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Re: Late Season Trip Report

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avatar Late Season Trip Report
December 08, 2011 07:38PM
I drove up Monday for a quick trip to the highcountry. The weather reports looked stable, the big winds were over with and it had been a while since it had snowed, and, well, why not? I grabbed a wilderness permit and headed up Indian Canyon at 1PM, looking, mostly in vain, for the abandoned trail recently posted by Basilbop. Moments of joy were few...a brief glimpse here and there of old trail works, and one moment when I misread the altimeter watch and thought I was 1000 feet higher than I really was. Anyway, I had wanted to go up Indian Canyon for a while, and my routefinding probs were likely my own. Thanks to Basilbop, Chick-on and Wherever for their excellent posts about the route. Got to North Dome for the night, hiking the last hour in glorious moonlight.

Tuesday was up Indian Ridge to the arch, cross country down to Snow Creek, up past the cabin and on to Tenaya Lake. The Tioga Road was closed; I had the place all to myself. Decision point: to go from there to Cathdral Lake or Sunrise...I chose the latter and headed up almost to the pass beyond the Sunrise Lakes, where the only sounds were my footsteps and the eery sounds of the lake ice groaning and cracking.

Wednesday I went past Sunrise HSC

And then cross country down to Cathedral Creek, down to the high trail above the Merced River,

then hitting the JMT at Sunrise Creek and down to Happy Isles.Caught the shuttle back to the car and it was back to civilization.

For anybody heading up there this weekend...as you will see from the pictures in the link, the exposed areas have little to no snow. But I was getting shin deep in hard crusty snow in some of the north facing forested and shaded areas above 8500 feet. I did not have snowshoes with me and while there were a few places I wished I had them, I was mostly glad I wasn't carrying the extra weight. The worst problem were the icy areas which can be found all the way down to the Yosemite Vally floor. I did have my yaktrax with me but never used them, finding traction enough with hiking poles.
There was plenty of water in the minor creeks (Indian Canyon and Lehamite, for example). Judicous route finding is key, be smart, check the weather and stay on the south facing areas. Down in the Merced River Canton it looked like an ice skating rink from my view!
And be prepared for short days and long, cold nights!
And btw from the time I left the Visitors Center to the time I got on the shuttle bus at Happy Isles I saw zero people!

All of the trip pictures can be seen at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/34390914@N03/sets/72157628339576359/
Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 08, 2011 08:00PM
Nice photos. Thanks. I wish I had been there....
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 08, 2011 08:37PM
Good stuff!
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 08, 2011 08:49PM
Um... ah... um... ah... wondering why u take a fuax toe of my food boxie?
(I put that in there when took my Kuna Crest Trek)
Way too many peeps abuse the bear boxes at Snow Creek cabin imo....
almost didn't get my box in there. Looks in good shape dough.

Tanks for sharon



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 08, 2011 08:53PM
O... and I never see anyone this time of year either...
Of course no one ever believes that we rarely see peeps 'in season' either.

Tops o ridges and south facing... and you're golden this time o year. wink



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 27, 2011 05:49AM
Quote
chick-on
Of course no one ever believes that we rarely see peeps 'in season' either.

I believe ya. I've gone on holiday weekends in primetime and not seen a soul...
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 08, 2011 09:27PM
Quote
Chick-On
Um... ah... um... ah... wondering why u take a fuax toe of my food boxie?
Didn't see yours there necessarily...it struck me that there were a lot of round pegs in a rectangular hole. I was wondering what a better rodent-proof personal storage thing there might be out there that would be more rectangular so as to use the bear box space better. Ideas?
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 09, 2011 06:26AM
Uh. Ok. I guess maybe you just put up every photo you take...

(I took 900+ photos on recent Inferno Trip and only put up 29 of em)
(ya ya... that's a lot for a 35 mile trip... but... if there's a view I take a pict.
... and was on ridges nearly the entire trip)

As for the box.... typical trip for me... 1,000 ideas... and decide at
last minute to go to Kuna and dump box at the cabin.. in a haste
just put it in a cardboard box. The plan was to put it into a plastic
bin.. of which 100 different sizes can be purchased.
(just search for plastic storage containers) (duct tape closed... good 2 go)
The 5 gallon buckets... that's just ridiculous imo. Muir Trail Ranch
mentality... and sort of not thinking of others somewhat.
It will be a shame when the cabin gets locked to the general pop.



