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Re: Route advice: 3 day loop starting w/ Nelson Lake

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Route advice: 3 day loop starting w/ Nelson Lake
July 28, 2015 11:13AM
Just got a permit for Nelson Lake in late August and thought I'd tap the wealth of knowledge on this site for some route advice.

We're planning to camp at Nelson the first night, and are looking for recommendations for turning this into a great 3-day loop, since it seems like there are a number of options.

A few criteria:
-We're looking to cap each day's mileage at 8 (lower is fine, too), as there are a few less-experienced backpackers in our group. We want them to have enough fun that they'll do it again!
-We'd like to keep the cross-country challenge level in the relatively straightforward category, in terms of both navigation and terrain. We've done some off-trail day hiking but this will be our first off-trail backpack.Steep climbs are fine but we'd prefer not to go beyond easier Class 2.

Looking forward to hearing some ideas. Thanks!
Re: Route advice: 3 day loop starting w/ Nelson Lake
July 28, 2015 11:23AM
I just got back from Nelson the other day! Was planning on doing a Nelson --> Cathedral but woke up late the next morning and didn't have enough time to make the loop...so can't help you there but the "xc" travel from elizabeth to Nelson is pretty straightforward. I would say there is a trail almost all the way till the last quarter mile. I'll post a few pics later tonight when I get home.

-Kevin
Re: Route advice: 3 day loop starting w/ Nelson Lake
July 28, 2015 04:42PM
This was the thread that inspired my originally planned trip

http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4590

Instead of following their route, I decided to descend down to the valley and use the traditional means of getting to Nelson (following echo creek).



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/28/2015 04:45PM by KevinD.
avatar Re: Route advice: 3 day loop starting w/ Nelson Lake
July 28, 2015 08:06PM
You can go in pretty much any direction from Nelson and you will find all sorts of good stuff. Its kinda like when Dorothy first meets the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz...

For example...

You could go up to Reymann, then east a bit, then north towards Johnson Peak, and work back to Tuolumne. Chick-on and I did this a few years ago...trip report here.

You could go down the creek draining Nelson a bit and then head back up to Matthes...which is the reverse of what we did on the aforementioned trip.

You could go to Matthes and then head up the creeklet that feeds into Matthes, east of the Matthes Crest, and near the top head on over to the Echo Peaks area, and then work north down towards Cathedral Peak and then southwest back down to Upper Cathedral Lake.

Or, from Matthes, go west and then north, past Echo Lake and then on to Cathedral Lake.

So many choices, so little time. I would suggest going to Matthes Lake from Nelson. Its due west, and the short granite upslope that you will have climb just east of Matthes will test your calves, but it is doable. The west side of that slope is much easier. Matthes is awesome. If the weather is good (clear, no t-storms) I would go up from Matthes towards Echo Peaks and around down to Cathedral Lake. Very doable and amazing views. And if there are t-storms in the afternoon, stay lower and go west from Matthes Lake, past Echo Lake and up to Cathedral Lakes thataway.

And while you are there look for the bighorn sheep that they just introduced into the Cathedral Range!

More detailed info on routes can be provided if you want.
Re: Route advice: 3 day loop starting w/ Nelson Lake
July 29, 2015 10:47AM
Wow, thanks for the great advice. Your suggested route sounds fantastic, and I'd definitely appreciate details on the xc routes between those points.

Also, where would you suggest camping the 2nd night? Matthes looks amazing but it seems like it would be a pretty short day from Nelson. Maybe we could do a short day to Matthes, set up camp, and do some exploring of the area, then a long final day back to TM? Or is there a more even way to split up the days?
avatar Re: Route advice: 3 day loop starting w/ Nelson Lake
August 04, 2015 05:48PM
So your first challenge will be the cross country up to the notch above Elizabeth...but there is a use trail that is pretty easy to follow, and it drops down into the meadows on the south side. Once down to the first meadow its about a mile or so before you hang your left and head up to Nelson.

