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Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park

The Moon is Waxing Gibbous (79% of Full)


Re: A Newbie on El Capitan

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A Newbie on El Capitan
May 14, 2014 09:41PM
A month or so ago we had the chance to introduce a backpacking newbie to our habit, our addition, our passion...

But first... just outside of Tracy, a car passed ours, and despite being several large coffees away from fully awake, I recognized it as a fellow addict, confirmed after a horn honk and some frantic (passenger) texting action.

We had also discussed meeting up with some other addicts/friends--nothing definitive, just a general idea of getting away to the mountains; it ends up they were maybe 1/2 hour behind us on the road.

Not so coincidentally, we all ended up at the McDonald's in Oakdale ($1 large coffees--or a nearby Starbucks for those with refinement) where we chatted a bit, discussed options, and chatted some more--probably longer than we should have, but it was great to be among like-minded people talking about our shared passion.

Newbie's first hike request had been entirely reasonable: an easy-ish hike, maybe 6-8 miles, no water crossings or snow, etc... However, Newbie had a constrained schedule and with Rancheria Falls and the high country out of contention, and though we considered Snow Creek (which we would subsequently visit), we somehow landed on El Capitan via the Foresta/OBOFRT trailhead. Our non-Kibbie Lake-bound friends were also headed there, but we decided to travel separately, keeping in contact with radios. Of course, the trip ended up being 10 miles each way (I'm admittedly terrible at estimating or remembering trail mileages...), there were two water crossings (one dry, one wet), and we had about a mile of snow travel. Fortunately, the views and weather compensated...

The first four miles--from the trailhead to Cascade Creek--climbed gradually while weaving into and out of small creeks and gullies.

Yes, JKW outfitted Newbie.

Wildcat Creek had enough water to top off our bottles; Tamarack Creek could have been jumped, but we went for the wet boot/Croc alternative. Surprisingly, especially for April, the water was not ice cold, perhaps because the trail was snow free--until the drop into Ribbon Creek, in fact.

We had lunch at Cascade Creek, where a few other El Cap-bound hikers were also resting. The morning had been clear, but a few clouds were starting to form.

I had forgotten to mention the "shortcut" to our friends, so they followed the old road to the Gentry's site, then climbed back up, while we followed an old road being slowly returned to nature.

Not even Newbies are exempt from some off-trail action

About when the trail steepened considerably, we got our first views of Devils Dance Floor and the burnt out ridge just above the trailhead. We had hiked a good distance, but we still had many miles, and much climbing, to go.

Devils Dance Floor, anyone?

After the steepest portion, the trail mostly followed the open ridge to the high point. Clouds threatened us with rain, but just as we thought we'd need to don our rain gear, they dissipated and allowed the sun through.

Newbie is the one with the less-faded pack.

We eventually reached the high point, indicated by an old snag with a metal marker on it.

From this pass to Ribbon Creek, the trail was almost fully covered with snow, although never more than a few feet deep.

We suspected that the "low moss line" on the trees indicated a normal snow depth; this line was several feet above this year's snow, which was never more than maybe 18" deep.

Ribbon Meadow was easy enough to cross on small, partially-submerged logs. Ribbon Creek itself had much more water, but a reliable logjam just upstream of the trail crossing allowed for a dry crossing.

We filled up at Ribbon Creek since our radio report from the summit was that this was "last water." (In wetter years a small creek flows in the gully just before the final traverse to the top...)

Weighed down with four liters each, we climbed away from Ribbon Creek, soon leaving the snow for good, and we were soon greeted with our first views of El Capitan since near the trailhead.

The Newbie ended up being a strong finisher and kept a brisk pace to the summit. We arrived with ample time to set up camp near our friends who had arrived a bit earlier. There were a few other parties on the summit, but there was space for all.

Camp Cuben

As we finished dinner we enjoyed the sunset, and the chilly evening breeze disappeared into the light of the full moon, which allowed for exploring the summit area in relative warmth.

