Monday, August 30, 2010

Yosemite/Hoover Wilderness Trip Report: Part 2

Ice Lake 01

Next morning I was up and on the trail before 7 am. My goal today was Slide Canyon a couple miles below the slide, at the base of the ramp I needed to follow over toward Rock Island Lake.

I had a short scramble down a loose sandy chute into the eastern gully, where I picked up another use trail that nicely avoided the worst of the big-block talus choking the upper gully. This trail continues to Ice Lake, conveniently leading above the cliffs on the eastern side, before petering out near the south end of the lake.

At the lake I ran into a couple who were just starting to stir (one still sleeping, the other starting the stove), so I stopped and chatted for a bit; this was the last person I saw until I was back on the Robinson Creek Trail.

Ice Lake Pass was a narrow gully with a long snowfield; the snow was still hard and icy that early in the morning, so I stayed on the dry slopes to the west. This opened onto a gorgeous meadowy mini-valley. Tons of flowers here: Brewer's Lupine, Lemmon's Paintbrush, Elephant Heads, Monkeyflower, red Paintbrush, among others. This area is a cross-country dream: a gentle stepped descent from meadow to meadow, with glimpses of Matterhorn Peak appearing to your left. Bear generally right and downstream and you can't really go wrong.

Piute Creek Headwaters 01

Picked up the trail a little below the largest meadow, and followed it down the switchbacks to the long traverse east. Left the trail near the low point of the traverse, and angled down to an easy crossing of Piute Creek a little above the confluence with the unnamed creek from the north. Easy, gentle descent in here, with the biggest obstacle being down trees (but not so many of them that you can't wind around them). Came out in the meadow above the Slide.

Slide Canyon 03

The Slide is the product of a massive rockfall hundreds of years ago--a rockfall so huge that it covers the width of the canyon and extends a ways up the other side. I had read somewhere that there was a use trail leading above on the east side of the canyon, so I angled left and a little up in search of it. Turns out there is a faint sort of an intermittent use trail; if you lose it at any point, just head uphill and you'll probably run into it (it did seem to go higher than was strictly necessary to avoid the talus maze).

Once back down on the canyon floor, it's easy meadow-and-slab walking--just a cross-country dream. Some ways down (maybe 3/4 mile or so) the vegetation started getting thicker and dewier, so I crossed Piute Creek to the drier and more open west side; this worked well generally, although I did have to go uphill a short ways to avoid a steep streambank in one spot.

I had been slightly concerned about identifying the right ramp from below (in MacClure's account, he makes it sound like it was nearly invisible), but I needn't have worried: it's unmistakeable, especially if you use the granite spur across the canyon as a marker. I pitched camp in a gravelly patch at the very base of the slabs I would follow up to MacClure's ramp.

Mosquitoes came out in the early evening; this was the one place where there were enough to be bothersome. I took a stroll up the slabs around sunset to enjoy the late sun on Sawtooth Ridge, then--as it was getting dark--retired to my tent to read a while before bed.

Slide Canyon 15

Part 1
Part 3