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Re: Trip Report 5/26 - 5/30 Valley to Merced Lake + Cloud's Rest and back

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Trip Report 5/26 - 5/30 Valley to Merced Lake + Cloud's Rest and back
May 31, 2016 02:53PM
Originally planned to go up with my son over the holiday weekend, but scheduling conflicts ended up making it a solo affair.
Left the Bay Area early Thursday morning and made it to the valley Wilderness Center near opening and managed to get one of the last permits out of the valley, albeit to Illillouette.
My ambitious route was to try and do a loop up to Vogelsang and back.
The weather, despite forecasts, was nice, and the crowds were manageable up to Nevada Falls.


On the way up, I met a pair coming down who were also carrying winter gear. I learned that they tried to do the Red Peak pass loop, but got turned around in whiteout conditions and an impassable creek crossing before Lower Merced Pass Lake. Hmm, my Vogelsang ambitions just took a hit.

Carrying on up the Panorama trail, I continued onwards to a campsite up the Illilouette. Found a great spot with an established fire ring and a stack of wood next to it, but decided to just explore the area and sleep early instead of having a fire.


The next day I backtracked to Nevada Falls and up the Merced Canyon. The crowds started to increase, and I was frequently asked “are you going up Half Dome?” (I guess it was the first day that the cables were up). The horde became non-existent past LVY, until I ran into another pair towards the burned out end of the valley. Eager to get more trail info, I found out that this pair tried to go up the JMT towards Tuolumne Meadows, but turned around at Sunrise HSC. They ran into solid snow above 8800, slogging their way through alternatively hard and soft snow all the way up. They saw my face, but looked at my gear and said “dude you’ll totally make it!”. Undeterred, I resolved to go faster upcanyon, stopping only to take a few nice pictures of the water flowing through Bunnell Cascades, to give myself extra time for the expected snowline beyond Merced Lake.

And the snowline didn’t disappoint, as I hit it on the climb beyond. Fortunately the snow was firm and consolidated, until the trail steepened and I began to sink. Proudly whipping out my snowshoes, which I had lugged up valley through 70 degree weather and curious looks from ambitious would-be Half Dome summiteers I continued to climb. But things began to take an ominous turn. Wearing snowshoes and having to route-find slowed my pace down from almost 3mph down to 0.5mph. Worse, it was taking a lot more energy. Lewis Creek was flowing well, and I began to worry about cold wet wades through the upcoming crossings. Relying on snow-bridges seemed dicey considering the soft snow beneath the surface crust. Then the last straw….the sky above me began to darken, although everywhere else was clear and sunny. Boom! a cold rain, and brief hail.

Failure… and a hasty retreat down.

In Echo Valley, I ran into another solo hiker carrying an enormous pack. Turns out he was section hiking the JMT to Red’s Meadows. Resupply at TM was not possible, so he was carrying TWO bear-canisters of food. He ran into solid snow on the JMT on the way up to Sunrise, but instead of slogging through it, turned around after only a short time of sinking and difficult route-finding. I managed to make it to a nice camp site and promptly crashed soon after dark.

The next day, I figured to try to attempt Cloud’s Rest from the north route and o/n near the Quarter Domes. The good news was that the expected mileage was low, but I was prepared for snow over half of it, and I was tired from the previous day.
The snow-line was higher than expected, probably because of the impact of the recent fire. Fortunately the snow was patchy through the steepest part of the trail and remained firm as the trail leveled off and the snow coverage became complete.
(snow picture)
But alas, the skies darkened….. and a distant boom turned into….



Hunkered under a tree, I resolved to wait it out until I saw a bright flash just a couple hundred meters away and a loud boom!. I quickly ran downslope to another big tree until the hail and snow stopped.



Post-storm, the route finding was relatively easy until I saw this last obstacle to the top….


Making it up to the top I ran into two other groups who were surprised at seeing someone approach through the narrow ridge of snow from the north. Seeing another phalanx of dark clouds nearing, I stayed only for a few amazing panoramas and cruised downhill.




The next day was uneventful, with clear skies, warm weather and no wind. Except the holiday crowds materialized, thicker than supposed hordes of mosquitoes beginning to emerge in the valley. “Dudes” in fleece and down soon turned into hipsters with leather jackets and yoga pants. Is that the new high-tech hiking fashion?

