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Hiking Stats as of 11/21/2018
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 325
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet
Following the less than monumental hike of Rubicon Peak last weekend, I made big plans for this weekends hike. With Kyle busy this weekend I was on my own, which is when I like to head further south. Last year I had noticed Vogelsang Peak, a mid 11 thousand foot peak in Yosemite that is about 8 miles from the nearest trailhead. I thought it was a bit ambitious at the time, having not realized that there is a trail that takes you basically to the base of the peak. That, and the total elevation gain is not very much, less than 3,000 feet from the TH to the peak. Having realized just how easy this sounded, I looked at the map and saw that with another 3 miles added I could get to the top of Parsons Peak Ridge, the highpoint of Mariposa County, and then summit Parsons Peak itself. Things were coming together, as I mapped out a route that would take me to these 3 destinations and then I would return via Lyell Canyon, which is the trail frequently used for Parsons Peak. In all, it would be about 25 miles and 5,000 feet of gain, with Vogelsang being an SPS and WSC peak (number 20 and 26 for me, respectively), Parsons Ridge being a County Highpoint (number 14) and Parsons Peak being a nice 12,000 foot bonus peak, although not listed on any peak lists.

I was on the road by 5:30 AM for the 3 hour drive up to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite. I've driven through TM before, but never actually stopped here to start a hike. There were a few spots left in the nearly full parking lot which was immediately across from a spur leading to the John Muir Trail. I got going a few minutes before 9 AM, and the first couple of miles were very easy, with little elevation gain. While there was little effort, there was nice scenery. Wooden bridges led over a couple of streams as I made my way to the junction of the Fletcher Creek Trail which would take me all the way up to the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. This trail had a few moments of steep trekking, but again it was pretty darn easy, although quite scenic. By 10:45 I could make out Fletcher and Vogelsang Peaks in the distance, towering over the grassy meadow. A half hour later I was treated to the scenic view of the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp set against the jagged face of Fletcher Peak. From this location the exit to Vogelsang Peak was only a few hundred vertical feet higher, all of it on trail.

I didn't stop at the Camp - I had tried to call the night before to see if it would be possible to get some potable water (so I wouldn't have to carry as much for the 25 miles) but called too late and resigned myself to carrying a full 6 liters with me. I had only drank one liter at this point, so I figured 5 liters would be enough to see me through the rest of the journey. So I hiked on up to Vogelsang Lake, and shortly after circling the side of the lake I left the trail to head cross country up the slopes of Vogelsang. For the ascent route I opted to take the direct route up the face, reported to be a class two affair. I found this to be largely true, lots of class two boulder hopping, with class 4+ off to the right, but easy to avoid. I thought that a couple sections of the route were class 3, although had I more closely paid attention to the optimal route these sections could likely be avoided. No matter, they were fun, and I found myself in the correct chute as I made my way up to the top of summit ridge. It took less than 40 minutes to go from the trail to the summit ridge, and only another 5 minutes to get to the narrow summit blocks, arriving at 12:35 PM.

The views were fantastic, in particular I was surprised to see Half Dome to the west. All directions were nice - the view north back to Tuolumne Meadows, south to Mt. Florence, and east toward the next destination, Parsons Peak. I got a good luck at the ridgeline traverse, over toward Parsons, which, after gaining the ridge, looked pretty mild. I located the summit register and signed in after someone who apparently was confused about what date they were actually on top. I took a quick summit shot of myself, and started down towards the Vogelsang Pass. The plan was to descend a class 2 gully down to the pass rather than take my ascent route back down. This would take me right to the pass, rather than down to the lake which is a few hundred feet lower. I started down the scrubby ridgeline and easily located the class 2 gully leading down to the pass. This was quite easy going, I would say much easier travel than what I had come up earlier. The biggest challenge was the large boulder field that had to be crossed to escape the shadow of Vogelsang. By 1:30 I had reconnected with the trail, although I would stay on it for about 5 minutes before this time heading off to the left (east).

The ascent up the slope towards Parsons was a bit more tedious than Vogelsang, although the terrain was not as difficult. I was aiming to get pretty darn close to the rigeline, although with the various ups and downs I didn't get all the way up to the top of the ridge until I got closer to Parsons. The move to get up to the top of the ridgeline was not because I thought it was going to be an easier route, it was that I had to make sure I was at the ridgeline when I crossed out of Mariposa County. The county line runs about 100 vertical feet below the summit, but with nothing to tell me when I was at the "summit" of Mariposa County I would just have to always be at the highpoint as I ascended. I was too quick to the ridgeline, however, and Parsons Peak was still quite a ways away, so I allowed myself to drop back down a bit as I tried to avoid the annoying talus and boulder field that covered the entire ridge traverse. Once I was about a quarter mile away I regained the ridge, and was treated to some fantastic views to the north, and back towards the west . I carefully followed the ridgeline, never quite sure when I had achieved the county highpoint, and never finding any markers to indicate I had reached the point I was looking for. By 3:15 I was going up the final rocks, and I was on the summit of Parsons.

The views from Parsons were better than Vogelsang, in my opinion, owing to the proximity of some fantastic looking mountains in the area. Simmons Peak, with Mts Lyell and MaClure were only a few miles away, and even closer was the fantastic Mt. Florence. There were also great views towards Ireland Lake (my descent route), southwest towards Gray Peak, east towards what looked like a moonscape, and west back from the direction I had come. I snapped a summit photo of myself, and located the summit register. The logbook was full of entries, and I added mine to the outside cover of the book as my only option. Having traveled 13 miles at this point, I decided I had earned a break, and lay down on the warm rocks (the air temperature was just perfect) and had lunch while getting myself mentally prepared for the 12 mile return hike.

I left the summit at 3:45, and headed down the east slope of the peak. I had sort of hoped that the rocks would have restricted themselves to the ridge, and I would soon be on some nice grassy slopes. Unfortunately, reality was a bit harsher, and it was time for some more talus and boulder hopping. I carefully navigated this portion, as going to quickly could result in a twisted ankle, a fate that would be quite bad so far away from the TH. Near the bottom, fully exposed to the sun, was a large snow patch which was still quite deep - quite a surprise given its location. But the boulders would not give up their turf that easily, and it was back to the rocks as I made my way down to Ireland Lake. My feet were getting a bit banged up, and once I got to the Lake I considered going for a swim, but when I saw that the bottom was covered in rocks I decided to forgo such festivities and kept on my trek back to the TH. I made my way around to the north side of the lake, and took a farewell shot of Parsons Peak and made my way cross country for maybe a quarter mile across easy terrain (no more boulders!) until I found the trail that would take me to Lyell Canyon and eventually back to the TH. It was a long haul back to the TH indeed, many miles of very easy terrain, much like the hike up to the Vogelsang HSC from the morning. Lyell Canyon was more scenic than Fletcher Creek, however, and I enjoyed the constant ambiance of the stream to my right and the continued sight of local wildlife, including marmots, deer, a marmot and its family and more deer. The trail just kept going and going, until I reconnected with the John Muir trail at 7:45. I finally arrived back at the car at about 8:30, exhausted after a nearly 12 hour day on the trail, but excited for all that was accomplished on this most memorable day.

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