Hot Hot Hetch Hetchy

We rolled into Hetch Hetchy Friday evening just before the gates closed at 9PM. After grabbing our permit, we made our way to the backpacker camp. It was warm and the sky was clear as we set up camp for the night. The weather for the weekend was supposed to be hot, so we were planning on getting an early start to beat the heat.

Day 1: Backpacker Camp to Lake Vernon (June 8, 2013)

Crossing O'Shaughnessy Dam

Crossing O’Shaughnessy Dam

I woke up with the sun at about 5:30AM. Hugues and Paul arose shortly after and we hit the trail by 7AM in an effort to climb out of the reservoir valley before it got too hot.

The wind was blowing hard across the reservoir as we crossed the dam and started up and out of the valley at 7:30AM. The temperature had already reached 80°F!

The climb out of the valley was steep and hot, but we made it to Beehive by 10AM. From here we took a short detour to Laurel Lake for lunch and a swim. At this point the temperature had reached 95°F. I was the first one in the lake and the water felt amazing!

Laurel Lake

Laurel Lake

After a swim and some lunch, we continued towards Lake Vernon. Much of the trail was through forest recovering from a wild fire several years ago. The recovering forest had a fair Granit slabs towards lake vernonamount of standing water to support enough mosquitoes to keep us moving at a quick pace.

As we approached the hottest part of the day we cleared what remained of the forest and made our way across granite slab with sparse tree cover. The sun was beating down hard, but we were getting close to the lake where we would set up camp for the night.

Once at the lake, it wasn’t long before we found a nice campground with a fire ring in a small cluster of trees. We dropped the packs and headed for the lake. Vernon was a bit colder than Laurel Lake, but after hiking in 95°F weather it was just the refreshing swim we needed!

Lake Vernon

Lake Vernon

Relaxing by Lake Vernon (Photo Credit: Paul)

Relaxing by Lake Vernon (Photo Credit: Paul)

Backcountry PizzaAfter a swim and some lake side relaxation, I made my way back to camp to set up my tent and take a much needed nap.

It was still early when I started preparing dinner, but I was baking pizza so I needed the extra time. This was the first trip in CA that I was able to build a twiggy fire on my Fry-Bake because of the ever-present fire restrictions, so I took advantage of it! After baking to perfection, I chowed down on a pizza in the backcountry!

As the daylight faded, we managed to clean up from dinner just before the mosquitoes attacked… The sun had just set, the wind died down and the skeeters came out in full force! Even my 100% DEET didn’t seem to phase them, so we retreated to the tents for the night.


Find more photos from this trip on Flickr!

Lake Vernon Camp

Lake Vernon Camp


Clouds Rest 2.0

Having been defeated by snow conditions the previous year, we were back in Yosemite to attempt a summit of Clouds Rest in the snow. The goal once again, was to loop the valley starting at Happy Isles trailhead and climbing up-and-over Clouds Rest on our way to Tenaya Lake, returning via Tioga Pass and the Snow Creek trail to complete the loop.

Day 1: Happy Isles to JMT Cutoff (March 27, 2013)

Vernal Falls as seen from the Mist trail

Vernal Falls as seen from the Mist trail

This winter had been warmer and dryer than the previous. This was evident as we made our way up the Mist trail towards Little Yosemite Valley (LYV). Most years, this trail is still closed in March due to icy trail conditions. Not a problem this year.

Using the Mist trail cut about 1.5 miles off the distance to LYV where we had camped the year before. This year however, we continued a short ways past to where the John Muir Trail split from the Clouds Rest summit trail.

We made camp near this junction. The ground was mostly free of snow, and there was a stream flowing nearby for water. It was about 4:30PM as we made camp and it began to rain.

The next day we would be attempting the summit of Clouds Rest!

Day 2: Clouds Rest Summit Day (March 28, 2013)

The morning was cool, and the tents damp from the nights rain. We didn’t waste much time breaking down camp as we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to summit Clouds Rest.

We hit the trail at 9:00AM. The sky was partly cloudy. It wasn’t until after the main switchbacks that we needed to put on snowshoes (The previous year we were in snowshoes starting from LYV).

Climbing Clouds Rest

The condition of the snow was very good as we worked our way towards the summit. The weather was on our side as we made the final steep push that had turned us back the year before. Where there had been a sheet of ice, there was now dry steps leading us to the summit.

We made it!

Winter Summit - Clouds Rest

On the summit of Clouds Rest (9,931 ft)

On the summit just after noon, we could see for miles. The sun was out, but dark clouds were hanging in the distance.

With another summit under our belts, we turned our attention to getting down before more weather moved in. We made our way off the other side of the summit, down the knife edge.

Paul making his way off the summit with Tenaya Lake in the distance

Paul making his way off the summit with Tenaya Lake in the distance

Camp night 2 (Photo Credit: Paul)

Camp night 2 (Photo Credit: Paul)

From the summit, we made our way into the neighboring valley for camp. The valley was deep with snow, and it took some time to build a sturdy platform for the tent. We were once again camping near a stream, though this one was buried under about 4 feet of snow.

The clouds moved in for night two of weather and it began snowing. As daylight faded, large, heavy snow flakes began falling and we retreated to the tents.

It had been a long day of snowshoeing, but the satisfaction of completing the summit was immense! The next day we would be making our way to Tenaya lake then onward to Snow Creek Cabin.


Continue with the second half of this trip HERE!

Check out more photos on Flickr!