Routing My Yosemite Trip

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Routing My Yosemite Trip

Post by HappyHiker11 » Fri Jul 12, 2019 5:13 pm

As the subject states, I'm in the process of routing some options through Yosemite and could use some feedback from those that have been through the area and are willing to help me out with some of their knowledge.

General pertinent hike info:
- Permit - already secured out of Agnew Meadow
- Length - A week long trip. Saturday we'll drive early to Reds Meadow. Enjoy an afternoon of light exploration and acclimation. No resupply at T. Meadows, will be carrying all food from the start. On-trail from Agnew Meadows on Sunday, with a 1/2 Dome summit permit on Thursday. With arranged pick-up scheduled for us off-trail Saturday morning if all goes to plan.
- Weight - Since not trying 20+ miles per day and not re-supplying in T.Meadows, my current rough estimate starting weight is around 47 lbs. This includes food + bear can, and 2-L of water in my pack bladder. Which will drop roughly 2 lbs per day of food. So a full week-long hiking pack and my camera gear.

Myself and the other hiker have solid on-trail experience and hiked the High Sierra Trail in early August-2017 on a casually-fun & challenging 7/8 day itinerary. We tend to try to keep daily mileage in the 6-10 mile range and enjoy the trip and daily destinations. But depending on weather, elevation, etc we've put in 10-15 miles before. Like 1/2 way through the Kern River up to Crabtree Meadows (~13 miles +4,000). We had our mountain legs acclimated by then! But we don't try to do that back-to-back-to-back days usually. We both grew up in the mid-west with cold/snowy winters and handled the snow-fields that were required crossings that year on the HST comfortably with hiking poles & boots without traction devices. (Kaweah Gap mostly & a little on Whitney).

I would say we are both comfortable with Class 1 & 2 and probably would only push into any 3+ for a short period if needed. We both took our full multi-day packs to the top of Whitney as a test/challenge and handled the summit run trail fine and the off-trail scramble to avoid the ice field at the summit with the full packs. But mostly on-trail Class 1-2 is what we've seen the most.

I have traveled off-trail on day-hike excursions from the front country many times when camping with family and friends. But have not ventured far from established trail systems when in remote back-country areas yet. And I am highly interested in attempting some x-country sections on the upcoming Yosemite trip.

My questions lie on the planned route and x-country choices to reach 1/2 Dome from Donahue Pass. Along with what would be a good match for us to maybe put a couple shorter mileage days in the middle of the trip that cover some x-country routes. Since I'm starting my exploration of x-country routes, I'd like to over plan and research a little for this trip.

I've done quite a bit of research on options and have a great understanding of it all. But hopefully those that have been in the area can give me a heads up on what could / could not be in our skill level.

The general rough itinerary I've been looking at is:

Day 1: Agnew Meadow to Thousand Island Lake or Rush Creek drainage.
- Maybe try to camp near ponds on Island Pass? I always read the lake being crowded and was thinking camping above would set us up for a quick approach across Rush Creek Drainage to Donahue Pass the next morning? Slightly worried this is to much of a climb to get to over Island Pass with full packs on day 1?

Day 2: Over Donahue and start x-country hooking off trail after pass / before foot-bridge and following route up Maclure Creek staying N of tributary to bench. Bend south around to lower un-named lakes to camp. Or head up incline behind these lakes to shelf below the pass S of Amelia Earheart Peak and camp along that shelf.

Day 3: Up the Class 2 pass S of Amelia Earheart Peak. Cut S-W across the ridge above Ireland Lake to what I read from my research as a somewhat steep 600' Class 2 descent off the ridge S-E of Parsons Peak. From photos of the area I've found, it looks like you can drop over about where the red-rock stain is and work your way down to the Gallison / Bernice Lake bench and camp anywhere along there. Potential to drop packs and summit Parsons before dropping down towards Bernice.

