Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mackinac Island (10/12/11)

Location: Boyne Mountain, Michigan

Hike #1: Biked the highway loop around the Island
Distance: 8.25 mi.
Elevation Gain: ~100 ft.
Time: 1 hr. 7 mins.

Hike #2: From downtown to Fort Holmes
Distance: 1.56 mi.
Elevation Gain: 292 ft.
Time: 30 mins.


Our pastors conference ended things nicely the day before and gave us an entire free day on Wednesday to do as we pleased. Being so close to Mackinac Island Sarah and I decided to get ferry tickets and head over there. I had done some research on the hiking here ahead of time as well. I found some decent maps outlining trails all over the island to get from place to place. As we arrived we debated what we wanted to see and ultimately settled on renting some bikes.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Boyne Mt. (10/10/11)

Location: Boyne Mountain, Michigan

Hike #1: Basic loop up/down Boyne Mt. (10/10/11)
Distance: 1.22 mi.
Elevation Gain: 469 ft.
Time: 43 mins.

Hike #2: Descent from top through northern side of Boyne Mt. (10/10/11)
Distance: 2.00 mi.
Elevation Gain/Loss: 189ft, -580ft.
Time: 42 mins.

Hike #3: Ascent of southern highpoint and loop down the middle of Boyne Mt. (10/11/11)
Distance: 2.29 mi.
Elevation Gain: 658 ft.
Time: 59 mins.


The hiking I was able to do at Boyne Mountain was on conjunction with the Pastors Conference that our district had taking place there for a few days. In looking forward to this I was doing all sorts of research on hikes in northern Michigan near Boyne hoping to take advantage of the free time the conference offered us. I'd found short tracks for the walk up Avalanche Mountain in Boyne City (only about 200ft) and I'd found ways to get on sections of the North Country Trail that runs through northern Michigan. I wasn't able to find any information on the web specifically about hiking at Boyne Mountain Resort so I hoped for the best when we arrived.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mt. Royal (7/24/11)

Route Name: Mt. Royal trail
Start Elevation: 9,080 ft.
High Elevation: 10,423 ft.
Distance: 3.59 mi.
Elevation Gain: 1,385 ft.
Start Time: 8:47am
End Time: 12:01pm
Duration: 3 hrs 14 mins


The only plan for this morning was to hike Mt. Royal. My mother wanted in on a hike and we also could incorporate the boys on this so it would be a full family hike. Matt and Sarah decided not to go. They would instead get some good shopping done in Frisco. The hiking group hopped in the van and drove over to the trailhead off 2nd Ave. and were on the trail to Royal just before 9am. We ran into a massive biking event going on with the trailhead area as a staging area.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mt. Bierstadt (7/23/11)

Trail: West Slopes Route
Trailhead Elevation: 11,669 ft.
Mt. Bierstadt Elevation: 14,060 ft. Hike Elevation Total: 2892 ft. (my GPS)
Hike Mileage Total: 6.75 miles (my GPS)


Start Time: 6:09am.
Summit Time: 10:15am
End Time: 1:03pm

This report should begin with a brief introduction as to how we chose Mt. Bierstadt for summer 2011. Part of this choice was to find an easy, relatively short, 14er that my 6-year old Luke would be able to attempt. Last year we did Mt. Democrat at just over 4 miles round-trip and he handled it well. This year we were looking at the other short options in the Front/Mosquito/Sawatch range and Bierstadt, Quandary and Sherman were the ones that popped up. I was even considering letting my middle son Jonah at age 4 give it a go this year if we did something like Sherman from the Iowa gulch side. Ultimately it appeared as though Jonah was not ready yet so we decided on Bierstadt for Luke.

The other aspect of the Bierstadt decision is that it was about 18 years ago now that my brother, father, and I first did it. And we had quite the experience on it with the willows. Upon leaving the parking lot on that fateful day back in 1993 we got on what we thought was the trail and headed right into the willows full force. We spent the better part of the next 2 hours working through mud and faint trail segments in the mess that is the Bierstadt willows. It was quite the experience and so we were most curious to make a return trip to Bierstadt to revisit these old memories.

Fast forward to 2011...

Today's attempt on Bierstadt is Luke's 2nd 14er attempt in as many years. He is 6 this summer and was excited about the opportunity. Experience over the years has us starting earlier and earlier and so it was a 5am departure from Frisco today to hit Georgetown and Guanella Pass. On this particular hike, there was also some concern of the parking lots already being full and so we did want to arrive plenty early. Our arrival at Guanella Pass was just before 6p and there were at least 10-15 cars in the lower lot already. As we readied our gear at the car more and more cars were pulling in. We were on the trail just after 6am.

It was fairly chilly to start and Luke's fingers were instantly getting cold, even with gloves on. We had him bundled up in a long-sleeve synthetic layer with a goretex jacket over it. He had a ball-cap and gloves on with zip-off pants. Once we were going a few hundred feet most of him was keeping warm pretty well. The fingers, however, well, they wouldn't really warm up for him til we hit the sunlight up on the west slopes.

Within a few hundred feet on the trail we were already being passed up by other hikers. This was a bit unusual for the rest of us as we spent much of our time in Chicago Basin the last few days passing up everyone else. With Luke, we took it as his pace. The hike from the parking lot actually descends a little bit into the marshy willows but there are a handful of boardwalks that keep the trail out of the mess. What a change from 18 years ago! After passing through the bulk of the willows the trail starts larger switchbacks up the west slopes of Bierstadt. As we rose higher the views became pretty fantastic of the other front range peaks nearby.

When we gained the northwest shoulder it was also the moment where the sunlight finally caught up to us and seemingly raised the temperature a few degrees. There were a dozen or so people enjoying a break there so we let Luke have some time as well. Thus far the most enjoyable part of the hike for him was greeting all the little dogs that were making the trek up. He was having fun trying to make friends with them as they jumped around the trail.
The ascent along the northwest shoulder is pretty easy terrain and not too steep at all. The trail was always pretty wide so the mass of people coming up and down could move freely. We were stopping every 5-10 minutes for Luke to get quick breaks. He'd get some water and he'd be ready to go again. He never seemed to really tire out though so we were all encouraged. As you get nearer the southwest ridge of Bierstadt the appearance is that the ridge and the summit just aren't that far away. However, the more you ascend the west slope to the ridge the more it seems the ridge keeps getting further away.