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 09, 2011 07:38AM
Very nice report, nice pictures too. Thanks for sharing. I wish I could be there at this time of the year. Unfortunately not possible.
Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 09, 2011 08:31AM
Very nice pix--thanks for sharing! I hope to make it up there this weekend for a day hike... yet another "one last trip of the year" trip.

And I'm betting the cardboard box in the cache contains: chicken nuggets, chicken fingers, and twinkies of various colors. No need to worry that any person or rodent would steal anything from it :-)
Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 17, 2011 12:43AM
Thanks Bearproof for the great trip report!

I'm trying to throw together a trip early next week, between Sunday Dec 18th -> Thurs 22nd, and this route you describe sounds ideal. Lots of south-facing ridge hiking, and touching on areas I've always meant to check out. Your trip report was dated Dec 5th, which is roughly two weeks ago; I checked weather history and I don't see any precip between then and now. Can someone corroborate that there's no new snow that might make this a really bad idea? A night on the snow is ok, but I'm not looking for 3+ nights of snow camping.

From your pictures and a little weather research, it looks like I would be ok with my waterproof hiking boots, gaiters, and maybe a set of yaktracks.

Also a few questions if you would be kind enough: Did you end up taking Yosemite Falls trail up above Indian Canyon? Do I understand right that you hiked x/c from ~Natural Arch area northeast into Snow Creek?

Thank you!
Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 17, 2011 07:55AM
There could be snow at any time, in any amount. People get caught out by winter weather - you should go prepared for a full snow trip, especially this late in December.
Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 17, 2011 10:24AM
Yes, yes, but is there considerable snow on the ground right now. From the trip report, looks like not so much.
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 17, 2011 01:19PM
I don't have any snow conditions update. On my trip, I had planned, on my drive to the starting point in the valley, to take a side trip up the Tioga Road to do some scouting, but the road was closed at the time. You might do that if the road is open...stop at Olmstead point and take a quick hike down to the trail in the trees and check out the conditions.

Quote
jishaq
Did you end up taking Yosemite Falls trail up above Indian Canyon? Do I understand right that you hiked x/c from ~Natural Arch area northeast into Snow Creek?

I went up Indian Canyon, which was pretty tough, especially since I was carrying about 8 lbs of water as I didn't know if I would see any water in the streams until I got to Snow Creek (and there was plenty of water flowing in the streams at the time). If I had to do again I would probably go up the Yosemite Falls trail. I did go cross country from the arch pretty much due east, hitting a very minor drainage and following it to the trail about a quarter mile upstream from the Snow Creek bridge. The following posts by basilbop and chickon helped me quite a bit and you might want to check them out:

Indian Canyon

Basket Dome

You won't have the advantage of the moonlight that I had, so unless you go by headlamp you will be done walking every day by 5...so plan on not doing as many miles as you normally would.

Assuming the conditions are no worse than when I was there, its a nice route as you have numerous bail-out points should the conditions be more than you were expecting. You could just come down the Snow Creek trail, or hitchhike back if the road is open, or from Tenaya Lake head more towards Cloouds Rest/Sunrise Creek, as opposed to going to Sunrise HSC. Have fun and be safe!
Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 17, 2011 03:06PM
Sorry about the bad link in one of those references. Here is the correct figure. I had replaced the original tiny red numbers with bigger white ones.



The numbers assume that you are descending the trail.
Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 17, 2011 06:03PM
Thanks for the info. I found the Indian Canyon thread, but not the one on Basket Dome -> Snow Creek, that was useful. Truthfully, I'll probably just follow the established trails up and down this time to get a lay of the land. I haven't spent much time in YNP proper; I always stick to the wildernesses along its periphery areas because the crowds and resulting quotas and permits in YNP are incompatible with my style of impromptu trip-planning. Even though I'd guess it to be one of the most in-demand trailheads for permits, I'm not too concerned about it because I'm going this late in the season (gee, should I be?)