Day 4: High-tale it to Moraine Dome area to camp between 1/2 Dome and Clouds Rest to set up the summit day for 1/2 Dome. If at Bernice Lake area is the best route to drop down Lewis Creek to the Merced Lake and then back up and across is it the High Trail past Cathedral / Echo Creek to meet up with the JMT and bend S down to the Sunrise Creek / Clouds Rest junction to camp somewhere around there? That seems like a lot of miles that day with a couple good up-downs. Is there a better route from Bernice over to 1/2 Dome? Is that do-able in a long day?

In this section, I'm also concerned with the high snow year like 2017 and a lot of these being N-facing slopes. Is this something I'll need to read on the fly in late August this year? Or are these areas pretty melted out by then?

And if this route / x-country passes seem to difficult for our excursion level. Alternate options to cut off-trail and get that remote experience through the Cathedral Range to 1/2 Dome?

If the drop to Gallison / Bernice bench from Parsons S-E ridge is to difficult. Then I was probably considering 2 options. Both going through Maclure drainage, over "A-E Pass," then either cutting straight across upper Ireland Lake area and either walking Parsons Plateau W and coming down to Vogelsang Pass or going N of Parsons and dropping into the upper Fletcher / Hanging Basket area and coming out at the junction.

Either of these 2 options could eventually drop me back down Lewis Creek towards Bernice / Merced and over to 1/2 Dome. But I'm curious if I do one of those options (Parsons Plateau to Vogelsang or down past Upper Fletcher), is it adding a lot of miles and up/down to come back down Lewis Creek. It seems like if we do one of these 2, we should then head from Vogelsang towards Fletcher Creek. Head SW down there and hop over to Echo Creek and hook up to the Cathedral coming S down to the High Trail Junction coming up from Merced Lake? This would cut some mileage and up/down off this long day maybe? My goal was to slow down and enjoy traversing the Cathedral range as we make our way to 1/2 Dome and maybe get some x-country experience. I've read this is possible, but would like a little route planning help since I'm starting to want to plan off-trail sections.

Depending on the route, we camp near Moraine Dome / Sunrise Creek / Clouds Rest Junction that night. It seems like there will be plenty of spots along that section we could use as a base camp?

Day 5: Pending weather cooperates. Up early with summit packs & permit to head up 1/2 Dome. Back down to base camp to take a break, re-fuel, pack up camp. Head up and over Clouds Rest headed towards Sunrise Lakes. Hopeful goal of camping at Sunrise Lakes if it all goes well on a big day or en-route as possible. Otherwise we could be at base-camp for night 2 if weather doesn't work out and we sit around waiting to summit. Or if it's clear in the morning, but we can't make it over Clouds Rest, we just hike the low-road along Sunrise Creek toward the lakes and camp.

Day 6: Generally Sunrise Lakes to Cathedral Lakes

Day 7: Out to the trail heads & picked up for lunch.

Well, that would be it minus the car ride home and the night car camping as we head back. I really appreciate everyone's thoughts, input, and expertise they're will to share on the area with me. With wanting to explore some x-country, I'm probably over planning and researching a little. But I'd rather be to prepared and it just seem easy and fun.

Kind of like the High Sierra Trail did ;-)

Thanks!








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Re: Routing My Yosemite Trip

Post by davidsheridan » Sat Jul 13, 2019 6:49 am

I can't opine on much of your route, but Day 1, I would recommend camping at 1,000 Island Lake. It is a very memorable experience to watch the sunset and stare at Banner peak. Mesmorizing. Good campsites can be found by taking Spur trails off of the trail on the Northern shore of the lake on shelves above lake level.

