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The Moon is Waxing Gibbous (78% of Full)


High Sierra Loop Conditions - July 4 weekend

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High Sierra Loop Conditions - July 4 weekend
July 07, 2010 08:37PM
This weekend my wife and I hiked to all the High Sierra Camps except Glen Aulin, which we had visited twice already (the first time passing bill-e-g and companion near the flooded lower section of Glen Aulin on their return from Register Creek...) All the hike-in camps were closed and setup had not started at any of them. The weather on both Sunday and Monday was clear and warm. When we picked up our permit on Saturday most trailheads had availability--presumably reports of lingering snow were keeping people away.

July 4: We started early at Murphy Creek, which we followed to the point where it's straightforward to cross the creek and hike up the granite slabs to the the Glen Aulin/May Lake trail. The flats around Raisin Lake were muddy, and there were a few downed trees. From the switchbacks to the camp itself, there was significant snow--firm in the morning--but the trail was easy to follow. There were still several banks of snow in the camp itself, even on the dining room floor--it was still more winter than summer at May Lake. The trail to the Snow Flat parking lot was clear, and the Snow Flat road was closed. The outhouse at the parking lot was operational (and stocked with TP and sanitizer...) The section of the Old Tioga Road to Tenaya Lake was clear.

The Tenaya Creek crossing was about mid-thigh deep, but slow and safe (our shoes were wet from this crossing until the end of the day...) On the other hand, the mosquitoes were out in force in this section. There was snow on the last several switchbacks before the Clouds Rest/Sunrise Lakes junction, but it was easy to follow the footsteps of others to the junction. The next significant snow was from the upper Sunrise Lake to the saddle above it--coverage was almost 100% and the trail was hard to follow, as the footprints of previous hikers were fading quickly in the melting snow.

Snow was spotty at Sunrise HSC, and the camp and backpacker's area were wet and muddy, as was the trail through Long Meadow (also wet and flooded). Echo Canyon was snow free, and the Long Meadow outlet, while high, could be crossed on logs.

Merced Lake's camp could easily be open by now, except that the mule trains stocking it would either sink into the mud in Echo Valley or end up diverting the Merced River onto the trail. It was challenging to do the right thing and stay on the trail instead of taking refuge from the mud on either side. (There's also the issue that when they open Merced Lake without Sunrise and Vogelsang being open, few people stay there--we once were there when only five people were in the camp!) The backpacker's toilet was working, but the water spigot at the camp was off. When we arrived at camp, there was only one other group at the campground--very unusual for a three-day weekend. Mosquitoes were active but not oppressive--yet! We enjoyed dinner at the cascades near the camp while watching the sunset. The night was calm and mild.

July 5: Lewis Creek was overflowing the trail at the "Ranger Station" junction past Merced Lake (wet feet all day again!)--this was the most water we've seen in this creek. The switchbacks to the Babcock Lake junction were clear, but looking back, the north side of the Clark Range was still cloaked in snow. (Expect 100% snow from Red Peak Pass to Red Devil Lake if you're considering that trip anytime soon--highly recommended, however!) Fletcher Creek flowed as a series of impressive cascades and falls around Babcock Dome. The meadow that parallels Emeric Lake was wet, muddy, and gorgeous, and the crossing at the Emeric lake junction was knee-deep, but safe. It was in this meadow that we decided to slow down and enjoy the weather and scenery instead of completing the loop through Glen Aulin and returning to Murphy Creek.

Vogelsang HSC was also clear of snow, but the spur trail from the camp to Tuolumne Pass had several soft snowbanks. (Secondhand reports--confirmed by observation--were that there was significant snow from Vogelsang Lake to Vogelsang Pass.) The Rafferty Creek trail had several water crossings, none very deep. Snow was not an issue. The shuttle is now running, and we used it to return to our car from Tuolumne Lodge.

All in all it was a wonderful trip--less snow and fewer people than we expected, and not too many mosquitoes, except near the Sunrise trailhead. It was great to enjoy the trails before things start drying out and the pack trains and mules start kicking up dust and leaving road apples everywhere.
avatar Re: High Sierra Loop Conditions - July 4 weekend
July 07, 2010 08:52PM

The Tenaya Creek crossing was about mid-thigh deep]/quote]

That's an improvement. Didn't look like something I'd want to cross when I looked at it.
avatar Re: High Sierra Loop Conditions - July 4 weekend
July 07, 2010 10:13PM
Very nice.

Hi again.

I think people were unjustifiably scared about the conditions.
When we looked the Mono/Parker Pass the quota was full on the day we
left and the day before. When we arrived there wasn't a single
car in the parking lot. I think the latest the park service has for
report is "100% snow coverage from TH".
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