Indeed, if the weather conditions hold and it's not too icy, it sounds like an ideal way to get in my one and only backpacking trip of the season. If it ends up being snow camping or icy death, I can bail out early on any of the routes you mention. My biggest concern is the big climb up the falls pretty much very first thing after I park, but you can camp halfway up, right? winking smiley
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 18, 2011 07:43AM
You have to be up on the rim before you can camp. It's self reg now so permits are not an issue.
If you go to the valley directly from 140 then you go to the Vistor Center to get a permit...
but there are no quotas this time of year. Depending on snow pack I'll come in 120
and have permit already at BOF entrance and never talk to anyone. Usually if you stay
at LYV first then you have to get a permit at the Valley visitor center. I never stay there
so I usually just write NOT STAYING IN LYV on my permit and am on my merry way.
The snow pack this year is non existent. But it can dump 4 feet of snow in one storm
and if you don't keep a very very very close account of the weather before you go
you can end up like one guy who went over Red Peak Pass one year and got dumped
on and got stuck. (just a note... that same year... a 2 weeks later I did a trip up
Snow Creek to TM and then over Cath Pass and down JMT... so conditions change)
Anywho. Don't be stupid. Be prepared and you can do this trip this year. I highly
recommend you limit it to about 4 days though so you can get a good read on the
weather. Any forecast beyond that is pretty touch and go.
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 18, 2011 01:07PM
Quote
bill-e-g
keep a very very very close account of the weather

It's also a good idea to read the Area Forecast Discussion as well as the forecast. It'll let you know how good the forecast is and what concerns about the models are bothering the meteorologists.
Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 19, 2011 12:54PM
Thanks for all the tips guys. I'm going to head out in a few hours, stay the night in LYV (hoping I can just sneak into the back of my camper shell rather than paying for a piece of dirt at Sunnyside Campground...), and start hiking first thing Tuesday AM. Not sure how far I'll make it; Tenaya would be nice but it depends on how my legs are feeling after a couple of days. I would be happy just for an overnighter in the woods, and anything else is icing on the cake.

The forecasts look promising, and I have multiple bail-outs along the way. Bringing extra food & supplies for an extra night out, and a "3 season" tent that has proven itself an effective shelter in big snow dumps, in case I get dumped on. I'm just bringing yak trax, I decided against bringing snowshoes to keep pack weight down, so worst case scenario will be post-holing my way back to the car (or trying to McGyver together some rudimentary snowshoes with nylon rope, pine boughs, and snot).

I'll try to get some pictures and do a little write-up when I get back. Thanks for the advice & encouragement. Ok time to get packing.

Quote
bill-e-g
You have to be up on the rim before you can camp. It's self reg now so permits are not an issue.
If you go to the valley directly from 140 then you go to the Vistor Center to get a permit...
but there are no quotas this time of year. Depending on snow pack I'll come in 120
and have permit already at BOF entrance and never talk to anyone. Usually if you stay
at LYV first then you have to get a permit at the Valley visitor center. I never stay there
so I usually just write NOT STAYING IN LYV on my permit and am on my merry way.
The snow pack this year is non existent. But it can dump 4 feet of snow in one storm
and if you don't keep a very very very close account of the weather before you go
you can end up like one guy who went over Red Peak Pass one year and got dumped
on and got stuck. (just a note... that same year... a 2 weeks later I did a trip up
Snow Creek to TM and then over Cath Pass and down JMT... so conditions change)
Anywho. Don't be stupid. Be prepared and you can do this trip this year. I highly
recommend you limit it to about 4 days though so you can get a good read on the
weather. Any forecast beyond that is pretty touch and go.
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 19, 2011 02:55PM
"...stay the night in LYV (hoping I can just sneak into the back of my camper shell rather than paying for a piece of dirt at Sunnyside Campground..."

This part makes no sense to me. If you want to sleep in the back of your truck in the valley, pay for a site at Upper Pines, otherwise you face a hefty ticket and a rude awakening by rangers.

Otherwise park outside the valley, for instance on Harden Flat Road right outside the entrance on SR 120. Free and legal.

I doubt you will have any trouble with snow. Have a great trip.
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 19, 2011 06:50PM
I wouldn't bring snowshoes either. But... the comment about making shoes out of pine bows though...
what you should do sometime... is head up after a big dump.. and then head out for a little trek
with your snowshoes... then go off the trail you busted... and take them off... you will quickly
learn that you do not want to get caught out in a storm unprepared that dumped a few feet of snow.



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 19, 2011 07:29PM
Quote
chick-on
go off the trail you busted... and take them off

Did that once when we stopped for lunch. I can remember thinking "Wow, snowshoes really do work!".
Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 20, 2011 10:08AM
I have the Yaktrax Pro (step up from the cheap ones) and would not use them in the wilderness, these things are best suited to parking lots and emergencies. Getting microspikes and I have snow shoes, either one is more appropriate for real work. And the traction devices don't help in powdery snow anyways.

