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|Cumulative climbing:||21500 feet|
On the Drive from Home to Mammoth, September 16, 2012 - Frank and Stella drove separately from Bill. They arranged their trip so that they'd meet for lunch at Donnell Overlook on CA108 east of Strawberry. Frank and Stella ended up catching up to Bill about ten miles before the overlook, so they stopped there to enjoy the view, lunch, and the restrooms. For the remaining trip into Mammoth they didn't get too far separated as Frank and Stella waited for Bill at a few points along the way. Frank likes to drive faster than Bill.
|Cumulative climbing:||1730 feet|
Sky Meadow and an Attempt on Mammoth Crest, September 17, 2012 - For our first hike we decided to revisit Sky Meadow, a hike we had done last year on different days. When David and I had climbed up past Sky Meadow in 2011 we saw a possible route to Mammoth Crest, but we did not know how difficult it might be.
Stella, Frank, and I started from the Duck Pass Trailhead and headed up the Sky Meadow trail, arriving at the meadow about an hour later. From here our route followed a use trail up the slope toward the crest. This use trail petered out in a field of sloped talus that we crossed, then resumed as we rounded a tarn.
From the southern end of the tarn the use trail disappeared, and we were going cross-country. Frank preferred staying high above the lake and made a direct line toward the cleft in the Crest we could see in the distance, while Stella and I preferred to look for firmer footing to make travel easier and faster.
Stella and I did find a path that seemed to minimize travel on loose talus as much as possible (although we could not avoid it entirely) by looking for ground where the stones were embedded in soil and grass. This made for talus that remained still as we stepped on it, unlike the loose stuff we had to travel over and that poor Frank was traversing.
We got about 300 feet from the Crest before we ran out of grassy slope and would have been back into the talus again, this time on a steeper slope that surely would have been quite loose. The problem now was that Frank was far down the hill, engulfed by talus in all directions. We could see him moving slowly far down the hill among some boulders that were taller than he was.
Since this was supposed to be an easy day, since it was getting late, since the remaining climb to the Crest appeared to be much steeper and looser than what we had climbed thus far, and since Frank was far from being free of the talus field lower down, we decided to turn back and wait for Frank at his expected point of exit from the talus.
As soon as we were all together we took a route down that appeared to minimize talus travel.
Weather was perfect, and the scenery was fantastic. I was slightly disappointed we did not succeed in getting over the Crest. Maybe when my memory of thrashing about on loose talus has faded I will try this route again.
|Cumulative climbing:||1330 feet|
Morgan Pass, September 18, 2012 - Our second hike of the week was a revisit to a place we had hiked a few years earlier when we hiked out to Morgan Pass and Gem Lakes. This time we planned to go to the pass and maybe a bit beyond to eat lunch, if the pass was windy.
Frank, Stella, and I carpooled up to Mosquito Flat, arriving somewhat late in the morning and finding almost all spaces in the main parking lot taken. Fortunately there were a few empty spaces.
We were on the trail with just about everyone else in the mountains that day, it seemed. We were definitely not hiking alone. And, this was only a Tuesday.
What was even more surprising was that most of the folks on the trail appeared to be over 60 years old. It was as if a tour bus of retirees had come for the day. One older fellow on the trail disclosed that he had just turned 80 years old.
As we pressed up the trail the crowds thinned out. By the time we got to Morgan Pass we were the only ones on the trail, although a lone backpacker passed us going the other way as we started to make our return trip to Mosquito Flat.
On our way back we detoured to Chickenfoot Lake, then returned to the main trail the rest of the way back.
Scenery was gorgeous as usual for Little Lakes Valley, and the weather was again perfect, neither too hot, too cold, nor too windy.
