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Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?

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Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 17, 2011 05:58PM
Hello,
I have a reservation for a Happy Isles/Sunrise Lakes pass through permit for memorial weekend and I'm having a hard time determining how much snow there be on the ground near where I plan to camp the first night (Past the JMT/Half Dome trail junction near Moraine dome). Are we talking 2 feet? 10 feet? This is my first time in Yosemite.

The trail conditions pages (that I've found) aren't particularly helpful. I have snowshoes, and I've used them a couple times on steep mountain trails when it probably was unnecessary, and I'm also generally experienced in uncomfortable postholing, wallowing and complaining in a couple feet of snow on mountain trails, but nothing like the purported 4-6 feet of snow someone last week said was on the trail leading up to Half Dome's subdome. I know nothing of avalanches nor snow bridges nor sun cups.

I've already all but given up on 90% of my destination goals for this trip (Clouds Rest, Half Dome, entire Happy Isles/Yos Falls loop), and of course everything in the valley is booked save single nights here/there that'd be costly to cancel if the trails are ok.

At what point on the trail do you start to need snowshoes? Are there sections of the JMT to Sunrise Lakes that should give a novice snow hiker pause? I'm more concerned about doing something I didn't even know was stupid on snow rather than issues with routefinding or things of that nature.

Apologies in advance for being a noob about this, I know there are other snow threads here but I'm not exactly clear on where the locations they discuss are, and I was hoping someone would have firsthand knowledge before I arrive out there next weekend. I realize this is probably like asking what the corridor trails in the Grand Canyon are like... sorry.
avatar Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 17, 2011 07:30PM
It's very hard for anyone to tell you how much snow there will be. The weather will be a large factor and, so far, the weather hasn't been making the snow melt very fast. You can get some idea of snow conditions by keeping at eye on the plowing progress (http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,35510) and from the snow sensor reports (http://cdec.water.ca.gov/snow/current/snow/pillowplots/TuolumneMerced.html).
avatar Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 17, 2011 09:58PM
Quote
eeek
It's very hard for anyone to tell you how much snow there will be.
Sigh. And with that I give up giving trail advice.

I like that one as much as "you should just call the ranger and ask".

Have fun
(and please post a picture of frozen over Sunrise Lake if you should make it there)



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 18, 2011 06:03AM
Quote
chick-on
Quote
eeek
It's very hard for anyone to tell you how much snow there will be.
Sigh. And with that I give up giving trail advice.

I like that one as much as "you should just call the ranger and ask".

Have fun
(and please post a picture of frozen over Sunrise Lake if you should make it there)

I don't follow, I wasn't really asking for someone's estimation.

I'll definitely post pics if I make it that far, I guess if a point in the trail is too intimidating I'll just turn around. More what I was looking for was "You're going to die on the way to Moraine Dome if you've only snowshoed a couple of times because of X spot that I just saw yesterday." The problem is I need to make it so far before I can camp, since it's a 3 night permit, if I have to go back to the valley camping would be a problem. (looks like everything is reserved). Thanks.
Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 18, 2011 08:55AM
Quote
steelcup


I'll definitely post pics if I make it that far, I guess if a point in the trail is too intimidating I'll just turn around. More what I was looking for was "You're going to die on the way to Moraine Dome if you've only snowshoed a couple of times because of X spot that I just saw yesterday." The problem is I need to make it so far before I can camp, since it's a 3 night permit, if I have to go back to the valley camping would be a problem. (looks like everything is reserved). Thanks.

The problem is, snowshoeing is a LOT of work, and that's a long way to go. But I bet you won't have to snowshoe the first miles of the trail.

You could always try camp 4 in the valley, tho you have to get there in the morning most days.
avatar Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 18, 2011 09:34AM
Quote
steelcup
. . . snip . . .The problem is I need to make it so far before I can camp, since it's a 3 night permit, if I have to go back to the valley camping would be a problem. (looks like everything is reserved). Thanks.

In this case, if you end up having to bail-out and spend a night in the valley, I'd suggest you head to the wilderness permit backpackers campgound.
Strictly speaking you're only supposed to be there the night before and the night after your permit, but in these circumstances, it seems reasonable to stay there.

Besides, in a way, it IS the night after.
Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 17, 2011 07:50PM
I understand. I was hoping someone had been up there to see it firsthand...

