Back to index Yosemite High Sierra Camp Loop Hike - Day 5

An edited version of my adventure on the High Sierra Camps Loop appeared in the second issue of  Sidewalk - A hiking and backpacking magazine
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Day 6
Trip Date:  08/25/2014

: 8.3 Miles

Vertical Gain: 3000'

Group Size: 6
Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard   Strenuous
Yosemite High Sierra Camp Loop Hike Day 5
Download GPX GPX for this trip
HSC Day 5 Elevation Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 37 52.699, W 119 20.315 (parking for first day's hike)     End Coordinates:   Same as Start Coordinates  
Car Shuttle Req'd:   No Parking Directions:   Take Highway 395 south from Monitor Pass toward Mono Lake.  At Lee Vining, turn on Highway 120 (Tioga Pass) and enter Yosemite Park on the east side.  About 10 miles into the park turn at the Wilderness Permit area (Tuolumne Meadows Lodge Road) and continue to the parking coordinates for backpacker vehicles.
Hazards of Note:   Wildlife, especially bears.  Some of the trails are difficult and footing can be tenuous at times.  Much of the uphill and downhill sections are made up of granite steps which are rough on the feet after time. Crowd Factor:   Mixed.  Yosemite is a very popular destination during the summer months, and this hike and option to stay in the HSC locations with served meals is available only by lottery system.  The further into the park the trails will be less crowded, but there are many places for day hikers to pick up the trail system.
General Notes:
Day five is one definitely the most strenuous of the hikes along this trip.  The first mile gains about 1100 feet, and at the point it flattens out for just a moment, allowing time to decide whether to choose the Fletcher Creek path to the left (2 miles shorter) or the longer trek through Vogelsang Pass.  We chose the shorter route, but the climb was tremendous with the next couple of miles after this junction gaining another 1000 feet in a series of granite switchbacks.  According to the ranger that was talking to a group we passed along the way, there were 39 in this particular section.  It is very steep and just trudging ahead a step at a time is the way to get up this significant climb.  
There is a wonderful viewpoint just to the west of Babcock Dome, with a broad view of the entire Clark Range to the Southwest of where you are looking.  It is a good point to rest, and there is an optional side trip just a little further on of 3/10 of a mile each way to visit Babcock Lake.   About 5 miles into the hike you will reach the western end of Fletcher Meadows, and wonderful flat area that is about a mile of not climbing.  The meadow was pretty dry by this time in late August, but still beautiful with a lot of wildlife to be spotted and photographed.  At the eastern end of the meadow you cross Fletcher Creek, and this was a good spot for our lunch before making the final ascent of another 1400 feet over the last 2.2 miles.

Merced Lake just before sunrise. Merced Lake before sunrise
This little guy ran back and forth at me on the log I was sitting on, apparently looking for a handout that he never got.
Merced Lake visitor
Everyone gathering in the cold morning for the ritual of hot drinks before getting a huge breakfast.   Ready for breakfast
Our group headed out from our favorite campsite of the entire trip. Headed out
Merced Lake HSC is apparently a center point for a number of trails through the backcountry, which explains why it is also the largest of the High Sierra Camps.  Our destination of Vogelsang HSC was a misleading 7.6 miles.  With the elevation gain of over 3000' it seemed like much more.
Decisions decisions
Phil making his way up the first of a series of switchbacks on this trail. Phil on the way up 
At this point on the trail we had our last look at Merced Lake, and Half Dome just barely visible in the distance. Merced Lake 
There weren't many level spots before Fletcher Meadows, but we enjoyed them when we found them.
First level spot 
Coming up on the impressive Babcock Dome.  These domes out of granite are formed when the pressure from the molten rock that created them continues to push upward, hence their tendency to constantly have rockfalls as they break a little bit at a time. Babcock dome
At the high point of the climb up to Babcock Dome was an impressive view of the entire Clark Range to the southwest. Clark Range
Brent took care of the sweeper job for us today! Phil and the Clark Range Myself and the Clark Range
We followed Fletcher Creek up most of this trail, and there were many waterfalls cascading down around us as we headed up, up and up. Fletcher Creek
Getting to Fletcher Meadow provided us with beautiful scenery and over a mile of level hiking.  It was well appreciated. Fletcher Meadow
Brent and Phil navigating their way carefully across Fletcher Creek at the east end of the meadow. Crossing the creek
Vogelsang Peak is distinctive and soon came into our view, but it sure looks a lot different from afar. Vogelsang Peak
After Fletcher Meadow, the trail takes off up once again, climbing steadily over the last couple of miles to the last High Sierra Camp we would stay at. One more climb 
Past this section of trail is the pass that we would be heading up to get to our campsite at 10200' elevation. That a way 
Our campsite a little ways off from the HSC location, but very nice with a lake just a few hundred feet away. Vogelsang campsite
Looking at Vogelsang Peak across Fletcher Lake. Fletcher Lake just near our campsite
The appropriately named "Choo choo train mountain" to the north of our campsite at Vogelsang. Choo choo trail mountain 
Our group at Vogelsang HSC waiting for dinner and our last evening meal of the trip. Our group
The food was so good and so plentiful on the trip that I gained 2 pounds despite the 51 miles of backpacking we did. Meal example 
GPS Track of the full hike. GPS Track of Hike