|Bike Ridden:||Power Gold Rush|
|Cumulative climbing:||4580 feet|
|Avg. Speed (moving):||17.8 mph|
|Max. Speed:||48.6 mph|
|Nominal System Voltage:||24|
|Battery energy capacity:||900 wh|
|Battery energy consumed:||647.99 wh|
|Battery Amps-Hour Used:||25.9|
|Max. Current:||55.3 Amps|
|Max. power to rear wheel (PowerTap):||? watts|
|Avg. power to rear wheel (PowerTap):||? watts|
|Total energy to rear wheel (PowerTap):||? kJ (? wh)|
|Total energy from motor (calculated):||1680 kJ (467 wh)|
|Total energy from human (calculated):||839 kJ (233 wh)|
|Total energy from human (Polar HRM est.):||1223 kJ (340 wh)|
Minaret Road and Horseshoe Lake, September 19, 2012 - Frank and Stella took the day off to do some shopping and to prepare for our climb up Mt. Conness the next day. I spent most of the day indoors on the computer, but when afternoon rolled around I decided I had to get out for at least a few hours to enjoy the beautiful day. So, I got out and did my usual Mammoth area ride up past the ski resort to Minaret Vista, then down the west side to Reds Meadow, then back up the same way.
After that excursion I had a bit more in the tank, so I took the new and finished Lakes Basin Bike Path up alongside Lake Mary Road and continued all the way to Horseshoe Lake where I was disappointed to see that the lake had almost disappeared. I returned to the condo by taking Lake Mary Road instead of the bike path so that I could go fast down the hill. Then I turned onto Davison Road and rode up past the Canyon Lodge on my way back to the condo.
|Cumulative climbing:||3370 feet|
Mount Conness, September 20, 2012 - This was to be the big hike of the week, and I managed to talk Frank and Stella, who are slow to rise in the morning, to set the alarm clocks early so that we could get an early start and have the full day. Even so, we would bring headlamps in case we got caught by darkness.
By the time my alarm went off the next morning at Oh-dark-hundred I felt awful. My head was completely stuffed up and my nose was running. My body was telling me it was seriously fighting something. But, oddly, I had no sore throat.
I radioed Frank to update him on my condition. After some discussion and after getting up and going through the motions of preparation, I decided to give it a go but to drive separately to the trailhead (1) so that I could turn back part-way if I didn't feel better once I got out on the trail, and (2) so that I would not give them my germs if I was contagious.
So, we finally got off about a half-hour later than originally planned, but still early enough to capture most of the daylight.
Once I was on the road I felt better, and by the time I got to the trailhead my sinuses had cleared up, and I was no longer feeling achy. Something weird was going on. In any case I figured I'd roll with my good luck and see how far it would carry me through the day. Since I had climbed Mt. Conness in 2007 with David, I did not feel compelled to reach the summit today.
Soon we were all ready to go. After a group photo at the start we headed off down the trail that started with a descent just below the Saddlebag Lake dam, and then left on a use trail that leads down into Hall Valley, joining the main use trail up the valley at the Carnegie Research Station hut.
As we descended then climbed through the forest my sinuses got stuffed up again, but not as severely as they were in the morning. But, as we climbed above the timberline and out of the lodgepole forest my sinuses cleared up, and I did not have any difficulty for the rest of the day until after I returned to Mammoth later that evening.
I speculated that perhaps I had developed an allergy to lodgepole pine. For the rest of the week I kept the windows and doors of the condo closed, and my sinuses felt better. Maybe next year I'll need to take some antihistamine, if it doesn't make me drowsy.
When we got to the section of trail that crosses slabs and boulder fields, I let Stella lead as she had recounted how much fun she had had in 2007 when she did the route-finding up the valley when she and Frank followed David and me on the route to Mt. Conness.
Soon we were at the amphitheater at the base of the cirque formed by the south ridge of Mt. Conness and the north ridge of White Mountain, Conness's lesser neighbor to the south. Our route climbed up a broad chute to the southwest toward the low point on this ridge.
As in years past we aimed for The Notch Route. The Notch, a narrow cleft between two gendarmes on the ridge that can be scrambled up when snow-free, was our ascent route in 2007 and for our other attempts in earlier years. Since this year was a low snow year, we anticipated that the way would be clear, but we could not be sure until we saw it in person.
The approach to The Notch used to be along a use trail that was a fairly easy climb. This year, we found traces of that use trail, but most of it had been obliterated by rockfall or avalanches over the past five years. So, we had to step carefully on stones scattered haphazardly on the steep slope. An occasional cairn confirmed we were on the correct route.
Along the way I almost stepped on something that moved quickly out from under foot. There! It hopped again! It was a small frog, probably an endangered southern mountain yellow-legged frog, in spite of its olive/green coloring. What a cute little fellow. I was glad I did not step on him.
The Notch itself was clear of snow, and the slope, lying near the angle of repose, was just as loose and slide-prone as before.
