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TR: Yosemite 2011 ~ Four Day Minimalist Solo Trip

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TR: Yosemite 2011 ~ Four Day Minimalist Solo Trip

Postby Bluewater » Tue Feb 07, 2012 8:29 pm

This is my first trip report on HST and my attempt to give back to the online community here. HST is an amazing source of info and entertainment during the winter off-season, many thanks to all! This is from July 2011:

The plan was to do a four day 60 mile solo loop hike in Yosemite starting at the Happy Isles trailhead in preparaton for a JMT thru hike. The first day my permit limited travel to the campsite at Little Yosemite Valley. It's only a five mile hike from the long term parking lot the the LYV camp, so I used most of the day to drive from Laguna Beach to Yosemite. The second day I would hike to Cathedral Lakes. Day three I would follow the JMT down to Tuolumne Meadows and then up Rafferty Creek to Vogelsang. Day four I would climb Vogelsang Peak and over the pass to Merced Lake and the final day I would hike out. According to the topo map the total mileage turned out to be 59.5 miles which included about 7 miles of offtrail route finding and climbing.

Day zero had arrived and I was finally on the road to the permit office in Yosemite Valley. I got the permit office at 4:45, just 15 minutes before closing. The ranger was pleasant and polite as usual. I threaded my way through the throngs of tourists to the Happy Isles long term parking lot. Along the way I heard an exasperated father say to his family, "O.K., . . . so I guess that means that I'm the one who's wrong again". Oh man. I wouldn't miss leaving civilization behind. After parking and doing a quick gear check I was on the way. Let the journey begin. At 5:30 pm I had about three hours to get to the camp ground in Little Yosemite Valley before dark.

It was already getting a little dark and I shared the trail with almost all people heading toward me on their way back down toward the valley. The cool late afternoon/early evening temps made for an enjoyable hike toward the JMT/Mist Trail junction. I had hiked this portion of the JMT almost 15 years earlier during a day trip to Half Dome. I decided to try the Mist Trial this time. Soon the first view of Vernal Falls along the Mist Trail came into view.

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Vernal Falls.


Three people were washed over this waterfall the day before. They slipped while posing for pictures after standing on a rock IN the water about 25 feet from the precipice. After an unsuccesfull search for the bodies the rangers had just reopened the Mist Trail.

By the time I arrived at LYV most of the sites were already taken and everybody seemed to be getting into their tents for the night. After searching around for a while in the dark I found a stealth spot under some trees and shared the closest bear box with a couple that was already asleep. In the morning it turned out the guy in the couple spoke very limited english, but after a short broken conversation he got his wife who explained, "He likes the gear". Oh yeah, another gearhead. We both understood the language of ultralight hiking gear and he laughed as he picked up my 1 lb sleeping bag/quilt and 6 oz cuben backpack. By 6:30 am I was on the trail and heading up toward the JMT/Clouds Rest junction.

The hike up the switchbacks to the top of Sunrise Mountain made for a strenuous hour but I just kept my slow and steady pace and made it to the top in good spirits. I had been trading the lead along the way with a group of six guys, all in their late teens or early twenties. They were carrying heavy gear and looked exhausted on their 5 mile hike from Clouds Rest junction to Sunrise High Sierra Camp. At one break they asked where I was headed. They looked surprised when I went through my itenerary for the next few days. Cathedral Lakes, Tuolumne Meadows, Vogelsang, Merced Lake. . . all easy miles when carrying minimal gear.

Next I was in Long Meadow and talking with a few other hikers at Sunrise High Sierra camp. It was the middle of the day and I was looking forward to seeing Echo and Cathedral Peaks after a nice long afternoon nap.

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Echo Peaks.


By 6:00 pm I had reached one of the campsites near lower Cathedral Lake. I asked a group how to get to the lakefront and they told me I would need water shoes to cross the large swampish area which lead to the granite lakefront. As I waded knee high wearing trail runners in one of the creeks leading to the lake one of the ladies asked, "do you have a sleeping bag in there?".

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Alpenglow on Cathedral Peak.


I slept under the stars by Cathedral Lake that night. The sunset was amazing. The outside of my bivy was wet from the moisture in the wind which was blowing toward me off the lake. It didn't leak inside, but there was a lot of condensation inside the bivy and on the outside of my quilt. Even though some of the water dripped on my head in the morning, the inside of the quilt was completely dry. It must have been below freezing that night because there was ice on the outside of the bivy at night but I was warm and cozy inside. I dried everything out in the morning and was on my way to Tuolumne Meadows.

12 a.JPG
Cathedral Lake.


On the way down from Cathedral Lakes to Tuolumne Meadows I passed many freshly showered day hikers on their way up to the lakes. I was making good time and soon I was leaving the John Muir Trail and heading up toward Vogelsang from Lyell Canyon. Here is the first view of Mt. Fletcher and Vogelsang from Rafferty Creek:

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Volgelsang and Fletcher.


In the morning of day four I took a closer look at the snow on Volgelsang and remembered the ranger told me that Vogelsang Pass was "100% snow". Breakfast somehow raised my spirits and I decided to at least head up to the lake and see if it was passable.

My plan was to climb up the snow field on the southeast side then follow the ridge to the top. During a normal summer this area would have been easily accessable but the unusually large amount of snow meant that I would be digging foot holds into the snow on the way up. It turns out that the lake was still covered with ice in places and the pass was 100% snow.

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Volgelsang in July.


