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Re: Making the most of a Dec visit

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Making the most of a Dec visit
October 30, 2015 07:02AM
Hi, What are some adventurous day hikes or backcountry ski routes (long, hard, difficult ) you could suggest for a first time visitor in december? (i.e. we're coming in Dec and are happy to take whatever the weather throws at us, either hiking or skiing). We're fine with bush navigation, scrambling and bush bashing, but are happy to take the marked trails too - so long as we get to do somethign a little bit challenging with some great views. We're hoping to have 3 full days to do different things (am definitely hoping for snow!). I saw that the Yosemite Valley to Glacier point route is closed in Winter - is it simply too slippery with high exposure, poor route finding or something? Are there any good peaks we can hike, even in Winter from the valley? How are the daylight hours in Winter? Am grateful for any advice! THanks!
Re: Making the most of a Dec visit
October 30, 2015 09:39AM
Your best bets for December will be hikes from Yosemite Valley. The trails are typically snow-free to about 6000-6500' unless there was a recent cold storm. Going higher than that may require snowshoes to avoid endless postholing. Some good mosty snow-free trails are:

- Yosemite Falls trail to the top of the falls, then continue to Yosemite Point or Eagle Peak
- Snow Creek trail to the large flat area at about 6500', which has good views of Half Dome, Clouds Rest, and Tenaya Canyon
- The Mist/JMT trail to Little Yosemite Valley Depending on conditions you may need to take the Winter Route--there will be signs and gates to keep you away from potentially dangerous areas (the Vernal Mist Trail and the JMT above Clark Point). You could continue towards Half Dome (the shoulder makes a nice and safe destination) or Panorama Point from here to make a long day.
- The Four Mile Trail to Union Point. To answer your question: The trail crosses some dangerous avalanche zones, especially just past Union Point and just below Glacier Point. Depending on how much snow there is, the danger could just be that the trail is icy/slippery or that there's a danger of avalanche due to recent heavy snow. Sometimes you'll see many footprints heading past the closed gates...

There are many off-trail scrambles in the valley that have been discussed on this forum, but most of them are much more dangerous in winter due to ice and snow.

For all these trails I'd recommend ice traction devices (such as Kathoola micro-spikes) since you will could encounter ice along the trails even if they are open and mostly snow-free.

If there isn't much snow or if you are OK with walking several miles in snowshoes, you might consider some nice longer semi-loops (all in the 14-18 mile range):
- Up Snow Creek, across to Yosemite Falls via North Dome, then down to the Valley via Yosemite Falls
- Up the Four Mile Trail (if passable) then down to Happy Isles via the Panorama Trail
- Up the Old Big Oak Flat Road Trail, across the top of El Cap, past (over?) Eagle Peak, then down Yosemite Falls

All of the above have been done by people on this forum and there should be trip reports--even with winter conditions.

Outside the valley:
- The Old Big Oak Flat Road trail leads to the top of El Capitan--a long day hike, but there are nice views short of El Cap, and this trail doesn't get as much traffic as the other trails.
- The trail to Rancheria Falls in the Hetch Hetchy area is usually snow-free and makes for a nice 12-ish mile out-and-back
- If there is a good bit of snow both the Merced and Tuolumne Sequoia Groves can be quite nice, but short, strolls.

December may be a bit early for there to be much snow for skiing, but if we do get lucky, there are several excellent ski and snowshoe routes out of the Badger Pass area. I'd recommend Dewey Point if you're OK with backcountry skiing or snowshoeing, or taking the Glacier Point road to at least "Clark View" (just past the Mono Meadow trailhead) if you just want to crank along in groomed tracks. Badger Pass rents cross-country skis and shoes; they also have a small-ish downhill ski area. And out and back to Glacier Point makes for a long day, but you can get overnight accommodations at the ski lodge at Glacier Point if it's in operation.

