Attempt on Mount Florence via Rafferty Creek
Many years ago I had climbed Vogelsang Peak with a few friends from Lyell Canyon via Rafferty Creek. We had seen Mount Florence from the summit, but time constraints forced us to save it for another day. Armed with a free weekend and a permit, I aimed to repeat the approach, cross Vogelsang Pass, head cross country and camp at the base of Mount Florence before climbing it via the north chute / west face route. Both days would be 12+ miles of backpacking; long but not unreasonable.
A Late Start
I ended up getting a late start from the Bay Area Saturday morning, and, with a few pit stops in the central valley and a particularly slow ingress into Yosemite, I did not arrive at the trailhead until nearly 11:30am. Nevertheless, I was on the trail by 11:45, making quick work of the flat (and astoundingly beautiful) Lyell canyon section of the approach. I had faint memories of the Rafferty Creek valley from early last decade and was pleased to find the shady trail as delightful as I remembered.
Around 10,000ft, the trail exits the trees and affords a great view back to Tuolumne Meadows and forward to Fletcher Peak at the head of the valley. It was at this point that I noticed that the innocent clouds from a few hours earlier had grown substantially and were starting to look menancing. I doubled down and powered past the closed-for-covid Vogelsang High Sierra camp, working my way rapidly up to Vogelsang Lake.
Just as a started to approach the climb to Vogelsang pass I heard the first crack of thunder. The pass itself is quite exposed and far above treeline, so I decided to take a pause and wait out what I hoped would be a standard quick afternoon Sierra storm. I hunkered down beneath a stand of small pines, taking care to stay far from isolated, tall trees. Unfortunately the storm progressed, stalling over Fletcher Peak and whipping up a powerful twenty minute hailstorm. A very cold rain followed for an hour, during which I realized my “quick Sierra storm” was anything but. I begrudgingly hiked a bit back down the trail and found a suitably sheltered place to set up camp.
The storm and rain lasted until about 6:30 and then suddenly cleared quickly. I briefly considered packing up camp and heading over the pass, but ultimately decided against it as I did not want to hike cross-country, solo, in the dark. Instead I had a leisuraly dinner by Vogelsang Lake and went to sleep early.
I slept poorly, so any attempt on Florence was out of the picture for Sunday. I didn’t have the will for a twenty mile day and a drive back to the Bay Area. Florence would have to wait for another day, yet again. My spirits were buoyed by the beauty of the Vogelsang area in the morning sun. There is a cool view of the very top of Half Dome from near the outlet of Fletcher Lake. It hardly looks like the imposing monolith it is from Yosemite Valley.
The hike out was plesant and uneventful. Though I didn’t accomplish the climb I set out for, a weekend in Yosemite is always beautiful, thunderstorms and all.