Tuolumne/Glen Aulin in late October?

5:44 p.m. on September 4, 2008 (EDT)
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I'm planning a little weekender for late October and would like to get out of the Bay Area. I'm leaning toward the Glen Aulin trail in the Tuolumne Meadows area, and I notice that (a) bus/shuttle service to Tuolumne stops at the end of September and (b) all the trail guides say that Glen Aulin is best through early October.

Anyone know of a reason *not* to go to Glen Aulin in late October? Obviously, I'll also check the current conditions and forecast a few days beforehand, in case of early snow.

8:29 p.m. on September 4, 2008 (EDT)
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Tuolumne and the Tioga Road are sometimes open until late November, and are sometimes closed in mid-October. I suspect that this year you can go until Thanksgiving. However, a few years ago, a number of people got trapped in several parts of the Sierra in late October, in some cases getting helicoptered out and their cars not recoverable until April or later. So set your plans, check the weather *daily* as you get to less than 2 weeks out (that means regional reports and weather maps to see what's coming out of the Gulf of Alaska, not just the temperature list for Yosemite Valley, strong emphasis on DAILY), and plan on an alternate, such as Little Yosemite Valley from Happy Isles or something out of Badger Pass.

I almost got trapped at Ebbets Pass one year the first week of November. I had parked the car, done a half hour of skiing on the remnants of a snowfall a week earlier, and returned to the car to get my pack to head out for a couple days. Luckily, a Highway Patrolman stopped and told me a major storm was expected to arrive by sundown and the gates would be locked for the season on the approaches to the pass (a least two gates in each direction down from the pass). I assured him I was experienced with my 4WD in deep snow, but he again noted that the gates would be locked and no one would come up to unlock them to let me out. In fact, as I descended the road, CalTrans was at the upper gate headed toward Bear Valley, starting to swing it closed.

So plan well and keep on top of the weather situation, and call CalTrans for the latest information (1-800-427-ROAD).

Tuolumne and Glen Aulin are fantastic in midwinter - do the ski in from Lee Vining in March or April before the Tioga Road is opened. The weather is pretty settled by then. You will have 9-11 miles of hiking up from Lee Vining, but it is well worth it for 3 or 4 days of beautiful Sierra back country with very few people (except for those of us crazy enough to do the hike to the snow).

2:20 p.m. on September 5, 2008 (EDT)
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Thanks for the advice! Speaking of skiing, can you recommend a class on backcountry skiing/snowshoeing for those who have no experience with either one? Someday I'd like to extend my mountain backpacking season into the snowy months; currently I just head for the desert or the coast in winter.

8:52 p.m. on September 5, 2008 (EDT)
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There are lots of them in snow country. I will just mention that the Sierra Club offers beginner snowshoe training out of Clair Tappaan Lodge as well as beginning XC skiing. Backcountry skiing courses that are excellent are offered At Bear Valley (Calif) by Mountain Adventure Seminars, at Alta (UT) by the regular ski school, at Grand Targhee (near Driggs, Idaho) at the Grand Targhee resort and a couple shops in Driggs and Victor (Rendezvous ski tours teaches by doing a tour of their backcountry yurts - a really fun adventure). I know that there is backcountry ski training at Mammoth Mountain in the Eastern Sierra (a friend of mine guides out of there). Alpine Skills International, based in Truckee (Calif), is run by Bela Vadasz, one of the top backcountry skiers in the world. On the east coast, International Mountain (IME) in North Conway (NH) is excellent. Several of the Canadian companies in BC and Alberta are well known for their training as well.

No shortage of resources.

2:51 a.m. on September 7, 2008 (EDT)
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Someone, can't remember who, runs a beginner snowshoeing class at Castle Peak on 80 up by Donner Pass. If you call the REI in Sacramento-the one in town, not the one at Folsom or Roseville, they should know who it is since the woman who does it did a free class there a couple of years ago. You can also rent snowshoes at Royal Gorge. I haven't been up there, but they have miles of ski trails. It's also up by Tahoe.