Is it safe to infer that the 8-10 feet of snow that's currently on Tioga is about how much will be on the JMT at comparable elevation? I was hoping, pipe dream perhaps, that the answer would be no, due to sun or magic or something.
avatar Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 17, 2011 09:04PM
I think your best bet is to just go and deal with whatever is there. You should be able to have a good time no matter how much snow is left. Just don't be wedded to a plan, i.e. be ready to change to fit the conditions you find.
Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 18, 2011 06:53AM
@steelcup I'm doing a similar hike starting around June 8 and have been seeking similar answers but have found no one with any helpful information. More snarky remarks than anything.

@anyone please who would be able to help
I think the question that perhaps we're really wondering here is are there avy areas along the JMT trail that people are aware of from past years? Obviously no one knows what the snow will be like up there in 2-3 weeks. But speaking from anyone who has past experience up and around Clouds Rest and Sunrise Lakes, are there historically-speaking areas of concern when there are considerable amounts of snow?
Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 18, 2011 07:07AM
In my research for a Clouds Rest/Half Dome Hike I am doing in August I came across a You Tube video of someone going up Clouds Rest while it was covered in snow. The first video is one I use to show friends and family what I plan on doing this summer. The second video was linked to on the right.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5qLVlSzaQ0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSFMcCytef8&feature=related

When you go to these videos, there are several more videos on the right side that show even more hikes. You may even be able to contact the hikers who made the video.
avatar Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 18, 2011 07:28AM
Hmm....
I wonder if summitbagger and summitbaggers are the same, prob. not I guess.

http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,31622,31622#msg-31622

Lookie, I'm more than happy to help.

http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?1,11148,11148#msg-11148

A lot of times it's hard to tell what the asking person is wiling to put up with.
Can you get over Clouds then? Sure, there are ledges on the East Side which
will be clear then, for sure.
But Sunrise Lakes area will be blanketed in snow. Guaranteed.

There are no real Av. Spots on the Forsyth or JMT trails around Sunrise Lakes/ Sunrise HSC.



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 21, 2011 08:28AM
Hi!
I am planning the same hike, departing happy isles on Friday morning (maybe Thursday if I can get a walk-in permit ) . I will be carrying snow shoes, and plan to see how far I can go. It is very likely that sunrise Creek will be flowing strongly, and as I recall there are 2 or 3 crossings, so that will require a good deal of care. For the most part, it is a slow and steady ascent. I did this in August 2009 when I hiked the whole JMT. Let me know if you want to connect. I am an old fart, but still a pretty vigorous hiker. Last Memorial day, i hiked from Little yos Valley to merced lake and back to the valley. About half the trail was covered in snow, but my Stabilicers were sufficient for that task. I loved hiking on the snow.
Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 21, 2011 07:55PM
Every Memorial Day people post on boards like this about how they have plans for snowy destinations that are summer favorites after snows have melted. Often they haven't much a clue when snows usually melt so as soon as days warm in the low lands where most of us live, they like expect mountain snows have evaporated too. And many times in days before the Internet I have stood in wilderness permit lines at ranger stations on those Saturday mornings while others wearing shorts and t-shirts ask the same questions to personnel who usually parrot a terse description of snow lines and warnings of such adventures.

Classic situation is at Tuolumne Meadows on average to low snow years when the meadows are still brown from recently emerging melting snows with water puddling everywhere. From roadsides along the meadow highway, one can look up and see totally covered snows in the forest slopes above. Regardless there will be some intent on visiting a favorite destination like Cathedral Lakes or Vogelsang and asking something simple like "how much snow..." as though they didn't believe their eyes and are hoping someone is going to surprise them by saying the trail doesn't have snow on it. And regardless many such groups start up those routes though most return without going too far after learning how tedious such travel can be carrying a backpack. Oh some get somewhere and camp atop the snow or some open southern facing areas of bedrock and then report back how they had an "interesting" time la de dah. And a few others report how they turned back blah blah. And most are too embarrassed to post and simply leave it as a personal learning lesson. What fun it is slipping around where the uneven snow below tree shadows meets small open areas between other trees where the sun pokes through often creating icy puddles.

I'm old alpine skier who regals in skiing resorts while fresh snows are falling, is one to readily hike to snag lines in fresh powder,or hike across frozen steeps to exposures with soft spring corn others haven't yet mutilated. For years have had a full coimplement of winter camping gear though haven't had as many trips as I would have liked to. And in summers have negotiated many alpine snow fields like those on my website for the "Shadow & Minaret Creek Headwaters Backpack" feature crossing the Iceberg Lake snows. Properly geared with experience like some on this board can attest to, going out into the snows can be a good pleasant time. Experience and learning has to start somewhere. But do so where such is safe that usually means no steeps or dangerous stream crossing.

