Yosemite - Lyell/Vogelsang TR

Posted by: trailblazer

Yosemite - Lyell/Vogelsang TR - 06/04/08 12:32 PM

Its been a while since I've posted a trip report here, so I thought I'd get back in the groove.

Was able to get out for an early season trip this past weekend. I got a relatively late start on Saturday. In no hurry whatsoever, I slowly made my way up Lyell, then Rafferty Creek. A few miles up Rafferty Creek I kept saying to myself "I must've been crazy to even think I'd need snowshoes". An hour later I was saying to myself "I'm crazy for NOT bringing snowshoes!" - the trail became completely lost under several feet of wet spring snow. Reaching a short, flat stretch of trail carved through the forest, I looked up from my wet feet to see a Red-Tailed Hawk flying down the forested tunnel right towards me. In what seemed like slow motion, on it flew towards me, coming within about 15 feet of me before making a sharp bank up, giving me a full prey's eye view only to disappear into the dense forest. Whoa...

Slow going as the afternoon snow turned wet, I spent the rest of the hike sinking a few inches with every step, followed by a good slip and slide to round it off. Reaching Fletcher Lake by late afternoon, I was happy to find a few flat and snow free camping spots around the frozen lake, with an unfrozen running stream for water within easy walking distance. That evening the fog rolled in as the sun began to set, to the east a large Sierra Wave stretched along the Sierra Crest.

A relatively cold night, the following day broke windy and clear. After lounging around camp, exploring Fletcher Lake, and watching the incredible number of different birds in the area, I began the slow work across the snow toward Evelyn Lake and Ireland Creek. The snow was still hard from the cold night, so I strapped on the crampons for easy walking. Taking my time, stopping here and there to eat and nap, I reach the Ireland Creek drainage a little after mid-day. Descending down the creek was an experience: a nice exercise in route finding down the steep and snowy forest, and only once dangerously postholing down to my waste. The snow faded into several streams, and I finally picked up the trail several hundred meters from the intersection with the JMT. Down in Lyell Canyon, I wandered around the area, at one point laying down and, not realizing how tired I really was, just fell asleep. Finally, I set up camp adjacent to a beautiful meadow, and for hours I watched several deer graze in the nearby meadow. Across the river there were two rabbits flirting with each other. That evening I saw the first people since leaving the trailhead.

The following morning I awoke to find everything coated in the thing layer of frost. My water bottle was partly frozen, and in the distance I could hear a coyote howling up a storm. The hike out was slow, as the majority of the trail in Lyell Canyon was flooded out from the spring thaw. Wading through puddle after puddle, I finally reached the trailhead parking lot to find my vehicle the only one there. Yes, a vacant Tuolumne Meadows - almost sounds oxymoronic.

Some notes on equipment: I was expecting snow and cold weather, so I ended up carrying a bit (ok, a lot) more gear than my usual 3 season. My alcohol stove would have been a pain to boil water compared to my whisperlite. I needed crampons and brought an ice axe but didn't use it. I brought more clothes, and given all this opted for my sturdier winter backpack over my 3 season framless pack.

The lowdown on current conditions: In Lyell the snow was patchy and not really even in need of mention. What was more of a nuisance was the amount of standing water in Lyell, making one wade through puddle after puddle. Rafferty Creek was snow free/patchy for quite some time, but around 9500 (a rough guess) the snow became constant, with mostly solid coverage all around. There were a number of snow free camp spots at Fletcher and Evelyn Lake. Stream and Creak crossing weren't a problem on the route I took. The lakes up there were still frozen solid, except for near the outlets.

For a general map of the area:

A few pics, hopefully more to come:
Sunrise near the thawed outlet of Fletcher Lake


Foggy sunset

Evelyn Lake
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Yosemite - Lyell/Vogelsang TR - 06/04/08 12:50 PM

Looks like we were both in Yosemite snow over the weekend! I hit snow on the shady side at about 8,500 feet and at about 9,500 feet on the "sunny" side of slopes. There is still lots of snow in the deep trees above 8,000 feet. The weather is to remain cool the rest of this week so the melting is going to be slowed down. When I got out yesterday, a large part of the new snow that fell over the holidays was melted below 9,000 feet. We had below-freezing temps at night once we were above 7,000 feet.

