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Re: Fall Classics

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avatar Fall Classics
October 22, 2014 09:45AM
First, Go Giants in the true Fall Classic!

I had a couple of trips to Yosemite In October and was able to knock off three of the classic day hikes that have been written about before. I had the weekend of the 3-5 of October set aside months ago to head up with a friend who wanted to do, amongst other things, the Ledge Trail. When AndrewF posted about his Teneya Canyon trip here, I commented (as did Basilbop) and Chick-on threw out an offer to take us down Tenaya Canyon. This then morphed into a combo trip with my buddy Jeff and me driving up with Old Dude (aka Mike, who would act as our chauffer and Sherpa for the weekend). Jeff and I would be doing the ledge trail on Saturday, and then driving up to the Sunrise trailhead to meet Chick-on, Basilbop and JustKeepWalking (who was a "definite maybe" as she was still rehabbing from a bad back) for a group trip down Tenaya Canyon. The trip was further complicated by the weather the weekend before, which forced Chick-on and his wife to delay their trip until the few days before we were to meet up.

So in the end the plan was to have three cars coming from three different places, converging on the Sunrise trailhead, on Saturday afternoon. 6 of us were planning to hike in and spend the night, with 4 likely to head down the Canyon on Sunday, to be picked up by Mike at the Awhanee. There were lots of moving parts to the weekend, but between cellphones, walkie-talkies, smoke signals and the like we were pretty sure we could find each other. We also needed the requisite permits, which added to the “what if” scenarios.

We met Mike at his house mid-day on Friday and scooted on up to the Big Oak Flat permit center, where we were fortunate enough to be able to get the day-before permits for the Sunrise Creek trailhead. We did get “the look” from the ranger when we let her know that we were going down the Canyon. She let us know that there were already at least 3 SAR trips in the canyon over the summer, she made sure that we had the appropriate gear, and gave us our permit. We headed down to the valley, had dinner and beers at the pizza deck, and texted and emailed the others that we had permit successsmileys with beer

Saturday morning we started out behind Curry Village. I was not sure where the Ledge Trail began, though I thought it was closer to the backpacker’s parking lot based on AnotherDave's recent report. Jeff thought that he had spied the start of the trail the weekend before, coming out of the ruins of the old Curry cabin back stairs…so off I went after Jeff, through the remains of the old Curry Cabin and up a use trail that led up to somebody’s well used and illegal camping spot a hundred feet up or so…and no further. Knowing that, from there, anyway up was correct at that point, we worked through steep trees and brush



to the base of the cliff,



where we quickly found the old orange arrows that generally showed the way



We got to the turn and enjoyed the views



We found the lower, exposed portion to be a bit more fun than the upper, brushy portion.



Reaching Glacier point at about 11:30, we had lunch and checked our phones for information on our meeting with the rest of the group, to be held later in the day. While we had been worried about JKW’s status, it turns out that Basilbop had suffered an injury on the way up (Really? Raley’s?) which had us bummed out…but certainly no more than Basilbop.... and we got word that Basilbop and JKW were going to head home to recover. Double bummer.

So Jeff and I made our way down the 4 mile trail, where Mike was waiting for us at the trailhead in the Valley, and we zipped up to Olmstead point, where we found Chick-on perched up on a rock (where else?) waiting for us. He hopped in, and we were on the Sunrise trail by about 5, and soon down in the Tenaya bowl, admiring the granite and views, which were glorious with the late evening light and the fall colors



Making camp at dark, we did our evening chores



And then set aside our wilderness experience for an hour or two as we got updates (great cell phone reception there!) of the Giant’s 18 inning win against the Nats.

Sunday morning we were up early, ate and packed, leaving much of our stuff for Mike to haul back to the car. Waving goodby to our Sherpa, Mike,



we headed up to the lone boulder,



over to the shrub dog area,



and down into lost valley and then down into the gorge







It was a great trip, seeing familiar sites from unfamiliar locations



The keys to a safe trip were good weather, low water, and an experienced leader who had done the route before. Fortunately we had all three.

