Close Merced High Sierra Camp?

As part of the Merced River Plan, the NPS is looking at ways to reduce the impact on the river from the Merced High Sierra Camp. I’ve stayed there and it is very nice. One thing I have not seen is a quantified “impact” on the river due to the camp. Like XXX tons of effluent dumped per week, or YYY pounds of litter that ends up in the river. No, just we need to look at doing things differently. That means a range from close the camp to limit permits to deliver supplies by helicopter to _________ . All this will be determined by June 2013.
My suggestion: Make it a tent cabin with a kitchen area kind of place. You gotta bring all your stuff. No prepared meals, no linen. And how about they hire young (or old) people to Sherpa the needed supplies up and let the mules go free range. Your thoughts?  Voice them via the MRP worksheets <here>. By Nov 30 for it to do any good.

REI sale going on Nov 18 – 28. I got their sales brochure. I gotta tell you about my boot – the Vasque breeze on sale for $104. Usually $150 – really. I LOVE this boot for my hiking and Half Dome jaunts. Gee, I may buy a few spares at that price.

Medical minute: A trophy? Atrophy?  A major award or my left leg shrinking. Wearing a brace for 3 weeks has caused me to lose a ton of muscle mass. Oh joy.


Unrelated thought worth quoting: “I got a muscle of love. Holy muscle of love. My heart’s a muscle of love. Holy muscle of love. I got a muscle of love. Must be a gift from above.” – Alice Cooper 

*MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch –

One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome

About Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch

Mr Half Dome. Has written the only half dome hiking guide, One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome. Has hiked it 31 times to day. Lives in San Jose, CA Available for presentations. Carpe Diem Experience, LLC
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14 Responses to Close Merced High Sierra Camp?

  1. David says:

    These types of actions always lead me down the road of, what’s next?

    You close 2 camps, and during the next round the rest of the camps are closed. The total usage of cables has been reduced, the next path as described by Wilderness Watch is to remove the cables all together.

    I’m afraid in 50 years, we all talk about, remember when Yosemite was open to cars? Remember when we hiked Half Dome? Remember when… It will all be left to photographs in a book or hung on our wall.

    I can truly appreciate the conservation of some groups, but they are so far leaning that they are no long preserving the park for our usage but purely turning it to a state where only those who have enough money can enjoy the journey or no one can.

  2. Echo says:

    There is no trace of effluence or litter in the river associated with the Merced Lake HSC. In fact, the water quality of the river is exceptional throughout the 81-miles contained within the park (see Baseline Condition Report:

    The Merced Lake HSC and Merced Lake backpacker’s campground are being evaluated in this plan to address the appropriateness of their size, infrastructure, use, and associated impacts given their location in a potential wilderness addition deep within Yosemite’s wilderness, along a “wild” classified segment of the river. The infrastrucutre and level of development affects the wilderness experience which is integral to the river-related recreation and scenic values along this stretch of the Merced. Simply stated, the presence of permanent strucutres and the high encounter rates associated with a high-density destination in wilderness are not what wilderness adventurers should expect to encounter.

    The NPS would LOVE to hear from you to gather new perspectives on how to address the wilderness experience concerns at these locations. Consider it a warm-up for commenting on wilderness issues related to the Half Dome Trail. Please visit to learn more about this stage of the Merced River Plan planning effort and join the conversation. You may submit your comments through our comment site, by printing and mailing in the comment pages of the workbook, or by emailing

    • Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch says:

      Thanks for the perspective. Folks, Echo is with the Division of Project Management – the NPS group managing projects like this. I’ve been encouraging readers to participate. It kinda seems odd that if there is no impact to the river at the Merced Camp, that steps should be taken to modify/close it. This camp was one of the original ones built in 1916. Here’s what Ansel Adams said, defending the High Sierra Camps against critics who saw them as an encroachment into the wilderness: “The present High Sierra Camps do not, in my opinion, violate wilderness qualities as they now exist.”

      Tune in tonight to read what the Wilderness Watch position is. Regardless of your perspective, education and dialog is important to the process.

      • Sönke says:

        It would be interesting to hear what Ansel Adams had to say these days. 😉

        • Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch says:

          Funny you ask. I had a seance just last night with Mr Adams. He told me to relay that whatever Mr Half Dome thinks is fine with him. He appreciates that I am doggedly making sure that the peak of Half Dome is called the VISOR, not the Diving Board. He somehow made it to the real Diving Board with a cache of olde tyme camera gear and I gave up after 6 hours of bushwacking.

          Oh, he also said that the High Sierra camps have allowed thousands of people who cannot go backcountry hard-core with a great experience – for over 90 years without anyone whining that they cannot find solitude. He said just turn left and walk 15 mins and you will totally be all alone. And he could use a blanket.