At any rate, we finally gained the ridge and Luke was still doing well. The trail mellows out a bit before the final 200 foot push up the class 2 rock to the summit. I wasn't sure how Luke would handled the rock scrambling as he hasn't done much of it before but as we got moving on the rock he was like a mountain goat. He got the hang of it real quick how and when to use his hands and what sorts of routes to pick betweenst the rocks. I have some good video of him moving through the rocks and he showed it to be no problem for him.
We were able to summit at about 10:15am with probably almost 100 other people. This was by a long-shot the most crowded I had ever seen a 14er. Clearly much has changed in the 20 years we've been doing this because I can only remember a handful of people being on the hike when we did Bierstadt in '93.

We found us a few rocks to drop gear on and snack while on the summit. I talked to a few people heading for the Sawtooth (without helmets?!) and they also recommended hiking the east ridge route on Bierstadt sometime. We were enjoying near perfect weather up there (which is one of several reasons we suspected for the crowds) and enjoy a good half hour on the summit.
Luke made good work of the class 2 rock on the descent as well only needing me to help him on a few spots. He was feeling great and full of energy so we were pleased the altitude wasn't hitting him much at all. I suspect is also helped he'd been at at least 9000 feet for a week now and had done some hiking already above 12000 ft. The biggest challenge for Luke came on the steeper descent of the trail on the west slopes. Though he had on some pretty good hiking shoes they just aren't big enough to get a lot of grip on steep, loose dirt. I held his hand for many of the steep descent sections to help him get used to finding traction on the trail. We were making great time though on the descent and Luke wasn't needing many stops.

On the descent I stopped at a great vantage point to take in all of the Sawtooth-Bierstadt ridge with a snowfield in the foreground. I stitched several shots together into this great panorama:

Pano of the Sawtooth and Bierstadt

Though the crowds can be a bother, it was also interesting meeting some other groups with younger kids and seeing who was the youngest of the day. We were impressed to meet a young 7-year old girl who was no bigger than Luke, but she did not summit that day. It would appear Luke was the youngest of the 500 or so on the trail to summit that day. The descent of the lower west slopes went well and before long we were hitting the boardwalks out to Guanella Pass.

We made it back to the car right around 1pm and were shocked to see how the highway was just lined with vehicles. We had heard that once the lots were full there was supposed to be no more parking but that sure didn't stop anyone from lining Guanella Pass with cars on both sides of the road. We were pretty hungry at any rate, and so left the Pass at 1:15pm hoping to hit the Qdoba in Silverthorne. Much to our dismay there had been a major truck fire just past the Eisenhower Tunnel and we ended up sitting, starving, for about an hour on I-70 until things began to move.


The entire track of the Bierstadt hike is available here as well as waypoints for the TH, the Sawtooth and summit.

My Track


If you would like to see all of our photos from this hike you can click the photo below and it links to my Google Photos Album:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Frisco, Breckenridge, Copper Mtn. Bike Loop (7/22/11)


Route: Frisco to Breckenridge and Back. Car drop-off at Copper Mtn, then biked Copper Mtn. to Frisco.
Distance: 32 miles
Time on the Bikes: 2 hours, 30 minutes


We spent our Friday morning putzing around the cabin trying to decide what to do with this day. It was technically a rest day after having done 4 straight days of hiking including all of Chicago Basin. We had also bailed on doing Sneffels today so we were left unsure what to do. Talks of hitting Loveland Pass and Grizzly Peak came up, talks of North Star Mountain, talks of going for Peak 1 from Frisco even. Finally, we decided to explore the biking option again as that was a hit last year.

So we walked into Frisco and stopped in at Rebel Sports. They had raised their prices just a bit from last year but still a pretty good deal. We also noticed they had kid options for those who can't ride bikes yet, that seemingly sealed the deal. We got the info and made sure they weren't running out on such a busy day, and we headed back to the condo to get a quick lunch and gear up.

Around 12:30 we were back and did the bike rentals. We grabbed all the gear and then headed back to the condo to load up the boys. Mark started by towing the kid cart with Jonah and Seth in it while Dad had the tag-a-long with Luke on it on his bike. I would learn that the kid cart is about 80 lbs. of dead-weight to tow behind the bike creating quite an amazing workout. Dad would learn that the tag-a-long bike is more of a tactical challenge as it lean and tugs at the main bike in different directions creating havoc for the driver. At least with this one the pedaler on the back can add a little help and isn't so much dead-weight.

We strolled through the back streets and hit the bike path at our usual trailhead where 2nd Ave ends. The first mile of the path is easy strolling behind Frisco and gave us a chance to get used to the "kid gear". After that mile there is a quick switchback and a hill and you ride behind the Medical Center. The next mile and a half take you through a forest that pops you out on the east side next to CO-9. There are some ups and downs in the beginning section of the woods, but near the end is a great section of downhill that gets you coasting out towards Breckenridge. The next mile or so is spent heading towards, around, and past the big High School. The views in here are great as you can see the Tenmile Range and the trail is lined with these purple wildflowers. We took our first break in here to get everyone hydrated.
I was learning quickly that the stretch from here on out was all a gradual uphill into Breckenridge. I was struggling to keep up with the others while towing the two younger ones. There was no coasting, it was a constant hard pedaling to keep speed. After passing the High School and some housing the bike path regains its track next to CO-9. A little over a mile past there you hit the Gold Hill trailhead off the side of the road and we grabbed another rest there to check out the signage boards. At this point we were 5.8 miles with only about 3 to go to hit our Breckenridge stop.
The next 2 miles are pretty basic strolling with great scenery along the Tenmile Range. At one point we passed an intersection where the road to the right had been washed out by the river. We could tell as several points that the river was higher than normal still. I wonder what it must have been like to see that road bridge washed out? The last 2 miles of the trek take you into Breckenridge. There were two underpasses and several easy road crossings along the way. One of the underpasses was nearly closed as the river level was but a few feet away from the bike path. We ended up stopping at the gondola area.

