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Re: Chick-On Point and Mount Basilbop

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Chick-On Point and Mount Basilbop
November 05, 2015 08:25PM
(Note: This trip report is from October 22-25, 2015. Yes, I'm falling behind...)

JKW, the Pink One, and I were fortunate to be able to get away from work and such for an extended weekend backpack trip in Yosemite. And, for the first time in a long time, my schedule and theirs aligned so we could start the trail together--no hiking-by-headlamp required.

The recent rains had made the various Yosemite Valley waterfalls more impressive than they have been for quite awhile.



After reaching the top of Nevada Fall, we entered Little Yosemite Valley, where we had lunch. Soon thereafter we were once more in the remains of the Meadow Fire.



Although the fire had scorched the lush forests of Little Yosemite Valley and Lost Valley, the views of the surrounding granite cliffs have improved.



Past Lost Valley, we crossed the Merced on the "Twin Bridges" (of which there are at least three in Yosemite...) and started the climb up and around Bunnel Cascade.



In the distance we could see that the highest peaks had a slight dusting of snow on them.



We left the trail just after its descent to Echo Valley began.



At this point our adventure began: we started the brisk climb towards Clark Canyon.



Behind us in the distance we could see some of the impressive domes of Echo Creek and the Cathedral Crest.



Near a nice flat granite slab next to Clark Creek we filled up on water--our destination was a bit farther away, and not near water.



We found a nice campsite near the top of a dome overlooking the Bunnel Cascade area just as the sun sat.





The next morning, we of course enjoyed pancakes for breakfast despite the long day we had ahead of us.



After packing we started our ascent of Clark Canyon, which at least at its lower end is fairly steep. Fortunately the terrain was mostly easy to navigate.



We eventually reached the first hanging valley in the canyon where a small meadow offered some relief from the ascent.



On old maps the "Mt. Clark Trail" crosses this meadow, but except for a questionable blaze on a tree, we found no signs of it. At the head of this small valley we opted to attack the headwall, which consisted of large talus and eventually steep cliffs, directly.



There was enough ice on this north-facing cliff to present navigational challenges, and it took awhile to find a safe-ish route to the top. Once there, the terrain eased quite a bit.



Not too much father, we caught our first glimpses of Mount Clark.



Soon we reached a small lake, just as we started to encounter patches of snow.



We continued up canyon to a second, smaller lake, near the headwall of the canyon--which effectively was Mt. Clark itself.



From here, we had to climb through some large talus; fortunately most of it was solid.



We eventually had to climb out of the canyon, onto the ridge that separates it from the Obelisk Lake area. The terrain on this ridge consisted of looser rocks and gravel--and a good bit more snow.



Of course, at several points we had views of Half Dome and other prominent high points around us.



Clouds started to form above us, and combined with our higher elevation and the snow around us resulted in somewhat chilly conditions, although nothing abnormal for late October.





We eventually reached the top of the ridge where we could look down onto Obelisk Lake, a lake that JKW and I had not seen in perhaps 15 years.



Unfortunately the direct descent route to the lake didn't look "do-able", so we instead had to traverse the blocky ridge a bit towards the south before we could descend to the lakes below.



We eventually saw the smaller lake above Obelisk--and the smooth granite saddle to its east that looked ideal for camping.



From this ridge we could in fact see most of the Sierra Crest, including Mt. Ritter, Banner Peak, and the Minarets poking out from behind the Blue Lake Pass area. Farther south were other significant peaks we could not identify.



The clouds had built up enough that the evening sun didn't provide much warmth at all.


Yeah, that's also Half Dome...

At another low saddle on the ridge we looked down into Clark Canyon for one last time before dropping to the lake we had chosen for our second night's camp.



At this point we were close enough to Mt. Clark that if we had a few more hours of sunlight--or were perhaps a few months earlier--we would have dropped our packs and made a dash for the summit. The limited daylight and lingering snow and ice convinced us to skip the peak this time.



While descending, we did see the world-famous Yosemite landmark "Chick-on Point", the proud bird perched near the summit of Mt. Clark.



The descent itself was down a sandy chute; the only challenge was keeping sand out of my shoes (the others had gaiters..)



As we neared the lake we confirmed our decision to camp at the saddle above it--the views looked very promising.



