,000 ft.
Tuolumne Meadows (8,800) is a nice restock venue - beer and burgers at the small store.
Backpacker campground in Tuolumne (behind store) - no reservations needed - $5 each per night a lot of local flavor here.
Free hiker's shuttle (saves walking a few miles on the road - hwy 120) at TM to Tenaya Lake and resume hike - over Clouds Rest (9,900) and HD (8,800) and down to Happy Isles (4,000).
Or you can avoid Tuolumne and head up to Ireland Lake (10,400) and head towards Voglesang that way and down to Merced Lake (7,500).
You can hit HD this way from the front and do traditional LYV to HD and grab CR up there too.
When in Valley, stay backpacker site (same rules as Tuolumne) and from there a YARTS bus (~$25 - from Curry or Yosemite Lodge)) will get you back to Mammoth lot and your car- times vary each season so check before.
A week to 10 days is the usual trail time but there is much to see - many take longer and some do it in as little as 5 days.
Many possible different trails here, depending on your whim - all leading to the same destination - thus, YMMV.
Most of the hike stays between 8,000 and 10,000 elevation.
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Re: Planning for Yosemite backpack

Postby tim » Sat Sep 25, 2010 12:07 pm

Look carefully at when you need to apply for a permit. Applying on the first possible date (6 months ahead for Inyo NF) is a good idea (and for many Yosemite trailheads a must - there it is something like 24 weeks ahead). In theory if you exit at one trailhead and enter at another (ie shuttle to Sunrise Lakes) you should get separate permits. You probably wouldn't have a problem though. How they will handle Half Dome permits next year is unclear and I'm not sure whether you can get one automatically from Inyo NF like you do with a Yosemite permit (maybe you could get one added to your permit at TM?)
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Re: Planning for Yosemite backpack

Postby amigo » Sun Sep 26, 2010 6:12 am

Thank you both for the valuable information. 60 miles isn't as bad as I thought. However, considering we'd be flying to San Francisco, driving back and forth and doing at least some sightseeing in Yosemite Valley, it may be a bit long. Would hiking from Agnew Meadows through Volgesang, Merced L, and still up Clouds Rest down to Half Dome (thus bypassing Tuolumne Meadows) save us much time and distance? A day or two, perhaps?

So, even if we climb Half Dome on a weekend from the "back side" (not starting at Happy Isles) would still require a separate permit?

We'd be looking to camp as close to Half Dome as possible to get an early start and avoid crowds. Where's the closest we'd be allowed to camp? Can you camp right at its base? Hopefully one can camp farther north from LYV.

Oh, and is there any disadvantage to leaving the car at YV and shuttling to Mammoth Lakes rather than first driving to Mammoth Lakes and having to get back to get the car after the trip?
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Re: Planning for Yosemite backpack

Postby sierramel » Sun Sep 26, 2010 10:23 am

In regards to a full trip permit if you hike out of Agnew, you don't need to mail in for it in advance and get charged. The Visitors Center in Mammoth (on the north side of US 203, just east of town) issues permits for free beginning at 11AM. Just be there at 10:30 AM the day before the hike and stand in line, if there is one. 40 percent of permits issued each day for each trail are reserved for walk-ins. The permits are good all the way down into Yosemite Valley no matter which trail you take (just make sure you know which way you are going because that will be what will be listed on your permit). As for a Half Dome permit I'd check out the Yosemite Park website and basckcountry link for the most current information.
The last time I went down the trail past Half Dome (not too many years ago), there were "campsites" near the HD junction (just get there early). It's a circus on top and going up there.
If you can get a map of the local backcountry for Mammoth and "the Valley" you can decide which route is best for you.
The straightest shot out of Agnew - the High Trail (PCT)- gains the most elevation the quickest, then levels out for the better part of 9 miles. It allows lots of scenic views, and the opportunity to aclimatize a little before you get to Donhue Pass (you can see Shadow Lake to the west and its waterfall outlet) fairly early-on, then drops you out at the east end of 1,000 Island Lake. The trail north from 1,000 Island is gorgeous and the meadows and small water courses south of Donohue are so nice they almost look landscaped.
The Llyle Fork is full of bears.
If you take the JMT west from the Tuolumne Meadows grill and store, it's about five rather boring miles near Highway 120 to Tenya Lake and the trail down to "the Valley" - but the store is where you pick up the free shuttle to get to the trail to Sunrise Lakes (and Tenya) - or you can walk four boring miles west next to highway 120 and take the Sunrise High Sierra Camp trail. Both get you to basically the same place - the Sunrise High Sierra Camp which is far prettier than Vogelsang, though at a bit lower elevation. If you take this route you get to go by Cathredral Peak and Lake - not bad. Both trails dump you out at a junction that drops you off at Half Dome - from there, as above, you get to Little Yosemite Valley, then down into the "valley" proper. Then follow all the above advice for backpackers campgrounds, etc. and there you are.
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Re: Planning for Yosemite backpack