We learned that the gondola was a free ride so all of the group, except for Dad/Denny, hopped on to see where it would go. We didn't think the younger boys had ever been on one before and they did enjoy it. The gondola went uphill just a bit and then over several residential parts to a loading station. We stayed on and it went uphill further to another loading station and we followed it one more time until it ended up at the base of Peak 8. We soon learned this free gondola is basically a people mover and at Peak 8 there is the massive Fun Center. They had the famous alpine slide up there, but they wanted upwards of $15/person, plus Seth wasn't old enough, plus the other two would have to be riders. They also had some sort of an alpine rollercoaster involving tracks running down the side of the mountain. There were several other activities like a climbing wall, a maze and a gemstone panning area. The boys at least talked me into letting them try the gemstone panning ($7) which involved them getting a bag of gems, rock, and dirt and they sifted it in the moving water to get the dirt out of the way.

We spent a good 30 minutes up there and then hopped the gondola back down to the base and the bikes. For the return ride we decided to switch things up a bit. Luke wanted me to tow him on the tag-along this time and we put David and his fresh legs on the kid cart duty. I took a practice ride without Luke on the tag-along to get a feel for it before setting out. While towing the tag-along with Luke on was physically less strenuous it was more of a technical challenge. Every time he leans it tugs on my bike and it is a constant challenge for the front rider to maintain balance, particularly on hills and sharp turns. While David was challenged a bit towing the kid cart he was fortunate to be getting the benefits of the downhill ride back to Frisco.

The return ride was smooth and enjoyable all the way to the hilly forest taking us back into Frisco. We were all anticipating the great uphill trek that begins this section. Luke and I pedaled it hard and we topped out in the woods without having to stop. The others struggled behind, particularly David and the 80 lbs of deadweight he had to tow uphill. We survived the hills and finally arrived back in Frisco. We ended up dropping the kids off at the house and decided we wanted to do more. The thought of descending Vail Pass came to mind so we headed back to Rebel Sports. We dropped off the kid carts, but it was around 4:30pm at this point. We also learned Rebel closed at 6p giving us a small window to hit Vail. We returned to the condo and had to wait for Mom/Marcia to return with the van from grocery shopping.

We opted at this point to go for a drop-off at Copper Mtn. and shorten the ride for time's sake. If we didn't get the bikes in by closing time we'd be charged the full 24-hour rates. We got the bikes ready, that is, front tires off, and when the van arrived we quickly loaded and headed for Copper. We got dropped off at the gas station just off the interstate on the north end of town. We put the bikes back together and got ready to hit the bike path one more time. Something wasn't right with my bike though. Not sure what happened, but when I re-fastened my front brakes the left pad was rubbing real hard. I could hear it going as I pedaled so I stopped. Tried several things to loosen the pad but it just wasn't helping. I rode the first mile downhill from Copper with the pad rubbing but got tired of that. So I undid my front brakes and decided to pray the back brakes held for the rest of the downhill. From Copper the path to Frisco is pretty simple as it winds around the west side of the Tenmile Range. There is truly very little pedaling necessary for almost the entire path down from Copper to Frisco. The trek when shown on Google Earth shows this path as a downhill slope from 9700 to almost 9000. What a ride! When it hits Frisco it curves around behind town and we rode it back to our 2nd Ave stop again. When we hit Rebel Sports we had time to spare, it was about 5:30pm. Another awesome day of riding.


For the Frisco to Breck and back leg of the biking I had run my Nokia GPS for a track. For the Copper to Frisco leg I didn't carry a backpack so I used my Moto Droid and BackCountry Navigator clipped to my belt for a track. I've put these tracks along with several waypoints into the KML file.

My Track


If you would like to see all of our biking photos you can click the photo below and it will link to my Google Photos Album:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chicago Basin (7/19-21/11)

Chicago Basin Ascent/Descent

Trail: Chicago Basin from Needleton
Needleton Elevation: 8,212 ft.
Camp Elevation: 11,000 ft.
Elevation Total: 2800 ft.
Mileage Total: 6 miles (12 mi. RT)

7/19 Bonus Hiking

Trail: Chicago Basin/Twin Lakes Trail
Camp Elevation: 11,000 ft.
Junction Elevation: 11,204 ft.
Elevation Total: 204 ft.
Mileage Total: 1.9 miles


Durango-Silverton Train to Needleton (7/19)

Start Time: 9:15am
End time: 11:45am

We awoke around 7 curious to see what sort of breakfast the Travelodge would have going. It was pretty standard fair: cereal, danishes, hot waffles. We loaded up on good food and drove down to the train station area. We had read about public parking on the streets nearby and so we put the car on 3rd Ave. and unloaded all our gear for the week. We dragged it down to the station and were checked in with tickets just before 8:30am.

Mt. Eolus, North Eolus Peak (7/21/11)

Trail: Chicago Basin/Twin Lakes
Camp Elevation: 11,000 ft.
Mt. Eolus Elevation: 14,083 ft.
North Eolus Peak Elevation: 14,039 ft. Hike Elevation Total: 3300 ft. (my GPS)
Hike Mileage Total: 6.1 miles (my GPS)


Start Time: 3:27am
Eolus Summit Time: 7:21am
Departed Summit: 7:40am
Finished Catwalk: 8:15am
N. Eolus Summit Time: 8:28am
Camp Time: 10:30am

We were up at 3am for round 2 of hiking up to Twin Lakes. The prospect of doing all that hike again wasn't enticing but we were hoping doing most of it in the dark this time would make it go quicker. We were on the trail at 3:26am today, almost an hour earlier than yesterday, and started for the lakes. We would learn that when doing a familiar trail in the dark it doesn't really make it go any quicker, while doing an unfamiliar trail in the dark helps a lot (though route-finding can still be a challenge!). We were to the lakes around 5am with things still relatively dark. It was here that Denny decided that his legs were done. Yesterday had pretty much done it for him and he wasn't going to attempt Eolus' rough terrain without his A-game. Matt also decided to turn around here not feeling his best. After some deliberation David and I decided to continue on. We filtered some water and started trekking upwards from the outlet creek til we found the obvious Eolus trail below the cliffs.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sunlight Peak, Windom Peak (7/20/11)