Great photos. Are those digital camera shots or film?
Posted by: kevonionia

Re: Yosemite - Lyell/Vogelsang TR - 06/04/08 03:36 PM

Was reading along about your trek, enjoying it, and came upon that first image and it took my breath from me. Wow. I could stare at that all day. Thanks.
Posted by: trailblazer

Re: Yosemite - Lyell/Vogelsang TR - 06/04/08 03:43 PM

Thanks WD and kev!

wandering_daisy, pics are digital. It was darn cold for me as well. Water bottle had chunks of ice in the morning. Camped up high amongst the snow the slightest breeze would just chill me to the bone. Almost felt like I was winter camping
Posted by: lori

Re: Yosemite - Lyell/Vogelsang TR - 06/04/08 08:01 PM

Guess I know where I'm planning to go, once the snow melts a bit more.

Wow. Thanks for the report. Gorgeous pics. Looks like a great outing.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Yosemite - Lyell/Vogelsang TR - 06/16/08 01:19 PM

You are obviously a great photographer! I never can get photos right when there is snow, particularly clear sunny days. How did you get the detail in the snow on the last photo? Is it your camera settings, or processing?
Posted by: trailblazer

Re: Yosemite - Lyell/Vogelsang TR - 06/16/08 05:18 PM

Thanks Lori, and thanks again WD.

The whites are a little of both exposure and processing. I shoot in RAW which helps, and dial down the exposure so the whites aren't overexposed (helps to meter the snow for the exposure). I believe I also had a polarizer on my lens for that shot. That being said for this particular photo I still had to dial down the whites when I processed the photo.
FWIW I put a few more image on my Vogelsang webpage.
Posted by: Fets

Re: Yosemite - Lyell/Vogelsang TR - 07/03/08 08:02 AM

Love the photos. Care to share any tips for how you lug your equipment in the back country? Do you take a tripod? How do you pack your equipment to protect it?

I would like to start hiking with my DSLR but haven't yet figured out the best way to do that.

Looked at your other nature photos, you do some great work. Thanks for sharing. I love the one of the Sea Lion eating the shark, that was pretty awesome.
Posted by: trailblazer

Re: Yosemite - Lyell/Vogelsang TR - 07/07/08 10:22 AM

Thanks so much Fets! Most of my camera gear (tripod included) is either loaded into my backpack of onto my homemade padded harness camera bag (this bag itself is silnylon and padded with closed cell foam). The harness bag allows me to carry my camera on my chest for easy access (sometimes for other reasons though I'll pack it into my backpack). On top of that I'll normally carry along a few garbage bags and extra ziplocks to protect my gear from dust and water. Not sure if that helps, but I hope so <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: Fets

Re: Yosemite - Lyell/Vogelsang TR - 07/07/08 11:01 AM

How much gear are you packing? If you are willing I would rather learn from your experience than learn the hard way! lol

I shoot Nikon, I have a D300 or a D100 I would take and for lenses I have 70-200 2.8 and a couple of options in mid-range zooms such as a 24-120 VR.

Do you bother taking larger glass like the 70-200 2.8? Do you hike with even bigger lenses like a 300 2.8?

Wide angle lens is next on my list. My bogen tripod is a pretty heavy duty model, much heavier than I would want to backpack with, but I have a small cheap off-brand tripod that will probably be good for low light shots in the back country.

I figure I'll just have to get my gear on the trail and find wha works best for me but I can see a few options on what to take and how to pack it and I am just undecided on what might work best. Not sure I would like having something strapped to the front of me, but taking my pack off all the time to snap some photos would get old too.

I didn't take my camera on my last trip (first trip in years - getting back into packing). And wouldn't you know it we walked to within 120 feet of a big black bear. So I can see where carrying a camera on your front would be worth the hassle.

Thanks for your input! I am a wedding photographer, so if I can get nature photos even 1/3 as good as what you have on your website it will be worth me hauling around my gear. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: trailblazer

Re: Yosemite - Lyell/Vogelsang TR - 07/07/08 01:34 PM

I usually just take what's necessary, which may seem like a lot to some. Here's a short gear list of my camera gear alone:
Canon 40D
1.4x extender
Velbon Carbon fiber tripod (usually remove the center column)
Filters (graduated neutral density, polarizer, etc..)
Remote Release
Memory Cards
Spare battery or two

Sometimes I may carry a backup camera body (digital or film). I normally hike around with my 1.4x + 70-200 on my camera for wildlife, just in case. If I'm out for just a day hike or trail run, sometimes I will take along a 400mm but I've never taken that behemoth backpacking.