Postby sierramel » Sun Sep 26, 2010 10:31 am

...I forgot to add: See if you can plan your trip to coincide with the full moon. Sleeping up on Clouds Rest during a full moon (the first night of the full moon) is FANTASTIC!
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Re: Planning for Yosemite backpack

Postby amigo » Sun Sep 26, 2010 10:58 am

sierramel wrote:...I forgot to add: See if you can plan your trip to coincide with the full moon. Sleeping up on Clouds Rest during a full moon (the first night of the full moon) is FANTASTIC!


Thanks for the tip, sierrame. That definitely does sound fantastic. Thanks for all the other info. Sorry for my ignorance of the area, but my first thought was to do a few day-hikes and a couple of overnighters. But this Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite Valley hike just looks amazing that we may do that instead. Going through Tuolumne Meadows sounds like it might be a bit long and I was wondering how much shorter it would be by taking the trail towards Volgesang/Merced Lake and then Clouds Rest/Half Dome (don't know the name of that trail) from Lyell Canyon instead of heading up to Tuolumne Meadows and down to Sunshine Lakes. Might we save a day going through Volgesand/Merced Lake? On my map, it looks a little shorter but not sure. If we save a day, that might make the difference between doing this hike or not. Thanks.
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Re: Planning for Yosemite backpack

Postby amigo » Sun Sep 26, 2010 11:06 am

Oh, ok, I think I see what people mean now. We could just continue on Lyell Canyon trail to Tuolumne Meadows and take the free shuttle to Tenaya Lake (that is what you said). That would save us time and would allow us to re-stock and munch on non-freeze-dried food! ... and perhaps enjoy a cold one :) ....then head to Clouds Rest and Half Dome and into the valley. Good idea!
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Re: Planning for Yosemite backpack

Postby markskor » Sun Sep 26, 2010 11:38 am

sierramel wrote:...I forgot to add: See if you can plan your trip to coincide with the full moon. Sleeping up on Clouds Rest during a full moon (the first night of the full moon) is FANTASTIC!


All good info here - just a classic trip you intend.
I like the idea of overnighting atop Clouds Rest, (best views in the park and plenty of room - done it often) but officially not legal anymore. Rules say you must camp 100 feet (maybe it is 200 - whatever), off trail and since the CR trail bisects a knife edge summit block - YNP says no.

People still do it - your call - but do not mention your plan when picking up a permit - you will be denied.

Also in regard to where to park your car - Valley or Mammoth...shuttle first and hike directly to car or have to take a shuttle back to car afterwards, either works...depends on what bus ( 2 buses and 2 times - morning and evening) to take and times scheduled. It can be cheaper to have just one make the retrieval trip afterwards (and save a few bucks), but with gas prices...a wash.
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Re: Planning for Yosemite backpack

Postby amigo » Sun Sep 26, 2010 11:46 am

So, assuming best case, Agnew Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows - 3 days
Shuttle to Tenaya Lake, up Clouds Rest, down and up Half Dome and down to Yosemite Valley - 2 days
We'd plan for an extra day somewhere if needed.

Sound reasonable?
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Re: Planning for Yosemite backpack

Postby markskor » Sun Sep 26, 2010 11:59 am

I would do it in 7 and fish a few nights.
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Re: Planning for Yosemite backpack

Postby sierramel » Sun Sep 26, 2010 1:42 pm

Marskor is correct about the trail that bisects Clouds Rest and the latest regs....But - on the east end of it, about half way up, before you get to the knife-edged summit, is the shoulder, and there are some little sandy hidyholes just big enough for the individual sleeping bag facing south (on the down side of the trail - and it's not really much of a pounded trail up there, it's mostly rock).
So you can always wait til later on in the day - I've never really seen it busy up there - and throw down.
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