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Re: Airplane Gully and Pywiack Pool (long)

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Airplane Gully and Pywiack Pool (long)
June 30, 2012 04:14PM
While checking the forum for directions to Mt Watkins, I realized that I hadn't found any good description of Airplane Gully and the pool at the base of Pywiack Cascade.

Airplane Gully is named for the airplane that crashed and lay there from 1959 to 1975, before being cleaned up and hauled away by the authorities. They left behind a couple of items: One propeller blade blade near the top of the gully (probably overlooked), and a radial aircraft engine about halfway down the gully.

Airplane wrecks are well reported on the web, so I will just excerpt a few facts about this one.

"On Tuesday March 24, 1959 a flight of 3 AD-6 Skyraiders left Moffett Field on a training flight. They flew up Yosemite Valley below cloud cover with the ceiling at the valley rim. They then continued up Tenaya Canyon and climbed to the ceiling. Seeing that they had entered a blind canyon, the three planes attempted a 180 degree turn to the left. The lead plane flown by Lt. Fox completed the turn. The second plane flown by Cdr. Rippa struck his right wing on the right canyon wall, continued across the head of the canyon and impacted the left wall belly first in a steep bank, then exploded at about 1440 hours. The third plane flown by Ensign Fennel climbed out through the top of the canyon.

One propeller was found on top of the cliff some 500 feet above the impact. The tail and engine fell to the bottom of the gully. At some later date, possibly around 1970, the park service removed the wreckage leaving the huge 18 cylinder radial engine
."



The gully makes for a very strenuous diversion from the otherwise easy off-trail hike from Olmstead Point over to Mt Watkins saddle. Yes, there is a trail that goes between those two points. But it is more interesting to head down closer to the edge of Tenaya Canyon, and follow along it to Mt Watkins. The hike goes as follows: Follow the drainage downward from Olmstead Point until it plunges over the canyon rim at Airplane Gully. At this point you can send the energetic people part way down it (see below), while the others gawk at the propeller (one of four giant blades on the engine...I don't know how they ever landed the plane without having a prop blade hit the ground).



The blade is currently at N37.79368, W119.49050. Though, as you can see, it could have moved around a bit.



It was spinning when it hit the cliff.



To continue the hike over to Mt Watkins, wander across the interesting terrain until you get below the trail that you see on the left edge of the map. The only route finding difficulty is deciding where to head up to the trail without getting into brush. The best place is below and slightly to the left of the saddle, where you can walk up the left border of the brush, on the edge where it turns into granite. It is also possible to head east from the propeller, up onto the rock rib that goes back towards Olmstead Point. I can't really recommend it, because when you are up there it's hard to see the easy way down at the north end.

If you want to go down the gully, you are in for a workout. I have only been down to the bottom once, though I have been down to the engine three times. The important thing is to not follow the stream over the cliff. It soon becomes a waterfall. But just a few yards to the left is an improbable easy entrance into the talus-filled gully, partly open rocks and boulders and partly (sometimes) jungle. The problem is that it is a snow avalanche chute. Depending on last winter's snow and the time of year that you do it, the brush could be all swept away or not. There are also a couple of huge boulders to get around, and like all talus piles they change slightly after each winter. You can do the easy boulder climb down (with 20 feet of very scary exposure), or as I did last time, climb down in an adjacent thicket.

Here is the engine as it was (a Wright R-3350 engine, about 3000 horsepower), which was installed in the AD-6 attack plane:



and as it is today:







Pywiack Pool is at the base of the gully (see red X), and is a neat place. You can see it here as a black dot:



That was the view from Mt Watkins. Airplane Gully comes down from the left, and goes straight to the pool.



I apologize for so many photos, but remember that the forum doesn't store anything but pointers, so I'm not overloading their storage....



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/30/2012 04:28PM by wherever.
avatar Re: Airplane Gully and Pywiack Pool (long)
June 30, 2012 04:30PM
Don't apologize for the photos!! Those were great. Thank you for sharing them!
avatar Re: Airplane Gully and Pywiack Pool (long)
June 30, 2012 05:36PM
Wonderful... missed the blade a few times now. sigh...

Some more photos and stuff about this area in these threads:
http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,45714
http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,47282

The Airplane Gully is a pain in the rump. Not sure there is a really nice way all the way to the base.
But... getting to the engine isn't toooo bad.



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Airplane Gully and Pywiack Pool (long)
July 01, 2012 08:20PM
Quote
chick-on
The Airplane Gully is a pain in the rump. Not sure there is a really nice way all the way to the base.
But... getting to the engine isn't toooo bad.

Yeah, you said as much back in August. But not everyone has seen what you are talking about. Here are two views from June, 2004.

The pine tree is about half way down the gully, below the engine:



Here is the same tree looking back up from about 3/4 of the way down to the pool:



But I will remind you again why this is mostly brush and not bigger stuff. Every decade or so, a humongous snow and ice avalanche comes down from the face above, and cleans it all up again. I haven't seen it recently....
Re: Airplane Gully and Pywiack Pool (long)
July 01, 2012 10:38PM
A couple more from October 2011:







And one more with a big rock in the background:
avatar Re: Airplane Gully and Pywiack Pool (long)
July 07, 2012 05:42PM
True.

Here's the big picture from 2011:



In here you can see the "middle" tree and the tree above near where the engine is.
My recommendation is to either hike to the engine and call it a win... or
hike down to the cascade and go back up the "Lone Boulder" route.
Going down shrub is a lot easier than going up... and friction climbing up is easier than down.

Only other thing I have to say is... don't blame me.



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Airplane Gully and Pywiack Pool (long)
September 25, 2015 03:52PM
Quote
chick-on
True.

Here's the big picture from 2011:



In here you can see the "middle" tree and the tree above near where the engine is.
My recommendation is to either hike to the engine and call it a win... or
hike down to the cascade and go back up the "Lone Boulder" route.
Going down shrub is a lot easier than going up... and friction climbing up is easier than down.

Only other thing I have to say is... don't blame me.

Thanks, this confirms what my initial thoughts were. This is probably our plan. Olmsted start, down to engine. Hike down to pool (dry right now?), if we feel like it. Then gotta do that friction walk up to LB, out Sunrise.
Re: Airplane Gully and Pywiack Pool (long)
September 26, 2015 04:38AM
Down is distinctly easier. Especially so if the one difficult boulder move has gotten harder as the talus shifts, since you can always bypass it in the very steep bushes. I carry a hand line, just in case. Going up the east side has no difficult place, if you don't get lost.
Re: Airplane Gully and Pywiack Pool (long)
September 25, 2015 03:49PM
Might be exploring this area on Sunday, via Olmsted-Sunrise TH loop. For airplane gully, which direction is easier to tackle: up or down? This would help determine which is the better place to start. Thanks.
Re: Airplane Gully and Pywiack Pool (long)
September 07, 2017 07:17PM
Curious if anyone has been from Olmsteaddown to Airplane Gully then onto Tenaya Creek and of course through the inner gorge back to the valley recently? I have canyoneering equipment, just curious what the conditions in the airplane gully/slab to the right of the pywick look like.
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