Published: June 30th 2002June 30th 2002
Matt, Steve and I
At the top of Half Dome
In Lonely Planets guide to the USA there is a brief paragraph on camping out in the wilderness areas of Calafornia. Yosemite National Park is meant to be one of the most scenic places to visit.
A couple of guys (Matt & Steve) in the hostel were intrigued by the idea - just guys - maybe it's the machismo. Little did they realise what they were about to let themselves in for.
We hired a car at a grand total of $398 - made a trip to walmart to pick up supplies - you can get just about everything in Walmart - including guns and machettes, though the food selection was fairly limited - lots of beans. We bough enough water for us to last the 3 nights, 9 gallons, 1 gallon per person per day. Loaded up the pt cruiser and set out.
When we got to the park we eventually blagged our way into getting a wilderness permit and set up camp at the Yosemite Valley backpackers camp. We met a "cray arsed dude" called Tom. Tom took us to see our first bear. After a chase through the woods we spotted the bear - it
wasn't doing any of the things that Ray Mears told me to look out for - so we guessed it was safe to continue watching at a distance. It obviously felt very safe as it took a moment to take a large dump. Crazed arsed Tom (3 military experience) though it would be a great idea to take the contents back to camp to show the guys... we talked him out of it (fortunately).
We spent the rest of the evening drinking and talking with Tom - crazy but really great guy - loads of tips on wilderness camping - including how to avoid having permits, how to hide from the rangers, how to blag water from other backpackers without seeming like an idiot. Next we had the 2 tents, 3 guys problem to solve - straws were drawn.
Our nine gallons of water really weighed down our packs when we packed up to climb the 3000ft to our camp ground. There really was no way that we would make it to the top without risking complete exhaustion. Back in the 1800's when a guy named John Muir explored most of this area he hadn't had to worry
about carrying more than a waterskin, 100 years of backpackers later and the streams and rivers are no longer safe to drink from. Ray Mears to the rescue - I've seen enough of his TV shows to know about filtration pumps. Off to the mountaineering store, $60 later and I have one of these little beauties - we test it out on one of the many gallons we are carrying and ditch the rest.
We had decided to camp between Half Dome and Clouds Rest - about 7 miles from Yosemite village - 7 miles constant climb. The journey took 6hrs but the scenery was fantastic - two waterfalls, several mountains, lots of trees and a couple of rivers. We followed the Merced River followed the first part of our route, up to the Nevada falls. Beyond that we headed out till we reached Sunrise Creek. Eventually we found a really nice camp site - couldn't be seen from the trail and looked quite secluded - which we needed to allow us to leave our stuff there whilst hiking up the mountains. Sunrise Creek provided our first 2 gallons of prime filtered spring water, and Walmart provided our first
of many tins of beans.
Half Dome was our first chosen hike - another 3000ft and about 5 miles from our camp. The climb to half dome from Yosemite Valley is quite a popular day hike and being the weekend it was really busy. We chatted to so many people on the way - its not quite the wilderness I was expecting but was great fun. About 2hrs later we reached the Dome - about 200ft of climb at an angle of 60' - so steep that cables have to be used to pull yourself to the top. I hope the pictures do it justice - it really looks impressive - lots of people despite having climbed nearly 5000 ft refuse to climb this last bit. A huge pile of gloves is to be found at the bottom of the cables, selecting the best pair I could find we started the climb. A combination of pulling and hiking gets you to the top - I was glad for all the water we had. The views made it all worth while, Half Dome has a sheer 5000ft drop down to the valley - no railings, you get as close as
you dare. There is even a ledge that over hangs the entire drop - I had my photo taken there.
We ran down the cables, well slid and ran. We were stopped at the bottom - "you guys just ran down there!! You nearly gave us heart attacks" - most people went down backwards to avoid looking down. It wasn't as bad as it looked and the rest of the climb seemed so easy afterwards.
With the morning gone - we went back to camp for more beans, and some spicy beef jerky. Too much beans already - next time I'm taking marsh mallows and sausages. Steve and Matt spent the afternoon relaxing by the creek, and I went on a second hike - this one was a round trip of 13miles to Lake Merced, I hiked through some of the most beautiful countryside that I have ever seen. A grove of giant sequoias, a rock plateau, a lake and marsh - to reach Lake Merced, I met 2 people. I took loads of pictures on the way but hadn't rested as I only just had enough time to walk there and back before sunset. The mosquitoes on
Beware of Yosemite Bears - they wander around at night :)
the way were a bit of a pain, I had very kindly (stupidly) left the insect replant with the guys back at camp. I stopped at Lake Merced to take photos and was set upon, thousands of mosquitoes were making their way to the only warm blooded creature within 6 miles... me. I got the photo and started hiking back straight away. My hat was turned into an improvised mosquito swat and I killed hundreds, the walk back was horrible - as the sun started to set more of the little man eaters kept appearing, every time I tried to rest I started to lose the swatting/biting battle. I hiked the whole way without stopping, and returned to camp exhausted and covered with hundreds of bites.I had over twenty bites on just my right elbow. I hate mosquitoes and would gladly face bears instead. Which we did - one visited our camp whilst we were making tuna and noodles. A bear can smell a tin of tuna being opened from over a mile - so we ate quickly, the bear didn't like our fire so didn't bother us. I went to sleep as soon as I finished eating - put
The Cables - honestly
Slow coach Matt running down
my ear plugs in just in case the bear wandered into camp - I was way to knackered to care if it did - the other guys could sort him out.
The other two guys spent the whole night thinking that every noise from the forest was the sound of the returning bear, I slept solidly until 8am. We returned to civilisation around 2pm and drove to Los Angeles.
There are more photos below