Our trip was cancelled. We did the lottery for Ostrander Ski hut back in November, did cardio training, got a weekend that didn’t work for us, adjusted plans by deciding to do an overnight, checked everyday for openings (I checked nearly every hour I was on the computer), and FINALLY got our weekend dates that would work for us (January 3-5)!
Not meant to be. December 31 received an email from Ostrander:
1. not enough snow to ski
2. not enough snow to open the hut
3. there was no option to hike out
One of my friends dropped out because we couldn’t ski. Another of my friends (AC) and I decided to go for it.Here’s an image I found online comparing the snow coverage in the Sierras last year vs this year.
TAKE CARE OF LOGISTICS QUICKLY
We modified our pack lists for a non-skiing trip, possibly camping trip, and I started reading up on alternative hikes. AC got our reservations for tele gear refunded (store credit minus fees was the only reasonable option available, but seeing that the place was well stocked, and that we were really late notice, it was reasonable).
“Let’s just hike out to the hut anyway, or at least Ostrander Lake, and there are a few campgrounds on the west side of the lake.”
Met up in Oakhurst, California. It’s a small town outside about 20 miles from the south gate. There’s a sweet lake (Bass Lake) that I equate with typical summer lake fun (swimming, boating, hiking, eating milkshakes). There is a small movie theater, a few supermarkets, and some restaurants. My friend and I met up here, decided which gear we really needed, packed our bags, grabbed some food, and stashed the rest of our gear / car. I think Bass Lake was featured in Via and Sunset Magazines, a friend from college can be credited with that.
Took about 1.5 hours to get to the Ranger Station in Yosemite Village (not Curry Village).
“The road to Badger pass is closed,” Jim the ranger informed us. The hike out to Ostrander Lake would be about 20 miles one way. It was 2:30pm. “You should get going because it’s dark at 4:30.”
My friend and I decided on another route using a National Geographic map the ranger let us look at. We purchased the map to take with us and got our route approved. Jim gave us some tips on places to camp and get water (top of Nevada Falls in a creek, Backpackers Camp in Little Yosemite Valley…both should be treated…although personally I’ve drank water from up there with no treatment with no problem…obviously can’t recommend it to everyone).
THE REST OF THIS POST IS A TRIP REPORT SO READ ON
Hiked from Happy Isles Trailhead up Mist Trail, John Muir Trail Switchbacks, and into Little Yosemite Valley Backpackers Camp. Started at about 3pm and only got off trail a little bit. The hike starts off pretty steep to the bottom of Vernal Falls, but don’t be discouraged. Bathrooms and water fountain at Vernal Falls footbridge were both CLOSED because of the cold. The switchbacks and split off to Little Yosemite Valley went fine, although it was about 7pm by the time we got to the backpackers campground. The temperature in Yosemite Valley was 34 according to the car. I was just wearing a drifit shirt and jeans, and wasn’t too warm. When we stopped it got cold, quickly, and I had to add fleece before making camp. BE CAREFUL refilling from the creek at Backpackers Camp. I thought I was walking on solid ice until my foot went into the freezing cold water. The ice cracked instantly. Thankfully, my boots were waterproof and my socks didn’t get wet. AKC and I checked out views of stars and added aqua mira to our water bottles. We ran into 3 backpackers at the camp, before we kept heading on towards Lake Merced. So it’s well passed dark, and we just hiked out of the backpackers camp hoping to make it another 2 miles. Didn’t make it, and camped somewhere along the trail. (There are trail requirements, 400 ft from the trail 100 ft from water, and others).
We stowed our food in a bear canister. Should have brought two. Instead AC had hiked back to the Backpackers Camp and stored food there. Yosemite doesn’t allow bear pulls to hang food in the trees. We think it’s because the bears are smart / aggressive and that people probably mess it up a lot. AC had an entrenching shovel that made it really easy to dig a fire small fire pit despite the frozen top layer of dirt. Found a few small pieces of wood and went with the small fire, stand close method to stay warm. We ate A LOT of our food that night. Bacon jerky, MREs, and some cliff bars.
It was cold that night. Got below 30, but don’t know how cold. Our bags were rated to 20F so it was borderline okay. I wore liner socks and wool socks, top and bottom tights, and a fleece. Needed to get some gloves that night too. Want to try building a fire closer to the tent next time, but was wary of embers singeing our borrowed tent.
Hiked from our camping spot back to the backpackers camp. On the way, found a cool set of what we think are puma or mountain lion tracks in the snow. Set up our tents.
Day trip up to Clouds Rest. About 6000 ft to 9900 ft. Awesome views. We wore our packs with our sleeping bags just to try it out. Went up with 2 L of water. Heavy, but there wasn’t anywhere to fill up on the way up or down. I was so tired, I think due to AC being in better shape and the elevation. Had gummi bears at the top. They were so good. I passed out for about an hour.
On the way down, we collected some promising looking firewood and made a big warm fire in the community fire pit. It was colder the second night. I woke up a number of times. My feet started getting cold. By no means the worst case scenario, but a warm water bottle in the sleeping bag may have been a good idea.
Headed back down. I woke up late (around 9am) being so tired from the day hike and cold sleeping. We made breakfast and started hiking down easily back down in the valley. Ate breakfast below Nevada Falls. Met some hikers and backpackers who were all on their way up.
Got lost in Yosemite Valley trying to find our car.
Ate ribs and celebrated our trip.
Next post will outline our gearlist including what we could have cut. While we were hiking up to Clouds Rest, I said, “I bet you can tell me exactly what’s on your back right now, that you wish you would have left at home!”