We scrambled up, maintaining a healthy separation in case one of us should loose an avalanche of rock on the lower climber. Soon we were all at the Sierra Crest, where the view to the west was completely different from that of the east.
Our route now took us along a sometimes faint use trail that ran near the edge of the south ridge of Mt. Conness. We descended slightly to the west then climbed steeply for a couple hundred feet before the Conness plateau broadened and flattened. We had one more steep section to climb before the route broadened again nearer the summit. From here we could see the summit rising ominously and impossibly in the distance.
At this point I had gotten ahead of Frank and Stella and was waiting for them to catch up. While I was waiting I took out my binoculars and examined the route up the summit arête. Through the binoculars I could see movement at the top of the mountain. It looked like there could be a small group of people up there. I could definitely see one figure standing against the sky.
"Looks like we're not the only party on the mountain today," I told Stella when she arrived.
After our break we pressed on up the gradually-climbing use trail to the narrow neck that separates the plateau from the arête and the summit beyond.
As we passed this neck we encountered another climber on his way down. "Charles Povtrovsky" had been written in the summit register.
Charles told us he was from Las Vegas and had hiked in from Tuolumne Meadows early in the morning, climbing Ragged Peak on the way out and was planning to climb White Mountain on the way back. I directed him down the trail we had just ascended, and he reassured Stella and Frank that the climb to the summit of Conness was easier than it looked from this vantage point.
Soon we were onto the final climb. The climb up the arête is not a difficult climb as these things go. Guidebooks rate the climb Class 2, although a few easy Class 3 moves (pulling up with hands) are required, these being harder for the shorter members of our party. The hardest part about this climb is mental due to the exposure that should be no surprise since the climb is on an arête.
Although the route up the arête offered plenty of exposure, it helped that the earliest climbers on the peak had in several places arranged large stones as steps where their absence would have made the climb unambiguously Class 3. It also helped that weather conditions could not have been better: warm, no wind, and no threat of rain or lightning.
When we arrived at the small open shelter on the summit we found a large ammo box containing one leaf of notebook paper. The old summit register I had signed in 2007 was gone as was the cast aluminum canister that contained it. I have heard that there is a movement or campaign to remove summit registers from the Sierra Peaks.
We took several obligatory photos of each of us sitting atop the summit block (Stella, Frank, and Bill). I neglected to take a group photo of all three of us. Then we took some panorama shots and returned to the relative security of the shelter below where we enjoyed lunch before retracing our steps down the arête.
When we got back to the plateau the air was still and hot, almost stifling. We stopped to take another break and to remove some clothing.
On the way back to The Notch we detoured slightly to a large cairn I could see against the sky high on the east ridge. I suspected this marked the route down the east ridge, and when Frank and I arrived there and looked down, we saw that this was correct.
Perhaps the next time up Conness we will try the east ridge route. We both thought it would be best to try climbing that way before descending, so we could be sure there are no surprises, rather than to attempt a descent without having climbed it first.
We returned to the use trail across the plateau where Stella was waiting and proceeded to descend the way we had come in the morning.
As we got near The Notch, I noticed several cairns positioned at the low point of the south ridge. In 2007 I had not recalled any route descending from this point, but now when I looked down, I could see a use trail of many footsteps descending the steep slope.
Perhaps this is the route to take when The Notch is covered with snow. The main downside to this route is that its base lies in a field of large talus. The Notch is probably easier when it's clear of snow.
We got to The Notch and descended. I went first, followed by Frank and Stella.
At the bottom of The Notch I continued down to the amphitheater without waiting, figuring that Frank and Stella would know the way. In hindsight I should have waited in sight of them at the bottom of The Notch.
On their way down Frank and Stella continued across a small gap into an adjacent chute and began descending before I called them on the radio to inquire what was taking them so long. It took us a little while to figure out where we were in relation to each other. They wanted to continue down to the amphitheater in their current chute. Although Frank recalled having climbed this "second" chute to the east in 2007, I recall seeing a low cliff band or steep slabs rising from the amphitheater to the left of the chute we had climbed earlier in the day, so I advised them to climb back to the crossover point and descend in the first chute. They reluctantly agreed.
Soon we were all together again. Shadows were lengthening, and as we reached the amphitheater the sun had set behind the ridge. It would be the last time the sun would shine on us that day.