          • Sönke says:

            I love collecting books and this summer I bought “Day & Section Hikes – John Muir Trail”. First thing I flip open the Half Dome section and read on page 36:

            “…For the brave of heart, belly up to the narrow overhanging northwest point dubbed the Diving Board (8,836 feet), and stick your head over for an amazing view of the rock wall…”

            I closed the book and put it on my bookshelf where it is has been since untouched. 🙁

          • Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch says:

            AARRGGHH…my work is not done.

  3. Maureen L says:

    I also highly recommend the Vasque breeze.

    They have great lug soles.

    Couple of caveats, though. They run narrow. I often purchase “men’s” boots because I have wide feet. In the Vasque, I have mens wide!

    They induce a lot more blisters for me than my trusty New Balance lightweight walkers. From coming downhill, I get blisters on the sides of my big toes and the ball of my foot under the big toes unless I tape up in advance.

    And the REI sales price, which shows up a couple of times a year, is a good deal.

  4. Maureen L says:

    I suggested to the Park Service that they discontinue showers at Merced Lake HSC and consider replacing flush toilets with state-of-the-art composting solar ones.

    But for me, a solo hiker, one of the great advantages of the HSC is that I don’t have to carry stove, food, etc. I’m not completely sure what Rick intended in his suggestion, though.

    HSC do not provide “linen.” You carry your own camp towels and a sleep sack liner (my choice) or sheets if you prefer. HSC provide bed, blankets, comforter, pillow, and a wash cloth. Except for Merced Lake at approx 7000 feet, they also provide wood for fire in stove to heat the tent cabin a bit.

    Merced Lake has a much larger capacity than other HSC, and is rarely full. That’s because it’s about 14 miles in from Happy Isles and even more from Tuolumne Meadows, so most staying at Merced Lake stay at Vogelsang or Sunrise before.

    People in the know who desire a bit of “sherpa” service do pay HSC staff on their days off to haul some of their stuff up from Merced Lake to Vogelsang. (There’s a challenging one mile stretch, uphill in that direction.) 4 years ago, the going rate was something like $150 cash for 25 pounds of stuff. People in the know also arrange with the stables, who supply food to HSC and take out garbage, to take stuff up and out.

    I’ve always wondered why the Park Service didn’t investigate replacing the mules with llamas. LLama packing is alive and well in California. Their hooves are much less destructive than mules.

    I did say in my comments that HSC saddle trips should go, to be replaced by mule or llama assisted hikes, where folks walk but send some stuff from camp to camp with the beasts.

    I think Merced Lake HSC’s environmental footprint could be greatly reduced, especially in the area of water use.

    • Sönke says:

      “People in the know”?! I assume you mean this in a very sarcastic way. How sick is that to pay other people to carry your stuff in Yosemite (or anywhere else in the world)?! Yikes…

      • Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch says:

        I have no problem with people offfering to carry gear for a fee. Seems we do that all the time when we check into a hotel. On the Machu Picchu trail, “Porters” carry tents, chairs, tables, food, etc for the 4 day trek – and they love it. It’s a job. They get paid. Beats sweeping floors in a bar.

        • Maureen L says:

          No, I wasn’t being sarcastic, I just wrote too fast.

          There are people on the High Sierra Camp trails with different levels of endurance and different expectations of the experience. Most are pretty amiable in the shared confines of the dining tent and in camp.

          Some bring wine and other comforts (or send them up on a mule).

          Some hike in a group with an interpretive ranger escort.
          (Not my choice.)

          The rangers often give evening talks to which everyone is invited, around campfires in some cases.

          In Yosemite, I don’t expect to hike in designated wilderness and see hardly no one all day, even on a weekday. I do expect the folks I encounter to be good citizens and to not litter, play loud music, or talk loudly and constantly.

          I guess I think about solitude as the quality of the experience rather than simply very low numbers of fellow hikers.

          I got the lottery in 2007 and did a 5 day trip — from Tuolumne Meadows up to Vogelsang, 3 nights at Merced Lake with long day hikes up river and down river, and then a final night at Sunrise. I had a number of days where I saw almost no one on the middle part of the loop trip. My other trips have been to a single camp, out and back with a 2 night stay.

          Going to Clouds Rest from Sunrise on a weekday, I saw almost no one.

    • Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch says:


      Many thanks for your active participation. I hope the NPS actually reads the words and puts them into the recipe. They have a tough problem, pushed by a judge’s order to come up with a plan that protects the Merced. When I worked at Intel, we had a saying: “disagree and commit.” Voice YOUR personal opinion but when the cards are dealt, play them. When the dust settles in 2013 and if a decision is made to revert the park to 1850, at least we gave our opinion.

  5. Sönke says:

    Hmmm, that is a good question. Ten years ago I always had the “High Sierra Camp Tour” on my list. I have that cancelled that plan in the meantime as today I’m clearly siding with the “Minimal Impact”-point of view. I wouldn’t mind if all the camps would be closed but I also understand this would be hard for many people.

    Therefore I really like Rick’s suggestion: tent cabins but bring your own stuff. Don’t like the sherpa-thing though. 😉

    And yes..the Vasque Breeze boots are really good. Nice price – go get a pair. 🙂

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