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5 Day Yosemite Trip
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Jason Anderson
(Jason762) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
5 Day Yosemite Trip on 09/07/2011 00:37:34 MDT Print View

Hey all -

I'm planning a trip to Yosemite late September

If I go, I'll be taking Amtrak down to the visitor center and hiking up to Ottoway Lake via the Happy Isles trailhead (see below for proposed trail).

I'd arrive at 12 PM and after getting my wilderness permit/catching the shuttle, I predict I'll be on trail by 1:30. I'm hoping to reach lower ottoway the same day around 8 PM. What do you think - doable? I'm in decent cardiovascular condition and hiking with a ~40 pound pack (haven't figured the weight exact yet).

My questions are:
1) Water - are there good streams to fill up on along the way or are they dried up by September? I'm planning on having 2 quarts.
2) What do you do about poo above the treeline? Mostly rock I assume, so you can't dig a proper cathole.
3) Are there showers and storage lockers at the visitor center? Don't want to offend anyone's delicate sensibilities on the bus/train back home

I'm open to whatever advice or tidbits you have to offer!


If I've done my mapping right I'll be starting from Happy Isles walking on
the Mist Trail
to John Miur trail
to Mt Starr King View trail
to Mono Meadows
to Lower Merced Pass Lake
to Ottoway Lake

I'll probably basecamp with a friend of mine and hike back out on the 5th day.

Edited by Jason762 on 09/07/2011 00:59:53 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: 5 Day Yosemite Trip on 09/07/2011 21:17:17 MDT Print View

"hiking with a ~40 pound pack"

We don't like to speak that kind of language here.


Jason Anderson
(Jason762) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Gee... on 09/07/2011 22:00:28 MDT Print View

Quite helpful Bob, thank you.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
bury and pack it out on 09/07/2011 22:05:55 MDT Print View

You'll have to try to bury your krap and bring a Baggie to pack the tp out in per Park regs. Canister too. Never been where you plan on bping. Have fun.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: 5 Day Yosemite Trip on 09/07/2011 22:31:00 MDT Print View

Illiloutte Creek is the only significant drainage in that whole area, and you will see it at the Happy Isles trailhead. So, at that last moment you can judge how much water to try to carry at any point up to Lower Merced Pass Lake. In other words, if Illiloutte Falls is dry, it is a bad sign.


David Drake
(DavidDrake) - F

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Gee... on 09/08/2011 00:49:30 MDT Print View

Bob can be a little blunt, perhaps, but this *is* BackpackingLight. For five days, your food can be as light as 1.5# per day, or 7.5# for the trip. Add another 8 oz for a full gas canister or adequate fuel alcohol, and maybe 4.5# of water if you have to carry 2 liters between sources. That's 12.5-13# for consumables out of a 40# pack. Will your base weight really be 27# or more? If so, it is very, very easy to cut that by half (or more).

I'm sure you can carry 40# if necessary, but why would you want to if you don't have to?

Edited by DavidDrake on 09/08/2011 01:01:21 MDT.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: 5 Day Yosemite Trip on 09/08/2011 14:20:38 MDT Print View

Well, by my NatGeo map, if my math is right, you're looking at making about 18-20 miles in 6.5 planned hiking hours on Day One. That's a pace of 2.75-3mph including any stops you make.

Elevation gain is ~5700', with about half that during the first 4-5 miles and about half during the last 3-4, with 10 relatively flat miles in between.

I usually average 3-3.5mph in the Sierra over that kind of terrain including stopping for views, refilling water, etc, but that's me.

Also, I'm going to be in Yosemite/Ansel Adams Wilderness the last week of September and sunset is in the 6:50pm to 6:45pm ranger during that time, which means you'll be walking the last 3-4 miles of your trip in failing light to darkness.

As Bob said, Illiloutte Creek is the only water source between Happy Isles and Lower Merced Pass Lake, which is a distance of 16.5 miles, and late in the season it may not be reliable for the entire distance, so keep an eye on it. I like to have about 15-20 oz of water per hour, so 2 qts for me would last 3-4hrs. At my pace, I could probably make 16.5 miles okay on that knowing I could take up at the end, so long as the heat wasn't excessive, which it shouldn't be at the end of September.

What pace are you capable/comfortable with? Are you okay hiking and setting up camp in the dark?

I believe there are showers at Curry Village for pay, and I'm pretty sure anyone can use them as long as you are willing to pay.

