Rainy Yosemite Hiking

Another trip that I was leading.

I’ve gotten this idea from someone on the REDWOOD mailing list – hike Half-Dome starting almost at the evening, maybe at midnight. Carry lights. The trail is fairy easy to follow. It is not hot at night. Not so many people. Starting very early will, hopefully, allow the group to reach the summit by sunrise.

So, this sounded like a very interesting trip.

I was contemplating to do it for a couple weeks, researching how to plan it well, where to camp especially. Yosemite is notorious for being very busy with people during the summer months (hm, it would be nice to camp there in winter or late fall – another trip to do). It is almost impossible to get a reservation for a campground in the park. Then eventually, with some coaching from Viyasan, I sent a reservation for one night at Bridalveil Creek campground. Amazingly, I received the e-mail reply in the matter of minutes after I faxed the request.  More on why this happened later. Encouraged by this success I quickly wrote up a trip description and send it out. Well, I received the usual slew of strange people wanting to g but then canceling at the last moment. Eventually we had a group of 6 with one non Russian speaking visiting student from MIT (pure guy, I hope he is not very mad).

However, the weather promised to be thunderstormy.
Well, whatever. The storms in Yosemite should be quick and passing. Leaving the way to sunny weather. So I decided to go anyway. Besides, walking in rain shouldn’t be so bad. I fact it will be rather different from all those lots of trips in scorching sunny weather.

On the way there we were hammered by a rain storm. The sky looked really not promising. But the plan is the plan.
Now, when we arrived to pick up the permits it turned out that Bridalveil Creek campground, as well as lots of others are closed for some reconstruction. People who want to do some backpacking will have to hike a mile inland and camp there. No wonder it was so easy to get the reservation.

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We proceeded to the set plan to hike the Yosemite Falls from the valley. It was raining once in a while and I was hoping that it will pass. However, looking at the sky it was not very hopeful.

This post is getting long.

We started hiking around the Yosemite falls doing the normal touristy trails. Then went on a real stuff – climbing up the Yosemite falls trail (real heavy climb with lots of switchbacks). The speed wasn’t that good – people were not very well prepared and the weather was changing all the time (however making scene for good photos). Eventually, after some particular place it was apparent that at this pace we will not make it to the bottom by nightfall. In addition to that there was another group of citizens that we have to meet and then hike a mile inland to camp.

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As a result the group started to disperse based on speed. One of a sudden there was this big surge of pace to get to the top of the waterfall. Sudhish and I went ahead, Oleg was somewhere behind, Fima & Julie farther behind. Closer to the top it was getting more cloudy and windy, but no rain yet. Finally we managed to get there. Views of the valley were great, some sort of face looked at me from the rocks. But there was no view of the waterfall. None. It was disappearing somewhere beneath the granite. Very disappointing.

Surprising it was that all of my group made it to the top. Man, I should have pushed them earlier. Then the fun began. It started raining, heavily with some onset of hail. The trail become very slippery. We saw rescue helicopter flying in the valley all the time. As we found later the park service was rescuing people from Half-Dome and one person actually perished.

I’m sorry, I had to leave to people behind. The problem was that it was getting late and we still had to (1) drive to glacier point, (2) hike form the road, (3) set up a camp. I didn’t want to do it in the dark. I’m sorry, Fima and Julie. Well, that was the leader’s choice – protect one part of the group. I couldn’t protect both.

Sunday, June 14, 2009.

Since it was raining on Saturday and would probably rain at night I decided that it will not be wise to hike that trail with lots of granite slippery steps  in the dark. The group seems to be determined to start as early as planned (2AM), but at the end they weren’t very serous about it. Thus the get up time was moved to 6AM.

Man, trying to herd these cats was a job. After all the packing, eating, photos, etc, we barely started moving at 8AM. Well, one hour earlier than the last time. People seem to be excited. I have to admit that the views from Glacier Point were spectacular. And the weather was looking great – dry and sunny with some clouds. We saw many gliders getting ready to fly.

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This should be great, though rather scary, I suppose.

We were making decent progress, the trail was new with great views. As a result people were taking tons of photos and making all sorts of exclamation noises. I, however, wasn’t that happy – the trail was going down. Brilliant – we will have a field going back on it. Not to say anything bad about this group, but they were not really seasoned hikers to do this. One thing that started to stand out after the little Yosemite valley was that there weren’t many people on the trail. Not so bad, but it was rather strange.

It turned out that the cables were closed at this moment (it was around noon). There was a helicopter flying overhead that just removed the body of the hiker who died yesterday. Well, what else to do? The decision was to make it at least till the cables. It is almost done at that point anyway. In addition to that the group started to separate. By this time it was already clear who is in what shape. I went ahead with the most fit conditioning that the group behind will stay on the trail. We walked till 1:30 or 2:00PM reaching the beginning on the steps where I decided to turn around. We were running out of time to get back by dark.  Plus there was this big climb back.

In retrospect that was a good decision. We barely made it back by 7PM with lots of struggle and some medicine. Unfortunately (or maybe not), this trip will have to be done again.

Half-Dome attempt at EveryTrail

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