Managed to enjoy a beer and burger in the valley. For a moment I wondered why I could enjoy a table to myself with a view of the 4 deep crowds on the deck. Then I realized that in my fog of food that maybe I should have taken a shower BEFORE eating, and that this dirty guy with the multi-day growth plus a pack that looks like it belongs up on Everest really didn’t belong with the Irish Spring and L’Occitane scents of the masses…
Oh well, I had fun up there, made it back in good form and nothing else really mattered.
Until I had to drive home.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 05/31/2016 09:04PM by OL.
Re: Trip Report 5/26 - 5/30 Valley to Merced Lake + Cloud's Rest and back
May 31, 2016 08:31PM
Great trip report and awesome photos! Yea those clouds don't look inviting! I tried a trip similar to yours about 2 months ago but wasn't able to make it to the top sad smiley At which part did you need to put snow shoes on?

-Kevin
Re: Trip Report 5/26 - 5/30 Valley to Merced Lake + Cloud's Rest and back
May 31, 2016 08:58PM
I put them on about a mile before the Florence Creek crossing (beyond Merced Lake). The snow was more consolidated on the Cloud's Rest approach and I didn't use them there. I did use my spikes on the final approach though, the layer of snow and hail made the surface pretty slippery, and a fall on the ridge would not be very happy.
Re: Trip Report 5/26 - 5/30 Valley to Merced Lake + Cloud's Rest and back
May 31, 2016 08:31PM
Them's some damn nice photos! Thanks for posting this!



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
avatar Re: Trip Report 5/26 - 5/30 Valley to Merced Lake + Cloud's Rest and back
June 01, 2016 06:46AM
Tanks fur Sharon

If you made it over Florence... then Lewis shoulda been non-issue... imo ... it splits a lot...
and it's flat ... and with the amount of snow out there... yadda yadda yadda...
Not gonna go into what have and have not done when and all... happy you had a good time.
I woulda recommended heading up Merced and keep a going... with that amount of
water flowing... it's just gorgeous all the way... and very very pretty...
esp with Tioga open and all... and getting to Vogelsang obviously much easier from that-a-way.

What you described is very typical of this timeframe ... (well... in the time I have been doing)
All about aspect... open can let more snow drop... so it may not always been clean...
and closed forest can hold snow longer... but may have less due to accumulation.
Anywho... ya... very cool.
Will say have come down to valley Father's day timeframe before... Tioga not open...
snowshoes on back... and people keep asking why I have "ski poles" and
what are those things on your back. sigh...

Have fun out there



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Trip Report 5/26 - 5/30 Valley to Merced Lake + Cloud's Rest and back
June 01, 2016 06:56AM
for fun...

What it looked like on my bird-day... Apr 6th
(your 2nd to last) (last too looks outta order... unless you climb back up next morning) smiling smiley



We didn't need or carry snowshoes on this trip...



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Trip Report 5/26 - 5/30 Valley to Merced Lake + Cloud's Rest and back
June 01, 2016 09:26AM
I had thought about continuing up canyon along the Merced, but the weather conditions, and the 50% forecasts for the next day had me change my mind about going too deep into the backcountry. One of my bailout options, hike out to TM and hitching back, seemed dicey if a storm approached, since Rt 120 was closed when I started out.
Then I remembered reading about Quarter Domes from one of your trip reports, and thought that a loop via Clouds Rest would be interesting since I have never been there, so I approached from the north side and went down the south. If I got stuck an extra day up in Sunrise due to weather I would still be within day range of the Valley (since I had be back by Sunday).
I enjoyed that route, and really appreciated hearing about that camp-spot from you guys!

I guess the only benefit about bringing snowshoes on this trip was for training....but I figured I would have needed them had I managed to stick to my original route!
Re: Trip Report 5/26 - 5/30 Valley to Merced Lake + Cloud's Rest and back
June 01, 2016 07:54PM
Great trip report, and I really like the photos, especially the Half Dome from Clouds Rest one.
Thanks!
What he said! Thanks.
Re: Trip Report 5/26 - 5/30 Valley to Merced Lake + Cloud's Rest and back
June 03, 2016 01:29PM
Very enjoyable TR and pictures.

Quote

OL wrote:
Hunkered under a tree, I resolved to wait it out until I saw a bright flash just a couple hundred meters away and a loud boom!. I quickly ran downslope to another big tree until the hail and snow stopped.

Would recommend that you read the following links in case you get caught in a thunderstorm again, and it will happen.
http://rendezvous.nols.edu/files/Curriculum/research_projects/Risk%20Management%20Reports/NOLS%20Backcountry%20Lightning%20Safety%20Guidelines.pdf
http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/outdoors.shtml
http://www.lightningsafety.com/nlsi_info/thunder2.html

Large, solo trees are not the safest options when considering a "safer location" to hunker down during a thunderstorm. As you can see the word "safer" is being used since there is no 100% safe location while in the backcountry, but there are ways that you can increase your chances of survival.
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