Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Yosemite Death March - Part Deux

Continuing our saga, we visited Yosemite for a few days just about a week after the huge scaling (slide) event off Glacier Point that nearly took out Camp Curry and closed the Happy Isles area in July of 1996. We were more fit in those days than we are now, so we were up for an adventure. Roy and Aida were with us and we conceive of a hike that would take us from Glacier Point down to Illilouette Fall, back up over a ridge then down to Nevada Fall, down the North side of the Merced River to Vernal Fall, then following the Mist Trail back to Happy Isles, Camp Curry and on to the housekeeping camp area where we were staying.

Part of the reason we wanted to do this was to see what the damage was from the scaling, in which 78,000 cubic yards of granite face fell off from an area between Washburn Point and Glacier Point. The Mist Trail heading up to Vernal Fall was closed in that direction, but oddly, hikers going the other way were not restricted. That, in part, decided our route.

We figured it would be about 10.4 miles from the Glacier Point trailhead to the Happy Isle bus stop. We started relatively early in the morning (it is about an hour's drive from the valley floor). Roy and I were carrying about 50-60 lbs each in camera gear, plus water. Tina and Aida carried packs of food, jackets and water. We had plenty...or so we thought. More on that later.

The first part of the trip was uneventful. It's mostly downhill to Illilouette Fall from Glacier Point and the trail was moderate to good. We lunched at Illilouette and then began the trek to Nevada.

I don't do well going uphill...I never have. When I did all those long hikes in the local mountains and in the Sierras as a boy scout, you could hear me puffing up a hill from miles away. I usually always made it, but on my own schedule and pace.

The slog up from Illilouette was no different. What was troublesome was the trail was in the sun and we began using a lot of water. By the time we crested the ridge we were getting low.

We could also begin to see the damage. A huge swath of pulverized granite dust coated the valley floor near Happy Isle and up the canyon towards Vernal Fall. It looked like the color of the moon.

That part of the trip was still hours ahead of us. For now we made the downhill march to Nevada Fall, where we stopped. There was a water fountain at the top of the fall where we hoped to fill our canteens/water bottles. Alas, the piping must have been damage by the granite fall because it was shut off when we got there. Due to the concern of parasitic amoeba in the water, we were stuck with what we had, which wasn't much. And that's when things started to go south in a hurry.

The story will continue in a later post. In the meantime, I took this shot from the top of Nevada Fall looking towards what I believe is Liberty Cap. This is the same peak that can be seen in the last post, but now we are on the other side of the Merced. I like the mirroring of Liberty Cap in the small boulder in the foreground. But so much for now, stay tuned for Part Three: same Bat time, same Bat channel.

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