Would not try to sleep in the car - I have seen rangers checking parking lots late at night. They're patrolling looking for the sneaky ones trying to car camp in no camping zones. Unless you would pass for a seat cover this is risky business.
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 20, 2011 10:55AM
Quote
AlmostThere

Would not try to sleep in the car - I have seen rangers checking parking lots late at night. They're patrolling looking for the sneaky ones trying to car camp in no camping zones. Unless you would pass for a seat cover this is risky business.


I have to agree that it's being pennywise but pound foolish trying to sleep overnight illegally for free in Yosemite Valley, especially when there are relatively low cost options (Camp 4 and Upper Pines) available within Yosemite Valley itself, and legal and free options just outside the park.


Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 26, 2011 12:43PM
Quote
jishaq
I'll try to get some pictures and do a little write-up when I get back.

As promised, here is a write-up:

Trip Report: Yosemite Falls -> Snow Creek on Winter Solstice 2011

In a nutshell:

* I ended up car-camping at Upper Pines, but didn't have to pay for it (nobody there to collect my money when I arrived at 10pm, or when I left at 6am).
* In the off season, day-of wilderness permits can be got no earlier than 9 AM, which eats up about 1/5 of your usable daylight
* It was cold
* No critters anywhere, except for an errant chipmunk and some confused bees on sun-drenched exposures
* Creeks indicated on maps still have water and are easily accessible. Water is not an issue.
* Icy in parts, but snowshoes, shoe spikes not necessary for this hike.
* I basically had the place to myself!

Thanks again for the help & inspiration planning this.
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 26, 2011 02:57PM
Good write up.

Glad to hear you opted for Upper Pines, legal camping. I was thinking of mentioning that by getting in late and out early, you can avoid paying, but I didn't really want to publicize that.

For Wilderness Permits, check at the park entrances. For instance at Big Oak Flat, the forms are outside the office, unmanned, self-serve. I picked up a few extras so I can fill them out in advance, drop the pink and yellow copies in the box next time I drive in.
Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 26, 2011 03:44PM
Quote
QITNL
For Wilderness Permits, check at the park entrances. For instance at Big Oak Flat, the forms are outside the office, unmanned, self-serve. I picked up a few extras so I can fill them out in advance, drop the pink and yellow copies in the box next time I drive in.

Thanks! Regarding the permits ... I assume this only applies during the self-register period of what appears to be November through April (inclusive). I didn't see any forms or a slot for them when I came in from 140 on the Arch Rock Entrance Station (but the heated bathroom was handy!) and I also didn't see anywhere to drop them off. I was surprised that the visitor's center didn't have a similar system -- a couple of forms to fill out, and a slot to place them in. Instead, I had to wait until 9AM (plus about 20 minutes for the people in front of me to show the ranger pictures they took the day before). I thought to myself, man, there must be a more efficient way of getting this over with so I can get hiking!

Perhaps this convenience only exists at the Big Oak Flat entrance station? It was pretty dark so I might have just missed an iron ranger at Arch Rock.

It's good to learn the inner workings of YNP permits. You could spend days trying to figure it all out!
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 26, 2011 04:11PM
You are correct: scribbled on each permit is "BoF" and "winter use only."

There used to be a similar self-serve booth inside the Wilderness Center during the off-season. You would still need to wait until they opened. If now you have to stand in line, thanks for the warning.

I err on the side of the paperwork, particularly when typing on on-line forums, but I've never seen a ranger on the trail in the winter. Perhaps they occasionally drop in on high traffic trails like LYV.
Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 26, 2011 06:13PM
BoF winter use only. Ok got it.

My experience at the Visitor's Center was this:

- I arrived about 2 minutes after they opened at 9AM
- One party walked in the doors right before I did.
- The permits & info was directly in the back after walking straight through the door, slightly to the right.
- There was only one very talkative ranger behind the permits & info desk,
- There were two cashiers at the cashier station on the left, staring off into space the entire time I was there.
- As I was leaving at about 9:40 AM, it appeared that a second ranger was getting ready to get behind the permits & info desk, but I don't know for sure.

And so I patiently stood in line while the party in front of me showed the rangers pictures "oh is this a fox?" and generally chatting about wildlife in the park. Then someone called and the ranger took the phone call, and chatted with someone for about 15 minutes about how upper yosemite valley was closed for the season, and some recommendations for places to stay and the best summer months to arrive. Then the ranger finished up with the party in front of me, and spent the next 15 minutes with me filling out the wilderness permit with me.