We met Mike at the Awhanee parking lot, toasted our successful completion of the Tenaya Canyon downclimb.



Fast forward to this past weekend when I was back up with a different group on an annual outing. This year’s goal was the Diving Board. We had Friday lunch at the Iron Door in Groveland, where the bartender instructed us on the propert technique to get one's dollar bill successfully stuck to the ceiling



Turns out one of our group had never seen the Valley in the daytime, so we drove in and spent Friday afternoon watching climbers on El Cap, then driving around the Valley, and eating Pizza at the Pizza deck. After dinner, we drove back past El Cap, and decided to have one more look on a clear, moonless night, and counted more than 20 headlights up on the wall…it was as if the stars came right down to the Valley floor. I wish I had my good camera and tripod to take a shot. If you get a chance to check out October climbers on El Cap on a moonless night, I highly recommend it.

Saturday morning we hit the trail at Glacier point as the sun's rays were just lighting up the high country



crossed over the Panorama Cliffs area



and stepped off trail just past Liberty Cap, whose shoulder gave a great view of our potential routes…either the slabs route at the base of the back side of Half Dome, or the gully route, which I had taken once before.

The slabs route, although well defined by Chick-on in various posts, had us concerned, so we opted for the gully route



Which led up to the ridge to the base of the Diving Board



And finally the diving Board itself, which we crossed via the crack…some of our party were less than thrilled



To the spot where we re-created Ansels Adams famous photograph “The Monolith”, albeit without snow and with people



The route back to Glacier point was non-eventful. Although I saw too many examples of people who were going to get back to their respective trailheads late, cold and very tired. We were back at Glacier point just after dark, about 12 hours after we started.

So three Yosemite Fall Classics were in the books. And while I wrote this the Giants beat the Royals in game 1!
avatar Re: Fall Classics
October 22, 2014 10:22AM
Very kewl.

And now onto the Winter Classic, right?



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Fall Classics
October 22, 2014 01:27PM
Great trip! Three of my very favorites.

The last time I did Tenaya Canyon in late October, we started at dawn and I nearly broke my jaw after slipping on an absolutely invisible bit of ice coating the slick rock. After the sun came out, all was well again.

The only good thing about drought is that it makes Tenaya Canyon easier.
avatar Re: Fall Classics
October 22, 2014 01:40PM
And thank you for your "Abandoned trails and off-trail hikes near Yosemite Valley...2nd revision" thread. You have provided a great list of "to-do's". I have many more adventures ahead of me!
Re: Fall Classics
October 22, 2014 03:17PM
Nice pictures and report. I re-lived a September hike on the Ledge Trail
by your words and photos. I guess my question for you is this: Did you
think that the Ledge Trail was "that tough"?

This forum offers several trip reports from that trail. Some hikers talk about
it as being only slightly more trying than a trip to Vernal Fall footbridge. Maybe
I was being overly paranoid, but that trail has all the respect I can give it.
avatar Re: Fall Classics
October 22, 2014 05:50PM
Is it "that tough"...well...let me say this about that.

I think that the problem with the Ledge is that it is so close and accessible to Curry Village. Imagine of the Half Dome subdome and cables were right out the back door of Curry Village...you would have every knucklehead heading up, and falling off, after consuming too many beers at lunch, or worse, after dark. Same goes for the ledge imo. Sierra Point as well. Too steep, and too much exposure, and to easy to get to where you can get yourself into trouble to make it readily available to the general public. With the 4 Mile Trail, Yosemite Falls, Snow Creek, and the Mist Trail, you have plenty of ways to get high quickly if you want.

That being said, if you are good with many thousand foot steep climbs and some exposure, its very do-able. And remember my only experience was late season in a very dry year. Water, snow, ice...changes everything.