We stopped to refill our water bladders from the stream flowing through the amphitheater. Filling three 3-liter bladders required much pumping on my part and took two of us to hold the filter intake in the stream and to align the outflow with the bladder opening. By the time I was finished I was hungry and cold, not least because I had spilled water all over my pants. Fortunately, they dried quickly.
After eating some gorp and drinking copious amounts of water--we were running short before we stopped--and putting on more clothes we began the descent of Hall Valley.
Two backpackers had passed us going the other way. They were planning to camp for the night just on the other side of the Crest and had asked us for some route advice to The Notch. They would have just enough daylight to make their trip, I thought.
Just down from the amphitheater I came upon a reddish/brown slurry mixed with chunks of something I didn't care to touch on the trail near the creek. It looked like vomit. Perhaps one of the backpackers was suffering a bit from the altitude and had surrendered his lunch on the trail.
Glad I had drawn water upstream from this site we continued on our way down the use trail, reaching the Carnegie hut close to sunset. At this point we turned left onto the faint use trail that leads back to Saddlebag Lake.
We got off-route briefly, but reviewing our outbound track from earlier in the day told us the use trail lied about a hundred feet uphill to the north, and after a little bit of steep cross-country, sure enough, there it was.
The final climb up the clinkers below Saddlebag was tiring, but now we could smell the barn. By the time we stumbled into the parking lot the sky was getting dark, but a beautiful sunset could be seen against the clouds over the low point of Conness's south ridge. If we had been out any later we might have wanted to use our headlamps. Fortunately, that wasn't necessary.
It was a long day, but overall it was a successful hike/climb. We all got to the summit, and the weather was just perfect. The photographers in our party might have wanted clearer air, but that would necessarily have meant more wind and cooler temperatures.
|Cumulative climbing:||160 feet|
Inyo Craters, September 21, 2012 - Stella, Frank, and I drove out to Inyo Craters and did the short hike up to the crater rim to peer down at the pool of green water at the bottom of each crater. Neither Frank nor Stella expressed the slightest interest in climbing nearby Deer Mountain to get a better view of the surrounding land, so we returned to the car.
Hot Creek, September 21, 2012 - After visiting Inyo Craters Frank, Stella, and I drove down to Hot Creek, a hot spot of the Long Valley Caldera where Mammoth Creek is warmed by geothermal vents.
|Cumulative climbing:||2650 feet|
Mammoth Peak, September 22, 2012 - The night before this hike I got a fitful sleep, awakening at 0330 and was not able to get back to sleep until about 0500, at which time I enjoyed some particularly strange nightmares that involved navigating a modern office building where access to the upper floors was by precarious ladders and other "Class 3" methods. The small portion of my brain still thinking rationally wondered in my dream how such a facility could pass the building inspection.
When Frank radioed me to check that I was awake and moving, I replied that he saved me from one problematic downclimb from the 2nd floor of this building before I could exit. Normally a late riser, Frank was awake first this morning, so I went through my morning preparations more quickly than usual. In spite of this we were off by 0900, and after stopping for gas on the way out of town we were on the road shortly after that.
The drive into Yosemite went smoothly until we were a few hundred yards from the Tioga Pass entrance station, where a long slow-moving queue had formed.
25 minutes later we were in the park and descending the short distance to the Mono Pass Trailhead, the parking area completely full. Fortunately, a few turnouts next to the road just uphill from the trailhead had space.
It was not until after 1030 that we were actually starting to walk. After the obligatory photo at the trailhead we started down the Mono Pass Trail, stopping a couple of times to photograph our goal for the day, and again to photograph another Vomit Creek or what appeared to be an iron oxide seep near where the trail crosses the Dana Fork of Tuolumne River.
Aside from these pauses we kept moving, reaching the junction with the trail to Spillway Lake about an hour later and seeing no other hikers on the trail, surprising in light of the overflowing trailhead parking.
We saw one party just uphill from this junction resume their hike after a rest, but otherwise we had the place to ourselves. For the rest of the day we were unlikely to run into anyone else unless they happened to have the same goal as we.
We continued a few yards past the sign for Spillway Lake before veering to the right off the trail and across the meadow. We made our way down to Parker Pass Creek where a dry-feet crossing could be made. From here we checked our bearings with both GPS and compass, then made a bee-line uphill on the gradient and through a lodgepole forest with a relatively clear understory, aiming for the creek flowing from Kuna Lake.