So I don't know if that answers your question about standing in line for self-service permits, but my experience was that coming into the Arch Rock entrance (from 140) it is not possible to do self-service permits, which you corroborate only exist for the Big Oak Flat entrance; and, I did indeed have to stand in line for some time to get my permit from the visitor's center. Perhaps they normally have more than 1 ranger, but I think he slept in a bit and so it didn't help me.

Next time, if time were of the essence as it is during winter solstice, I would go to the trouble of coming in from Big Oak Flat for the express purposes of being able to have permit-in-hand before 9AM, and of not having to get into a line and wait as the Visitor's Center helped other people. I didn't really care about waiting until essentially 10 AM to have permit-in-hand, because I went into this as a learning experience, but I also know this timing can make or break a trip depending on its itinerary. I would have preferred to get hiking at 7:30AM, and now I know how to make that happen (by self-registering at BoF).

I can't say I'd have any ethical problem going in without a permit if its acquisition were prohibitively difficult, though I generally try to do the right thing and pay the various fees to support the parks. I've had my permit checked 1 out of every 10 or so outings in the various parks in the Sierras, and my experience with rangers on the trail in YNP has always made me feel like I'm being interrogated and is therefore generally unpleasant and antithetical to my enjoyment of the wilderness. I understand it's a double-edge sword and a park with as many visitors as YNP needs to enforce its regulations. Not sure what the fine is ($250 I'd guess?), and whether they march you out of the park upon violation (or make a point of catching you again in your next campsite) or just let you stay. It would be interesting to read about peoples' experiences with this actually, I wonder if there is a thread here. I've heard some funny stories from people on the trail about rangers' horses accidentally pissing on tents, etc.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 12/26/2011 06:34PM by jishaq.
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 26, 2011 06:37PM
OMG. I would have gone postal. Or perhaps given the impression that I was on the verge of such, prompting a ranger to hustle me out of there before I scare the tourons.

I usually only resort to that trick in the summer. Time is money!

Add: I've only had good experiences with the rangers I've met in the backcountry. Usually I'm the one who is full of questions. Why are you carrying a paintball gun? What's that pounding sound I keep hearing? I think I'm often the one doing the interrogating.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/26/2011 06:46PM by QITNL.
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 28, 2011 08:14AM
Doood...

I guess you didn't read what I wrote closely enough.
http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,49449,49628#msg-49628
(although you quoted it later)
(Re-read the first few sentences) (purty clear to me)

I feel your pain w/r to getting the permit. Been there too many times myself.
Argh!!!!!!!!



Chick-on is looking at you!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/28/2011 08:15AM by chick-on.
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 27, 2011 01:41AM
Quote
jishaq

Perhaps this convenience only exists at the Big Oak Flat entrance station?


No, there are other locations within Yosemite National Park where one can self-register.

One can also self-register in the late fall, winter, and early spring months outside the Wawona Visitor Center (located at the Hill's Studio in Wawona), and when Tioga Road is open (as it is now) at the Tuolumne Ranger Station (not the Tuolumne Vistor Center) in Tuolumne Meadows. And when Badger Pass finally opens up for the season, one can self-register there at the Badger Pass Ranger Station (the A-frame building).



Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 27, 2011 11:01AM
Quote
plawrence
No, there are other locations within Yosemite National Park where one can self-register...

Haha sounds like I came in just about the only entrance where you can't self-register! Good to know, thank you.
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 28, 2011 08:21AM
You said this... I really have to comment on..
Quote
jeff guy
Next time, I will probably try to do this earlier in the season, say late October, to avoid spending the evenings wrapped up in my sleeping bag trying to stay warm.

Uh... It will be just as darn cold then as it has been in December.
Even early Oct. can be cold. I've been near Starr King in early Oct. Just above 32.
And I've also been near Post Peak Pass mid Sept. water bottle froze and broke.
So... as they say... YMMV baby. (I'm not calling you a baby btw)

Have fun



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 28, 2011 09:43AM
Yeah, but I also said I would start saving up for a warmer sleeping bag! The CDEC page with low temps is super handy too. Thank god I finally have some camping gear I can look forward to buying. I've left REI empty-handed at least five times now, because I really didn't need anything. So sad.
avatar Re: Late Season Trip Report
December 31, 2011 08:21AM
Didn't see you say that. One thing you can get which will extend the rating is
a sleeping bag liner. I have this one and love it:
http://www.rei.com/product/781858/sea-to-summit-premium-silk-mummy-bag-liner-with-hood

Obviously YMMV since some peeps complained about it there.
Mine did rip at the tops... but I know how to sew, so no big deal to me.



Chick-on is looking at you!
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