Trail: Chicago Basin/Twin Lakes
Camp Elevation: 11,000 ft.
Sunlight Peak Elevation: 14,059 ft.
Windom Peak Elevation: 14,082 ft.
Hike Elevation Total: 3850 ft. (my Estimate)
Hike Mileage Total: 6.2 miles (my Estimate)


Start Time: 4:27am.
Sunlight Summit Time: 8:25am
Windom Summit Time: 11:00am
End Time: 2:30pm

Woke up at 3:50am. Got the stove going and boiled water for a tasty breakfast of oatmeal and chocolate, but only Matt and I partook. We were on the trail by 4:27am for Twin Lakes. We made quick work of the trail to the junction and then headed further upwards towards Twin Lakes. We had heard there were some route-finding issues along the way and we did find this to be a little bit true. As we hit the first rock slab traverse it ended on a big rock slab with no obvious exit until we headed up the rock about ten feet or so and found the trail to have switched back on us. There would be two more rock slab areas to come and with careful attention to the terrain we found the trail exit from the slabs relatively easily. After the slabs the trail goes on to hit two stream crossings as it ascends the headwall below the Twin Lakes.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mt. Sniktau, "Cupid", Point 12915 (7/18/11)

Trail: Loveland Pass
Trailhead Elevation: 11,990 ft.
"Cupid" Elevation: 13,117 ft.
Mt. Sniktau Elevation: 13,284 ft. Hike Elevation Total: 1924 ft.
Hike Mileage Total: 5.1 miles (my GPS)


Today was setup to be our family hiking and acclimation day and it worked out very well. Us guys arrived in via plane to Denver last night and arrived in Frisco near midnight. The rest of the group had driven out and arrive early Sunday afternoon. We all had a good breakfast at our condo before setting out for Loveland Pass just after 9am. Things looked beautiful at Loveland Pass. We all hopped out and readied to hike up to Point 12,915. Sarah had a terrible headache this morning so she stayed down near the pass and took pictures while the rest of us hiked up. The boys all three started strong. We were especially impressed with Seth who really took to the trail well. He would sit a minute to rest, and then he was up ready to hike again and he kept saying "come on guys!". It only took about 20 minutes though and the altitude quickly started having its affects on the boys. Matt, David, and I decided to hike on ahead to give us a chance at hitting some 13ers in addition to hiking with the others. We made quick work on the trail up to Point 12,915 to the well-cairned break-off trail towards "Cupid". After 200 feet or so on the traverse to "Cupid" we hit a snow-patch. It wasn't too steep and the snow was quite soft so we walked across it safely. After this the trail continues to traverse around Point 12,915 and eventually makes an ascent upwards to the ridge to gain "Cupid". It was a longer hike than we had anticipated but we still made good work of it. It was about 11:15am when we were on the summit of "Cupid". We debated about going over to Grizzly Peak but realized on the topo that it would be a substantial time project. I gave Denny/Dad a call to check on their progress and they were still not at Point 12,915. He also said Luke got some altitude sickness and was slowing down a bit. We decided to make our way over to Point 12,915 and to hit Sniktau with the others instead.
The ridge walk to Point 12,915 from "Cupid" went quite easily and we beat the others by just a few minutes. Luke, Jonah, Seth, Marcia and Denny all made it to Point 12,915 and only Seth was carried for a few minutes. Just the guys decided to go over and hit Sniktau since the younger ones weren't acclimating all that quickly. We made quick work of the ridge over to Sniktau which involves ascending to a false summit and then down a hundred feet or so and on to the true summit. We were on Sniktau around 12:25pm. As we were making it up there we got a call from Marcia, who had stayed at Point 12,915 with the boys and said Jonah had fallen on some rocks and scratched himself up a bit. She decided to start descending with the boys. I spent only a minute or two atop Sniktau and descended rapidly ahead of the others to help with the boys. While it took around 40 minutes to get over to Sniktau I was down it and below Point 12,915 to join up with the boys in about 25 minutes. The descent was just steep enough I ended up holding Luke and Jonah's hands to help them with the loose terrain. As we made it back to the parking at Loveland Pass it looked as though it were about to rain cats and dogs on us but we were fortunate that it was no more than a minute or so of sprinkling rain.

Great first day of hiking for us and the weather held enough to give us a beautiful day.


My track for this hike was taken with my Nokia N800 tablet using a Nokia bluetooth GPS. For download I'm making available my KML track as well as the waypoints for the peaks we climbed and for Loveland Pass:

My Track


If you would like to see all of our photos from this hike you can click the photo below and it links to my Google Photos Album:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Glacier Point, Sentinel Dome, Panorama Trail, Inspiration Point (6/10/11)

Sentinel Dome Hike

Trail: Pohono Trail + Sentinel Dome Trail
Trailhead Begin: Glacier Point Trailhead
Trailhead Elevation: 7,180 ft.
Sentinel Dome Elevation: 8,122 ft.
Hike Elevation Total: 942 ft.
Hike Mileage Total: 2.71 miles

Panorama Point Hike

Trail: Panorama Trail
Trailhead Begin: Glacier Point Trailhead
Trailhead Elevation: 7,180 ft.
Ilillouette Falls Elevation: 5,884 ft.
Panorama Point Elevation: 6,218 ft.
Hike Elevation Total: 1,630 ft.
Hike Mileage Total: 6.00 miles

Inspiration Point Hike

Trail: Pohono Trail
Trailhead Begin: Wawona Tunnel Trailhead
Trailhead Elevation: 4,389 ft.
Inspiration Point Elevation: 5,408 ft.
Hike Elevation Total: 1,019 ft.
Hike Mileage Total: 2.60 miles


We arrived at Glacier Point around noon and the lots were already filling up and we were lucky to find a good spot in the row by the bathrooms. We hopped out and went for photos right away. The legs were still pretty tight and downhills on steps was painful still. There was a bride and wedding party also heading up towards Glacier Point as we arrived. We got some amazing shots out at the Point and then headed to the car to situate our gear for hiking. We had originally contemplated doing the GP > Sentinel Dome > Taft Point loop today but I wasn't too keen anymore on more snow hiking and navigation. So we decided to start with Sentinel Dome and see what we felt like. There was good signage from the parking lots for the main trailhead that serves the Pohono Trail and Panorama Trail. We started on the Pohono towards Sentinel Dome.