Shortly thereafter we arrived at the creek. We found a faint use trail that followed the creek uphill on its eastern bank, switching to the western bank a short distance later.
When the creek entered a narrow steep canyon full of large talus we jogged west and found ourselves in a broad, easily navigable grassy chute with a faint use trail that we followed until we reached a broad flat meadow.
At the head of this meadow was a small rise followed by the imposing north face of the north end of Kuna Crest. We thought briefly that maybe we should aim for this more imposing summit but decided in the end to stick to our original plan. If there was time, maybe we could climb both, but we'd go for Mammoth Peak first.
The summit of the latter was to the right atop what appeared to be an endless field of talus and boulders that itself was atop a band of cliffs that we would need to navigate around. After we attained the top of the short rise at the head (south end) of the meadow we turned right and headed more directly toward Mammoth Peak.
I tried to stick to a route that had us walking through grass or sand rather than on rocks. Frank was ok with grass, but not so much with sand.
Closer to the ridge, I aimed for the low point between Mammoth Peak and the rest of Kuna Crest that I could see was accessible by a long slog up a sandy slope. Frank had other ideas and preferred to attack the east slope of Mammoth Peak more directly on a route that had him climbing over boulders.
It turns out that these boulders were firmly anchored in sandy soil and were themselves rough and easy to climb over without slipping or causing one to roll or rock, unlike the smooth, tippy talus we had encountered below Mammoth Crest earlier in the week.
Frank and I both reached the ridge at about the same time, although he was closer to the summit. To get to the summit from our respective positions Frank decided to stay close to the ridge and to continue bouldering.
I saw that that was going to be a slow process, even if it provided some challenge and enjoyment. So, I traversed from the low point of the ridge, descending slightly, until I found a chute that was relatively clear of boulders that led to what appeared to be the south summit. I continued up this chute and was on the south summit shortly thereafter. Frank was still somewhere lower on the ridge enjoying his bouldering exercise.
While Frank worked his way toward the summit, I explored the middle summit and the north summit of Mammoth Peak. I concluded that the middle summit was the highest point, although the north summit had the most interesting summit rock pinnacle and somehow felt more appropriate as a destination, especially as it afforded an unobstructed view of the north face of the peak and the valley below.
I took a few photos from the north summit before returning to the higher middle summit to wait for Frank. While I waited I ate some lunch, took more photos, and made radio contact with a couple of bay area repeaters. I was informed that I came in with "full quieting" using 1 watt with an HT (hand-talkie) with built-in (zero gain) antenna on the Mt. Vaca repeater (K6MVR), 158 miles distant. "Altitude solves all problems," I was told.
Meanwhile Frank appeared at the south summit, and a few minutes later I felt a tap on my shoulder as he arrived at the middle summit while I was chatting with another HAM in the Bay Area.
We took an obligatory summit photo, a few more panoramas, and ate lunch before heading down. The summit was cold and breezy today, unlike the summit of Conness two days earlier. Clouds were thickening, but they did not quite have enough energy to form thunderheads or to create showers. Too late in the day for that. Still, the summit was not a pleasant resting place, so we did not linger longer than necessary. We also decided that there wasn't enough time left in the day to reach the other summit we had considered earlier, the north end of Kuna Crest.
Our descent started down the sandy chute I had used to get to the south summit. But that chute, if it can be called that, disappeared into rocks. Still we pressed down. It was easier to see from above and up-close that the rocks were anchored in sand and that there were passageways between them or over them that allowed for walking or easy downclimbing. This was not a field of loose talus.
When we got back to the long sandy slope I had ascended, the descent went more quickly. Descending in sand is easy as the sand absorbs the shock of footfall and allows one to travel a step and a half for the effort of one step. Ascending sand, of course, requires more effort, one step up and a half-step back.
Soon we were above the large meadow we had walked across earlier in the day. We made a bee line for the northern side of this meadow, and checking my GPS I could see we were atop our ascent route. We could even see our footprints in the sand occasionally.
We descended along the creek for a ways and in the end opted to continue along this creek that took a more direct path back to the trailhead rather than to retrace our steps eastward to the Mono Pass Trail at the Spillway Lake Trail junction.