Just keep your fingers crossed that you are not making your way through when the next rockfall hits. We laughed about whether or not to bring climbing helmets (you can see we did). I guess we figured that should we be hit by a rockfall that they could find the pieces of our brains by the adjacent plastic helmet bits.
Re: Fall Classics
October 22, 2014 09:11PM
I saw the helmets and was pleased. Simple precaution. And given that Florence Hutchings (well at least one report of her death*) says she died while going up the Ledge trail and someone above her knocked a rock loose and it hit her head, and she died a month later... Well, being prudent makes sense. Kudos to you guys!

*As I googled to verify the spelling of her name, I came across two other stories about how she died. From getting her feet wet. I think I'll go with the original story I heard about the rock hitting her head. Getting a cold from getting your feet wet.. sounds highly suspicious to me. I've done a lot of testing in this area... Anyway, if anyone knows what the deal is with the various stories about her death, I'm actually kinda curious. We can take it to a PM or another thread, since that is OT.
Re: Fall Classics
October 26, 2014 04:00PM
Quote
JustKeepWalking
I saw the helmets and was pleased. Simple precaution. And given that Florence Hutchings (well at least one report of her death*) says she died while going up the Ledge trail and someone above her knocked a rock loose and it hit her head, and she died a month later... Well, being prudent makes sense. Kudos to you guys!

*As I googled to verify the spelling of her name, I came across two other stories about how she died. From getting her feet wet. I think I'll go with the original story I heard about the rock hitting her head. Getting a cold from getting your feet wet.. sounds highly suspicious to me. I've done a lot of testing in this area... Anyway, if anyone knows what the deal is with the various stories about her death, I'm actually kinda curious. We can take it to a PM or another thread, since that is OT.

Not off topic at all, if the subject is falling rocks on the Ledge Trail. I had heard numerous times that she died after being struck by a rock on the Ledge Trail.

This report states clearly that she died after a mishap near the Four Mile Trail, where it crosses the little stream below Sentinel Rock:
http://www.undiscovered-yosemite.com/florence-hutchings.html
I'm skeptical. I think that the original info could have been "part way up the trail to Glacier Point" and the listener translated that to being the Four Mile Trail.

The other version is here:
http://www.nps.gov/yose/historyculture/hutchings-women.htm

Florence's sister, who would have been about twelve at the time, recalled that
"...my sister and a party of friends were climbing the Ledge trail when someone above her accidentally loosened a large rock and it rolled down, striking Florence. She was badly injured and was carried back to the cabin. She died the following day." (This quote can be found in "More Than Petticoats: Remarkable California Women", 2nd ed. By Erin H. Turner)

Some comments: I think her sister would accurately remember her being carried in and dying the next day. At that time, the Ledge Trail was not an official trail, but has been reported to have been an unofficial route blazed by Hutchings himself. Having done the route myself, I would affirm that the upper half is an avalanche chute where anyone could dislodge a rock onto the people below.

I think that Hutchings, who was a great promoter of Yosemite tourism and of his hotel, would be muted in blaming a guest for this accidental death. Hence the unlikely story of a death from wet feet. Or maybe the family just didn't want to talk about it.
avatar Re: Fall Classics
October 26, 2014 09:45PM
Ghiglieri and Farabee, in Death in Yosemite, count Floy among their rockfall deaths. It sounds as if they've examined several versions of the story and I tend to trust their research:

Quote

... on September 26, 1881, still at the tender age of seventeen, Floy Hutchings was guiding (or possibly following below) a group of tourists to Glacier Point via the very steep LeConte Gully/Ledge Trail route. By one account she paused to pick ferns. Meanwhile some person on the route above her dislodged a boulder. It tumbled down on Floy. Her quick reactions now proved inadequate. The granite struck her fatally.
(pp. 213-214)
Re: Fall Classics
August 25, 2015 10:16PM
Truth be told, most of the deaths on the Ledge Trail (just like all the other "dangerous trails"winking smiley had nothing to do with the trail and all to do with people going both off trail....AND off route....rather than sticking to the trail.
Re: Fall Classics
August 25, 2015 10:08PM
Great photos.
I think lots of people want to see photos of the gully of the Ledge Trail....I think many have a greater fear of Manzanita than a fear of exposure.
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