There will be bear lockers at the TH, or plenty of other places. You can use those for storage. Not for valuables, but I've left clothes in ther for 4 days with no problem.

Human waste that can't be buried should be packed out.

Edit: Also, since you are showing up at Noon, did you note that permits are only held until 10am the day of and then cancelled, unless you call to say you will be late? I don't know if you have to call the day of to say you'll be late, or if you can call they day before. Wouldn't want to show up to find my permit given away.

Edited by jrmacd on 09/08/2011 14:27:43 MDT.

Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
5 Day Yosemite Trip on 09/08/2011 16:33:45 MDT Print View

2) What do you do about poo above the treeline? Mostly rock I assume, so you can't dig a proper cathole.

I just got back from the JMT and often pooped pretty high. I tried to sleep low occasionally winding up pooping up high (with my after dinner post wakeup poo ritual). It's less secluded above the treeline, but doable. I always seemed to find a nice enough place within a hundred feet of my stop point. Sometimes I couldn't dig down enough to meet my ideal depth but I figured as long as I could get it fully covered and stir it up a big with a twig I was fine. Also I don't use TP (small cones/grass) so I figured that was good enough sometimes.

carl becker
(carlbecker) - F

Locale: Northern Virginia
Re: 5 Day Yosemite Trip on 09/12/2011 20:16:31 MDT Print View

I just came back from Yosemite. Showers are available with towels for anyone paying. They closed between 2-3pm (cleaning) when I was there in late August. Water was still very good in Virginia canyon.

First Last
(snusmumriken) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
20 miles in one short afternoon on 09/12/2011 22:10:31 MDT Print View

is what your first day will look like,
then you have 5 days of base-camping at lower Ottoway lake,
then 20 miles back.

If 20 miles in a few hours is really no big deal to you, make it a loop instead with peak bagging and exploration along the way.
Here's a possible itinerary:
1, hike up Vernal and Nevada falls, along the Panorama trail, if you've never seen Glacier Point jog the extra mile up the hill to take a look, camp in Illilloute next to the creek
2, continue up to beautiful Lower Ottoway Lake, plenty of peak bagging here to round out your day
3, up over Red Peak Pass, explore some of the lakes off trail on the other side of the pass such as Red Devil, Edna maybe camp at Harriet
4, continue along the high trail exploring the Lyell fork of the Merced river as you pass by (this was Ansel Adams favorite part of Yosemite, the peak here bears his name)
5, head out down past Merced Lake, Little Yosemite and then last past Nevada and Vernal falls.
The Clark range is perfect for September as this is one of the last places to melt out.
However be prepared for the possibility of storms and even some snow as late September is definitely shoulder season.
Have a great trip!

jennifer ross
(jenhifive) - F

Locale: Norcal
Lockers and such on 09/21/2011 16:40:19 MDT Print View

You can leave your stuff at the backpackers parking lot in the bear boxes. Just put your stuff in a big paper bag with your name, departure and return date.

I can't say it's impossible but I think it's unlikely that you could start on the trail at 1:30 and make it to lower otto lake by 8pm. The climb out of the valley with a 40 lb pack is going to be the toughest part but looks like it kind of flattens out the way you'd be headed.

Would it be your first visit to Yosemite? When you pick up your wilderness permits now they give you a half dome permit and I'd recommend if you haven't done it that you do. I haven't been on that side of Yosemite but a lot of people do a loop around vogalsang to sunrise lakes then you could go to clouds rest.

Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
Illilouette Canyon on 09/23/2011 09:15:34 MDT Print View

Tough that you have to start at Happy Isles. This hike would be a lot easier from Mono Meadows. Any chance you can get the bus to Glacier Point? That would stop at Mono Meadows and cut off a few miles and a few thousand feet of climbing.

We've done this hike. It's lovely. But Ottaway Lake in one day is really hard. We started at Mono Meadow about 11 a.m., and hiked for about 5 hours, camped just below Upper Merced Pass lake. And then left the climb up to Ottaway for the last day.

Admittedly, you may hike harder/longer/faster than we do...but we hiked downhill from Ottaway Lake and got to within a couple of miles of Mono Meadows before calling it a day. That was 12+ miles

Not a lot of water outside of illilouette Creek on this trail. There is one stream (Clark Fork of the Illiloutte) that should have water. I wouldn't count on any of the others...

OUr website has photos and a short trip report on this hike...

Edited by balzaccom on 09/23/2011 09:16:39 MDT.