Before heading to the campsite we checked out a small tarn above the lake.



JKW had gone ahead to the campsite and was stretching after the day's climbing and scrambling.



Although we didn't get to see the sun set directly due to the ridge we had just descended, the sunset did not disappoint at all.











Despite the light snow and freezing overnight temperatures, it was in fact still boating season in the Sierra, so despite taking our time enjoying the sunrise and a nice breakfast, we couldn't just hang out at our wonderful campsite.



Our first destination was of course Obelisk Lake.



Heading down towards the lake we could see that other famous peak in the Clark region: Mount Basilbop.



We had to be careful in places due to still-frozen cascades.



Boating on the lake was quite enjoyable; it was too bad we couldn't have stayed there longer.



After putting away the boats, we headed down the Obelisk outlet creek to the place where it drops into Grey Peak Fork, stopping for lunch near a rather large erratic.



After lunch, we headed down the mostly open granite slabs to Grey Peak Fork itself.



This fork itself soon dropped precipitously into the Merced River, starting with a series of pools and cascades.





The old "Mt. Clark Trail" descends to the Merced River along a tree-lined chute west of Grey Peak Fork. We eventually picked up some trail-like sections, but they very well could have been game trails. In one place I found what could have been an old blaze... or not.



Eventually, after a lot of brush thrashing, we found a section of several obvious switchbacks--the only unquestionable signs of the old trail we'd see. Yes, there is a Backpacker Magazine article about a trail that goes all the way from the Merced River to Obelisk Lake, and it even has a convenient map--but it's clear that the article's author has never been there and only cribbed some beta from this site and its helpful comments. In any event, do not expect to find anything at all resembling a trail along this route; consider it 100% steep, bush-whacky, Chick-On-licious cross-country travel.



We lost the trail after the switchbacks, undoubtedly in the shrubbery that has been reclaiming the route for over a century.

Once at the bottom, the low Merced River was easily crossed.



Despite the late hour, we decided to add a bonus lake to our boating itinerary: Washburn Lake.



Fortunately, despite the setting sun the lake was calm.



After boating Washburn, we packed and headed quickly back towards Merced Lake. As we passed the ranger station area, it was all but dark--but the mostly-full moon helped illuminate the dark forest a bit.



We eventually reached a nice campsite, where we pitched our tent and cooked under the moonlight.





Our first task after breakfast and packing the next morning was boating our final lake: Merced Lake. The nearby camp had of course closed for the season, and was as it had been when JKW, M, and I had passed through several months ago.



The overcast sky kept the sun from warming us up, but the air was almost perfectly calm. The only thing disturbing the surface of the lake was us.



We boated to the far shore to touch the granite slabs, then headed towards the outlet.



After packing, we headed down the trail, but took a detour in Echo Valley, where we almost stumbled over a local resident.



We ran into another old section of trail--perhaps an abandoned detour that avoided the sometime soggy sections of Echo Valley...?



We stopped for lunch on the smooth granite near the trail's high point above Bunnel Cascade.





We looked back one last time at the high country before dropping down to the river.



Along the way we avoided stepping on another local resident.



The stroll through the valley below the "Twin Bridges" was nice.



As was our return though Lost Valley.



The recent rains had shifted the now-exposed sands in Little Yosemite Valley.





Even late in the year Nevada Fall was still impressive.



It was perhaps the last long trip of the year, and possibly one of the last boating excursions*, but we had a great time, saw some new scenery, revisited a place we hadn't been to in over a decade, and saw some familiar favorites again. Not at all a bad way to spend four days.



More Pictures

* Spolier: it wasn't!
Re: Chick-On Point and Mount Basilbop
November 05, 2015 08:50PM
Quote
basilbop

On old maps the "Mt. Clark Trail" crosses this meadow, but except for a questionable blaze on a tree, we found no signs of it. At the head of this small valley we opted to attack the headwall, which consisted of large talus and eventually steep cliffs, directly.



There was enough ice on this north-facing cliff to present navigational challenges, and it took awhile to find a safe-ish route to the top. Once there, the terrain eased quite a bit.

Few comments tonight..