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Re: Routing My Yosemite Trip

Post by HappyHiker11 » Sat Jul 13, 2019 7:08 am

davidsheridan wrote:
Sat Jul 13, 2019 6:49 am
I can't opine on much of your route, but Day 1, I would recommend camping at 1,000 Island Lake. It is a very memorable experience to watch the sunset and stare at Banner peak. Mesmorizing. Good campsites can be found by taking Spur trails off of the trail on the Northern shore of the lake on shelves above lake level.
Thanks for the good information 👍

I am guessing this is the area we'll end up for day 1 with a full pack. Good to know the shelves above the lake on the N have spots. Sounds like a great view from camp of Banner peak there!

From T.l. Lake, going up Donahue from S-E into Yosemite. Is this going to be a brutal climb if we hit it mid/late morning with the sun beating down in late August? I'd like to make sure we can get up & through the gap before any afternoon Sierra storms might stir up. This was the reason I had considered trying to make it into Rush Creek drainage on night 1. To try to take the Pass earlier in the morning.

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Re: Routing My Yosemite Trip

Post by HappyHiker11 » Sun Jul 14, 2019 8:07 am

Is it possible to traverse from Gallison Lake around to the the trail coming off Vogelsang Pass?

In that section contouring above the 10,400 line and below maybe 10,600 or something?

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Re: Routing My Yosemite Trip

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Jul 14, 2019 9:49 am

I have done that traverse, but I do not think you save much time or effort. The traverse from Gallison to the trail is very steep and loose. I had to drop down about 200 feet and then traverse. You could just go over to Bernice Lake and drop down the trail. Longer and more elevation gain, but you may want to see Bernice Lake anyway. Here is a map of a route I did years ago. I cannot remember exactly what the route was that I took from Gallison Lake up to the shoulder of Parsons Peak, but it was very steep. Theblue line is an alternate route that is also quite nice and easier. McClure Lake is very scenic.

Did I miss it? What dates are your permit for?
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Re: Routing My Yosemite Trip

Post by HappyHiker11 » Mon Jul 15, 2019 11:58 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Sun Jul 14, 2019 9:49 am
Did I miss it? What dates are your permit for?
- My apologies, I might have missed the permit date when giving the general info.

Middle-end of August this year. But not into or over the Labor Day holiday time. Acclimate Saturday as much as possible after arriving at Mommoth area. On trail Sun and hiking through Saturday morning. Sat/Sun as hike-out / safety days or travel days as needed.
Wandering Daisy wrote:
Sun Jul 14, 2019 9:49 am
...Here is a map of a route I did years ago. I cannot remember exactly what the route was that I took from Gallison Lake up to the shoulder of Parsons Peak, but it was very steep. Theblue line is an alternate route that is also quite nice and easier. McClure Lake is very scenic.
Thanks so much for the reply and info. The map is and route you shared is really useful.

Your alternate route with the blue line will be a perfect route to keep in my back pocket. If the weather doesn't cooperate or we just aren't feeling anything bigger, I'll plan to take this route. So thank you for confirming this as the nicer/easier option.

- If we were up for more after cresting above Irealand. Instead of camping at Townsley on the Alt route. Would walking Parsons Plateau on the reverse of your red route and come down off Fletcher S to camp between the outlet and Vogelsang Pass area? It seems like there are a couple options down off that ridge from what I've been able to dig up on the routes up Fletcher N and either location would be an acceptable end for an exciting, challenging, and shorter x-country day?

I feel like either of these options might be a good choice if cutting across to Emeric Creek and going over the ridge line to get into Echo Creek will really save us any valuable miles, energy, or up/down in comparison to the Bernice/Gallison ---> Lewis Creek ---> Merced Lk ---> 1/2 Dome choice. If we eventually reached the trail there going S along the Cathedral Fork (sorry, not sure the trail name if it has one) to the High Trail at mouth of Echo creek valley (I think this is the right name) and over to the JMT, is that less work then down to Merced Lake?

I'm still trying to figure out if there's a shorter / less strenous route to set up for 1/2 Dome within our hiking zone from Maclure/Ireland area.
- Would making camp at Nelson Lake from Maclure Lake area using Parsons Plateau to Vogelsang or the alt around to Townsley be comfortable for a day?

