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Trip Report: Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Happy Isles Day Hike

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Trip Report: Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Happy Isles Day Hike
August 26, 2011 01:50PM
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Tenaya Lake to Clouds Rest to Half Dome to Happy Isles Tuesday, August 23, 2011
We flew into Phoenix on Friday, August 19. Made a quick visit to the Grand Canyon on Saturday and finished the day in Las Vegas. On Sunday, we drove through Death Valley stopping at Dantes View and Furnace Creek Visitor Center, spending the night in Bishop.
On Monday we stopped at Mono Lake, eating lunch at Whoa Nellie Deli before entering Yosemite. We enjoyed a refreshing swim in Tenaya Lake at the beach then a hike around Tuolumne Meadows to Soda Springs before spending the night at Tioga Pass Resort.

6:00 a.m. Mile 0: Sunrise Lake Trailhead, Tenaya Lake
I set the alarm at Tioga Pass Resort for 4:47. The plan was to start the hike at first light and hopefully finish by 6:00 so we could make it back to Fresno before it was too late.
My father was able to drive me to the trailhead and I began the hike at exactly 6. I did not see another person until over two hours later when I met a couple packing up their camp site. I did see several deer including 3 young bucks. The weather was cool and sunlight did not hit me directly until I reached the high point at about 7:10.

7:16 a.m. Mile 2.7 Sunrise Lake Trailhead
I realized very quickly that my time goal was going to be tough to make because I was stopping to take so many pictures. The first 2.7 miles were slow and quite a bit uphill-taking a little over an hour. I was very surprised to see no one else on the trail.

10:00 a.m. Mile 7.3 Clouds Rest
The final approach to Clouds Rest was not as harrowing as I expected. I videotaped the entire last section and never felt uneasy because of the height. The view was everything as advertised. Looking back at Tenaya Lake was amazing. Phone service was great and I was able to talk to my family who was at Olmsted Point. They were able to see me with binoculars. I met my first hiker who had come from the Valley. He was the first news I heard of “Half Dome is Closed today!”
I enjoyed the top of Clouds Rest until 10:50 when I left for Half Dome. I lost the trail missing a right hand turn when I was distracted by a series of cairns I assumed marked the trail in a section that opened up from the woods. I floundered for a bit trying to figure out which direction the trail should be before setting off toward Half Dome. Soon I begin running into several hikers who were arriving from Half Dome. Each of them carried worrisome news: “Half Dome is Closed”. The news varied slightly with some saying the closure was ALL DAY and others saying indefinite. I could soon hear the helicopter Search and Rescue Team with hikers explaining they were searching for a body of someone who had committed suicide the day before. These hikers were heading to Clouds Rest instead. At this point I was somewhat concerned imagining my long day hike may be significantly altered. But I really believed the Park would not close Half Dome for the entire day and thought of the Mist Trail weekly closures that ended at noon.
The trail from Clouds Rest to Half Dome mostly includes a frontal view of the Cable Route and I was easily able to zoom in and check for climbers. Noon passed by and there were still no climbers. One small group eventually invited me to spend the night in their camp not far from the Half Dome trail. I contemplated the offer including the dilemma of my one day permit which would probably require me to climb the cable before the ranger arrived.

12:43 p.m. John Muir Trail Half Dome Junction
The issue was resolved with a new view of the cables! I finally saw the cables were packed full of people. I also met a backpacker who had just been told by “some kids” the Dome was still closed and there were hundreds of people in line. I told him that the Cables were open (I had the picture to prove it) but he was going to head to Clouds Rest and save Half Dome for the next day to avoid the large crowd. During the last 2 mile hike to the Sub-Dome I filtered my first water and carried two liters. (By the way, I started with 3 liters and next time would carry only 2. The problem with my Osprey 3 Liter Pack is that fits in my Gregory 40Z Pack is that I can’t tell how much water I have left.

2:15 p.m. Half Dome Sub-Dome
Checked in with the ranger and sat next to and talked while eating lunch. He mentioned they were building a case against David Tran who is responsible for scalping both permits and Campgrounds. At this point I was feeling a bit weary and talked about sunset time. I was prepared to finish in the dark if necessary because I was not going to rush the Half Dome part of the trip.

