Four of us piled in my rig and we headed up for our toughest snowshoe adventure this year, full of fresh snow. The Merced Crest is famous for the spectacular views of the high country to the east. We started our adventure with beautiful blue sky with a few clouds and we had a few surprises along the way.
Where: Yosemite National Park
Distance: 7 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Elevational Range: 7,036′ to 7,826′
Date: January 28, 2016
We parked at the main parking lot at Badger Pass Ski Area. We had it pretty easy at the beginning with those picnic benches and were able to sit down comfortably to strap on our snowshoes.
Once we had out snowshoes on, off we went, working our way up alongside the east side of the “Eagle” chairlift, staying off to the very far side of those really nicely groomed slopes. The first part of this hike got our heart rates up as we gained about 600 feet in elevation before the first 3/4 mile was done.
When we made it to the top, it was time to take off some layers, take in the view looking into the valley and take some pictures.
We started out on the Merced Crest Ski Trail, #16. It follows the ridgetop most of the way and the yellow flags marking the trail were very visible on this day but we needed to pay attention.
The snow crystals really sparkled in the morning sun.
We headed up the trail.
It wasn’t long before we arrived at a spot where we could see our first glimpses of the snow covered mountains to the east.
The snowshoe and cross country ski tracks pretty much ended with the exception of a lone skier’s tracks working their way through the area, so we needed to start working a bit harder paying attention to the yellow trail markers and breaking trail. You could say that was our first surprise. I had thought that the snow on the trail would have been well tromped down but it wasn’t.
Steve took the lead, along with the trail breaking part.
When we dropped off of the ridge, the snow would get a little deeper and the yellow trail markers on the trees were much closer to the snow level this year.
When we would top off on another small hill, we could get more glimpses of the eastern mountains.
And then the trees would open up on a knob, rewarding us with wider views of the Clark Range, Liberty Cap, Mt. Broderick, Half Dome, the Quarter Domes and Clouds Rest.
We dropped down in elevation to the split in the trail that takes you to Ostrander Lake and we headed north through Westfall Meadows on Trail 13. Westfall Creek is named after Eldridge Westfall, one of the first Forest Rangers in the area and Westfall Meadows is about a mile long.
We stopped at our usual lunch spot where we could gaze up the meadow. I tried to share my new power bar find with the group, Caveman Dark Chocolate Cherry Nut, but they wouldn’t try it. After I shared the Exo Bar with them a while back, which is made with cricket flour, they just haven’t been as trusting as they used to be.
It was time for us to head back out and we continued on til we met Old Glacier Road, taking that back to Badger Pass. I think it is a bit more challenging, more scenic and about 1/2 mile shorter. Our next surprise was meeting up with a crew doing a snow survey and we followed them to their spot. If you have ever seen one of these yellow markers in the tree, that is what these are.
We watched them get their gear ready and make their first sample. They were going to do several more in the area.
As we watched them, we felt some snow starting and as I looked up at the sky, it was all clouds. As we worked out way down the trail, we had light snow at times but not enough to get too excited about.
I had anticipated that after the last snow, there would be a good trail off of the Merced Crest already broken but we were in for a surprise that we had to break trail at depths up to a foot of snow for quite a while, slowing us down. We usually complete this loop in 5 hours, but it took us about 6 hours on this trip. It was tough work but we all agreed that we had a great time, even though we were pretty tired.
I was very lucky to have two very accomplished photographers on this adventure with me and I want to thank Debra Sutherland and Gail Gilbert for the use of their beautiful pictures.
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