Mount LyellThe four of us headed out of Hayward a bit after 5am Thursday, June 20 and arrived in Tuolumne Meadows around 10am. In the parking lot, we split up our shared gear: stoves, canisters, tents, and then Chris, Ryan, Mark, and I hit the John Muir Trail heading toward Donahue Pass. We hiked in about 11 miles carrying crampons or microspikes, ice axes or trekking poles - both Ryan and I opted to lug our stiff boots on our backs rather than wear them or buy additional gear for this hike - and then set up camp for the night, made dinner and sorted out details of what we were going to do with ourselves.
The hike in was mellow, and we took our time passing beautiful lush, green meadows, flowing creeks, deer, marmot, birds, lupine. We took a number of breaks along the JMT/PCT to hydrate, snack, chat, and rest. The weather was perfect, warm and clear, not a cloud in the sky.
We set up camp a bit after 5pm, looked at maps, ate our Pasta Primavera, Chicken and Rice, Beef Stroganoff and discussed… There were suggestions to do a loop up and over Lyell and then head back near Bernice Lake and Vogelsang. I grumbled a bit and thought carrying my pack would make the climb less than enjoyable, so, in the end after many girlish apologies about my weakness and lack of "burly," we decided to summit Lyell as a day hike, trek back to "base camp" and then make more plans for another day hike somewhere nearby later. The sun was setting with purple and red hues in the sky, and the almost full moon was big and bright as we settled into our bags and snored off to sleep.
The next morning, Friday, June 21, we got up and made our breakfasts of oatmeal, cream of wheat and eggs, discussed mosquitoes and water rations, and then hit the trail at about 8:30am to climb Mount Lyell.
We set out with day packs and after not too long reached the snow field. Ryan and I put on our crampons, Chris and Mark waited a bit longer and decided to kick steps in the low angle snow. Chris, Ryan and I climbed the sun cups covering the glacier up to the bergschrund, and then hit a vertical patch where we had to use our hands and feet to climb up the snow/ice pack as if it was a ladder. Mark opted to take the less steep route up the Lyell-McClure saddle.
After some class 2/3 scrambling in crampons and mountaineering boots, Chris, Ryan and I reached the summit, and I got to sign my first summit log. It was beautiful up top with clear skies and views of El Cap, Half Dome, Banner, Ritter, the Minarets. We waited for Mark to summit, and then spent a while up top looking at the alpine lakes and mountain peaks and reading the summit log. Ryan and Mark took pictures - it was Mark's first 13er; Chris took a nap.
We headed down the class 3/4 route Mark took up rather than brave the same way we ascended. We glissaded a bit, took various breaks on the rock, drank delicious alpine spring water fresh from the source, someone ate an apple, and, at one point, I slid down the mountain on my bottom until I could feel the cold wet through my pants.
About 2 miles from base camp, Ryan twisted his ankle, and we slowed down our already mellow pace to help him get back safely.
We got back to camp after 6pm, made dinner and then decided to head back to the Meadows the next morning.
Ryan headed out a tad before us, but Mark, Chris and I left camp at around 10am Saturday, June 22, and met Ryan back at the car at about 2pm.
This is what we took away from this trip:
1 sore ankle (Ryan)
1 puffy, swollen face from relentless and blood thirsty mosquitoes (me)
1st time above 11K feet (Mark)
1 half eaten block of Tillamook cheese (Chris)
Thanks guys, for celebrating my birthday with me in the High Sierra.
For photos, please visit http://www.markphagan.com/?q=gallery/11.