Exploring the Lyell Forks (TR)


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3hrs to El Cap Meadow, 1.25hrs Pinns, 42min Castle
Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 9, 2008 - 04:28pm PT
A typical bachelor party (from what I've been told) consists of booze, strippers, and a bunch of grunting men. I had a slightly different idea, and my best man put together a short trip that preserved two thirds of the typical concept while honoring my somewhat peculiar notions of how to celebrate my upcoming wedding. We started off with a mellow day of climbing in Tuolumne while waiting to see a talk by Gary Snyder and Tom Killion. The next morning, we headed down the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne via the John Manure Trail to the top of Donohue pass.

A view looking north from the head of Lyell Canyon:

From Donohue Pass we headed cross-country over to Upper Marie Lake. We had originally intended to make it over Roger's pass on this first day, but a late start and our first sight of the pass gave us second thoughts.

Thinking about sleeping sooner than later:

We made "camp" at Upper Marie Lake, which consisted of throwing our pads on the ground and lying down. Eventually, we got our sleeping bags out. In the morning, we made our way for the pass. From the east side it didn't look too bad.

But when we got to the top, a whole other scenario presented itself.

At some point in our scrambling, we had passed from granite onto the metamorphic rock familiar to the Banner and Ritter Peak area. This stuff seems to break into smaller chunks more easily, and it makes for knarly Class 2 descending. At points, each step would displace about 10 square feet of it. To say the least, the going was tedious. I was glad when the view turned to looking back up, and the walking to more solid ground.

From here, we descended the Lyell Fork of the Merced. The terrain alternated between granite slabs and brief canyoneering sequences of Class 3 or 4. Here's one of the easier sections:

Finally, the creek dropped down into a beautiful valley. We were very excited about the prospect of easy meadow walking.

And we were not disappointed.

The view back up from where we had labored through the morning:

We descended, mostly off trail, all the way to the Triple Divide Fork of the Merced, and then caught a trail for three or four more miles over to the Edna Lake Drainage where my bachelor party awaited. After a days rest, we were ready to get some drinking done. Of course, the food and booze had to be delivered:

Lucky for me, my best man works wilderness patrol, and he had made friends with a trail crew earlier in the season. In exchange for their hospitality, we had three bottles of tequila, margarita mix, and several cases of beer flown in with their usual resupply.

It was a fun night.

But the next morning, they were back to work and we were back on the trail. We had twenty miles to walk over Red Peak Pass and out to Mono Meadows, so we could get to work the next day.

Going up to the pass:

Looking back towards the Lyell area from the red rock of the area:

And back into the woods and lower elevations:

The last few miles were pretty dusty, but we did spot a really cool boulder with some hard lines waiting for a strong climber who doesn't mind a bit of an approach:

This is what the approach would look like:

But it would be worth it for the bouldering and the Shuteye-like rock on the cliffs below Mt. Starr-King--the next great crag of the Sierra.

Trad climber
Aug 9, 2008 - 07:47pm PT
Very Nice and to think I wasted time and $$ at Femme Nu for my last stand as a bachelor. Nice pictures, impressive product delivery!


Under the dwarf maples near The Same Mansion
Aug 9, 2008 - 09:10pm PT
Kick Ass!

A TR from my favorite place in all Yosemite. The Lyell Fork of the Merced River was Ansel Adams single favorite place in the Sierra Nevada.

Congratulations on your impending slavery....

Mt Ansel Adams

A long way from where I started
Aug 10, 2008 - 01:04am PT
Really interesting to see how fast the rocks and plants change in that set of pictures. You must have gone through ten geologic and biologic zones in three days.

Great tr.
Doug Robinson

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Aug 10, 2008 - 01:36am PT
Thanks for the photos. I've always been curious about descending into the Merced drainage that way. Looks like fun, even without refreshments choppered in.

Bachelor party style points. Congratulations!

Flat-faced Buddha Cat City
Aug 10, 2008 - 02:11am PT
Those were some of the best photos I've ever seen of that area, Billygoat. Really nice color. Great TR, too.

Looks like the best bachelor party a future wife could wish on her husband (haha!)--and it looks like you had a great time, too. Your best man is a smart dude.

