Thursday, June 08, 2023

Gone Hiking 2023 Hetch Hetchy Day 2a: Rancheria Falls to Snow

Mileage:  11.83 miles/19 km

Elevation Gain:  3,412 ft/1040 m

The rising this morning was set with a bit of discussion. 

When we had come into the park, we had asked about making the Lake Vernon Loop. The recommendation from Ranger was neither Yay nor Nay.  Instead he told us a story about two groups the previous week, one group fairly inexperienced and an experienced hiker with snowshoes.  Both groups made it out at the same time, but the first group got to pay $4,000-8,000 for an aerial rescue when they got stuck in the snow.  The Outdoorsman and I talked, and our agreement was that we would hike until we no longer felt safe.  We were up and out by 0730.

This ascent rose much more quickly than yesterday's - it felt like we were hiking much more than doing a day walk with 25 lbs of gear on our back.  We quickly traversed the first ridge and then began to make our way over.

As the other hikes, the early morning start means that we were well ahead of any other hikers and thus we were surrounded by silence, sun, and birdsong.

As we started to cross the ridgeline and come down, we met a creek making its way down with us.

We also saw a newt, going about his business:

A patch of snow.  This is not foreshadowing at all...

The trail dropped us down into the Tiltill Valley, one of the most scenic and gorgeous places I have seen to date on my hikes:

The one thing above that video alludes to is that, like many High Sierra valleys in Spring, it is covered in water.  Not just a bit either, up to calf deep.  For about a quarter mile.  I am not a fan of water crossings anyway, but it was still early in the day and we would have plenty of time to dry.

As we climbed out of the Tiltill Valley, we met not one but two mountain stream flowing with decent force.  Water crossings were made (note previous comment above about not being my favorite), both times at about knee level.

It was as we went up this second ridge that we hit the snow:

It started as small drifts but rapidly increased into nothing but snow.  Judging from the thaw points, it was easily one to two feet deep here.  How deep would it get?

About the time we broke for lunch, we were well into nothing but snow as far as the eye could see. I was feeling a bit of altitude sickness (and so was not very hungry but forced something down). My feet were quite cold and wet, but the temperature remained a solid mid-70's so everything else was quite hot.  "How was I feeling?"  asked the Outdoorsman?

Thinking back over the ascents, the two streams (which would undoubtedly be more full now as the melt increased), and the Tiltill Valley marsh and looking ahead, I thought long and and hard.

"I feel fine"  I responded.  "We press on".


  1. Anonymous3:59 AM

    I don't know anything about snow, living in extreme south Texas. Why does the snow melt away from tree trunk ? Is it that sunlight warms the trunk enough for snow to melt away from contact ? Or does the tree itself emit enough heat for that to happen ?

    That is some beautiful country you were walking in. Thanks for the photos of your climb / hike.

    1. The dark bark of trees absorbs sunlight and radiates it back out as heat.

    2. Anonymous7:24 AM

      Thank you for the explanation. It makes sense.

    3. My thanks as well Ed - that is what I sort of thought, but did not know conclusively.

  2. Nylon124:05 AM

    That's a chunk of change to pay for an over-estimation of abilities to handle terrain. Can feel the tension building as this post went on. Oh, can't help but think of Monty Python whenever I run across the word "newt"........... :)

    1. It was indeed, Nylon12. I was a little concerned, but other than wet feet, we did fine. It helped that (as is in the following post) we passed someone coming the other way. It meant it could be done.

  3. Looks like rugged territory. Always keeps things challenging. And interesting.

    1. Leigh, it felt rugged - one of the things we both wondered is how different it would appear with all the snow melted.

  4. I've never hiked in that much snow. My worry is never the snow itself but that I will wander off the trail and get hopelessly off track. I try to improve my chances by always having a 15 minute topo map of the area so I can find my way back to the trail if needed.

    1. Ed, we use All Trails, which allows you to download a trail and the path followed by others. It works really well and - other than getting off track once or twice - we did well.


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