It seems like from the map, Tuolloumne Pass to Rafferty S ridge, is a good extension for that day if feeling up to it. Potentially spreading out the miles on the next day some for us approaching 1/2 Dome. But I'm unclear from there how to stay in the proper terrain to link up with the Cathedral Fork trail to the W-Sw. Likewise if we hiked to Emeric Lake and over, where do we connect through to the trail? Is it possible to just follow all of the creek tributaries down to eventually the Cathedral Fork and trail? And I'm guessing there's no recommended route over the W-Nw of Babcock lake to the trail below where the 2 creeks join as I've not found any reference to it?

My hiking friend and I are comfortable missing Merced Lake and staying higher across to 1/2 Dome if it would cut some difficult climbs or any excess mileage in order to set us up for a potentially bigger day following this section. I was hopeful at targeting Bernice or Gallison, but it's looking like it may be a less strenuous hike this time to stay N and by-pass Merced Lake.

- A question on your route up to Maclure Lake from the trail at Donahue: How is that in comparison to the route following the W bank of Lyell down around the point and coming up the N side of Maclure creek & tributary? Are they similar in Class terrain for each choice? It seems like a shorter route with a little less down and back up. So it looks like a good consideration if it's not any more or less difficult.

Thanks again, this has already been really helpful!

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Re: Routing My Yosemite Trip

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Jul 15, 2019 2:04 pm

Well, I wrote a detailed answer to your questions, but lost by accidently deleting the HST web page.

So here is a shorter answer. Route to McClure Lake that I show is on moderately steep slabs. Traverse to the pass south of Erheart Peak is steep and exposed. Off trail routes in the Nelson Lake area are gnarly- tricky route finding, navigation and small cliffs and brush. The trail from Sunrise Camp down the Cathedral Fork was in poor shape years ago- not sure if it is regularly maintained. I personally like Lewis Creek. Merced Lake is not that scenic but it does have a very shady, woodsy campground. I did the cross-trail (JMT to Echo Valley) this year- OK condition but does go through an old burn and you can loose it if you do not pay attention. Personally I would just go down the Merced and camp at LYV. It is supposed to be a hot August this year, so be careful about water sources- lots of them dry up.

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Re: Routing My Yosemite Trip

Post by HappyHiker11 » Mon Jul 15, 2019 4:42 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Mon Jul 15, 2019 2:04 pm
Well, I wrote a detailed answer to your questions, but lost by accidently deleting the HST web page.
Awwww... I would have loved to read it in all it's detail. But I do appreciate you circling back for the brief re-cap version in light of the loss. :-) I've lost posts numerous times to to that same thing.
Wandering Daisy wrote:
Mon Jul 15, 2019 2:04 pm
So here is a shorter answer. Route to McClure Lake that I show is on moderately steep slabs. Traverse to the pass south of Erheart Peak is steep and exposed. Off trail routes in the Nelson Lake area are gnarly- tricky route finding, navigation and small cliffs and brush. The trail from Sunrise Camp down the Cathedral Fork was in poor shape years ago- not sure if it is regularly maintained. I personally like Lewis Creek. Merced Lake is not that scenic but it does have a very shady, woodsy campground. I did the cross-trail (JMT to Echo Valley) this year- OK condition but does go through an old burn and you can loose it if you do not pay attention. Personally I would just go down the Merced and camp at LYV. It is supposed to be a hot August this year, so be careful about water sources- lots of them dry up.
Ok. After reading this and having a moment to look at all that a little closer and the mileage on those sections. I think I'll avoid going up towards Nelson Lake area and head down Lewis Creek. It ends up being about the same distance either way really. And needing to make good time that day, it's probably best to move it on down a trail.