The first bit of the Pohono actually crosses the road twice as it climbs and then heads for the west. There were patches of snow to cross but a good 80-90% of the trail was drying out. We made quick work of the trail towards the Sentinel Dome junction and my legs were starting to feel much better. I realized my head just wasn't into it all morning but as we got out hiking everything came around. The junction for Sentinel Dome was somewhat clear as we could also see the radio tower at this point.
From this point on it was all snow on the Sentinel Dome trail. I put on microspikes though I would find these weren't necessary. The snow was already getting soft and slushy on the top. There were a ton of foot trails in the snow and as we neared the summit of Sentinel Dome it looked like a sledding hill with foot prints everywhere. We had about 20 people on top with us and the views were some of the best of the trip next to those from Clouds Rest. There were a few gentleman on top trying to debate whether Half Dome or Sentinel Dome was higher. They were trying to eye-ball this and one was trying to text Google 411 for the answer. I pulled out the topo map and settled that question.

We opted on the Sentinel Dome summit not to purse Taft Point in the snow and rather to hit the Panorama Trail and at least hike down to Illilouette Falls. We knew that was snow free and the views would likely be better as well. The hike down Sentinel Dome back to Glacier Point went quickly. We actually had a great run step-sliding down the snow off Sentinel Dome. A little harder and it would have made an awesome glissade. We made it back to the parking lot and spent 10 minutes changing some gear out for the next hike.

To start on the Panorama Trail we went back to the same trailhead we had just started at, only this time, we made the left turn from Glacier Point. The sign said 2 miles to Illilouette Falls and that was our destination. I had also done some research on the topo and concluded that to continue to Panorama Point was only another half mile and if time allowed we would shoot for that as well.

The Panorama Trail begins with a switchback or two to drop the trail from Glacier Point. The forest was beautiful at this point as it consisted of some very large pines (with a great smell) and very little underbrush keeping the views somewhat open. After the initial descent the trail becomes one big panoramic traverse heading down towards Illilouette Creek. Along the way we saw Half Dome turning before our eyes and the view went from seeing the vertical sheer north face to the more rounded south side. As we neared Illilouette Creek the trail began several switchbacks to help us on the descent to the creek. We figured we had gone at least a mile at this point though the sign said 1.3 miles to go to the creek. We concluded that the mileage on their signs isn't always 100% accurate.

At Illilouette Creek we hit the footbridge taking you over the rushing waters. The trail never actually took us to the top of the falls and our best view of the falls happened along the switchbacks previously. We moved on to Panorama Point and then involved several more climbing switchbacks which easily took us another half mile past the creek. At one bend in the switchback there was an obvious trail breaking off through the willows and we took this out to the point. As required at Panorama Point, we took some great panoramic photos. Good views of Glacier Point, North Dome, and Half Dome as well as part of the valley altogether.

We decided to really push it on the ascent back up to Glacier Point. The thought of catching the snack shop open still was enticing to get some more drinks. We pushed it as quick an ascent speed as we could keep up with. Had only one stop to handle some drinks and otherwise made a fantastic pace back up to Glacier Point. We made it with time to spare and headed into the snack shop for Gatorade and an ice cream sandwich. We let the legs cool some and headed out to the end of Glacier Point one more time. We figured we still had some good time before we had to hit Inspiration Point. It was nice to have 15 minutes to cool down and chug the Gatorade.
The drive out from Glacier Point went smoothly and before we knew it we were at the end of the Wawona Tunnel. We allowed for some short debate as to whether we had the energy left for this hike and whether the legs would tighten up too much after Glacier Point, but when we hit the Tunnel View parking there was no debate, we were juiced to go. Matt noted that it took him about 45 minutes to get to Inspiration Point the other day so we counted the minutes we had before dark and felt pretty good about this.

We hit the trail cruising. There were a few great views of Yosemite Valley from the lower parts of the trail. It was otherwise an ascent through thick trees with the earlier parts of the trail being relatively steep. As we hit Inspiration Point we were surprised at the lack of view. There was an open flat area with trees blocking any decent view of Yosemite Valley. As I read later on, I hear there may have been a great viewpoint on a short walk out of the trees in this area but we never saw it. We hit the descent hard and by now I was completely out of liquids. It took us 29 minutes on the ascent and we moved so quickly on the descent we did the 1.3 miles in 21 minutes and our hiking was done.

Panoramas from Today

From Glacier Point

From Sentinel Dome

From Panorama Point


The track and a handful of waypoints from these three hikes are available for download in the following KML file:

My Tracks


If you would like to see all of my photos from this hike you can click the photo below and it links to my Google Photos Album:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Yosemite Epic North Rim Hike (6/9/11)

Trail: Upper Yosemite Falls trail, North Dome trail, Snow Creek Falls trail, Mirror Lake Loop trail
Trailhead Begin: Upper Yosemite Falls Trailhead
Trailhead Elevation: 3,994 ft.
Yosemite Falls Overlook Elevation: 6,540 ft.
Yosemite Point Elevation: 6,980 ft.
North Dome Elevation: 7,542 ft.
High Point: 8,129 ft. (Indian Ridge)
Trailhead End: Mirror Lake Shuttle Stop
Trailhead End Elevation: 4,004 ft.