As you head to Nelson, you will be able to look back and see the ridge that divides the drainage you just walked down and the Matthes Lake drainage. Looking at the topo map the wall that you have to climb over to get to Matthes is due east from the outlet of Nelson, about 1 mile. As mentioned above, its steep but clean granite, about 400 feet of vertical. It is definitely a calf stretcher but not a "climb"...just steep granite. And the view from the top will be well worth it, and its less steep going down to Matthes.

Your idea of setting up camp is a good one. The go explore. you can go anyway you want, but I would recommend going upstream from Matthes to the Cockscomb area, then over to Echo Peaks, and back. The view of Matthes Crest from its north end is spectacular. And that whole area is wide open granite, so just go where your feet take you.

Day 3 you can zip around the south side of Matthes, either up closer to the rock through the little saddle just west of the lake, or down the stream...both are good. Then work past Echo Lake and up to the creek to Cathedral Pass and back to Tuolumne.
Re: Route advice: 3 day loop starting w/ Nelson Lake
August 13, 2015 02:31PM
Thanks - really fantastic info, and we're getting pretty excited for this trip and already planning the next one, since it seems like there will be lots left to explore in this part of the park.

A few questions:

Quote
Bearproof
Looking at the topo map the wall that you have to climb over to get to Matthes is due east from the outlet of Nelson, about 1 mile.

I assume you mean due west? smiling smiley

I've seen mention in a few other posts that others have missed the notch in the saddle from Elizabeth to Nelson and ended up too high, and also that it can be tricky to know where to turn left on the way down from the saddle to get to Nelson. Your description makes it sound easy, but is there anything else we need to know to hit these spots right? I'll have an iPhone w/ Gaia GPS as a nav backup so we can always just keep an eye on that even if it is cheating.

Thanks again for the advice. Will make sure to post a report with photos.
avatar Re: Route advice: 3 day loop starting w/ Nelson Lake
August 13, 2015 04:49PM
East...west...you're getting picky now?

Yes, I meant west Pounding head on desk. Good catch!

Other advice...so a buddy and I took our middle and high school aged boys on this trip (to Matthes from Tuolumne, that is) about 10 or so years ago, with the idea that we would give them the maps and let them do the route finding to Matthes. Turns out they started up the ridge way too early, which I think is what most people usually do when they are looking for a route in the backcountry...take the "turn" too soon and/or go too high. I know those are my usual mistakes. So the only other thing that I would say is be patient...its probably a little farther and a little more downhill than you think before you make that turn into Nelson.

This video (here) from a few years ago might help further wet your group's appetite...these guys took a shortcut from Elizabeth to Matthes, so don't freak out about the first 6 minutes or so. And up and around Echo Peaks there is lots of easy cross country...you don't have to climb any of the peaks if you don't want to.

Have fun, be safe!
avatar Re: Route advice: 3 day loop starting w/ Nelson Lake
August 03, 2015 07:19AM
Matthes is awesome.

Another option from Nelson is to go downstream from Nelson all the way to the Sunrise-Echo Valley trail, then you can go to Merced Lake, and loop back up to Tuolumne Meadows. Merced Lake is designated-campground only, so I'd plan somewhere else to camp, Babcock isn't too far from Merced and is nice.
Re: Route advice: 3 day loop starting w/ Nelson Lake
August 17, 2015 04:23PM
Thanks everyone for the great advice. I've seen in some other threads that others have had trouble finding the right route up to the saddle heading from Nelson to Matthes, and sometimes having to descend or traverse to find a better route.

Looking at this map, it looks like the least-steep route is to follow the gully w/ rocks and scattered trees, seen in the middle of this view.

And then, when it ends, it looks like turning slightly to the right to continue to follow the gentlest slope - basically following the yellow-shaded path out of the gully up to the saddle, as seen here.

Is that more or less right? Should we aim for that gully to start heading up, or is it better to start on steeper-but-clean granite at a different spot?
avatar Re: Route advice: 3 day loop starting w/ Nelson Lake
August 17, 2015 06:46PM
Yep, that's the saddle to cross over. As far as details...I can't help you. Like most uphill cross country routes, you will probably go a little left, then right, then right some more, then back to the left, etc. etc. There are probably many "correct" ways to get up there.
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