12:48 p.m. on September 7, 2008 (EDT)
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Tom,
Clair Tappaan Lodge is at Donner Pass. Barb and I run our Snowshoe Ecology hikes out of CTL, with most of the group usually first-timers. One of the days is up through Castle Valley over Castle Pass to Peter Grubb Hut (I would doubt someone runs a beginner course on Castle Peak itself - it's steep and has avalanche slopes, which have slid on top of people almost every year). CTL rents snowshoes and runs classes every day in winter that people want instruction, plus other people also run the Snowshoe Ecology hikes besides Barb and me, just about every weekend. This is a LOT cheaper than Royal Gorge (besides which Royal Gorge is planning to convert much of the resort into condos, much to the dismay and vociferous objection of the residents of the area and the people who already own cabins and condos there in Norden, Soda Springs, and the Serene Lakes area). Prices are lower for Sierra Club members, but others are welcome as well. Royal Gorge's prices the past couple of years have begun to look like lift tickets at the major ski resorts.

2:45 p.m. on September 23, 2008 (EDT)
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FYI, a phone call today revealed that overnight parking is not allowed anywhere along Tioga Road after October 15, presenting a bit of an obstacle to backpacking there in late October.

8:34 p.m. on September 23, 2008 (EDT)
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I didn't hear about the condos. That doesn't sound good at all. I did a bit of snowshoeing at Donner Lake. Parked at the Ranger Station/Museum, got the little trail map and just started walking around. Tried my skis up there too another time. Good beginner country-flat, nice views of the lake, easy parking and cheap.

One thing about Donner Lake-don't get the Sno-Park pass; it's not good there; parking is $5 or so,can't remember for sure.

Oh, here's the website for Cathy Anderson, the snowshoe tour guide-
http://www.cathyworks.com/

Yosemite has cross-country ski lessons at Badger Pass. I took a beginner lesson there. Not too expensive and they offer more advanced tours and lessons too, including overnight trips out to Glacier Point. They do snowshoeing as well, including rentals.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/BadgerPass.aspx

9:06 p.m. on September 23, 2008 (EDT)
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smartacus -
Well, if you start hiking from Lee Vining, you don't have to worry about the parking prohibition. It's "only" 11 miles to Tioga Pass, and another 4 or 5 miles to the trailhead for Glen Aulin and Waterwheel Falls {8=>D

I had forgotten when the overnight parking prohibition started. But, if you check the weather and camp in the Valley (Camp 4 is walk-in, but is populated with dirtbag climbers like me, a thoroughly despicable lot), you can drive up to the Meadows early and do Waterwheel as a day hike (making sure no storms are on their way so you don't get trapped like the folks a couple years ago who didn't recover their car until spring and had to get helicoptered out).

6:42 p.m. on September 24, 2008 (EDT)
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smartacus -
This is for you - http://www.yosemitepark.com/temp-rate-ture-offer.aspx

Basically, Curry Company is offering a winter rate for the tent cabins in the Valley that is based on the temperature the night before. They say that if the temperature drops below 0F, they will pay YOU for your stay.

We have stayed in the tent cabins in winter, and it isn't really that bad. The cabins being used for this program (platforms with a canvas tent on top, cots with mattresses, sheets, and blankets) do NOT have stove/heaters, and certain weekends are blackout dates. You put down a $39 deposit, then get a refund based on the temperature (adjusted rate is the recorded low in deg F) We have used them when skiing at Badger Pass or doing the XC track on the Glacier Point Road out to Glacier Point, Dewey Point, or the Ghost Forest Loop. Sometimes it has been the night before doing a backcountry ski/snowshoe camping trip (so we had our winter sleeping bags with us).

7:42 p.m. on September 24, 2008 (EDT)
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Bill, I stayed in a tent cabin at Curry over Presidents'Day weekend in February three years ago. That year, the whole Valley floor was covered with snow and it was pretty cold. I vaguely remember the cabin having a little space heater, so I checked the DNC site (the concessionaire) and some do, so maybe I'm right about that. I was in my bag, so it was fine, regardless.

1:02 p.m. on September 25, 2008 (EDT)
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Tom (and smartacus) -
The tent cabins with the space heater are NOT included in the supercheap, low temperature discount program. We have stayed in both types. The ones with the space heater were warm enough with the supplied blankets to not need a sleeping bag, but the non-heater ones definitely need a winter bag when it gets really cold - the blankets are ok for temperatures above freezing, but not below.

10:21 p.m. on September 25, 2008 (EDT)
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We must have had the heater; one of my friends didn't have a bag and I loaned another friend a summer bag and she didn't complain. Another thing, if you stay in the tent cabins and there's snow on the ground, bring some instep crampons like Kahtoolas or Yak Traks. I must have fallen a half dozen times that weekend, just walking around the cabins because the sidewalks were iced over.

December 27, 2014
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