  • Lost it - on the way up the headwall, I couldn't easily follow Chick-on, and was getting really cold in the shade trying to figure out how I could get up further. And the rock was cold to the touch. When I needed to be warmer, Basilbop and I worked our way back down to the sun to wait to see if Chick-on could find a way. He finally did. And dropped his pack, came back down, and in the picture above, you can see he is wearing my backpack. With him and Basilbop leading me, I managed to follow them. It was tricky for me. My eyes were playing vertigo tricks and I was wishing I'd put on my long-fingered gloves to protect against the really cold rock. Stupid, but I didn't want to stop everyone to dig around to get them out. I got freaked out a couple of times and had to be settled to keep going.. but keep going I did... and obviously, we made it! Mental challenges were the biggest problem after some initial physical challenges broke me down: I couldn't step up with my pack on when the guys could. I'm just *that* much shorter and just not strong enough to do a one-leg step up balancing on a rock with my leg cranked up so high i'm tipping backwards, exacerbated by pack weight... and I couldn't find a handhold... sigh..
  • Lost it again - later in the day, when we were cresting the ridge from Clark Canyon to the unnamed lakes and Obelisk to the east... I lost it again. The blocks, the ice, the snow. The vertigo. Mentally, I was wiped. And it had been a physically hard day to get that far, even if the miles were awfully low. So I lost it again. But the guys were great and managed to help me get through. But again, I was so stuck, Chick-on took my pack so I could make some moves.
  • But still loved it - And even after being scared, feeling extremely silly for being scared, would I do it again? Yes! The vertigo gets worse if I don't keep challenging myself, and it's been a while... But yes, sucking down being scared and continuing to move carefully and thoughtfully isn't easy, but overall, I find it very rewarding and would do it again in a heartbeat! Suffice to say, though, when the terrain opened up - and it did gloriously - I happily scooted down the scree slope!
  • And need to stretch more! - But I really really really need to stretch more on the trail. We push the days long, and I often neglect my stretching, and I sometimes pay a price... my calf locks up, my achilles gets tight. No fun. So... But that particular spot.. stretching was awesome. The views were stunning!

So... huge huge huge thanks to both Chick-on and Basilbop for all their support and encouragement to get me through all of it. It was one of the more mentally challenging trips this year, if not the most... and I loved it, even when it didn't really look like it!
avatar Re: Chick-On Point and Mount Basilbop
November 06, 2015 10:42AM
Very cool! Amazing re the snakes...Rubber Boas, yes? Were there any attempts to hang one from anybody's pack without him or her noticing?
avatar Re: Chick-On Point and Mount Basilbop
November 09, 2015 06:25AM
Quote
Bearproof
Very cool! Amazing re the snakes...Rubber Boas, yes? Were there any attempts to hang one from anybody's pack without him or her noticing?

I wuz gonna wear around my neck... buttes forgot my furr coat.
tongue sticking out smiley

(yes, it's a Rubber Boa don'tcha knowa?)



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Chick-On Point and Mount Basilbop
November 06, 2015 11:17AM
I can't tell you how much I enjoy your trip reports, basilbop!

Well, okay, I can: I enjoy them tremendously. Thanks so much for putting in the time to write them. They're always entertaining, frequently inspiring, and I usually come away learning a few new things, too (there was once a trail to Mt. Clark? Awesome!).

Thanks too for all the little details about locations. I love pulling up closedcontour and following along with you guys from my desk.
Re: Chick-On Point and Mount Basilbop
November 06, 2015 01:15PM
Thanks! The Mt. Clark trail didn't actually go to Mt. Clark. According to old maps it went from Illilouette Creek to the Merced River/Grey Peak Fork via Starr King Meadow, generally staying north of Mt. Clark and Quartzite Peak.
avatar Re: Chick-On Point and Mount Basilbop
November 09, 2015 06:31AM
Quote
basilbop
Thanks! The Mt. Clark trail didn't actually go to Mt. Clark. According to old maps it went from Illilouette Creek to the Merced River/Grey Peak Fork via Starr King Meadow, generally staying north of Mt. Clark and Quartzite Peak.

1 - Tanks Aaron for Sharon!
B - Tanks pitchfork for saying you love... it means a lot to posters to get feedback...
3 - I dunno I posted this ever... but here's an overlay I did of the Mt. Clark trail...
Personally I have not seen any remnants other than on this trip... although as is
typical with trails throughout Yosemite... they were built with horses in minds...
so the chick-on-esque views are not what they were looking for .. they were
looking for an easy route that was nice on the stock from pt. A to pt. B.



