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Vernel Fall, Merced River, Yosemite National Park

The Moon is Waxing Gibbous (92% of Full)


Obelisk Lake

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Obelisk Lake
December 10, 2008 06:52AM
I'm considering going to Lake Merced, and than dayhiking out to Obelisk Lake assuming I can find it. I'm fairly new to backpacking (three 3 day trips alone to El Cap. and LYV over the last month). I was wondering if anyone has done this trip, and what route they took. There are a couple mentioned, crossing the merced river south of the ranger station and bushwhacking up Gray Peak Fork, and another crossing further upstream and scrambling up granite slabs in a straight line for Obelisk Lake. If they have been there, regardless of the route, whether they think the snow that's forecast for this weekend might be problematic for a non-climber.


avatar Re: Obelisk Lake
December 11, 2008 06:35AM
I'm not surprised about no replies on this one....
The one on Half Dome.... maybe everyone is in hibernation or thinking about the holidays?!?

Anyway, the best info on Obelisk is here:


I think it says what I would recommend... give youself a day for it from
Lake Merced... unless you are experienced xcountry hiker....
Re: Obelisk Lake
December 11, 2008 10:48AM
Yeah, the yosemite explorer url you pointed me to was actually what got me interested in obelisk lake from the start. Pretty good information. That's where I got the idea for the gray peak fork. One of the reponses to that description was that it might be easier to cross at some intake pipe and go up the granite slabs from the southwestern end of the lake. Anyway, I'm fighting a cold all of a sudden and it looks like yosemite is going to get snow this weekend, so I might put it off for a week. I don't mind checking out my skills in the snow, but probably not while it's falling, and certainly not unless I feel 100% healthy. Did sign up for a Sierra Club winter camping school (orientation and a couple of short trips). If it's wasn't too late for sign-up and they find a slot for me, I'll learn some new stuff, and actually have some company. Have you ever tried to talk normal people into sleeping in the snow?
avatar Re: Obelisk Lake
December 11, 2008 11:43AM
>Have you ever tried to talk normal people into sleeping in the snow?

I've tried... You learn to give up pretty quickly...

From what I know you have just started backpacking. You need to be
really careful in the winter. You can get into some serious trouble and
end up ka-poot. You really should go with someone in winter.
Hypothermia is a real issue, not to mention it could dump 4 feet of snow
on you... and w/o snowshoes you could end up stuck...

It's good that you signed up for the school. They will probably mention
all the dangers, etc. etc.

Be safe

Spring is just around the corner...
avatar Re: Obelisk Lake
December 11, 2008 12:50PM
From Mars,
Even after taking classes you should only go into the back country with an experienced winter camper. There are so many things that can cause you to die that you won't learn them all and even if they have been taught to you you will not remember them all let alone heed them under the pressure of being out there solo for the first time in adverse conditions.

Winter gear and summer gear are two different sets. Be ready to spend $500 to $1000 for winter gear.

If you insist on a solo snow camping experience then start small and short. Snowshoe or ski up from Badger Pass on Glacier Point Road to Bridalveil Campground and spend the night there. You will be able to get the full snow camping experience without being stuck in the back country. Another trip would be to go up 120 from Crane Flat to the junction of the road that goes down to Tamarack Flat Campground and go a quarter mile or so down that road and pitch your camp there. Again you won't be far from being able to bail safely.

There may not be a lot of snow with the system that is coming in now but you never know how much snow will fall. In the past 4 feet of snow has dropped in Yosemite high country in August killing quite a few people.

Snow doesn't even have to be butt deep to kill. The cold will do it in no time.


The bottom line is: Make each trip one that will let you do another.

Old Dude
Re: Obelisk Lake
December 12, 2008 07:33AM
Yeah, you're right. I read the article you posted the link for. I'm postponing the trip this weekend to let the storm system move through. Probably try next weekend to get out to Merced Lake. The equipment purchases have been breaking the bank, but as the article pointed out, this gentleman died maybe a mile from his car, so I don't fret too much about the cost (though like any hardworking stiff, that's always an issue). When I was going through my skydiving phase a few years back, a friend and fellow skydiver got into a jam and needed to literally cut his reserve chute (long story) away so he could safely deploy his main chute. The reserve opened by accident and was all tangled( a cameraman next to him got his video cam caught on the reserve handle). Well, though he had excellent equipment, top notch, the knife he carried, that he never thought he'd use, was purchased at the flea market. It broke in his hand as he tried to cut through the reserve chute's risers/lines. Fortunately he just enough lift so that he wouldn't die (though at the speed he was moving he was prepared to). He did break his back however, and though he can walk, the doctor strenuously warned him not to skydive anymore. He does, but that's another story.

As you noted however, experience is a little harder to come by. Though I grew up in Connecticut, and am no stranger to the cold, pitching a tent in the snow and cooking etc. is new to me. So if I go out to yosemite and it looks too imposing, I might just grab a campsite within easy distance of a quick getaway if anything goes wrong.

Thanks for the advice.