I met two guys at Vogelsang Lake who were on a day hike and considering climbing the peak by following the snow field on the northeast side. They were concerned about the possibility of avalanches, not having enough water and running out of daylight. They asked where I was headed and how long I had been out. I told them I was on a 4 & 1/2 day solo hike and that I was planning on camping at Merced Lake that night. They could hardly beleive I could be carrying enough gear for that kind of trip in such a small pack. One of the guys said, "normally I would need 60 to 80 pounds of gear for a trip like that". . . then, "Oh, but you're one of those ultralight guys". Sweet. I could just camp wherever I got tired so I took off to check it out.

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Snowfield.


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I climbed up the snowfield visible at the lower left, then up the ridge to the peak.


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The register at the top of Volgelsang.


It was getting late and by 7:30 pm I was losing light. I had 6 miles to the Merced Lake Ranger Station so I picked up the pace. The view along the way of the sunset behind the back side of Half Dome was beautiful. As the red glow slowly dissapeared the granite stepping stones and stairways became less visible along the trail. By 9:00 pm I had decended into the forest and it was completely dark. The moon wouldn't rise for another few hours so I used my half ounce headlamp to navigate the last half hour and stumbled into the ranger station. One of the lights on my headlamp died and the other was barely providing a dim light. I was thirsty and hungry and although I could hear the creek I was too tired to make out a pathway to the water. I drank the last few sips of water in my bottle, ate a few handfulls of trail mix, layed out my quilt and bivy and went to sleep. The end of a great day.

I followed Little Yosemite Valley back to the top of Nevada Falls and started the final descent down the John Muir Trail. After 4 1/2 days solo in the wilderness the sight of well groomed tourists seemed strange. . . but I probably looked and smelled pretty strange to them.

35-5 a.JPG
Merced River through Little Yosemite Valley.


Thanks for reading. Here's a link to the whole story, more photos, gear list etc:



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Re: TR: Yosemite 2011 ~ Four Day Minimalist Solo Trip

Postby copeg » Tue Feb 07, 2012 9:51 pm

Thanks for sharing the experience. Fun read and nice photos to top it off! :thumbsup:
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Re: TR: Yosemite 2011 ~ Four Day Minimalist Solo Trip

Postby The Other Tom » Wed Feb 08, 2012 4:53 am

Great trip report. Thanks for posting. Which bear can did you carry ? Looks like a bare boxer in one of your pics ?
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Re: TR: Yosemite 2011 ~ Four Day Minimalist Solo Trip

Postby markskor » Wed Feb 08, 2012 8:09 am

Very cool TR of familiar places Yosemite...Thanks.
BTW, Nice first/intro post, I wish more would do the same. Indeed, you do travel fast, reminds me of how it was 20 years ago -
Getting older sucks.

Did feel a bit cheated though - not one shot of the whole package carried.
How about a photo of you too, so we know what you look like from the front. I am sure many already know what you look like from the rear, after you have raced by on the trail.
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Re: TR: Yosemite 2011 ~ Four Day Minimalist Solo Trip

Postby maverick » Wed Feb 08, 2012 10:15 am

Thanks Bluewater for taking the time, and effort to post this cool TR!
Hope to see many more from you over the years.
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Re: TR: Yosemite 2011 ~ Four Day Minimalist Solo Trip

Postby Bluewater » Wed Feb 08, 2012 3:45 pm

Thanks for your comments! I've read many of your posts and trip reports and appreciate that you guys share your experience on HST.

That was a small Bare Boxer in one of the photos. It's my go-to for short trips up to 4 days and seems to fit inside a small frameless pack with some room to spare.

As a side note, I have been blown away by the photos on the Nature Focused and Wilderness Apertures websites, so it is with great humility that I post 'point and shoot' photos.

I was carrying a rucksack style pack with a simple padded hipbelt. I never considered using something this basic until recently and it's taken a little getting used to. To give some perspective the trekking poles are 45":

apacks zero.JPG
Zpacks Zero backpack.
apacks zero.JPG (54.37 KiB) Viewed 201 times


Here's one from the trail last summer on the way over Donohue Pass.

candrew.JPG
On the trail last summer.
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Re: TR: Yosemite 2011 ~ Four Day Minimalist Solo Trip

Postby The Other Tom » Wed Feb 08, 2012 6:00 pm

Thanks for the additional info. The bare boxer must be bigger than I thought. I didn't know you could get 4 days of food in it.
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Re: TR: Yosemite 2011 ~ Four Day Minimalist Solo Trip

Postby balzaccom » Wed Feb 08, 2012 7:18 pm

Nice report! We were in this general area in August..still had more mosquitoes than I've ever seen in the Sierra.
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Re: TR: Yosemite 2011 ~ Four Day Minimalist Solo Trip

Postby sparky » Wed Feb 08, 2012 9:31 pm

I just love that area, so magic. Thanks for sharing your pictures.

Your photos are great. I like reading trip reports in winter so if you have more please share. You could do like my lazy butt does and combo 4 trips in one report.
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Re: TR: Yosemite 2011 ~ Four Day Minimalist Solo Trip

Postby Bluewater » Wed Feb 08, 2012 9:37 pm

Thanx all! Regarding the bear canister; I can just barely fit three days of food in the smaller Bare Boxer Contender. I think it's about 275 c/i. To get four trail days out of the small canister I carry the first days worth of food in my pack (in an odorproof Aloksak bag) and finish it that first night in camp. I use the canister for the remaining three days.

I got caught by swarms of mosquitoes going through a swampy area past the JMT/Clouds Rest jct. I basically ran up to the ridge overlooking LYV until they cleared (I forgot to use Deet that morning). July after a heavy winter, what was I thinking? It seemed to get better at higher elevations.

Looking back I would give more than a few hours with annoying mosquitoes to be back on the trail today.
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