O... and

D - JKW - you did fabulous. no need to doubt yourself or be too hard on yourself.
it only matters that you were out there and enjoyed.

Chick-on is looking at you!



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Chick-On Point and Mount Basilbop
November 09, 2015 12:15PM
Cool overlay, chick-on. That hews pretty close to what I expected from basilbop's description. What are the black lines? Impassable ridges?

We're verging onto off-topic territory here, but what was the purpose of the old trail? Just to get wagons from Wawona (I assume) to Merced Lake and the High Country beyond? And am I right in assuming that it was abandoned because of maintenance costs?
avatar Re: Chick-On Point and Mount Basilbop
November 09, 2015 01:09PM
Quote
abetterpitchfork
Cool overlay, chick-on. That hews pretty close to what I expected from basilbop's description. What are the black lines? Impassable ridges?

We're verging onto off-topic territory here, but what was the purpose of the old trail? Just to get wagons from Wawona (I assume) to Merced Lake and the High Country beyond? And am I right in assuming that it was abandoned because of maintenance costs?

The black lines (and the blue lines) were taken off the old map so that I could try to align the older map
onto the current map. They are ridges... but not all are impassable (we went over the east one on this trip) ..
actually only the very head of Clark Canyon I would say is impassable due to the angle of the dangle
and only on the west side.... which is "easily" obtained by heading towards WL 9235 (Two Tenths Lake) smiling smiley
and heading up

The old trail was used by the Cavalry when they patrolled the park and booted sheep herders from the high meadows.
Definitely not used for wagons. It was probably abandoned when the trail to Merced Lake was finished in entirety.



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Chick-On Point and Mount Basilbop
November 06, 2015 02:30PM
Wow! Awesome trip report and very creative route. The trek up Clark Canyon looks pretty intimidating on a topo.
Re: Chick-On Point and Mount Basilbop
November 06, 2015 04:21PM
Great photos and trip report. Thanks for posting.
Re: Chick-On Point and Mount Basilbop
November 06, 2015 04:34PM
Holy megatrip Batman! Did you save the GPS coordinates and capture your route? You guys are awesome.

Bowing to his greatness
Re: Chick-On Point and Mount Basilbop
November 06, 2015 06:37PM
This report let me re-live a hike to Merced Lake in Sept. Thanks.
Re: Chick-On Point and Mount Basilbop
November 09, 2015 04:27PM
Interesting post and a great report.
.
Many years back, also recalled reading that article - decided on a trip to Obelisk (and trying to find that supposed trail used by the Buffalo troops early Yosemite)...so, went searching for it... a visit to Adair and Obelisk going south, starting from the Merced River... now a few years back.
First time tried, starting from the slabs south/ above the HSC and surprise.. also got cliffed out, similar to you... had some great views of Obelisk below but the route down looked a little sketchy - sadly, turned around.
Later, discovered an easier route coming down x-country going north, following the Red Devil drainage (Red Peak Fork - RPF) from Red Devil Lake - (Red Peak Pass) - popped over the ridge into the Grey Peak Fork just past/ even with lake 9705 and went west, up to Adair. A few days later, came down from Adair, followed down the Grey Peak drainage and up the creek to Obelisk - finally got there.

Coming down proved the major hassle...that last 1000 feet down to the Merced turned into an impossibly thick Manzanita wall if coming down that Grey Peak fork route...do-able but a real sucky route.

Third time, again starting Mono Meadows but this plan avoided Obelisk as no fish seen but still hit Adair again and, instead of going directly down as before, crossed back from the GPF into the RPF at the 9600 notch east before descending north - a much easier route back down...hit the Merced just above Washburn.

BTW, in five trips up there now, we only saw two blazes near Obelisk, and nothing that ever resembled an old established trail.
Great trip though and an area seldom visited...thanks!
Re: Chick-On Point and Mount Basilbop
November 09, 2015 04:37PM
Great TR and amazing pics Basilbop! Thanks a lot for sharing. Bowing to his greatness
Wondering whether the two moon shots were taken by Lumia phone or a more professional camera...it looks awesome!
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