3hrs to El Cap Meadow, 1.25hrs Pinns, 42min Castle
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 10, 2008 - 01:22pm PT
Thanks for all the nice comments on the photos, although I think Walleye's tops any of mine. Now I wish we'd spent an extra night in the Evolution Valley-esque meadows of that fork!

Ghost--it's great you picked up on how many biologic/geologic zones we passed through, I was hoping the photos would reveal some of that. On the last day alone we must have passed through at least eight of them. One of the most interesting (though I don't have any photos that show it all that great) were the recovering burn zones around Mt. Starr King. In a year when the press is covering so much of the damaging effects of fire, passing through that area served as a great reminder of how healthy fire can be for a place.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Aug 10, 2008 - 01:36pm PT
Wow, kick ass!!!!!

love the campfire shot. That boulder looks fuking awesome too!!!

EEdit: how to I get food and beer choppered in? That's pretty bad-ass! (do I have to start a fire first?)

3hrs to El Cap Meadow, 1.25hrs Pinns, 42min Castle
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 10, 2008 - 02:09pm PT
Helicopter resupplies are pretty rare in the Sierra. Most trail crews get supplied by mule teams. The one we visited just happened to be far enough out (and over rough enough terrain) that they got the chopper service. Definitely a cool experience seeing the food fly in, but other than luck (in our case good luck, but in many cases bad) I can't really explain how to get the hook up on the chopper. I'm pretty sure they let you burn if you start the fire.

Gym climber
))))))))) . . . buffering
Aug 10, 2008 - 02:59pm PT
I hope I still have an old slide of me faux-bouldering this thing ( only up to where it got steep ) on a backpack trip in the late 70's . The boulder is truly insane .

3hrs to El Cap Meadow, 1.25hrs Pinns, 42min Castle
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 10, 2008 - 03:12pm PT
Oooooh, I'd like to see that. Did you ever climb on the cliffs ~1/4 mile above it?

Under the dwarf maples near The Same Mansion
Aug 10, 2008 - 05:01pm PT
Looking back wence The Billygoat came. Rodgers Peak from the summit of Mt. Ansel Adams

The Starr King Massif. The super cool boulder is located in the woods below the dome on the bottom left.


Trad climber
Aug 10, 2008 - 05:56pm PT
John Moosie

Beautiful California
Aug 10, 2008 - 06:12pm PT
Beautiful area. Sounds like you had a great trip. I have never made it to the lyle fork. We looked at it from a place below Mt Ansel Adams but never made it into that region. It looks beautiful. A friend of mine went in this summer because she also has wanted to go for a number of years, but then she hurt herself just before she got there and had to be rescued.

Thanks for posting this. Did you do perchance make it to Edna Lake? The fishing is good there.

Do you have anymore pics of the lyle fork?

right here, right now
Aug 10, 2008 - 11:37pm PT
Very nice!

The bachelor party pic is super neato.
This one I like lots too:

Now I need to get out my maps and pick up your trail...


3hrs to El Cap Meadow, 1.25hrs Pinns, 42min Castle
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 11, 2008 - 01:35pm PT
Hey John,

Yeah, I got a bunch more pics of the Lyell Fork of the Merced. Lemme see what I can drag up...

One of the lakes near the head of the drainage:

Some of the terrain typical of the descent:

Another cascade that provided some class 3 or so moves:

A lake and a peak:

Another small falls:

And lastly, right before the creek drops down off the alpine bench, it runs through and underneath a talus field (the above falls is right below this drop):

John Moosie

Beautiful California
Aug 11, 2008 - 02:18pm PT
Thanks Billygoat. What an awesome looking trip. You must have gotten a serious stoke. I love the high Sierrra.

Pees on beard to seek mates.
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 10, 2012 - 11:14am PT
Came back to this thread/trip report this morning in search of a place name I'd forgotten. Decided the whole thing bump-worthy. Happy Monday everyone!

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Dec 10, 2012 - 11:22am PT
Cool bump cause I didnt see this the first time. I like this type of Bachelor party. But no status update?

Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
Dec 10, 2012 - 04:34pm PT
Now that's my kind of bachelor party!

You guys must be in good shape to cover that much ground in such a short time. Really nice to see the variety.
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