3:25 p.m. Half Dome Summit
Earlier in the week I purchased a pair of Nitrile Hardware gloves from Home Depot for less than $10. I was on the Cables from 2:45 – 3:25 but stopped several times to take pictures and soak in the view. By 2:45 I was the only person going up. The earlier crowds had completely dissipated but there were groups going down. But many times I practically had the cables to myself. There are a few places on the Cable Route with inlaid cracks rock sections that allow you to completely and safely recline not even holding on the cables. I also figured out how to lay back on the rock and prop my feet on the pipes to just relax. This allowed me to pull my bulky camera out of my pants pocket a few times and I ended up with a couple of great Cable shots when a descender stopped and offered to take a picture.
After summiting, I headed immediately toward Snakes Dike. I also called my wife who told me the boys and their grandfather were just finishing up their Merced River Rafting Trip. I explored for a while and soon realized that there were only about 3 of us left on the Dome. I got one of the others to take the classic shot of me and then I just explored for a while. I climbed into the Cave and the hung my feet out the window. My wife called again and they were able to spot me and my signaling mirror and my dad got a relatively decent picture. Apparently a crowd grew in the Curry Village Parking Lot and they watched me flash them with my mirror. Reluctantly, at 4:35 I realized I needed to head home. I was the only person on the dome when I departed.
But first a note on my Cable Method: In my opinion the Sub-Dome is much harder than the Cables. A section of the Sub-Dome has no stairs and somewhat slippery gravel. I was fine in my boots but already thinking about a next time with my boys. On the cables, I had already decided on a somewhat controversial method after research and talking to others. I went up the entire route on the outside right of the cables. This method allowed much better footing and for the most part I felt like my legs did all the work because my boots had good traction. I was also easily able to stay out of the way of those coming down. Perhaps my method would have been more complicated if there were climbers going up still.
On the way down I changed plans when I discovered a very easy method. Basically I grabbed both cables with one hand and did a controlled slide down the middle. My boots still had enough traction that it wasn’t a fast slide and the gloves were wonderful. I think it took me 14 minutes to make it down the cables but that included stops to take in final views. I definitely understand how bigger crowds would not have allowed this method.

5:06 p.m. Bottom of Half Dome Sub-Dome Race of Daylight
I wanted to hurry home for a few reasons but mostly because this was trail I was familiar with but still wanted to be able to enjoy a view of Nevada and Vernal Falls in daylight. I needed to stop to filter one last liter of water and ended up filtering several liters for some climbers who had completed Snakes Dike.
In the section near Little Yosemite Valley I saw one of the strangest sites of the trip. I had stopped to get a drink (I didn’t put the last liter in my Hydration Pack because I wanted to ration it and be able to tell how much I had left). All of a sudden I hear quite a racket in the woods. About 20 yards in front of me a coyote dashes out of the woods runs down the trail and back into the woods. The coyote was chased in hot pursuit by a rather large deer. In case it wasn’t clear, the deer was chasing the coyote through the woods!
Most advice givers, including the Sub-Dome ranger, strongly recommended against taking the Mist Trail down. But I had felt very comfortable going down the Sub-Dome steps at a fairly fast pace and I really wanted to make good time (plus I wanted to see Vernal Fall). The beginning of the Mist Trail near Nevada Fall was actually the toughest portion with a very rough trail and small steps.

7:30 Top of Vernal Fall
I stopped at Vernal Fall for a while and there were very few people. I tried to figure out what in the world would have led anyone to play in the water above the Fall. I understand the water flow is even much lower now. It is so sad.

8:00 p.m. Happy Isles
I had long ago told my family to cancel our plans for pizza at Curry Village Deck. I knew I wouldn’t have the appetite after a long day and it was going to be a later day than normal. So my wife, kids and mom drove on home to Fresno. Surprisingly, my dad showed up at the Vernal Fall Bridge. I wouldn’t let him carry my pack the last mile but he did have some nice grapes as we took our time to Happy Isles. As we approached the Happy Isles Bridge a standing room only Shuttle was pulling away from the Stop. We waved at him and he mercifully stopped and allowed us on.
Sadly, the excitement was not quite done. As we left the Valley with my dad driving we struck a large deer. By this time it was dark and we weren’t traveling too fast but the deer practically ran into us. Thankfully it struck the right fender and bounced off not coming over the windshield. As we stopped to check damage a driver behind said he saw a deer walking along the road (not dead) but we hit it very hard and it knocked the side panel out of place and dented the hood.