Hike Elevation Total: 4,656 feet ascent
Hike Mileage Total: 16.58 miles


We left camp at Hodgdon Meadows around 5:45 for the Valley. We parked at the Yosemite Lodge public parking that is right next to the main north drive. During night hours it is closed to public parking unless you're a guest there, but during the day it was open to us. We gathered our gear up and were on the trail at 6:28am. We were slightly apprehensive about making sure we found the Upper Yosemite Falls trail but as we crossed the north drive we encountered a sign that cleared up those worries for us.
The hike to the Upper Yose Falls trail hugged the rim of the valley not too far from the road for like half a mile until it met the clearly marked trailhead. Past the trailhead it starts climbing steeply with short and numerous switchbacks. The grade of the trail itself was never too great but the switchbacks just keep going back and forth. At one point we spotted this beautiful bluebird who would pose on a rock before us.

As we would approach with the camera for a shot he would hop on further ahead of us. It was almost as if he was leading us along.

At the top of the switchbacks we'd gained about 700 feet of elevation and were sitting at 4700. The trail from here runs smoother for awhile as it begins a great traverse along the valley wall. We climbed up to 5200 feet along the trail. In this section is a stop called Columbia Rock. It isn't marked but there is a railing at the overlook and the views were pretty decent. Forawhile the trail then descended back to 4900 as it continued to traverse around the north rim wall. At this lowpoint is where the trail starts curling north "around the corner" and at this point you also begin to get the first of many fantastic views of the Upper Yosemite Falls. It was a beautiful sight and we could see a ton of mist coming up from the falls and were curious if we too would get wet ahead.

From there the trail begins to curl northwest into a gully that runs up the west side of the falls. Here again are a great many switchbacks and several steeper rock staircases that relatively easily take you up above the falls. Up until about elevation 5700 you'd wonder if you were in a rainforest as the mist was hitting the trees all about us and gently dripping on everything. We did not really get wet ourselves but everything else about us was. We were also impressed in here at looking to the west at the massive rock faces that towered above us. We followed the zig-zagging trail ever further and into thickening trees once more until around elevation 6600 where the trail junction finally arrived. From there we could have headed west on the trail towards Eagle Peak and on to El Capitan. That trail section also would have led out to Tioga Rd. Or we could have headed east towards the Falls Overlook and Yosemite Point, which we did. It's a short walk from that trail junction to another signed junction for the Falls Overlook. This was a short hike to a rock staircase that descends to the east above the falls, and then curls back around west on a very narrow and exposed staircase with just a single rail to descend to the overlook. The best views from the overlook were ironically not of the Falls, but rather of the Valley itself. I had to take video of our walk back up this narrow staircase as it was quite an impressive sight.

Back on the trail above we descended down to Yosemite Creek and across the footbridge which crossed over a dangerous and roaring creek below. From there we curled around to the north to gain some easy elevation back up to Yosemite Point which sits at roughly 6,950 feet. We had lunch here and Matt worked on drying out his camera which had taken on some moisture. The views were also spectacular here and we were intrigued by the aging railing at the Point which didn't look like it was hanging on to much anymore. Needless to say, we didn't really lean over it to look down to the valley floor.

From Yosemite Point we were surprised to find how difficult it was to actually narrow down what the trail was leading northeast from the Point. We used the GPS to spot check that we were relatively close but the terrain was so open and rocky that it was hard to nail down a definitive trail. The "trail" we followed crested out on a ridge at 7300 and from there descended slightly east into thicker tree cover. It was about 10am at this time and we were feeling great about making it all the way to North Dome. As the trees grew thicker we also found the snow cover to be growing stronger. About this time we ran into about 8 hikers who worked for a Search And Rescue outfit. It did not appear they were actively searching for anyone but they were helpful in giving us some trail beta. They said we'd lose the trail after Indian Creek and there was a lot of snow before and after North Dome. Indeed, they were right. After we met them we used their tracks in the snow to continue on as no actual trail was evident anymore. We were able to follow their tracks, sometimes off and on, all the way to near Indian Creek where we lost them for good.

At Indian Creek we realized what others had been saying in that it was difficult to find a stream crossing. There was drifts of snow on each side of the creek and the creek itself was several feet deep. We ended up hiking just over a tenth of a mile north til we found some downed logs that were positioned just right for us to cross. It was also helpful that the snow drift on the other side was relatively flattened out and we did not have a steep slope to ascend. This crossing went by without a hitch and we began to bushwhack south thinking maybe we'd find a trail. From this point on we were truly on our own and did not find the actual trail again til near North Dome. I used my GPS to spot check us from time to time and to get headings on where to go which we then used compass to make sure we were on track. We tried to find the path of least resistance as we encountered thin areas through trees and snow drifts to go over. We learned to watch out for the drifts over fallen logs as we postholed a few times several feet into the melted out openings around the logs. As the true trail towards North Dome remained elusively south of us and began to curl east we decided we might as well take advantage of being off trail and cut down the distance. We made a straight beeline east towards Lehemite Creek and at some point must have passed over the real trail and we crossed Lehemite Creek without much trouble.

From there we worked east moving a few hundred feet south of the true trail and at points we thought we had met up with it. The third creek crossing was small and easy once more when a suitable and safe crossing point was found. It was about a quarter mile west of Indian Ridge that we finally found the trail and the snow lessened for awhile. It was also there we found a nice small stream to filter some more water and reload. The ascent up Indian Ridge was a quick set of switchbacks and we soon found ourselves at the North Dome trail junction. It was about 12:15pm at this time and I was starting to get a little nervous about time and the snow cover still to come. It was a surprising mental exhaustion having encountered far more snow than we had anticipated and having to constantly route-find through the woods with little ability to see anything beyond the trees.

We made the descent down the east side of Indian Ridge and then the easy walk up the slope of North Dome. Out on North Dome we had another "lunch" and took in the amazing views of Clouds Rest and Half Dome and the rest. As amazing as North Dome was it was a little hard for me to enjoy for very long as it was nearing 1pm when we finally left. We knew we had at least another 8-9 miles out with lots of snow covering it.

We retraced our steps from North Dome back up to Indian Ridge and then began to follow the North Dome trail north along Indian Ridge. When we gained the Ridge proper at around 8,050 ft we hit thick snow. It was melting heavily up there and we were sinking in as much as 6 inches on our steps there. The trail-runners were taking on water quickly and we were starting to get wet. Once again, it was about this point that we had to start navigating by GPS and compass once more. We were able to stay pretty close to the true trail though it was unseen. We caught the junction for the trail to Indian Rock and we saw the natural arch and snapped some shots. I debated hiking the couple hundred feet northeast to the arch for a closer look but with the uncertainty of time and snow decided not.

