Tag Archives: Half Dome

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23 Days to WSER: A Dome to the North

After my misdirection (and subsequent additional 9 miles) the previous day I had mentioned to the other people at my campsite that my legs were a little tired. They suggested that I should rest, but I pointed out that this was when the real training started. Running when both physically and psychologically tired is the training that is most important for ultras. Therefore I did not change my planned route for the day at all.

I started my day by climbing straight out of my campground up the same trail that I had descended only 12 hours earlier. I climbed up to the top of Yosemite Falls, now having the opportunity of adding some early morning photos to my late evening photos of the falls. When I reached the top I then turned east (the previous evening I had arrived from the west) to start on some new trails. I climbed to lookout above the falls but unfortunately you do not get close enough to the edge to really see the water falling down.

Yosemite NP - Yosemite Falls
Yosemite NP – Yosemite Falls

Continue reading 23 Days to WSER: A Dome to the North

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25 Days to WSER: A Panoramically Sentinel Glacier

Having skipped the climb up to Glacier Point the previous day I decided that I would head up for what is considered as one of the best views in Yosemite National Park. I had spoken to a ranger who enjoys running around the park the previous evening and he had suggested that he preferred to climb up via the Panorama Trail and descend via the Four-Mile Trail so I decided that I would follow his advice.

I took the shuttle bus out to the Happy Isles trailhead, and started my day by ascending the very same trail that I had descended to finish my previous day: the John Muir Trail. It was a serious climb but the grades on the switchbacks meant that it was possible to run a lot of it. I reached the top of the Nevada Falls for the second day in a row, and turned onto the Panorama Trail for my climb up to Glacier Point. The trail crosses over the top of Illouette Falls before providing a view of the falls as they drop into the canyon below.

Yosemite NP - Illouette Falls
Yosemite NP – Illouette Falls

After leaving the falls I was ascending some switchbacks when I heard sounds in the brush alongside the trail, and looked around to spot a wolf heading in my direction parallel to the trail about 15 feet (5 metres) below me. It looked at me and I waved my hands above my head to look bigger, but it continued past me without much consideration. I watched it continue on while I set off once again along the trail. Not far ahead I bumped into a couple, and started the “Did you see that?” conversation only to hear the accent and realise that they were fellow Australians.

I continued on once again, turned at another switchback and started heading back in the direction in which I had seen the wolf. I started to see more people on the trail and advised them to keep alert. I then saw the wolf climb up onto the trail and start heading away from me along the trail. But then it spotted some people heading directly towards it, so it reversed direction and headed towards me instead. It was trying its best to avoid people but had stumbled upon a very busy section of trail. It diverted down off the trail before reaching me and that was the last time I spotted it. I continued to advise people as I went along, and when I reached a ranger-lead group he advised that it was a coyote rather than a wolf, since no wolves exist in the park. I was quite surprised since I had always thought of coyotes as being smaller than this sample, having a more copper-coloured coat, and having less fur on the face. But I did do some research afterwards (thanks to Google) and found that coyotes can have a more red-tinged coat with sleeker fur (obviously more suited to the drier terrain of states such as Arizona), but can also have a grey coat with more fur (obviously more suited to the mountainous terrain of the Sierra-Nevada Mountains).

Before reaching Glacier Point I reached the trail turnoff that would take me up to Sentinel Dome, which is 1400 feet (400 metres) higher and provides 360 degree views. I took the turnoff, climbed up for 1.5 miles (2.4 km) and admired the views. On the descent I surprised a guy possibly in his 50’s on his mobile phone, who obviously considered himself a fast walker, so he mentioned to the person on the other side of the connection that he was being overtaken by a runner. I retraced my way back to the same turnoff as previously and then continued to Glacier Point. Having worked hard to make my way up there it was a bit disconcerting to see the huge carpark that allows a very short walk to the viewpoint.

Yosemite NP - Glacier Point View
Yosemite NP – Glacier Point View

Continue reading 25 Days to WSER: A Panoramically Sentinel Glacier

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26 Days to WSER: A Lazy Half Dome

I woke and started my journey to Yosemite National Park very early. My plan was to stay at Camp 4, one of only two first-in, first-served campsites that had opened for the season. Camp 4 is famous as a hangout for rock climbers, and a line forms each morning before the ranger arrives to start allocating spots that have been vacated over the previous day. Each campsite fits six people, so groups of strangers are thrown together into a site with shared picnic tables and campfires. I entered the park before the gate was even manned for the day and made my way to Camp 4, arriving at 7:30AM (the ranger arrives at 8:30AM) to find around 15 people ahead of me.

The ranger arrived and immediately informed us that there were sufficient spots available to accommodate everyone in line. I waited my turn, selected my campsite from those available, paid my $5/night (not a typo) fee, and moved my gear across. I setup my tent, moved all of my food and toiletries into the provided bear locker, and then prepared my running gear for the day. I had been advised by a number of people to head out early to avoid the queues, but unfortunately due to the necessity of arranging my accommodation I only set out for my run slightly before midday.

I took a shuttle bus out to the Happy Isles trailhead, and commenced my day by heading up the Mist Trail.

Yosemite NP - Vernall Falls Panorama
Yosemite NP – Vernall Falls Panorama

The trail would take me up past the Vernall and Nevada Falls before connecting onto the trail up to Half Dome. The Mist Trail was packed with people and was very slow going as it is very difficult to overtake people as it climbs up narrow stairs alongside the falls.

Yosemite NP - Vernall Falls
Yosemite NP – Vernall Falls

I stopped for photos of both falls on my way up, and then at the top of the Nevada Falls I turned off onto the trail to Half Dome.

Yosemite NP - Nevada Falls
Yosemite NP – Nevada Falls

For the first time that day I was alone. The early going allowed for some running as I made my way alongside a river but soon the gradient increased and I started to hike up towards the dome. It was a steep climb in sections but I eventually reached the short final climb up to the cables. A ranger checked my permit and then I ascended to the bottom of the cables. I took a couple photos of the venture that awaited me, selected a well-used set of gloves for hanging onto the cables, and then started my way up.

Yosemite NP - Looking Up At Half Dome
Yosemite NP – Looking Up At Half Dome

Continue reading 26 Days to WSER: A Lazy Half Dome

27 Days to WSER: A Recovering Bike Path

On returning to my car after midnight (read why here) I had noticed an email informing me that I had been successful in my lottery application for a permit to climb the cables at Half Dome. The peak in Yosemite National Park is so steep that there are only two options to get up: secure a permit to climb up with the cables or climb up the rock face. The bulk of permits are opened up to the public earlier in the year, and the permits for every day of the year apparently sold out within 15 minutes. That left the daily lottery, where each day 50 spots are opened up for climbing the cables two days later. That meant that my Saturday email was informing me that I had a permit … for Monday.

That made Sunday a travel day but that was fine since I was due for an easy running day after the week to date. I decided that a short recovery run was in order so I made my way from Auburn to the Folsom Lakes State Recreation Area. I arrived to find out that the entire area where I had planned my run was closed for a wake boarding event, but they instead directed me to another area of the lake. I made my way there and unfortunately found out that all of the trails there were paved. I hopped onto a bike trail, headed out a bit over a mile before turning around to complete a 2.5 mile run. I then soaked my legs in the lake for 10 minutes and continued south to Sonora, where I would stay the night before heading through to Yosemite early the next morning.