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SE Yosemite mid-July TR I

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SE Yosemite mid-July TR I

Postby BSquared » Fri Aug 19, 2011 7:29 am

As usual my TR is very late, but it might still be interesting to a few.

The "goal" was to do a tiny piece of the Sierra High Route and see Blue Lake, in Bench Canyon, just over the border from Yosemite into Ansel Adams Wilderness. We didn't do that, but we had a terrific trip, which was really our goal anyway...

Started out with a few days in Tuolumne with my family (and other animals), during which we ran into Markskor and exchanged a few stories (but not nearly enough... let's do it again, Mark!).

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Family in Tuolumne Meadows


As noted elsewhere, we were expecting Bearikades to be delivered to the Tuolumne PO but they didn't come so Wild Ideas hand-delivered them; thanks again, Wild Ideas! Anyway, we got packed up and set out for Vogelsang HSC as our first-day destination on 18 July. The trail to Vogelsang was absolutely beautiful, reminding me of nothing so much as the gorgeous trail from Shadow Lake to Ediza, with a whole variety of dense forest, open granite, and beautiful meadows. Rafferty Creek played a nice accompaniment all the way.

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One of Rafferty Creek's many moods.


The camping area around Fletcher Lake was incredibly windy, but we managed to spend a reasonable night there, and next morning headed past the skeletal outlines of the HSC (opening *very* late this year) for Vogelsang Pass. We were prepared to avoid the pass and head down Fletcher Creek if there was too much snow, but we found the pass perfectly passable, though the trail was, indeed, completely covered with snow.

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On the way to Vogelsang Pass (left middle-ground).


We were planning to spend the night at Bernice Lake, but after all the wind last night we opted for a more sheltered campsite well down in Lewis Creek Canyon.

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Packer campsite on Lewis Creek.


Next day we'd planned to go to Doyle Donehoo's "Waterfall Camp" but we were feeling frisky so we figured we'd go all the way down to the Lyell Fork crossing and hopefully up the other side to give us a better shot at Blue Lake Pass the next day. Views from the high trail were fantastic!

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Looking toward Washburn and Merced Lakes from High Trail.


We decided that Lyell Fork was way too dangerous to wade. Again, we were fully prepared to turn around and do a different trip, but after an hour or so of looking we found a suitably large and stable log to cross on. However, the trail up the other side looked pretty obscure under snow, we were tired, and it was getting late, so we camped on the south side of Lyell Fork.

_MG_2234Yosemite.JPG
Broad log over Lyell Fork.

In the light of morning the continuation of the high trail didn't look nearly so obscure, and in fact we took little time to get up the switchbacks that lead to the high bench above Triple Peak Fork. Two of our party had a plane to catch, so they were planning to head down toward the Valley when we headed for the pass, but we obviously missed what was supposed to be the rock-lined use trail leading to the kidney-shaped lake about 9880 feet, so we bid adieu to them where the trail joined up with Foerster Creek.

Backtracking along Foerster Creek led us easily to the beautiful little lake.

IMG_0265.jpg
Lake 9880.


We decided to hike north up the creek that flows into that lake (following Wandering Daisy's suggestion) and camp up on the large bench between Foerster Peak and peak 11210. The hiking was very easy, and we found a pleasant campsite among the whitebarks about 10,500 feet.
_MG_2311Yosemite.JPG
Campsite in the whitebarks. Foerster Peak on the left, peak 11450 on the right, Blue Lake Pass between.

Note in editing: Oops! Caption is for a different picture! This picture has the Clark Range in the background. Sorry about that...

We dropped our packs and headed up for an inspection of Blue Lake Pass and quickly decided that with the snow bands across it, it looked a bit too gnarly for our level of experience and conditioning. Too bad, but we were having a great time anyway and didn't really feel like we needed to make that particular goal.
_MG_2319Yosemite.JPG
Blue Lake Pass (Foerster Pass) up close. Hmmm...

To be continued.
Last edited by BSquared on Fri Aug 19, 2011 8:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
—B²



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Re: SE Yosemite mid-July TR I

Postby windknot » Fri Aug 19, 2011 8:05 am

Looks like a great trip! Looking forward to the next part.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: SE Yosemite mid-July TR I

Postby cgundersen » Mon Aug 22, 2011 9:36 am

BS2,
I just dragged an old buddy through a 9 day trip that included gobs of snow. By the end of the trip, he started following me on snow rather than opting for the talus/boulders, scree. I guess it's partly a comfort-zone issue, but with the obvious ease you traversed a lot of the white stuff, I'd recommend pushing the limits a little. It's easy to practice without carrying a pack, and I'm a strong advocate of falling in/on snow (versus anything rocky). And, don't lose the Blue Lake dream. It's a stunning area and the views of the setting sun on the Minarets, Ritter & Banner are beyond words.
cg
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SE Yosemite mid-July TR II

Postby BSquared » Mon Aug 22, 2011 6:33 pm

OK, so let's see, when we left off, we had just decided not to go over Blue Lake Pass...

After a pretty serious four days on the trail, we decided it was time for a break, so after breakfast the next day we moved our camp back down to the lake at 9880 that’s just off the high trail.

_MG_2367Yosemite.JPG
Lake 9880 with Blue Lake Pass in the background (farther away than it looks).

