Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Mountains Win Again

Well, there wasn't any lightning. And we didn't chicken out. But we didn't climb Half Dome.

Last week the weather in Yosemite was beautiful. 80's on the valley floor with sunny skies and happy hikers all over the place. The nearer we got to our time to leave for the park, the worse the weather got. Temperatures dipped into the 30's at night, 40's in the day. Thunderstorms were projected. Snow was on the way. It didn't look pretty.

And while the weather turned out to indeed not be pretty, the park still was.

As we drove up the the Sierras from an elevation below 500 feet in the San Joaquin to a peak of about 6000 feet on the road into Yosemite, we drove right into a rainstorm. When we arrived at the park, it had stopped raining so we figured we'd get in a quick hike up to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls to warm up for our expected Half Dome hike the next day.

Somewhere around halfway up the three-and-a-half mile trail that ascends about 2500 feet, the rain started again...or maybe it was mist from the falls...or both. We reached the top and had some great views of the valley floor, but as for Yosemite's higher trademarks around us, they were shrouded behind what would become a familiar wall of gray.

On the way back down we got our best view of Half Dome of the entire weekend (see the 10th photo below). In hindsight, we were very lucky that we decided on this spur-of-the-moment hike, because the weather turned ugly Friday night and we would not have had another chance to do it again.

Snow closed the Glacier Point road and was falling at about 5500 feet, which meant we couldn't drive to any peaks outside the valley, and we couldn't really hike to them either. Pretty disappointing, right?

Despite that it didn't stop raining for all 72 hours that we were there, despite that the valley had a ceiling that was just below the height of all the things you go there to see, despite that our main purpose for going there (Half Dome) was invisible, let along unclimbable, despite that my brand-new $100 shoes performed so badly I wished I'd been barefoot, despite temperatures that climbed about as high above 45 as we did above the valley floor, despite all of that, it was predictably spectacular.

The photo above and all the rest in the slide show below prove that there really is no bad time to be there...but next time, Half Dome won't be able to hide again!

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