11:15 Jacuzzi in Fresno
Enjoyed fresh strawberries and ice cream in the Jacuzzi while the kids enjoyed Midnight swimming.

Final Observations:
• The skies were perfectly clear the entire day. Forecasts the day before had given a 20% of afternoon thunderstorms which never materialized.
• Carry less water at beginning of hike up steep section
• Figure out how to better carry camera (or get less bulky camera that easier fits in pocket). Seeing a deer, stopping, taking my pack off, and getting my camera out of bag wasn’t working. So I begin carrying the camera around my neck and shoulder. It was uncomfortable and ended up causing a big problem when somehow I broke the battery/memory card cover off the camera and lost it. Fortunately my camera has a lever that holds the battery in place but the battery still fell out once. I was worried about it later in more exposed sections of the hike.
• Overall time of the hike was complicated in general by my desire to take tons of pictures and soak everything in. 22 miles is a BIG day to try and get that much in. I spent an hour or more on top of both Clouds Rest and Half Dome plus 30 minutes talking to the Sub-Dome ranger so I guess my “12 hours” goal wasn’t far off but I’m not sure how I could have gone any faster. I barely beat nightfall with no need for my headlamp.
• I was rushed and sacrificed normal rest stops to push forward. I wish I would have trained more using my pack and hiking poles.
• Uphill section before Clouds Rest was tougher than I expected. Clouds Rest final approach was not as tough or vertigo inducing as I expected. Sub-Dome was tougher than I expected. Cables route was easier than I expected.
• I strongly believe they should create some sort of tiered timing permit process. My goal would be to allow more climbers during the off-peak periods. As the ranger mentioned to me they have gone from something like 1,200 on a peak day to 300 and that is too drastic a drop. If I was a hiker without a permit I would go anyway, hoping for someone with an extra permit. In fact someone offered me one when he overheard a snippet of my conversation with the ranger. But at 5:00 the Ranger was gone. If hikers are willing to go up this late, why should anyone stop them?
Re: Trip Report: Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Happy Isles Day Hike
August 26, 2011 02:00PM














Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/02/2012 08:58AM by chicagocwright.
Re: Trip Report: Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Happy Isles Day Hike
August 26, 2011 02:09PM
love the news on the case being built against David Tran

as for the deer chasing the coyote...the coyote probably was messing with its fawn

...and the pictures are awesome
Re: Trip Report: Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Happy Isles Day Hike
August 26, 2011 02:12PM
Any explanation on why the picture with the three bucks is small?
Re: Trip Report: Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Happy Isles Day Hike
August 26, 2011 02:54PM
I don't know if you're have that pic on an image hosting site, but if you are, you may have chosen the re-sizing option by accident
Re: Trip Report: Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Happy Isles Day Hike
August 26, 2011 03:18PM
Thanks for writing this up. Glad to hear you made it to the top. I did the same hike last year and loved it (though I didn't make it up the cables like you did).
Re: Trip Report: Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Happy Isles Day Hike
August 26, 2011 04:42PM
By the way I really need to thank several of you who answered long lists of questions and gave advice. This ended up being a really big hike. I have already said I think it was tougher than my marathons. I did feel rushed at times because I had time constraints of meeting my family. At some point, I knew the original plan wasn't quite going to work and fortunately cell service was great for most of the trip so I was able to communicate with my wife, kids, and parents. That communication allowed me to take in and enjoy the hike.
Re: Trip Report: Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Happy Isles Day Hike
August 27, 2011 09:00PM
Picture from my Dad's camera at Olmsted Point while I am on Clouds Rest:





Pictures from my Dad's camera from Yosemite Valley Curry Village while I am on top of Half Dome:









avatar Re: Trip Report: Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Happy Isles Day Hike
August 28, 2011 11:02AM
Excellent!
Re: Trip Report: Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Happy Isles Day Hike
August 28, 2011 08:46PM
I've done this hike, but w/o going up to Half Dome. So it was 17-18 miles I think. It still felt as if I were against the clock. Partly because I'm the type that likes to spend quality time taking in the views instead of rushing through. A bit OCD when it comes to taking pictures too. Thank goodness SDHC didn't exist back then because videos would've taken even more time away.