We explored around the lake and discovered that the rock-lined use trail we’d heard about (and that is described in Sierra South) was intact except for the few feet that would have linked it to the high trail. We speculate that somebody removed the rocks from that area to prevent people from thinking it was the high trail. So, if you’re heading for Blue Lake Pass that way, just follow Foerster Creek back upstream from where it gets close to the high trail. Someone in another thread wondered whether there were fish in that lake (can't find the thread now): there aren't. Nothing rising at all at dusk.

_MG_2416Yosemite.JPG
More Lake 9880


The next day we started our journey to the Valley but took a detour up the Iseberg Pass trail. It was completely obscured by snow just a few feet after it left the high trail, but we slogged through the snow up to the large lake at the foot of Iseberg Pass and had lunch on a rock island in the snow near that beautiful lake, with truly spectacular views of the Clarks, Foerster, and Iseberg. The tundra around the lake was dotted with tiny upwelling springs, a couple of which had little storms of pebbles rolling around in them; very cool!

IMG_0284.jpg
Lake below Iseberg Pass.

We glissaded part of the way back down to the trail (I lost my Schweppes water bottle – tragedy ;) and spent the rest of the day hiking down to where the trail crosses the Merced Peak Fork on a bridge. The season’s high water made us worry about the Triple-Peak Fork ford, but it turned out to be a wide, beautiful wade that we converted into a swim and a wash.

_MG_2513Yosemite.JPG
Triple-Peak Fork ford.

The switchbacks down to the Merced Peak Fork were exhausting; I can only imagine what they must be like going UP! Arghhh! Campsite was very buggy and we went to bed early.

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Looking down toward bridge over Merced Peak Fork from about half-way down the switchbacks.

Next day was all Merced River: water of power, beauty, and nourishment. Maybe this wasn’t the best year to try for Blue Lake, but it was a superb year for the Merced Canyon! We took a long day to Waterslide Camp (last legal camping area before Little Yosemite Valley—thanks to Markskor and Russ, I think it was, who recommended this. Beautiful campsite and, as it happened, few bugs for some delightful but unknown reason. I forgot to mention that from the time we left Fletcher Lake (on the second day) until we reached Merced Lake (day six) we saw no one except our own party; in Yosemite National Park! Nearly six days: wow.

_MG_2598Yosemite.JPG
Merced Lake (looking east).

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The "water slide" at waterslide camp; at this level of water, beautiful but not very slidable ;)

We had decided to head on out (about half a day early), so the next day was a farewell day, punctuated by people, lots of people. Of course we started running into them as soon as we got to the Little Yosemite Valley campground, but we were totally unprepared for the hordes from Vernal on down! And, as those of you who were in the park around that time know, there was the extremely sobering set of signs for the three “missing” people who had been witnessed going over Vernal. Shudder. Perhaps they deserve Darwin awards, but still: shudder. For the last mile and a half or so (from slightly before the bridge with the water fountains and bathrooms) the trail was literally jammed, and we were frequently involuntarily jostling and bumping people with our packs. Quit a change. But a shower at Curry Village and a couple of hours in the Ahwahnee bar mellowed us out a bit. After a night in the backpackers campground (punctuated by a visit from the ranger, who duly asked for our wilderness permit, after we’d gone to bed of course, and also by a long “discussion” between another ranger and a guy who was obviously hanging out in the BP campground too long and without the wilderness permit), we found our car and headed to the Bay Area and then back to Vermont.

IMG_0396.jpg
Vernal Fall: end of trip.

I hung out in Yosemite quite a lot in my previous life, but I’d never been in that part of the park, and I recommend it without hesitation. It’s remote, rugged, and absolutely gorgeous. Lyell Fork Canyon and Iseberg Pass just beg for exploration, as of course do Foerster/Blue Lake pass. And making the trip into a shuttle by heading down the Merced to the Valley turned out to be just spectacular, particularly this year. Great trip! Many thanks to all the HST members who helped with advice (often just by filing their trip reports)!

IMG_0328.jpg
One last shot of the incredibly spectacular Merced...
—B²
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Re: SE Yosemite mid-July TR I

Postby markskor » Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:07 pm

Nice trip and report...Thanks!
Funny how that works... once you get off the most popular Yosemite (freeway) trails, you often see no one for days. Probably why I was up there too. Quite the culture shock though, once you hit LYV.
You obviously picked a great time mosquito wise...plenty of water and still not that many bugs.
Not bad for an easterner. =D>
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Re: SE Yosemite mid-July TR I

Postby oldranger » Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:15 pm

Thanks, Bill. Can't wait to get back there. I am really sorry you didn't make it to Blue Lake pass. The view of Banner, Ritter and the Minarets is truely awsome.

Mike
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Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: SE Yosemite mid-July TR I

Postby LMBSGV » Mon Aug 22, 2011 10:04 pm

Wonderful report. I loved your description (and photo) of the lake below Isbeg Pass, one of those places that enthralls me every time I see it.
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Re: SE Yosemite mid-July TR I

Postby bheiser1 » Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:17 pm

Interesting report. That's another area I'd like to see more of - I wasn't too far from there on my recent trip from the Isberg trailhead near Clover Meadow. I especially like your comment about going for six days without seeing anyone else... in Yosemite, of all places! :thumbsup:
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Re: SE Yosemite mid-July TR I

Postby markskor » Tue Aug 23, 2011 10:23 pm

Ah Yosemite backcountry -
What's the old Yogi line...
"That place is so popular/crowded, nobody goes there anymore."
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