El Capitan, Eagle Peak, and North Dome are probably your best bets for "peaks" in winter. A strong hiker could probably do Clouds Rest in a day from the valley. With proper mountaineering gear you could of course go anywhere, but that would camping overnight in the backcountry. The days in December will be short--maybe 9-10 hours of sun, but of course less if you are in a valley or canyon. This may limit your ability to do some of the longer day trips here--it will generally be below freezing if the sun isn't up.

Keep an eye on this forum for updates as winter approaches, and let us know how your trip goes!
Re: Making the most of a Dec visit
October 30, 2015 03:31PM
The XC ski out to Ostrander is a good one.
avatar Re: Making the most of a Dec visit
November 01, 2015 04:31PM
Daylight hours at that time of year will be from about 7Am to 5PM. Conditions are sooooooo variable depending on the weather that we get between now and then. Generally, though, the south side of the Valley walls will be cold and likely icy, the north side stays dryer and melts off faster with the sun that it gets. Like Basilbop says...there are lots of good routes but be sure to check as you get closer to the time so that weather and trail conditions can be as up to date as possible.

And just to give you something to look forward to...here is a report from a few years ago...a two night, three day trip out of the Valley in February...click here.
Re: Making the most of a Dec visit
December 05, 2015 01:02AM
Thanks heaps! Am really looking forward to it - will have to get us a map asap so we can actually look theherse tours up a bit better. Any advice on where to find the best weather forecasts and snow situation in the park?
Re: Making the most of a Dec visit
December 05, 2015 10:48PM
Here are some sites for weather forecasts in the park. Just be aware that conditions can change quickly in the Sierra. Snow amounts in the forecasts are not always accurate and don't give how much is on the ground. You can get the snow depth for Badger Pass on it's website http://www.yosemitepark.com/DailySnowReport.aspx but they won't be listed until they open.

Badger Pass: http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lon=-119.66287&lat=37.66121#.VIYTSYU6yV9
Wawona: http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lon=-119.65966&lat=37.53641#.VmPZkXuIRen
Yosemite Valley: http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lat=37.740440263399826&lon=-119.57000088867187#.UqacZYU6yV9
Tuolumne Meadows: http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lon=-119.35341&lat=37.87431#.VmPZ_3uIRen



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/05/2015 10:55PM by parklover.
avatar Re: Making the most of a Dec visit
December 06, 2015 11:50AM
Re: Making the most of a Dec visit
December 07, 2015 08:39AM
TY eeek. I didn't have that site.
avatar Re: Making the most of a Dec visit
December 06, 2015 05:54PM
Parklover has it right as far as the best weather sources. It looks like we are going to be in a cold and wet weather pattern generally for the next couple of weeks, which typically means rain/snow for a few days and then clear for a few days.

Regarding the rain and snow...keep in mind that Yosemite Valley is at 4000 ft elevation, while the recommended areas listed in previous posts (as well as Parklover's Badger Pass, Tuolumne Meadows and Wawona weather listings will give you the weather at elevations between 7000 and 8000 ft, in other words about a 10 to 15 degree Fahrenheit difference (colder) than the Valley. So rain in the Valley report with these cold storms means snow at the higher elevations where you would be traveling.

One last thing...as expected (thankfully after our recent dry years) the Tioga Road and Glacier point Road past Badger Pass are closed to cars, so your logical routes will be out of the Valley (generally straight up to the rim) or out of Badger Pass. basilbop listed the good ones above.

Have fun and let us know how it goes!
Re: Making the most of a Dec visit
December 07, 2015 08:38AM
Just so AdventurousSwede doesn't get confused. Wawona is the same elevation as Yosemite Valley and you had it with Badger and T Meadows as being areas between 7,000 and 8,000 feet. I included it because the temperatures there can be slightly different than the Valley and also he is not familiar with the park.
avatar Re: Making the most of a Dec visit
December 07, 2015 01:41PM
You are right...good catch!
Re: Making the most of a Dec visit
December 07, 2015 09:24AM
The XC ski out to Dewey Point is another good one!
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