This was about six years ago, and I remember yelling a few obscenities towards the end on JMT, frustrated by the fact Happy Isles was "so close, yet so far away."

Sweet photos! Which camera was used to take those of you on CR/HD? And a Tuesday is as good as any to avoid the crowds on HD. Always great to hear someone had a safe and exhilarating experience. Thanks for your report.
avatar Re: Trip Report: Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Happy Isles Day Hike
August 28, 2011 08:47PM
Nice pictures, thanks for posting.
Re: Trip Report: Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Happy Isles Day Hike
August 28, 2011 09:51PM
My dad's camera was a Canon Power Shot SX30 IS. It is a high powered point and shoot.

My camera was a Sony DSCH50, also a point and shoot.

I purposely picked Tuesday in order to make my chances better of getting the permit. But I am still amazed at the light crowds and basically having the cables to myself.

And like you said I felt a little like I was against the clock. But I just decided I was willing to finish in the dark and wasn't going to let the clock or my pre-determined goal take away from the quality time I wanted on the peaks. I spent an hour on top of both Clouds Rest and Half Dome and also talked to the Ranger at the Sub-Dome for about 30 minutes.

I can't wait to get back. I'll be coming back soon for advice on a Mt. Whitney trip for my father and I next year.
Re: Trip Report: Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Happy Isles Day Hike
September 01, 2011 06:37PM
Clouds Rest Video

This has my goofy commentary (maybe I should have been quiet) but I had fun with the video. My wife won't watch it.
avatar Re: Trip Report: Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Happy Isles Day Hike
September 01, 2011 07:39PM
Quote
chicagocwright




This has my goofy commentary (maybe I should have been quiet) but I had fun with the video. My wife won't watch it.


Thanks for posting and sharing the video. But why won't your wife watch it? It's not that scary. Is she scared of heights by any chance?
Re: Trip Report: Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Happy Isles Day Hike
September 01, 2011 08:17PM
Yes she is kind of scared of heights. And she thinks what I did was "dangerous" (the photos where my feet are showing over the ledges).

I figured out how to change the thumbnail and love the framed shot of Half Dome that shows above. One of my favorite pictures is the one taken underneath the Visor of Half Dome of Clouds Rest. It was something I thought was unique and stumbled into as I was enjoying my time on top of Half Dome.

Because of discussions here I was also able to talk my parents into doing Sentinel Dome. We've been to Glacier Point dozens of times but never Sentinel. I told them they really should do it and they surprised me by doing it the morning that they met us at Olmsted Point. We were in Bishop, they were in Fresno, and we met after lunch after they had gotten up early and did the short hike to Sentinel Dome.

I've still never been there and they insist I go ASAP.
avatar Re: Trip Report: Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Happy Isles Day Hike
September 01, 2011 09:07PM
Quote
chicagocwright
. . . snip . . .
We were in Bishop, they were in Fresno, and we met after lunch after they had gotten up early and did the short hike to Sentinel Dome.

I've still never been there and they insist I go ASAP.

Consider after Sentinel Dome continuing on the trail and going to Taft Point. You can make a loop of Sentinel Dome/Taft Point.
Re: Trip Report: Tenaya Lake, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Happy Isles Day Hike
September 01, 2011 09:11PM
Quote
qumqats
Quote
chicagocwright
. . . snip . . .
We were in Bishop, they were in Fresno, and we met after lunch after they had gotten up early and did the short hike to Sentinel Dome.

I've still never been there and they insist I go ASAP.

Consider after Sentinel Dome continuing on the trail and going to Taft Point. You can make a loop of Sentinel Dome/Taft Point.

I think that is what I will plan. Depends on whether the rest of the family is with me and time constraints.
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