I am glad we chose this alternate descent, and I think I would choose to ascend this way in the future as the route is more interesting. At first we descended a narrow, picturesque grassy valley, then arrived at a high alpine meadow before a low cleft hill. We followed the creek as it veered off this meadow and down a cliff band to another creek in a small canyon. We follwed this creek, the outflow of Kuna Lake, down its canyon, crossing to its east side and walking high on its bank where it cut a steep canyon.
On our way down we passed a log around which long blades of grass had been matted down. A possible bear lair? We saw paw prints earlier in the day, and nearby we saw some evidence of bear passage (scat, more prints), so the idea was not far-fetched.
Before long we crossed Parker Pass Creek. Then while consulting my GPS, we trekked through a flat, featureless area of alternating meadow and forest before stumbling onto the Mono Pass Trail upon which we hiked back to the trailhead, again without seeing anyone else on the trail.
Overall it was a good hike with decent weather, especially for photographs due to the cloud cover, interesting route-finding, and good company. The only downside was that Stella was not there to share our enjoyment as she had opted to give her knees a rest by spending an afternoon relaxing and reading by one of the lakes in Little Lakes Valley.
|Cumulative climbing:||760 feet|
Upper Tenaya Canyon, September 23, 2012 - Today was the day we left Mammoth and drove home. Frank and Stella had had enough hiking for the week, but I had at least one more hike in my legs and several hikes in Yosemite on my "to do" list.
For whatever reason I awakened at 0500 and decided I had had enough sleep. So, I got up, got dressed, ate breakfast, and got everything packed up and in the car by 0800. After saying my goodbyes to Frank and Stella who were just enjoying their morning coffee/tea and dropping my condo keys into the drop-box, I was on the road. The queue into Yosemite's east entrance was non-existent this morning. I rolled right up to the kiosk and was soon on my way through the park.
I arrived at the Sunrise Trailhead at 0930, not particularly early, but early enough to have time for some off-trail exploring and to allow for the unexpected delay, should any occur.
I had always been intrigued by Tenaya Canyon, having read others' reports of hiking/climbing through. My plan was at least to see in person the Tenaya Slide, dry though it was, that I had seen in a video of kayakers who had dared its waters during the springtime.
I set off toward the Sunrise High Sierra Camp and Clouds Rest on the Sunrise Trail. A half-mile from the trailhead at about the point the Sunrise Trail leaves the banks of Tenaya Creek, I veered off onto a well-worn use trail that led back to the creek. The use trail did not appear to continue along its bank but rather plunged into the creek's bed. This worked for a while as the creek was not flowing. Only stagnant pools of water remained, but some of them were deep and broad enough to block my passage.
I hiked either in the creekbed or on its eastern shore, sometimes backtracking significant distance to avoid climbing over high granite walls. Were I to repeat the excursion I would probably leave Sunrise Trail further from the trailhead where a short cross-country hike leads to the top of the eastern side of Tenaya Slide.
Eventually the creek narrowed, and I was forced to climb high above its banks on a granite dome. I traversed this dome around the next bend until it broke into the open at the top of Tenaya Slide, a magnificent granite basin through which Tenaya Creek runs and that marks the top of Tenaya Canyon.
I walked carefully down the sloped granite, much of it polished, to the bottom of the initial fall where a deep pool of water remained. Two or three other deep pools of water stood along the watercourse of the slide. I'm not sure I'd want to hike the Slide when the rock is wet, but I certainly wouldn't want to stand at the bottom of the fall when the creek is running.
After taking a few photos and a couple of videos I continued down the slide to the head of the forest below. Not seeing any hint of a trail through the forest, I climbed a rock pile on the east side to get a better view down the valley and to consider my next move.
I had just finished taking a video from the top of this pile, mentioning in my commentary that I had the place to myself and that the absence of an easy way through the forest suggested that this was a good turnaround point, when I heard voices down in the trees. I climbed down the rock pile and walked west across the bottom of the slide where I met two backpackers who had been camping somewhere downstream.
They did not appear to be particularly happy to see me. Like me, they were probably thinking that they had the canyon to themselves. In spite of this they did disclose that there was a decent hiking route on the west side of the forest's edge down to the start of the (Pywiack) cascade. I had figured the distance at one mile each way through the forest, but they told me it was closer to two miles each way.
