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Spring Snow May 2011: Doc's trip from Little Yosemite Valley to Sunrise Lakes

Spring Snow May 2011: Doc's trip from Little Yosemite Valley to Sunrise Lakes

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 15 May 2019

Doc sent us this report and photos about his Late May Spring Snow trip from Little Yosemite Valley up to Sunrise Lakes and back. Doc's original goal was Tenaya Lake, but the storm held him a little short. Disgression is the better part of valor!

Doc's trip began on Thursday the 26th, and was turned back by the weekend storm we experienced on the 28th and 29th.

This report will inform Pacific Crest Trail hikers as well as early season John Muir Trail hikers as to the deep snow at elevation in the Sierra Nevada.

Here's Doc's Report:


Well, this old fart did make it to Sunrise.

Day 1: Started the hike on Thursday and camped a couple miles up from the Clouds rest junction on the jmt, along Sunrise Creek.

Day 2: Friday I hit the trail using Stabilicers (vibram with screws sticking out), but after a while, snow shoes worked better. The first crossing of sunrise creek was intimidating because a few feet of snow on the bank made it hard to get a "launch pad". Finally found a tree to hang on to and made it across. After that there was no visible trail, and I just did the compass and map, heading to the south of the creek up the canyon, trying to find a route less steep than the official route. Climbing to the top of the ridge to over 9800 feet gave a view of long meadow, and just headed down from there. The high sierra camp is almost fully buried in snow, and only one spot on the adjacent creek was uncovered, allowing access to water. The backpackers toilet was accessable and pristine, with solar driven fans running. I was disappointed to find there was not a shower as well.

Day 3: Saturday - it looked like a storm was coming in, so I bailed on going to sunrise lakes and instead headed down. I was delighted to find a set of fresh snow tracks to guide me out, until I realized they were my tracks from the night before. The creek crossing closest to Sunrise was easy because of large snow pack. That will change in a few weeks. The second crossing going down was again difficult. I eventually found a fairly thick snow bridge and made it across. Camped again at a site on the JMT by the creek. By 4 PM, it was starting to snow and was pretty cold.

Day 4: Awoke to 3" fresh snow, everything was heavenly. Easy trip back to the valley. I had to ditch there fast because the crowds surpassed anything I have ever seen.
This hike could not be done without snow shoes. I had a pair of MSR lightnings and they worked well.

Here is the start of the meadow:
Doc in Long Meadow during May, Spring 2011  Below: Here is my little tarp tent in the middle of the high sierra camp. Note the snow level on the cabin.

Above Nevada, I met an individual maintaining the composting toilet. He said he also took care of the backpacker's ones at the high sierra camps. I ran into him on my way down the mist trail, showed him this picture and told him how amazed I was at the available toilet paper and meticulous facilities. He said he last supplied it in November. Suggests that there has not been too much traffic to the current time. There was evidence of effort having been made to keep the one door accessable.

Doc's May 2011 JMT above Little Yosemite

This is the JMT just below my campsite on the fourth day, incredible:

View from Doc's May 2011 JMT campsite between Little Yosemite and Sunrise Lakes

This image was worth the whole trip:

 Thanks a million to Doc for sharing his trip. Doc note: It was a real pleasure to meet Doc and Daughter at Tuolumne Meadows in 2009 as they were turning South on their John Muir Trail journey. . Doc's love of, and approach to the Sierra was infectious then, and still is now!


Originally Published
2011-06-02 19:41:34

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