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