It took me a while to find the route they had discussed. I hiked up the west side of the canyon wall until I ran out of bushes and saw no trail, blaze, or cairn. On my way back I saw a broad area of granite with two large branches across its entrance. If I hadn't known of a route, I might have gone that way in any case, as it appeared to offer the easiest walking.
In fact, I believe that this was the route they suggested. I passed an occasional cairn and when in the forest I could see occasionally the faint suggestion of a use trail. When it seemed I got off-route, simply proceeding in the direction that afforded easiest travel soon got me back onto a faint use trail or route of sorts. I was over-thinking the problem. Common sense sufficed.
Eventually, the forest petered out into a boulder field fringed with manzanita shrubs. I thought I'd try to get through the manzanita, but the boulders were large, the gaps between them deep, and the manzanita made finding safe footholds difficult. It was like a giant walking in a low fog, not sure if his foot would hit solid ground below the fog.
I finally gave up on continuing on the west side of the creek and retraced my steps back to the edge of the forest, where a second examination of the area revealed that the usual route probably crossed Tenaya Creek and moved to the eastern shore. During high water this might be risky, but today I could have walked in the creek bed most of the way.
But, another problem arose. I had already walked 4.5 miles, mostly downhill, and I had drunk half my water already. I did not bring my filter with me as I did not expect to find water in the dry creek, and drinking directly from the stagnant pools would not have been wise. Also, I had wanted to turn around by 1300 so that I wouldn't arrive home too late. Aside from that I decided that since I was hiking alone I would conservatively stick to my turnaround marks rather than give myself extra slack.
I know there is a rock, the "lone boulder", on the eastern side that marks the start of the technical climbing in Tenaya Canyon, but I did not get far enough down the canyon to see it. It would have to wait for another visit, perhaps when I was prepared to continue further down the steep slabs into the "Lost Valley" below.
On my return trip I tried to retrace my steps through the forest, and on this I was mostly successful. I did manage to get "off route" several times, but consulting the GPS got me back on. Even without a GPS getting lost would have been difficult as one can only walk any significant distance either upstream or downstream, and it was easy to tell those two directions apart.
Before long I emerged from the forest on the broad granite path I had walked in the other direction earlier that morning. I climbed back up the slabs of the Slide, then aimed for its eastern chute opposite Tenaya Creek for my exit.
After leaving the granite apron of the Slide I worked my way through an area of granite slabs and boulders, crossed a dry Sunrise Creek, and arrived at the spot where my GPS track showed me standing upon Sunrise Trail.
After a very brief moment of panic I realized that the trail may not be drawn exactly on the map and that unless people were nearby it might be difficult to see the trail in the nearby terrain, so I continued slightly uphill, perpendicular to the trail, figuring that I'd hit it eventually. Certainly a trail that gets as much use as Sunrise Trail I would not miss. About 200 feet later I stumbled suddenly and obviously onto Sunrise Trail.
At this point I hiked back to the trailhead, passing only one other party of two hiking in the other direction. My hike from the turnaround point back to the trailhead had taken a little over an hour and a half, much quicker than I had expected, as my outbound hike had taken almost three and a half hours. But, I was satisfied with my decision to turn around and with what I had seen. Certainly the Slide was the highlight of the hike, and I was able to explore it to my satisfaction. It would have been nice to see the inner canyon, but that could wait for another trip.
|Cumulative climbing:||14250 feet|
On the Drive from Mammoth to Home, September 23, 2012 - After my hike in Tenaya Canyon I drove home through Yosemite. I descended Old Priest Grade as I had never done that before, preferring to take the newer road westbound or Greeley Hill Road to the south that descends more gradually to Coulterville and then heads west on CA132 through Modesto. At the bottom of the hill my front brakes were smoking and although I was able to come to a complete stop at the stop sign at the bottom, I could feel that my brakes were getting soft. I had used 2nd gear on the descent, having never had to use 1st gear on a descent before. Next time I go down Old Priest Grade I'll use 1st gear all the way! After that I kept moving until I got to Tracy where I stopped for cheap gas and as I was getting quite hungry, for dinner, a Togo's sandwich that was generously stuffed.
Frank and Stella Mammoth 2012 web pages - For a different perspective see Frank's web pages of the same holiday.
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