What a year to plan a summer backpacking trip in Yosemite. I’m originally from the Midwest, there’s not supposed to be snow in July! We were in Yosemite last 4th of July and didn’t see any of the white stuff, but 2011 is unusual. There is more snow than any time since 1995. The park is reporting 178% of average snowpack this year. In 1995 Tioga Pass Road opened on 30 June, in 1998 on 1 July. We’re hoping to take the backpackers bus to Tenaya Lakes on 2 July, so it may just open in time. Hopefully no more big storms, no avalanches that slow progress down, and we may still be able to do our Plan A: Day 1 -Tenaya Lake to Clouds Rest Junction – set up camp. Day 2 – Hike Cloud’s Rest. Day 3 – Hike Half-Dome, pack and hike to Valley Floor, rest, relaxation, and a few well deserved beers at the Ahwahnee.
We have decided to hike Clouds Rest as as a day hike and not backpack over it. Now there is a very real possibility that there will be snow on Clouds Rest when we are there. As long as there is a clear trail this will be an awesome day hike. If there is snow on some of the more hairy parts of the hike, I may not feel comfortable hiking through those areas. We’ll keep an eye on the news out of Yosemite, and if it looks promising we’ll do the hike at least as far as we can safely navigate the trail.
The news has actually gotten a little better in the last week. The road to Glacier point is open, they have plowed Tioga Pass Road all the way through, but it is still not open, and there is not estimated date (June 21st Update Tioga Pass Road is open! But the permanent facilities may not open until 8 July). It appears that the threat of avalanches is one big limiting factor in opening the road. The hiker’s bus schedule is tentatively posted and they are estimating that the first day the bus will run, conditions permitting is 2 July. That will work for us if “conditions permit” and we get scheduled for the bus. Our trip is now less than 3 weeks away and there is not guaranty that we will be able to take the bus. They won’t take reservations for the bus until they have some better idea of when weather will allow Tioga Pass Road to open. In order to have the most up to date information on conditions I’ll monitor the Yosemite Website Current Conditions page. The Sentinel Dome webcam is also a good source of visual data about the current conditions on Clouds Rest and Half-Dome. To get the best visual look, check out the webcam from 10:00am to 2:00pm Pacific Time. Unfortunately this view does not give a good look at the east approach to Clouds Rest. The general trail conditions page for June 2011 states that the Clouds Rest trail is free of snow to 8200 feet and then 100% covered about that and that the top is covered with snow. So I believe to get the best view possible on the 4th of July weekend we will climb as high as we can safely go from the west, then head back down.
We will need backup plans. Although we have a confirmed back-country permit, it is for entry at Tenaya Lakes, but we have to pick up the actual permit no earlier than the day before we enter. If there is no way to get to the trail-head, I’m not certain we will be given our permit. So we need to contact the park to find out what our options are. Can we enter the park from the east? The road may be open from the east entry to Tenaya Lake. Can we start from the valley floor as long as we hike past Little Yosemite Valley to camp at Clouds Rest junction? I’m still very hopeful that we will be doing our Plan A hikes this year in Yosemite. We are training for those hikes and have been looking forward to the challenge and the beauty of Yosemite all year. The only way I’ll truly be disappointed is if we have to cancel the whole trip. I think that is very, very unlikely!
Update: We cancelled our trip! Really bummed but we’re looking at doing it later this year. The trail from Tenaya Lake was not going to work. There was a 40 foot crossing of chest high, ice cold water, and past that a very difficult to bypass avalanche area. The walk up permit option was less attractive and seemed pretty shaky on a holiday weekend. And the Ranger stated they would be checking for permits at the top of Nevada Falls, so it seemed like a really bad idea to go ahead with this plan. Plus we were most likely not going to be able to go up Clouds Rest. So I guess for now I’ll say delayed, not canceled.
We’ve rescheduled, but not all of us can go, and the plan has changed, due to fewer Wilderness Permits being available. But we are on for the weekend of 20 August. I’ll post some pictures and a description of the trip once we pull it off!
Previous post for this trip: Yosemite Clouds Rest Backpack or Not
Next post of this trip: Yosemite (2011) – (Part 1 – Yosemite Valley and a Vernal Falls Day Hike)