Mount Florence, Vogelsang Peak
By: Bob and Anne Wright
Anticipating a glorious fall weekend in the Sierra, we picked up our permits at the Tuolumne ranger kiosk at 8:30 Friday morning and headed out toward Vogelsang Camp via the trail that follows Rafferty Creek. To assure a leisurely trip we added a day to Igor Mamedalen and Larry Tidball's August 5-6, 1989 route.
Spotty clouds became dark thunderheads over Vogelsang camp so we decided to climb Vogelsang on the way out and push on closer to Florence. By the time we reached Vogelsang Pass it was hailing. Thunder showers followed us down the other side to Lewis Creek, where there are some good campsites in the trees. We chose one to the right of the trail near where Florence Creek cascades down a granite face on its way to Lewis Creek. We were 7-1/2 hours and 11.5 miles on trail from Tuolumne Meadows. We had climbed 2,200 and just descended 1,760 ft. from Vogelsang Pass to 9,160 feet.
A break in the weather allowed us to heat some soup and hang our food. The ranger had shown us one of the new bear proof food containers but told us the mountaineering shop only rented them in the summer. A poly-vinyl tube with a screw-on top it weighs under 3 lbs. and is bomb, or rather bear proof. We weren't overly concerned because on the way in a CCC trail party told us they hadn't seen a bear in this canyon all summer.
In the morning there wasn't a cloud in the sky, but there were claw marks on the dead tree leaning over our tent. With day packs we hiked a short way back up the trail to find the use trail that Mamedalen and Tidball described. It ascends southward and upwards through the forest on the east side of Florence Creek. There are three beautiful lakes above, we followed the north shore of the first and then stayed south of the rest. Florence Lake, identifiable by its east finger, is at 9,851 feet. You climb through big, but stable talus to lake 10,541 where you head toward the prominent saddle at 11,200 ft. From there it's a straight shot to Mt. Florence at 12,561 ft. Dale Van Dalsem had signed the register the month before, "climbed from the south." And yes, Van Dalsem later told us , "the southern route is easier." Our return trip was a retrace, but be advised not to drop down too quickly from the summit to the west. You may find yourself bush-whacking.
In hindsight, it was good for us to get a leg up on the Florence climb. Because of the cross country travel, it took us 10-1/2 hours to climb 3,400 feet in 7.5 miles. We spent the night at our same campsite on Lewis Creek.
Sunday was warm and sunny; the bears didn't get our food and the leaning tree hadn't fallen. It was an easy hike over the pass to Vogelsang Peak. We avoided the talus in the gully ( we had enough on Florence) by hiking west - close to, but south of the trees where we dropped our packs. At the base of the cliffs we contoured south to the saddle and from there it's an easy walk-up to the peak at 11,516 ft. 9 hrs., 12-3/4 miles, and 2,333 ft. climbed - This was our easy day.
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