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Thread: 20080119 - CA, Yosemite

  1. #1

    20080119 - CA, Yosemite


    Friday 1/18: I had to fly out to California for work. I was there a week ago as well, and had planned on doing a four day backcountry trip; but I had changed those plans to another visit to Michigan for my friends Dan and Jodie. I had gone back and forth several times about changing this trip as well for another trip to Michigan. Very hard decision. I had already lined up plans with two friends from San Francisco - Colin and Shannon; who were looking at purchasing a tent. They narrowed it down to two tents; and I owned both of them. I was planning on bringing both of them out with me so they could check each one out. Moreso, I just needed to get away a little; it had been an insanely hectic month. Even if it was only for a few days.

    I flew in on Friday evening; and Colin came to pick me up at the airport. We headed over to Shannon's, and then went out to dinner. During dinner, we finalized our plans; and made a backup plan. We then headed back to Shannon's, and packed our gear for the weekend. We would head out early in the morning; waking up at 6am, and get to the park early. We would snowshoe in, and camp overnight. Hiking out and driving back on Sunday.

    Saturday 1/19: We woke up at 6am, but were moving a little slower than planned. Didn't really head out until around 7. On the way out, Shannon wasn't feeling well. Outside of Yosemite, we stopped at a gas station, and she had to visit the restroom a few times. Poor gal. Hope she feels better soon. I had forgotten my sunglasses at Shannon's, so I got to pick up a special, stylish gas station pair of sunglasses; silver complete with blue flames! I just hope I don't get swarmed by hiking groupies because of the glasses... We made it into the park around 11:30am, and headed to the visitor center. We discussed trail conditions with the Rangers. Since Shannon wasn't feeling well, we decided to start our trip from Badger Pass, as there would then be less elevation gain.

    We drove around and up to the Badger Pass Ski area, and went to talk to the Rangers up there for a permit. When we told them we planned on doing backcountry snowshoeing; likely trying to follow one of the summer trails, the lady was quite concerned. "The trails don't exist!" She meant that they weren't marked in the winter; they took down the signs. Kind of a funny way to put it. We tried to explain to her that it would be okay, we could just follow the general trail and/or direction. Finally, it was easier to just tell her we would just follow the groomed road to Glacier Point. We got the permit and was on our way, starting out around 1pm. A little later start than we planned, but it is what it is. We started out hiking the groomed road towards Glacier Point.

    There were lots of other people around; hiking and skiing. Some were even pulling sleds, heading over to the lodge near Glacier Point. Far too many people for me. I was pretty happy when we hit the trail towards Taft point; just before the Bridalveil Creek road. Well, we would have hit the trail, but we joked that it no longer existed. There weren't any tracks, so we were breaking trail with our snowshoes. We were able to follow the trail for a little, but then lost the trail proper when the tree spacing got a little wider. No worries. We had some obstacles, but nothing too difficult. It was nice to be out on our own, away from everyone else. The backcountry was beautiful. The air was cool, crisp and fresh. No sounds other than the occasional conversation, the soft crunching of the snow under our snowshoes, and the occasional yelp when Shannon tipped over.

    This was Colin and Shannon's first time on snowshoes, and they did great. We ended up doing some pretty interesting things; like crossing over a gully on a downed tree that had a bunch of snow on it. They have done other outdoor adventures though and were pretty fit, so they were fine. Around 5:00pm, the sun was on it's way down. I had been keeping my eyes open for a good camp spot. We'd have to melt snow for water, as all the water we came across was either frozen or not easily accessible.

    Around 5:30pm, we came across a decent camp spot. It was an open area, safe from hazards, and with a decent amount of clean snow to melt; not really a view or anything though. We chatted and decided to keep going a little more, in hopes of finding a spot with a view. We made a beeline towards the cliffs; rather than continuing towards Taft point. It paid off, as we found an awesome spot with some great views only around 15 minutes later. We set up the tents, and made a little kitchen on a small hill above camp. It was a little chilly out, but there was only a light wind. That was definitely a good thing, as we were camped pretty close to the cliffline. A strong wind could sweep our tents over a several thousand foot cliff. The views couldn't be beat though. We saw the last light go down on El Capitan, the Three Brothers, Yosemite Falls, North Dome and more. Beautiful. We finished up dinner, and chatted for a bit. Headed to bed around 9pm; tomorrow would be a big day.