The next morning, after breakfast, packing, and a bit of summit exploration, we retraced our route, first climbing away from Ribbon Creek.

From the summit "marker", we started the long downhill trek to Cascade Creek. The newbie was surprised at how far we had come up--and how much work it was to hike downhill.

We met up with our other friends for lunch at Cascade Creek, where the temperature was downright warm.

Yes, JKW has helped outfit more than a few hikers. Osprey: PM me for where to send the referral checks...

The final four miles were mostly eventless, although we did stop a few times to wet our hats in an attempt to beat the heat. Before the final drop to the parking lot, we looked back at the Valley and last night's campsite.

It was a great trip for all, especially the Newbie.

More Pictures
Re: A Newbie on El Capitan
May 14, 2014 10:06PM
So.. this was the final weekend I had "free" before I took over care of my dad at home, so it was a very special trip for me. Not only was it a culmination of over a year's worth of planning and shopping and scheming to help my friend backpack, it was a fabulous way to prep me for what was to come in my personal life. And though I wondered at the time how long it would be before I returned home again, it turned out that only three weekends later, Dad was so recovered that with a caregiver visiting him, I was able to get back much sooner than I had feared. I just looked at the calendar and thought about what we've gone through and how far we've come. For me, backpacking helped me get through. Past trips have built up my endurance for long periods of hard work. And the thought of getting back to the mountains gave me the hope that I would make it through. Looking back on this trip tonight, I'm thankful for my family* and my friends and for the mountains which help me live.

*Family includes some very special friends. One of whom is still my friend (I think!) even though I coaxed her up to the top of El Cap! What a bunch of "firsts" she had: first backpacking trip, first dry water crossing, first wet crossing, first cross-country hiking, first 3000' climb day, first night sleeping without a tent (we used shelter and bivy sacks), first time eating out of a bag, first 3000' down day. You name it! smiling smiley She was AWESOME. I only wish I was half as good-natured and strong as she is! I figure if I surround myself with great friends (such as the others mentioned above), maybe I'll learn something someday and become a better person.

Please note that we did NOT want to do something this vigorous as a FIRST trip, but with the conditions and scheduling as they were, this seemed like the best choice overall, and she was totally game and totally able to succeed! Without a blister or owie! Trick: eat and drink and go as slow as necessary. She drank, ate and took SportLegs on my schedule, and that helped wonders. The altitude might have gotten her a bit, but she stayed strong both days! We had time and we used it wisely. I'm so proud of her! Bowing to his greatness
avatar Re: A Newbie on El Capitan
May 15, 2014 07:13AM
Me am berry refined.

Great trip. I'd chick-on bomb ur post.. but somebuddy left me at home.
Sumtim about I'd get all fully of soot and charcoally from all da burn.
Instead, I missed out on Kibbie w/ only bill-e-butt and his wife der:

smiling smiley

Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: A Newbie on El Capitan
May 15, 2014 04:25PM
Nice report/pictures. And, it is certainly nice to have another
contribution from the legendary pink bird.
Re: A Newbie on El Capitan
May 15, 2014 05:28PM
Great trip! Thanks for the photos/report.
avatar Re: A Newbie on El Capitan
May 15, 2014 06:08PM
Nice pictures!

Chick-on: does this mean Cherry Lake Road is open, or did you go the (very) long way from Hetch Hetchy around Eleanor?
avatar Re: A Newbie on El Capitan
May 19, 2014 07:26AM
Chick-on: does this mean Cherry Lake Road is open, or did you go the (very) long way from Hetch Hetchy around Eleanor?
That was Apirl 12. Cherry Lake Road wasn't open then... and still isn't. Kinda a bummer.
Still.. it was "somewhat" of a leasurely stroll from HH to Kibbie and back via Eleanor. wink (we took 4 days)
Really wanted to show the wife some of the Rim Fire scorch.

Chick-on is looking at you!
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