With Jose feeling a bit better we determined to hike up to Vernal Falls and then onto Nevada Falls which would leave us near the base of Half Dome, giving about 7 mi and 3000ft of elevation gain. We started off the morning early again planning to be in the parking lot around 9am. While everyone got ready I prepared sandwiches for us and Jose packed away some Gatorade bottles, 2 each. Today I would leave the heavy tripod in the car, only intending to use it for the shot we had missed the morning before as we entered the park. I brought my camera bag but was leaving my tripod in the car. In my bag I had a couple lenses, our lunch of sandwiches, and a thermos of tea.
Arriving at the tunnel viewpoint at the entrance to the valley, the view was even better than the day before; some wispy white clouds filled the background as the sun lit El Capitan and Half Dome off in the distance. A few other photographers were setup and waiting. I grabbed what I thought were some choice shots and we moved onto the day’s activities.
As we arrived in the valley we found the meadows covered in frost. I waded in a bit and took a couple shots.
We then split off, me and Jose off for an all day hike, and Shintaro and Bethany off to tour the valley. Jose and I caught the bus out to the furthest stop and set to hiking. The path for the first mile and a half is steep but smooth and paved, very easy work. Early in the day there aren’t many hikers on the path and we quickly found ourselves very warm and pulling off beanies and gloves. We crossed a bridge that gives a good view of Vernal Falls and the paved road stopped. There were two paths to choose from, one took us along the Vernal Falls wall up steep stairs, the other off and around the long way.
We chose the Mist Trail along the falls. The view was pretty spectacular with parts of the pool and river out of the falls covered in snow and ice. The stairs were steep but we stopped along the way for photos which made it easier. I also could tell from my cycling it was time for a cliff bar so I pulled one out of my bag. It’s amazing how much easier cliff bars are to eat when it’s cold. Along the way there was a very narrow walkway with sheer cliffs on each side guarded by a railing. Up at the top we had a great view of the water plummeting over the side and down hundreds of feet. We also could easily go off the trail along the river for some fun pictures.
We then continued off to Nevada Falls. The trail eased up a bit, and we started to run into more hikers. The easing up bit didn’t last long, before much longer we were climbing even higher on stairs made of chunks of granite kind of cemented together very roughly. We passed more than one group of hikers coming down and most had overnighted in Little Yosemite Valley above Nevada Falls and at the feet of Half Dome. They had kind words of encouragement as we kept stomping up the hill.
Finally we reached the top and ran into some other hikers we had seen several times on the way up. Sitting there we had to decide if we continued on towards Half Dome and Little Yosemite Valley, but Jose being a bit sick still decided we should just do Nevada Falls and back down, which I think was a good idea. It was time for lunch anyway, we headed toward Nevada Falls, but before we got there I spotted a little break in the woods towards the river and decided to have a look. Climbing over a rock I called for Jose, there was the river feeding the Navada falls, half frozen flowing by tranquilly, a large flat rock along its bank, the perfect place to have lunch. We took out our sandwiches and drinks and enjoyed a nice peaceful lunch by the river. You could see bubbles flowing under the nearly melted ice at the surface, while big piles of snow built up. The sandwiches were nothing special, but sure tasted good after all of that climbing.
Nevada Falls was close by and amazingly gorgeous from above. The upper area is all smooth granite and can be walked around with long drops below and a clear view of how high we had come. In one place two trees found a way to eke out a living in a small crack, their trunks nearly flat. All along Liberty Cap above us there were similar trees squeeking by an existence on a sheer cliff faces.
We found out from another pair of hikers that the John Weir trail we intended to take back down was closed because of ice and rock slide danger, so we had to make our back down the steep trail we came up, and then re-join the John Weir trail at the top of the Mist Trail. We didn’t quite understand the topography though, because rejoining the John Weir Trail to avoid going down the steep Mist Trail meant climbing all the way back up to the height of Navada Falls! We made our way down though and ran into Shintaro and Beth partway up the start of the trail. The round trip had taken just under 6 hours.
Before heading out we stopped in for this movie that turned out to be pretty boring. By now Jose was starting to sound very sick, so we headed back to our cabin and got cleaned up.
Beth made excellent Chicken Enchiladas for us, and we kind of knocked out a bit early.