Sunday, June 25, 2006

El Cap Nap

Yosemite Tramp, chapter 3

The Road to El Capitan
The brilliant part of backcountry camping is waking up to the sunrise and feeling like the only people on the mountain. We woke to the sounds of the river rushing below our campsite. The air was fresh, crisp and cold. Damn cold. Icy cold.

Yet another night of freezing my ass off.

I spent my previous backcountry hiking experience freezing nightly, to the point of breaking out the emergency blanket so I could sleep. While I slept soundly, my traveling companions were more annoyed by the crinkle sound the blanket material makes whenever there is the subtlest movement. This year, I decided to go a different route: bring things designed for colder weather.

The whole of the trip a learning process of how to sleep in the cold, while still being able to carry ultra-light equipment. On the first night in the brush, I used a silk liner sheet, and wore a stocking cap. Still, I kept waking up every fifteen minutes or so. My feet were cold. Lesson learned: wear socks.

We had decided the previous evening to do the ten mile hike to El Capitan, as a day hike, instead of hiking to North Dome, which would have been a ten mile hike with full packs. After the hard hike the previous day, we decided that a day hike would be preferable. Besides, we really liked our little campsite.

High Meadow
We hit the trail after the usual camp breakfast of instant oatmeal. The trail itself was relatively easy with pretty minimal elevation gain[1]. We passed by snow pack, and flooded meadows. We were all still tired from the previous day, but the excitement of being in the backcountry - again, as if we were the only people there - speared us on.

We stopped off for a hike up one of the peaks along the way. Here I made the mistake of climbing around the outside of the peak, dangling myself above a long drop down the face of the mountain. It made for a great photo op, though. Liza and Jen stayed behind at the fork in the trail, only to get tired of Rob and my childish need to climb up everything. At least they left a note, made out of pine needles[2].

We found the top of El Cap in only a few hours. The top wasn't really much to see. It was a long, rocky slope with few trees and little else. We did find a very nice little wind shelter, built around a small tree, that had been put together by some previous camper. We sat in the shade of it's tree and napped for a while.

The hike back was uneventful, simply passing back along the same trail. We spent another evening pleasantly exhausted, enjoying yellow curry and cheesy rice, with cashews, a nip of Scotch, and a few games of cribbage.

[1] Only 800 feet. This didn't really seem like much after the 2700 from the previous day.

[2] Somehow, that seems very
Hansel and Grettel to me.

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