Onward, Upward And Into the Snow

2 July 2013 in Memories, Trails/Hiking, Traveling, Yosemite National Park

Hiking up the Snow Creek TrailOnce again, today we would descend upon Yosemite Valley, dropping roughly 2000 ft in elevation with ease upon four motorized wheels just to ascend over 3000 ft back up via our ill-fated feet.

Today’s hike was an aimless wander up towards North Dome via the Snow Creek Trail. We knew from the start that North Dome was out of reach given the 10 miles that lay between our first steps and it’s summit—not to mention the 10 miles that would bring us back down. But we were content to see how far our legs could carry us and so we cheerfully sauntered up the trail.

Swiftly the tall, shadowy pine forest disappeared and we were set upon the exposed, crumbling grayish, white granite of the ever, slowly eroding walls of the valley. There was little shade other than the occasional dwarfed tree clung to the side of the steep rock wall and not a single cloud in the sky to provide relief from the glowing sun. But there were cool refreshing breezes that increased in speed and frequency with each switchback we scaled—of which there were many.

Dan and Half DomeAs we gained elevation the trees and creek below shrunk away and directly across from us Half Dome prominently bared it’s massive splendor. Having only viewed Half Dome from below as well as far, far across the valley it’s true stature had been hidden from us. But now situated closer to it’s summit the scale and height of this single monolith was revealed.

Each time we turned a corner on the path we were forced to stop and look out at the views unfolding all around us. It was just a pleasant coincidence that we were also gasping for air and struggling upon weak legs and these stops provided some small relief. I’m not sure exactly why today’s hike was becoming such a struggle—we have done longer and harder hikes many times before, even in the last week—but today our bodies were not happy and with each step that was made more and more apparent. Maybe it was because we had eaten a very small breakfast, maybe we hadn’t swallowed enough water, or maybe working a ten hour day on our feet the day before had been taxing, but whatever the case it was quite literally an uphill battle to get to the top.

The pitch of the slope we were clambering up so steep it was hard to tell just where the top might be. It would appear as though we were gaining ground on that final edge just to find there was more to conquer above it. But we kept at it. One step at a time. Each step caring us closer to the top. Stubbornly, on weary legs we made our way out of the valley and onto the second tier of forest set high above the initial tier of the valley’s floor. Here the trail flattened out and the tall pines provided protection from the hot afternoon sun.

With the hardest portion behind us we made our way over the short jaunt ahead to the shore of Snow Creek. Upon a rock set in the rushing creek we took in our lunch of sandwiches and trail mix in a ravenous, half-starved manner. It had been six hours since we consumed our meager breakfast of the last of our oatmeal—not even one serving—and an apple. This was supplemented only with one granola bar which we had split three hours earlier before we set foot on the trail.

Now that our bellies were fueled up again and our legs partially refreshed from the break we continued on. We had looked over the large topographic map that was included in the trail book we had purchased and it appeared as though Indian Rock—a high pinnacle we hoped would afford grand views of the valley—was within reach. Located less than halfway between where we stood and North Dome, by our guesstimations it would be another two miles or so and another 500 feet of ascent. The one bit of information we couldn’t gather from the map was the amount of snow we’d encounter.

Snow Creek At first we zigged and zagged among a forest of sparse trees and the assorted debris of their fallen brethren. Paralleling the creek we’d hug it’s banks of cascading water and then depart, then reconvene again, at times stopping to snap a photo and take in the power of the rushing, icy waters. Eventually the trail swung away from the creek and into a thicker forest. It was here that we first began to traipse through small, but substantially deep patches of snow. It was a weird experience doing so in a t-shirt, shorts, and running shoes with no socks. The day seemed warm enough to make quick work of these strips, but the abundance of branches above blocked out almost all of the sunlight.

Initially these patches were fun to walk through and spread out enough not to cause alarm, but as we proceeded the snow got deeper and trail became harder to follow. We were putting a lot of trust in the hope that the sparse tracks left by other hikers were headed in the right direction and would not lead us to the location of their demise. We were also falling through the crusted snow occasionally, sinking knee deep into it’s frigid, biting depths. Our feet were beginning to lose temperature and our minds were beginning to lose their nerve. Not to mention we were on the brink of exhaustion from our initial ascent and still had to make our way off this ridge.

I’ve never been one to turn back before seeing what I had set out to see, but on this rare occasion, when I asked Lindsay if she wanted to continue, I was easily convinced to turn back. We had put in a good hike, had seen some amazing views, and we were not prepared for a long slog through heavy snow and so we turned back.

Attempt at Capturing the Moonbow at Lower Yosemite FallsThe hike back was equally challenging and when we finally were seated at our campsite in Camp 4 I was excited for our dinner of tacos and beer. Later that night we walked over to Lower Yosemite Falls in hopes of capturing the elusive moonbow cast by the mist of the falls interaction with the bright light of a full moon. The forecast had been for a clear night, but clouds rolled in and clashed with Lindsay’s attempts. I think she was able to catch a little of it and if so I’m sure you’ll see pictures posted here.

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