David Senesac
http://www.davidsenesac.com



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 05/21/2011 08:02PM by DavidSenesac.
avatar Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 22, 2011 04:16PM
Snow hiking is an acquired taste.

Anyway, maybe this will help some:


Enjoy



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 22, 2011 06:19PM
Sure beats my local hike today.
avatar Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 23, 2011 09:06AM
Quote
DavidSenesac
And most are too embarrassed to post and simply leave it as a personal learning lesson

This is the one that, quite honestly, irritates me the most. I took the time to explain things... and put up loads of pictures
showing this that and the other... and, to me, the common courtesy is to come back and post something.
Anything. If you went so far and flopped around aimlessly, that is ok. You learned something.
If you changed entirely because your sign. other said "screw this", again, ok. You learned something.
etc. etc.
But to not say anything is just plain rude imo.

(btw... I did actually PM steelcup and give the 411 on what to expect)
The picture from Washburn should also give some additional indication of conditions... but getting to Sunrise Lakes...
prob. more than what most people want to deal with.
(and The Pohono trail was 100% snow coverage from just above Insp. Pt. currently)
(the just recent dump made snowshoes a necessity imo)

Anyway, have fun out there



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 23, 2011 10:06AM
Speaking of trip reports and posting pictures: I definitely plan on doing a trip report but curious about the sites people choose to use. I imagine some of you have trial and error with the sites and wonder why you chose the sites you have. And separately, how big of a camera do you folks carry while hiking?
Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 23, 2011 10:29AM
All the advice is much appreciated. I'll post a trip report next Monday if I survive.
avatar Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 23, 2011 10:51AM
Canon Powershot CCD. Fits in my front pocket. Yep, cougars have pockets.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/23/2011 10:51AM by tomdisco.
avatar Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 23, 2011 11:20AM
Quote
chicagocwright
. . . snip . . .
And separately, how big of a camera do you folks carry while hiking?

My last few trips have been with a pack that was about 50lbs, of which 20lbs or so was camera gear. . . but I doubt that's typical smiling smiley
Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 30, 2011 11:06AM
Thanks for the advice everyone. My wife and I had a blast. I expected it to be gorgeous but I didn't realize it was going to be that gorgeous. It's the first time I've gone backpacking, not made it all the way to any of my desired destinations, but still came back ecstatic.

We started encountering small patches of snow at LYV and longer stretches of snow approaching the HD subdome, 9000 ft or so on the west side of Clouds Rest and on the east side of Bunell Point. We lugged snowshoes but only used them to goof off on some of the bigger patches. People who went to the top of HD, and all the way to Merced Lake said they did have any problems moving over the snow in those areas, but I did run into a group on the trail that said they used them constantly in the Sunrise Lakes area. I don't know how much snow fell yesterday, but LYV had about half an inch on the ground in the morning.

So here's the trip report I promised. Pics later

Day 1:
Lolly-gagged, which was par for the course the entire trip. I blame the scenery. Mist trail to the area at the eastern end of LYV. With the snowshoes, camera and winter gear both my wife and I's packs were astonishingly heavy. I think we left the valley around 10 and made it to camp around 4. My pack was around 60lbs, hers probably around 35. Saw a bear and her cubs across the valley around dinner time, my first time seeing a wild bear. Had to use bug spray here, the mosquitoes were annoying until the sun went down.

Day 2:
Merced Lake was the goal, but a stroll to the east side of Bunnell point was the result. Full vacation mode in effect we rolled out of camp a bit after noon and got back around 4. I think I post-holled once on a 5 foot section of snow that I could have walked around. Very gorgeous area and I wish that I hadn't been so lackadaisical in the morning. Next time... After we got back we packed up camp and headed to LYV to facilitate an 'early' start for Clouds Rest the next morning. More mosquitoes, but only until sundown again. We ran into several groups that had come from Merced Lake and none encountered significant snow.