Oh, any suggestions on snowpants. My mountain hardware mesa pants are lightweight, though I have north face fleece pants and thermal longjohns to put underneath, along with some high gaitors. I also have sierra designs hurricane pants, these are mainly for rain I think, but they keep out the wet stuff and have built-in gaitors. I have Burton snowboard pants as well, but those are pretty heavy, though sturdy.
avatar Re: Obelisk Lake
December 12, 2008 08:47AM
I just remembered this book:
"98.6 Degrees - The art of Keeping your Ass Alive!"
It's pretty good ... just to give you more of an insight... one of the
chapter titles is:
"The most common way to push up daisies in the outdoors"
The bottom line in the book is be prepared.

I actually like the "Death in Yosemite" one alot too... Not that I am
morbid or anything like that... just try to use it as a tool to learn
what not to do. (although I still do plenty of suspect solo "feats"...)

Anyway, it's obvious at this point we just want you to be safe and
enjoy yourself... you have ALOT of the park left to explore...
avatar Re: Obelisk Lake
December 12, 2008 02:39PM
bill-e-g wrote:

> I just remembered this book:
> "98.6 Degrees - The art of Keeping your Ass Alive!"


avatar Re: Obelisk Lake
December 12, 2008 10:44AM

Thanks for the information on Obelisk Lake. My plans for a solo trip to Yosemite in 2009 are already made for other trails but I'm thinking about doing the Red Peak/Clark Range loop in 2010 beginning at Mono Meadow off Glacier Point Road. Obelisk Lake might be worth adding to the loop although for me it will turn a 5-nighter into a 6-nighter. More food and used toilet paper to lug around!

This one trip per year budget from the east coast stinks.


Re: Obelisk Lake
December 12, 2008 02:28PM
Hey tomdisco,

The link that bill posted, http://yosemiteexplorer.com/trails/obelisk-lake, is the primary one I got my info from. Good stuff, but if I get there I'll update this posting with whatever I find. Of course that assumes that I get there. I won't be going this weekend as planned because there's going to be a 3 day storm system sitting on yosemite, starting tonight or tommorrow. Plus it doesn't sound like an easy hike regardless of the weather, even from merced lake, and particularly in winter conditions for someone of my limited winter camping experience. But I'm optimistic. About a month ago I ventured up to Clouds Rest in the snow (camp was dry), and I have to say, it's a whole different world in the winter. The hard edges of the sierras seem softened out and serene in a very majestic kind of way. Like walking into a royal chamber or cathedral, but more important.

These are just a couple of shots I took. If the second photo comes out, I believe the highest peak in it is mount clark, obelisk lake sits at it's base on the other side from this picture; which is from clouds rest.



Post Edited (12-12-08 15:56)
Re: Obelisk Lake
December 13, 2008 11:57AM
Hi Bill,

I'm going to check out this book. Looks pretty interesting. As you can see I changed my mind about attempting obelisk lake or merced lake for that matter this weekend. Too much weather right now. I'll wait for the system to pass. Another issue is that from the topo map the route to obelisk lake is steep enough at one point (32 degrees of inclination) to make me think about avalanche risks. I don't know if they'll get enough snow for that though.
avatar Re: Obelisk Lake
December 13, 2008 01:12PM

I worry about you a little bit. It would seem that you have little experience snow camping in the high Sierra. Obelisk Lake appears to be a significant challenge for any winter hiker, given the fact it's essentially off-trail hiking, very steep in sections, and subject to unexpected severe weather this time of year. Mike provided some advice that might be worth heeding until you have some real experience with these high altitude winter conditions.

Sorry to sound like a willy-nilly here but one would hope you take to heart the experience of the guy who got snowed in at Red Devil Lake and had to be choppered out.

Many years ago we got snowed out backpacking overnight at 5,000' between Vernal and Nevada Falls (you could camp there then) on our way to Merced Lake. We had just returned from a 6-month deployment to Japan and were chomping at the bit to go backpacking in Yosemite. The weather forecast was beautiful, the climb to our camp site was on a gorgeous day, and we retired for the night under cloudless skies. We had been spoiled by excellent conditions on several previous trips to the park. It started raining at 3:00 AM. When we woke again around 6:00 AM we had nearly 10" of heavy wet snow still coming down hard. It was a slippery and treachrous hike back to the Valley. Time of year: mid-May! It happens.


Re: Obelisk Lake
December 14, 2008 12:22PM
Thanks for your concern Tom. Actually I don't take too many chances, except those that just happen to be part of the activity. I've flown airplanes since 1986, and though they're safe and trustworthy, there's still a certain amount of risk that I except as part of the sport. Snowboarding down a mountainside, the same thing. Even my short time getting a skydiving certificate. But your point is well taken considering that there are two objectives here, one to get some experience camping in the snow, and the other to get to obelisk lake. Mike's idea to venture out from Badger Pass to the Bridalveil campgrounds sounds like a good idea, since it also gives me an opportunity try out camping in the snow; i.e. how to stay dry, will a canister stove work, pitching a 3 season tent in the snow, cothing requirements (how much is too much) etc. Though I was thinking of Dewey or Crocker Point vs Bridalveil campgrounds. but I suppose the Bridalveil campgrounds would be good as well. Could bring my snowboard and get some boarding in over at Badger Pass.
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