From North Dome
Just past that point we began the descent and made our way down a slope and found a hint of the trail. From there it traversed the side of the ridge gradually descending and we did well following close to the true trail. We followed this to the junction with the Snow Creek Falls trail. We were looking for the sign in this area but many of the snow drifts were 5+ feet deep and we never actually saw the sign. So we used compass to simply start bearing east for the hike around the north end of Indian Ridge. The snow was quite deep in here but firm enough to travel on.

We gave up once more at actually finding the true trail and just took bearings on the compass to continue east. We were tracking south of the actual route for most of the way. Eventually we realized that if we continued to track east and eventually even bear southeast we could once again shortcut the actual route. The true route had headed north to take an easy switchback to lose elevation towards Snow Creek. We curled around Indian Ridge and at elevation roughly 7200 on the east side of the ridge we lost the snow and found a moderately steep slope to descend. We worked our way progressively south as we descend down the slope. It was about 3pm when we rejoined the true trail (which was buried under 3 feet of snow below us) and we were on track to follow Snow Creek all the way out.

It was about 20 minutes later after having bushwhacked our way through the terrain along Snow Creek that we were overjoyed to find the snow had cleared and we had trail before us. The elevation was about 7000 feet at this point. We took a stop on a big log and had some celebratory snacks and drinks as well as taking a moment to make a change of socks. It was a great feeling to know the snow was behind us and we had plenty of daylight to complete our epic dayhike.

We had another mile til the switchbacks started and this was a very pleasant and enjoyable portion of the hike and one of the few flat sections we had. We noted the footbridge that went over Snow Creek towards one of the High Sierra camps and beyond. The switchbacks began at elevation 6632 and they were very reminiscent of what we started the day on with the Upper Yosemite Falls trail. It was just before 4pm when we started the descent here and we mostly put it on autopilot following the back and forth.

From the Snow Creek Falls Trai
It was 5pm when we hit the bottom of the descent and we were looking forward to a quick and easy (and short?) walk out on the Mirror Lake trail. If nothing else, it was graet to be back on level ground. The views from the Snow Creek Falls descent were memorable as we got to see just how amazing this side of Half Dome and Tenaya Canyon were, but we were also glad to be down. It was also at this time that the magnitude of the day's distance and elevation were finally being felt in our legs as we were up to about 16 miles at this point.

The hike out on the Mirror Lake trail would feel like the longest 2 miles ever. There wasn't much for views until we actually passed by Mirror Lake and were treated to a nice reflective "mirror" view there in the lake. It was disappointing when shortly thereafter we hit the parking lot for Mirror Lake and we were hoping we were almost out, only to realize we had to walk the extent of the road out to the shuttle stop. This was a real test on the legs which weren't ready for the walk on the hardened pavement. But it was a treat when the shuttle stop came into view and a surprise when we realized that a shuttle was actually sitting there loading people. We ended our epic hike with a near all-out sprint for the last 40 yards to catch that shuttle. And oh, what a feeling when the A/C of the shuttle hit us and relief was there.


My track for this hike was taken with my Nokia N800 tablet using a Nokia bluetooth GPS. The GPS did not pick up well at the start as we were on the edge of the north rim of the valley. It also lost signal at some point as we were ascending west of Yosemite Falls. At Yosemite Point I got all of this corrected and the track from there on was perfect.

My Track


If you would like to see all of my photos from this epic hike you can click the photo below and it links to my Google Photos Album:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Clouds Rest (Yosemite) (6/8/11)

Trail: John Muir Trail and Clouds Rest Trail
Trailhead Begin: Little Yosemite Valley
Trailhead Elevation: 6,119 ft.
Clouds Rest Elevation: 9,929 ft.
Trailhead Parking Elevation: 4,130 ft.
Hike Elevation Total: 3,810 feet ascent, 5,799 feet descent
Hike Mileage Total: 14.37 miles


We were up pretty early this morning for the hike and pleased to see the weather was good and the skies clear. We made it up around 5am and got the stove going to boil water. Had a nice breakfast of oatmeal and hot chocolate. After getting our gear together we were on the trail at 5:48am. It was relatively easy to trek out of the campground in Little Yosemite Valley and to pick up the John Muir Trail heading north. The first several hundred feet on the trail were fairly wet and muddy still with the water draining right on the trail instead of off it. We headed up about a mile and a good 800 feet until we hit the junction with the Half Dome trail. At this junction its basically a left turn to Half Dome and a right turn to stay on the John Muir Trail and head for the Clouds Rest Trail.

It was another quarter mile walk, much less wooded, to the junction with the Clouds Rest Trail where we headed up. Thus far, we hadn't seen anyone on the trail and we were pretty sure to be the first out this morning. The Clouds Rest trail ascended pretty rapidly for the first 800 feet of elevation. Past 8000 feet it starts switchbacking up to the base of a 9400 foot point that marks the southern tip of Clouds Rests summit ridge. Along the way we started to see small patches of snow, a few even we'd take a step or two to get through on the trail. When the trail hit the base of the point at 8700 feet, it makes one long traverse to gain the bowl marking the southern approach to Clouds Rest.
As we were about to clear to the east side of the 9400 ft point, we were at elevation 8900 now, the snow finally kicked in full force. We were stopped at a section where the snow completely covered trail for all the foreseeable future. It was also on a pretty good slope and, being quite early still, it was hard and icy. I started to traverse about 50 feet on just my trail-runners until I got to a point where it didn't feel comfortable anymore. I had a dirt landing about 10 feet below me on the slope so I tried to do a slow, controlled slide. Well that was nearly a mistake as I slid fast and almost out of control, luckily I caught enough of the willow bush that was on the dirt landing and stopped myself. It was here that we decided we needed traction. I put on my microspikes for the first time and Matt went for his yaktrax. I hopped on the icy snow again with the microspikes and I was instantly in love. I felt perfect comfortable traction suddenly and began to work my way up and across the snowy slope.
The track we were on flattened out in an open area where we could start to take in the views. It was here was also got the confirmation that we were in snow the rest of the way. We picked up the sun here and the snow above us was already softening some. We were pleased to find out though that only the top 2-3 inches was softening and whatever was below it remained firm.

