Vogelsang Trip

Yosemite 2001: Vogelsang Area

We had planned to do a trip from Tuolumne Meadows to Agnew Meadow in Mammoth. A landslide on the Tioga Pass Road kept us from putting out our second car for a shuttle so we decided to take a different trip starting at the same place and making a loop around the Vogelsang area. It turned out to be one of the best trips we have ever done.

We start our trip walking south on the Lyell Canyon trail. This is a very popular trail. It goes almost level (slightly uphill) for about ten miles until the start of the climb up Donohue Pass. We had planned to hike in about seven or eight miles the first day and then do the pass the next day. Our new trip, as it turned out, had the same first day. We hiked up this beautiful meadow which seems to go on forever. The river is the Lyell Fork which is part of the Tuolomne River. We also figured to get a second night of acclimation to the altitude. We never have time to really do this correctly.

Along the way we ran across a lightening fire that the rangers were monitoring to make sure it didn't get out of control. This one had been burning for several days. I think they gave the most junior ranger the job of sitting out there and watching the fire. Every so often a helicopter would come by and check too. Although this is bear country in the extreme, we had no troubles on this trip. We have our bear canister routine down to a science! The rangers do patrol this area and will cite people who are not following the rules.

Looking back toward Tuolomne Meadows (north), you can see the truly grand scale of this meadow and canyon. Remember, this is at a little under 9000 feet of elevation.

The next day we make a turn to the west on the "second" Vogelsang (Evelyn Lake) trail and begin a climb of about 1500 feet. Near the crest of the trail we find a friendly sign hinting at future adventures. We stop and have lunch and a nap. Even though we are kind of winging it, we have decided to stay off the most traveled trails as much as possible. The trails in this area are worn down by the general traffic and by the supply trains of horses and donkeys that go to Vogelsang. This trail was a pleasant surprise even if it was steep. (We took the main trail on the way down and all I can say is that it needs a rest.) By going this way we also avoided the crowds but we met nice people each day.

As we gain the top of the trail we can look back and see the Koip Crest and other peaks along the eastern border of Yosemite. These 12,000+ foot peaks are barren of snow this time of year- especially since there wasn't much snow going into the summer. Unfortunately, most of this is not visible from the canyon floor as you walk along. Our strenuous trek up the trail rewards us with this view.

Continuing west we run into beautiful little windswept Evelyn Lake. The near-treeline vegetation consists of small, gnarly trees bent over from the elements, clumps of some kind of tundra grass, and granite rocks which dot the landscape. The effect is like being on another planet. We find a sheltered spot and camp for the night. This proves to be one of our best camps ever as the evening star show is phenomenal and the quiet and sense of peace is memorable. We do however experience some altitude effects- goofiness and headaches, since we are over 10,000 feet.

Early in the morning we are on the trail again- still going uphill. Looking back (east) toward Evelyn Lake (far right) you can see the colors and windswept terrain that made this such a special place. Beyond those mountains is Nevada.

We finally make it to the unnamed pass that tells us we are now just above Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. After two days of uphills we are ready to coast a little.

This is why we love the high country. Just a little view along the way. We find a place to camp near Vogelsang High Sierra Camp (just far enough away to avoid a lot of the people but not too far from the solar toilet) and set out to do a little day hiking.

Just above the camp is another little alpine jewel- Vogelsang Lake. On the right is Vogelsang peak and on the far left is where the trail to Vogelsang pass goes. Ted and I go on to the pass to see the view while Warren stops to try and recover from altitude sickness.

Back from the pass, we lie out at the lake for a while. Threatening weather and our lack of energy make this into an off day until about 3:30 when I decide to bag Vogelsang peak for my birthday. The clouds look better and I figure if I get up to the really exposed part and it looks bad I'll just retreat. It seems like the afternoon bad weather window has passed. When another hiker comes by and says I could do it in about an hour and a half I decide to go for it.

Amazingly, Warren decides to come along. He is feeling better after a nap and decides to go as high as he can. He had missed the view from the pass so he wanted to get one last chance at what had turned out to be really awesome scenery. If you look at the picture above you can see the route we will try. The ridge along the top is very sharp and vertical. You need to get to the other side unless you want to do a class 5 rock climb. Between the two peaks we will go up the side slope, through a chute and then up to the right to the top.

Most of the way up wasn't too bad- just a lot of boulders to pick through. Near the top we find a chute to break through the vertical wall to get onto the last plateau on the other side. This scree is bad footing but we wind our way up.

We are rewarded! Just above the chute and below the actual peak, we find a nice place to kick back for a while. This view is even more spectacular than the pass (but the pass is well worth the hike). This is looking sort of southwest- the Clark Range mountains are the peaks in the distance: Red Peak, Merced Peak, Post Peak, etc. The late afternoon sun turned everything purple. Warren decides to stay here and not press his luck and I go on to the peak.

After scrambling around a while on the knife-edged crest of the peak, I find the register in an ammo can and sign. The weather turned out to be just perfect if somewhat windy at times. It wasn't cold yet. Vogelsang peak is 11,500 feet. You can see forever. Behind me here is the northeast corner of Yosemite.

Looking to my right (west), you can just see Half Dome in the far center. The valley would be just beyond. Its amazing how you can see Half Dome from so many high places in the park. I'm shooting almost straight into the sun. There is about a thousand foot drop to the right. Happy birthday to me!

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Just at the top of the chute I snap this picture on the way down. The sun is low and casts harshly off the granite walls above Vogelsang lake. Ted is down there somewhere but I can't pick him out. We are glad we went for the peak. Tomorrow we hike out.