Day 3:
Rolled out of camp around 8, snowshoes in tow again. I had checked the weather the night before and knew a storm was coming, but not when. We ditched our snowshoes around 8000'. It was kind of astonishing how big a difference 5lbs made on our pace and we moved fast up the next set of switchbacks. Those damn snowshoes. I think I started getting concerned about the weather at around when we dropped the snowshoes and we (I) fled in terror at about 9200'. In my defense the weather said 5 inches of snow were possible at 6000' and I was positive we were going to die. We had looked over at the subdome and were pretty surprised at the amount of snow that was on it (and leading up to it) so at this point I was pretty dejected. Of course by the time we got back to the clouds rest junction the weather was looking much better and by the time we hit the Half Dome junction I was looking for shade. Frustrating, but we had seen people on the cables from the trail, so we decided to have lunch and give it a shot. Of course the weather got crappy again just as we got on top of the shoulder leading to the steps of the subdome and we fled again. The forecast lied through it's teeth again, claiming 60-80mph winds and 2 inches of snow at 6000ft that night, so I guyed out my tent in terror and considered how many of the people in LYV with their summer tents were going to die that night.

Day 4:
No wind and the 2 inches of snow turned out to be just a rime. We took the JMT back down and enjoyed the views throughly. I wanted to jump into the river to avoid the throngs of humanity on the half mile of the trail. Holy cow.

I don't regret bringing the snowshoes I suppose, since I doubt shaving 5lbs or so off our packs would have made us more ambitious, if I had to change anything in retrospect I would have probably camped all 3 nights in the same spot and just stuck to one area. From what I saw it didn't seem like you could go wrong anywhere. Lighter packs would have been nice, but we used everything we brought.
avatar Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 30, 2011 11:53AM
Thanks for the report. Much appreciated.

I won't say I told you so.
wink



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 30, 2011 12:31PM
Well, this old fart did make it to Sunrise.
Day 1: Started the hike on Thursday and camped a couple miles up from the Clouds rest junction on the jmt, along Sunrise Creek.
Day 2: Friday I hit the trail using Stabilicers (vibram with screws sticking out), but after a while, snow shoes worked better. The first crossing of sunrise creek was intimidating because a few feet of snow on the bank made it hard to get a "launch pad". Finally found a tree to hang on to and made it across. After that there was no visible trail, and I just did the compass and map, heading to the south of the creek up the canyon, trying to find a route less steep than the official route. Climbing to the top of the ridge to over 9800 feet gave a view of long meadow, and just headed down from there. The high sierra camp is almost fully buried in snow, and only one spot on the adjacent creek was uncovered, allowing access to water. The backpackers toilet was accessable and pristine, with solar driven fans running. I was disappointed to find there was not a shower as well.
Day 3: Saturday - it looked like a storm was coming in, so I bailed on going to sunrise lakes and instead headed down. I was delighted to find a set of fresh snow tracks to guide me out, until I realized they were my tracks from the night before. The creek crossing closest to Sunrise was easy because of large snow pack. That will change in a few weeks. The second crossing going down was again difficult. I eventually found a fairly thick snow bridge and made it across. Camped again at a site on the JMT by the creek. By 4 PM, it was starting to snow and was pretty cold.
Day 4: Awoke to 3" fresh snow, everything was heavenly. Easy trip back to the valley. I had to ditch there fast because the crowds surpassed anything I have ever seen.
This hike could not be done without snow shoes. I had a pair of MSR lightnings and they worked well.
Here is the start of the meadow:

Here is my little tarp tent in the middle of the high sierra camp. Note the snow level on the cabin.

Above Nevada, I met an individual maintaining the composting toilet. He said he also took care of the backpacker's ones at the high sierra camps. I ran into him on my way down the mist trail, showed him this picture and told him how amazed I was at the available toilet paper and meticulous facilities. He said he last supplied it in November. Suggests that there has not been too much traffic to the current time. There was evidence of effort having been made to keep the one door accessable.

This is the JMT just below my campsite on the fourth day, incredible:

This image was worth the whole trip:




Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/04/2011 07:27PM by espeekay.
avatar Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 30, 2011 01:36PM
Old Fart,
That's some cool grape goodness! Thanks.
I find the JMT somewhat of a pain in the rump to keep aligned with in the snow.
(so I just cheat and use the GPS) wink
Actually we completely avoided most of it coming down last year from Sunrise
and instead making our own route. And this year we
headed towards Clouds to get nice views instead of staying on it.
If you haven't seen these... here's some from last year including Bug Dome:
https://picasaweb.google.com/yosemite.chick.on/Matthes02
Love your pict. of Starr King.
Have fun



Chick-on is looking at you!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/30/2011 01:37PM by chick-on.
avatar Re: Memorial weekend Happy Isles to Sunrise Lakes?
May 30, 2011 04:37PM
espeekay,

Thanks for the report and spreading the word us olde dudes still have a few surprises in us.winking smiley
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