Past this point there was no longer any trail, it was just us and the snow heading ever upwards. I started checking my GPS for a spot locations and then pulled out the compass to make sure we kept bearing towards the summit. It was actually difficult to spot the summit and when we looked up we were only seeing portions of the southern summit ridge. We were tracking just above where the actual trail was supposed to be located. The snow conditions proved to be great for hiking through. It was never so steep we were unsafe and the traction was good enough to keep us moving. And there was no postholing to be had. We eventually topped out at the summit ridge about 600 feet from the true summit. It was here there was a notch in the rocks on the ridge that when we walked up to it provided amazing views of Tenaya Canyon. We were also shocked to look to the northeast and see what the snowy high-country looked like.

From that view we hiked another 200 feet or so to the base of the steps leading up to the summit. The first 20 steps or so were clear of snow, but then a large snow patch covered the next section of steps as they rounded the corner. We hugged the bushes on the side of the trail in an attempt to make it around the snow. This got us up another 20 feet. We were then able to cut across the top of the snow patch to get to the remaining steps which were snow-free. This led us to the summit which was snow free for the most part. There was a large snow patch at the actual highest elevation but plenty of rocks below it to drop packs on and sit. The views ... were just incredible. Jaw-dropping! So many great pictures to be had we didn't even know where to begin. We took summit panoramas and used a mini-tripod to shoot some of ourselves. After we'd been up there 20 minutes another guy joined us up there. He had been backpacking somewhere near the Clouds Rest-John Muir Trail junction. We enjoyed a good 30 mins up top and even a phone conversation back home before beginning the trek down.

From the summit of Clouds Rest

From the summit of Clouds Rest

As we descended the steps from Clouds Rest I decided to try the microspikes again on the snow that covered the mid-section of the steps. Once again, I was in love, I used the spikes and some support from my trekking poles to walk straight down the snowfield to the flatter snow below. Once we reached the snow at the summit ridge and below it was smooth sailing. We were kick-sliding and almost jogging at points down sections of the snow. We were making great time and were navigating a straight bee-line to the corner we had to turn around 8900 feet to get us to the south side of the 9400 ft. Point. We did indeed end up shortcutting some of the final traverse on the descent and ended up dropping in right where the icy snow had started this morning. We stashed our snowgear and were on trail the rest of the way down. We were treated to occasional views on the switchbacks of Half Dome and the other peaks in the area such as Mt. Starr King and Clark Peak. At about 8700 feet we were at a switchback and decided to follow it out onto the rocks to the west. If we followed this out it would lead to the Quarter Domes on the connecting ridge to Half Dome. We only explored a hundred feet out or so and then continued on the descent. We were taking a look at time to see if we'd have minutes left in the day to complete the full agenda, and so far we were doing good.

The descent down the Clouds Rest Trail went smoothly and after we hit the John Muir Trail we started seeing other hikers. We ran into a group of guys on the JMT that were heading for Clouds Rest. We had them quite surprised to be already on our way down and it was only about 11:15am. We gave them updates on the snow conditions and a little encouragement. After passing the Half Dome junction we ran into a lot more hikers on their way up. We knew many of them were heading to Half Dome even with the cables down. This had been a contemplation of ours as there was reason to think it was reasonably safe with cables down.
We made it back to Little Yosemite valley right around noon with sunny skies and hopefully a dry tent. We spent 45 minutes tearing down the tent and re-packing our gear for the hike out. It was also a good time for a little snack to re-fuel with. We bid our farewell to Little Yosemite at 12:45pm and headed back down the John Muir Trail. We made quick work to Nevada Falls where we found quite a large number of people this time. And from that point on we would be constantly surrounded by day-hikers and tourists and the like. Just before the JMT junction with the Panorama Trail we crossed over a small stream and as we did so we spotted a deer no more than 15 feet away also standing in the stream watching us. He gave us enough time to snap a few shots and then finally scampered off.
The John Muir Trail past the Panorama junction is quite exciting for the first several hundred feet. It is like a shelf on the side of the mountain with a nice rock railing on the side to make you feel safe. It was also like a shower walking through parts of this as water was streaming off the side of the mountain above us and on us for 50 feet or so. We were able to hug the face of the rock and avoid most of the falling water.

Past this initial shelf section the JMT continues with many many switchbacks as it descends and the views remained quite good. The JMT offered the best views of Nevada Falls that we had seen as of yet. We were intrigued by all the groups of kids we past on the descent which were being led by rangers. At 2:20pm we finally hit the rest area by the bridge below Vernal Falls. This is where the John Muir Trail meets up with the Mist Trail and they have some toilets as well as water fountains to enjoy there. We re-filled all our water here as planned and then continued on. As we hiked out on the paved sections of the Mist Trail we were starting to miss the softer dirt trail. It was a pleasant sight when we finally hit the Happy Isles Bridge and we knew it wasn't much further to the car. We hit the Trailhead Parking lot at 3pm, right on schedule.
We both started to rest there at the car and fiddled with our gear some. Because of a few blisters starting and the long hikes both past us and ahead of us we opted not to head to the Snow Creek Falls trail this evening. It would mean losing a night in the backcountry but would also mean doing all the mileage tomorrow with much lighter packs on (a decision we would be praising tomorrow!).


My track for this hike was taken with my Nokia N800 tablet using a Nokia bluetooth GPS. The GPS tracked well the entire hike this day. You can see the variations near Clouds Rest summit of our ascent and descent routes. My downloadable KML contains our Ascent of Clouds Rest, Descent of Clouds Rest, and the descent of the John Muir Trail to Nevada Falls and then Yosemite Valley.

My Track


If you would like to see all my photos from this hike you can click the photo below and it links to my Google Photos Album:

Popular Posts