    Sunday 1/20: We woke up with the sun; around 7:45am. We made a breakfast, and watched the sun hit across the valley and light up all the sights. We were kind of lazy, and didn't pack up camp and get moving until around 10am. We made our way across the backcountry to Taft point. I figured we would be able to hike a lot quicker when we weren't breaking trail. There was supposed to be a winter trail to Taft Point. When we got to Taft point, there was only a single set of ski tracks. Two people were camping pretty much right out on the point. They came in from higher on the hill though; so no real good track to follow. Oh well.

    We went out and enjoyed the views from Taft Point. It was a great day, with a few clouds but mostly sunny. Even though it was still pretty chilly out; probably around 20's, the sun really warmed you up. We then started breaking trail towards Observation Point around 11am. We got to the groomed road to Observation Point around 12:30pm. Much later than I would have liked. From where we were, it was still another 1.5 miles down to Observation Point; mostly downhill. It was 9 miles back to our car from here. If we wanted to hit observation point, that would add 3 miles, and some significant elevation loss/gain. We still had to drive all the way back to San Francisco tonight too. Both Shannon and I had to work early the next day. Although, there was also no way we would get lost; we were on a groomed road. I wanted to head down there. It would be a big day though; for sure. Colin and Shannon agreed, so we stashed our packs, and hiked down to Glacier Point with little more than food, water and our cameras.

    It was well worth it (according to me, anyway.) The views from Washburn Point were good, but Glacier Point was fantastic. Much better than I had remembered it. We poked around at a few lookouts prior to getting out to Glacier Point proper. We were out on the tip of Glacier Point proper around 1:30pm. Shannon started to get concerned. She was feeling a little tired, and we still had 10.5 miles of hiking; with a considerable hill climb to start out. We took a couple more photos of the fantastic views of the valley and famous sights, and started hiking back up around 1:45pm. We made pretty good time on the climb up back to the packs.

    Putting our packs on our backs again felt heavy after hiking without them for a couple hours. Got used to it pretty quick though. We chatted and hiked, and hiked, and hiked. Not too many people out on the road now, as it was pretty late for people to be this far in. Just before Bridalveil Creek, a couple of skiers shared some chocolate. Nice! Helped with the energy level. Shannon had to rest a couple of times, but overall did great. We made great time, hitting our original tracks breaking off the road around 5pm; and made it back to the car before 6pm, just before needing headlamps. We quickly changed, shared the Saltines we had in the car (crackers never tasted so good) and started the drive down. It had started to snow when we were hiking, and it was picking up.

    The drive home turned out to be an adventure as well. The snow really started to come down. We needed to put the tire chains on before we left the park; and we had issues where one of the tire chains broke and kept falling off. It needed to be fixed several times, wonderful fun in the heavy snow. Colin endured most of that, thanks Colin! We didn't end up getting back to Shannons until around 2am. Tomorrow was going to stink, as I still had to pick up the rental car, and work a full day; continuing to prep for the classes to be taught the following day. Ugh. Shannon had to work early too, so we all got to sleep as soon as we could...

    Colin wasn't feeling well the next day; so Shannon shuttled me to get the car. Rough day for both her and I; too much to do and never enough time. (Rough day for Colin too, but for different reasons)

    Overall, quite a busy weekend, but still was glad to have gotten out for a little bit. Couldn't have asked for better company, and glad the weather was nice (albeit a little cold) while we were out in the backcountry.


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  3. #2
    There are different trails in winter - and they are available on a map! We got our map either by mail or at the Badger Pass XC rental shop.

  4. #3
    Yeah, but there are people on those trails. ;)

    Was looking for a little solitude. Providing you have the right skills and gear; upper Yosemite can be a great place to wander off in the winter. Quite a solitary experience with some fantastic views... Much of the terrain can be climbed around; not as many cliff-outs in that area of Yosemite; so a great little winter playground.

    Take care,

  5. #4
    Coolnes, thanks for sharin'.

  6. #5
    My pleasure accadacca.

    If anyone wants any info on Yosemite; feel free to e-mail me sideband. I've spent a bit of time there, and have hiked every trail in the park; and have done a lot of off trail stuff. Not that I remember the characteristics of all of it, but may be able to help...

    Take care,

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