If we keep to the original idea then and dropped down onto the Gallison / Bernice bench and picked up the trail from there... Personally I'd really like to camp in that area a second night, but that puts a big and long day right before getting to 1/2 Dome on Thursday. Would Bernice to 1/2 Dome base-camp be feasible for a day of hiking? Or should we realistically consider setting camp somewhere between Bernice and the mouth of Lewis Creek to split up the miles better? I'm sure there is plenty of acceptable spots along that section to pull up when we're ready.

I was just trying to account for slower off trail travel those 2 days. And it would make me sad to rush off the Gallison / Bernice area. But if it's needed to connect the distances in the time more comfortably it will have to be.

Since you mentioned being aware of water sources drying up. I was thinking we should be ok up to Thousand Island Lake and through Rush Creek drainage. Do these areas go dry typically? We should still be ok to find spots somewhere when camping under Maclure and around Bernice. Then down Lewis Creek and Merced Lake should both be able to provide water access?

I expected that connector trail from Merced Lake to the JMT to be fairly dry all the way across and was aware it had burned. So load up before climbing up past Echo Creek from the Merced was my thought assuming the tiny lake/pond and creek mid-way across the ridge might be dry.

I know you mentioned camping down in LYV and I've never been through there. I've only been to the top of the Mist trail and back down to the Valley floor. But I had been thinking of cutting across to use Sunrise Creek to camp along somewhere near the clouds rest split off or so. Is Sunrise Creek a viable source even in hot summers, or is this why LYV is your recommendation?

We are hoping to exit N out over Clouds Rest through Sunrise Lakes and Cathedral Lakes as time allows instead of the main valley floor. The valley floor is our back-up option if we end up holding over near 1/2 Dome an extra night and don't want to push the miles to Tenaya Lake or Cathedral Lakes.

Thank you again for the help. I've read lots of information you've shared previously researching a few trips and really appreciate all the time and knowledge the group here is willing to share.

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Re: Routing My Yosemite Trip

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Jul 15, 2019 5:09 pm

In dry years, Sunrise Creek has gone dry very late in the year. The reason I suggest going down the Merced is that it is more scenic and water is not an issue. Although it is crowded, going down to the valley, particularly via the Mist Trail, is really a treat, however you would have to pay for a bus back to Tuolumne (I think YARTS bus). I think the YARTS bus goes all the way to Mammoth Lakes. You would be able to sleep in the backpacker's campground the day you got to the valley. Your backpack permit is your automatic "reservation" and it is $6 per person.

Does your Half Dome permit specify limits on where you could camp? There are some different regulations for camping at LYV. It is a very large and crowded campsite but has water. There are nice but more limited campsites on Sunrise Creek. You should call the rangers and make sure your permit allows you to camp at LYV if that is your plan. It may not.

The trail down Lewis Creek is pretty good and you can make good time, so it would only take you a few more hours if you stayed at Bernice Lake. Merced Lake to LYV is pretty quick. As for elevation gains, if you cross over to the JMT you go uphill and if you drop to LYV you have to do more gain to Half Dome. It is a toss up. It would take you longer to go to Sunrise campsites from Merced Lake than to LYV.

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Re: Routing My Yosemite Trip

Post by HappyHiker11 » Tue Jul 16, 2019 12:45 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Mon Jul 15, 2019 5:09 pm
...however you would have to pay for a bus back to Tuolumne (I think YARTS bus). I think the YARTS bus goes all the way to Mammoth Lakes. You would be able to sleep in the backpacker's campground the day you got to the valley. Your backpack permit is your automatic "reservation" and it is $6 per person.
- coordinating travel post hike will not be an issue. We will have a SPOT tracker with us and have someone picking us up where we come off trail. Whether that be the valley floor or along Tioga Road (Tenaya Lk / Cathedral Lks TH). Yes it is shorter exit from 1/2 Dome out the valley floor. But if we can successfully get to and summit 1/2 Dome early on Thursday for our permit. If we had the energy, we were thinking of using the remaining time to go over Clouds Rest and out to Tioga Road since we would be heading out that way by vehicle. Keep it a Yosemite high-east country 1/2 loop after coming up over Donahue Pass.
Wandering Daisy wrote:
Mon Jul 15, 2019 5:09 pm
Does your Half Dome permit specify limits on where you could camp? There are some different regulations for camping at LYV. It is a very large and crowded campsite but has water. There are nice but more limited campsites on Sunrise Creek. You should call the rangers and make sure your permit allows you to camp at LYV if that is your plan. It may not.
- Since we are hiking into Yosemite from an outside TH, the only way to get a 1/2 Dome permit was via the lottery. So our permit is the standard "day-hike" permit you get for going from Happy Isle TH on the valley floor. Not the "back-packer permit to LYV over-night" one.

