I finally got a chance to get outside after months of working saturdays. The drive into the valley was beautiful as always. Bridal Veil and Upper Yos were spraying almost horizontally out of the granite.
We parked at Half Dome Village, the family went up the Mist Trail (living up to its namesake this year) for the umpteenth time to see the gushing falls. I headed towards Mirror Lake in hopes of avoiding some of the free-admission crowd. The shuttle wasnt running yet so i hoofed it.
My plan was to hike up to Snow Creek, check out the old Ranger Cabin and possibly Mt Watkins. The trail was nearly empty on the way up, so i enjoyed the stroll around the lake in the shadow of Half Dome.
My first sighting of the secondary target through the trees, i believe this is the pinnacles with Mt Watkins behind.
And a better glimpse further up the trail.
I parked under the footbridge for a minute to top off water and charge up on trailmix for the nasty switchback section ahead. Feet Up!
This vivid description on Yosemitehikes.com had me in the right frame of mind for the climb.
The switchbacks were steep and rocky, seemingly designed to sap the life from your calves. Large thigh-high rocks in the midst of an already exhausting grade were a nice touch. Never have i been so glad to have trekking poles on an ascent! An attempt to show the switchback differential..
I pushed my way up, pausing for breath more often than i like to. The ever improving view of the domes on the way up was enough to keep spirits high. But with the sun in my face it was difficult to get good shots with my phone.
The view through Tenaya Canyon back towards Glacier Point was stunning as well.
Runoff poured down the center of the switchbacks providing an almost constant water source. All around me were small seasonal falls. The rim was just leaking everywhere.
100+ switchbacks later i reached the plateau and cruised on burning calves towards Snow Creek footbridge. The view towards half dome kept improving and if the cables were up, i think they'd be in this pic.
Footbridge and Creek
I wasnt worried about the snow yet and continued up towards the cabin. Crossing the large snowdrifts was easy at this point. The surface was still cool and hard. The trail became mostly invisible for awhile save for some older fading prints in the snow. So i shot a bearing and followed it as best i could. I got to where the switchbacks should begin and there was still no sign of the trail.
I angled upward and thats where the fun began. As the sun climbed, the snow softened and the postholing began. Not bad at first. The higher i got the worse it became. The grade steepened, between high snow banks were low clear spots around the trees creating an exhausting terrain. I was reminded of a post here by SSSDave which described almost exactly what i was dealing with. This was just the start of it.
I became frustrated and didnt get pics of the worst of it. I should have. Now the forest was littered with deadfall big and small. Climb snow bank, hop over giant log, posthole thigh-deep through eggshell surface due to hidden smaller deadfall, rinse repeat.
Exhausted, i stopped under a tree to eat the lunch that was intended for a scenic summit. I was nearing my "turn around no matter what" time (when the family splits up in the valley i always declare a turn around time). I aired out my feet and noted how suprisingly well my trail runners were doing in these conditions. Boots wouldve been better of course but my hiking boots double as work boots and were so filthy i didnt bring them. Wet soggy snow wouldve been a different story but it wasnt so here and my feet were barely wet or cold. I also thought that i loved these new darn tough socks everyone raves about and would definitely get another pair.
I still had an hour and a half before turn-around but scanning the terrain, map and gps app i accepted that the best i could hope for was a frustrating slog that would only get me to the cabin at absolute best. And of course id have to repeat it on the way back.
Abusing knees and ankles in this mess then starting a nasty switchback descent wasnt my idea of smart hiking... especially with my loved ones already on their way back down from their hike. So i called it.
That moment that hits me on any day hike came on strong. I want stay!
Descending steep trails quickly has become a point of twisted enjoyment for me. Ive gotten better with the poles. Balancing speed, safety, self-abuse and trekking pole reliance is a challenge i oddly enjoy. Ive slowed my spider scrambling antics down enough to feel safe but fast. The joint pounding is minimal and if a pole failed me i wouldnt fall too hard.
"How close are we to the top?" I answered this question in number-of-switchbacks repeatedly on the way down as i often do on yosemite dayhikes, met with increasigly exasperated sighs as i descended. I ran into a Youtuber i subscribe to on the way down, we chatted briefly. Great guy! He looked ready for a longer hike sporting a larger pack and go-pro.
Mirror Lake was a zoo now and i was ready to leave. We rendezvous'd almost perfectly at Happy Isles at 4pm and rushed, hoping to beat the herd out of the park...wrong! A massive traffic jam handled poorly by the rangers brought north and south drives to a hault. It took 2 hours to reach the tunnel.
Despite the mobs of noisy tourists, frustrating hike and ridiculous traffic i had a wonderful day and am ready for my backpacking season to begin!
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