I believe since we enter Yosemite via a legit out-side TH permit, we are governed by the standard Yosemite rules for camping at LYV that any permit not issued for that would have to follow. Like starting from Rafferty Creek TH or Sunrise Lakes TH. Meaning from my understanding, we shouldn't camp in LYV. But I could be wrong on this. A call to a ranger could clear it up I'm sure.
- ^ - This is why I was primarily looking at the Mered ---> JMT connector and staying along Sunrise Creek. To save a few miles and the climb back up to camp outside LYV and be legit to the permit system.
Wandering Daisy wrote:
Mon Jul 15, 2019 5:09 pm
In dry years, Sunrise Creek has gone dry very late in the year. The reason I suggest going down the Merced is that it is more scenic and water is not an issue. Although it is crowded, going down to the valley, particularly via the Mist Trail, is really a treat,
- I know it's your best guess for conditions this year... but Sunrise Creek in middle-end of August. Is that considered very late in the year? Or is that more of a mid-September concern for dry years? For the southern Sierra's Iv'e hiked, it seemed August was still pretty reliable and fades into Sept.

- Similar to the Merced--->JMT connector. Would I be correct in playing it safe and assuming N or the Clouds Rest summit over to
the first Sunrise Lake should be a pretty dry section in end of August as well? It would be nice to know whether to count on any water in that section if we do 1/2 Dome Thursday morning and take our packs over Clouds Rest on Thursday afternoon. If we pooped out and decide to break camp after 2 summits, are we likely to find no water around this time on this section? Again, this is obviously your best guess this year. And I plan to call Yosemite Rangers for a trail update prior to leaving to get my permit for Agnew Meadows.

- The Mist Trail was INCREDIBLE in early June of 2017 when I was training for the HST!!! It really felt like one of the closest trails I hiked to what some of the more remote HST sections were like that year. Including all the water!!! Wading, not hiking, the Mirror Lake Loop was a lot of fun too that spring. Complete solitude from the eastern-talus field all the way around. We saw 1 person split up Snow Creek and that was it. We went up Mist and back down 1/2 of it, then the lower part of JMT with my oldest son all cozy and napping under the rain cover of his carrier. It was great training and some spectacular hiking... but almost overwhelmingly crowded. Still enjoyable to see though and a lot of fun despite the amount of people.
Wandering Daisy wrote:
Mon Jul 15, 2019 5:09 pm
The trail down Lewis Creek is pretty good and you can make good time, so it would only take you a few more hours if you stayed at Bernice Lake. Merced Lake to LYV is pretty quick. As for elevation gains, if you cross over to the JMT you go uphill and if you drop to LYV you have to do more gain to Half Dome. It is a toss up. It would take you longer to go to Sunrise campsites from Merced Lake than to LYV.
- Thank you. Glad to know that Lewis ---> Merced and over to LYV or Moraine Dome is possible to make good time and that section sounds possible then for a day's hiking. Lewis Creek on the map just looked like a long 4 miles I guess :-) Seems like an early start down Lewis. Lunch and a swim at Merced Lake. Then on to the rest of the trip.

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