|Page Type:||Trip Report|
|Date Climbed/Hiked:||Jun 30, 2014|
I started the research to find out where is the trail that goes up to Gibbs and all details about the hike. It was not so easy. Everywhere I looked the descriptions were the same but to me did not appear very descriptive. I will try to lay it out in my own words, hopefully doing a better job than others. Here it goes. From Mono Lake on Route US 395 (at the Exxon gas station) take Tioga Pass US-120 West (only.) Taking this road one will come up to Yosemite Park entrance in 12 miles. At this point the hiker has two options. Number one is to park the car before the entrance (there is a gravel parking area free of charge) and continue on foot, avoiding this way the entrance fee to the park. The other option is to pull up to the gate and pay the entrance fee and continue by car. From the entrance of the park there are 2.2 miles down that road to the Mono Pass trailhead. There is a parking area there and restrooms. This is as well the trail that goes to Mt Gibbs. From the trailhead to Mono Pass are 3.7 miles.
This trail is a very nice hike; minimal effort required, through the woods and over some easy crossing creeks, beautiful wide open land and scenery. At one point the trail splits: to the left is Mono Pass and to the right is Parker Pass. The sign will not allow anyone to get lost.
The Mono Pass trail ends at one lake called Summit Lake. The sign will clearly point out one reached Mono Pass. From there the trail continues to Mono Lake through Bloody Canyon, a beautiful hike I was told.
However, once reaching the end of Mono Pass trail and getting to Summit Lake, the most used way of going to the top of Mount Gibbs is to the left/East, straight up the mountain. There is no trail going up or sign to point to Mt Gibbs.
Going up this mountain seems easy until actually one starts climbing.
I went right up the mountain, taking a break here and there to drink a bit of water and take pictures. The day was beautiful and some white puffy clouds were appearing and disappearing above me.
There are a few false summits to the real summit. At one point there is a small descent; seems bigger that it is. I got discouraged but actually I hiked down and up very fast. Going up the mountain the views were spectacular during my clear day early afternoon. I started from the trailhead at 11:20 AM, contrary the popular believe that no day hike should be started later that 7 AM. At 1:00 PM I started the ascent on Mt Gibbs. The day was so beautiful that nothing actually indicated to me the dramatic turn of events. I kept hiking and taking pictures, looking around and being happy with the time I was making. At one point this one small white cloud decided to keep me company and didn’t actually move at all. In fact became bigger and bigger every time I looked at it. It did not bother me since it kept me shade from the sun and also did not change color. Yet. But after a while it started to become bigger and bigger and also darker and darker. And it did not move at all. However, by that time I was on the top of the mountain (3:00 PM) and I only had one option: going down.
The only direction I considered was the traverse to Mt Dana, my initial plan. Climbing down from Gibbs was much different that I thought, anticipated or imagined when I was admiring the traverse from Dana a year before. It was quite a class 3 descent with careful moves and loose rocks and slippery scree. Looking at Mt Dana I said to myself: I wish I had a reason not to go up.
The difference in elevation must have been 1,000 ft from the saddle to Dana’s summit. There was also some snow right along the way I was planning to hike. Anyway, once down from Gibbs I continue on the traverse trying not to lose elevation. I was happy and enjoyed the scenery, taking pictures and admiring the Creation. At one point this small summit made of black looking rocks attracted my attention and I decided to climb it just to see over on the South side towards Mono Lake. When I got there I saw the unspeakable: a mighty storm heading my way. Dark clouds, massive clouds, rain clearly falling from them.
Seeing that I did not think twice, I did not debate with myself or waited to see what direction the storm was actually going. I know from Murphy's laws that if you are on the top of a mountain a storm that is forming nearby will head toward you regardless where you are. So I started running down the mountain toward the valley between Gibbs and Dana.
I was looking further down and I notice this green area that I thought was grass but actually was bushes growing around the springs forming in between the mountains. I was running without looking back. I knew it was a matter of time until the first rain drops and thunder. And I was right; the first thunder came. The thundering intensified, getting louder and louder. I was running down toward the valley but it seems that the valley was getting bigger and farther away and the green area was also farther and farther away as I was descending. I finally made it to the bushes and of course, there was no trail in between them. But lucky me, there must have been a lot of deer or mountain goats in that area since I could spot these narrow trails in between the bushes and around the springs. The further down I was running the bigger the springs and the bigger the bushes. At one point I was battling the bushes, being entirely stuck between the branches while the thundering was letting me know was very close. I looked for an exit and a reasonable way of finding my way down. The lightning was visible by this time and I was the only thing moving. When climbing down from Gibbs I saw people on top of Dana. I hope to this day they were smart and run down themselves since that storm actually engulfed the entire Mt Dana. But right then I was concerned that, being the only thing moving and being taller that the bushes, a lightning might decide to make acquaintance. I didn't like that thought. I eventually got to a bit of a higher ground and away from the creek and bushes. Further away in the valley there were the pine trees and forest and that was my only target: to get there before more lighting and thunders developed. That wasn’t the case; I wasn't that lucky. Serious rain started and with it the lightning. I think the lightning was hitting away from Dana, Gibbs or where I was since I did not feel that violence and intensity of it. Regardless, I kept running from tree to tree, trying to keep going downhill but also toward the thicker part of the forest. Eventually the rain started much harder and I had to stop and put on my gortex jacket. That wasn’t a good idea since I got hot and sweaty in it due to running. I decided to unzip it but in less than 15 minutes I had to stop and take it off. By now, even with the rain, lightning and thunder, I was safe in between the trees. I looked up to Gibbs and Dana and they both were engulfed in clouds. If I would have been stupid to go up Dana, I would have been right in the middle of that storm and probably I would have never had a chance to write this trip report. Lucky me, for some reason I am really freaked out of being out in the open when storms develop. I have no idea why, since I love rain and enjoy watching a lightning storm from my balcony. But out on the top of the mountain I am not that courageous. Anyway, I continued going down on that narrow valley following the creek that formed from all those springs uphill. I remembered when, earlier in the day going up Mono Pass, there were a few creek crossings. One was bigger and I figured if I followed this creek I will end up at the trail right there. I eventually steered away toward left (West) from the creek since it became clear that I was approaching the bottom of the valley and regardless if I followed the creek or not, going straight down I would hit the trail anyway. And I did. I was so happy. And I wasn’t more than .5 mile away from the street. Where I ended up, on the trail, there was sun and beautiful weather.
Looking at the mountain, I could not see it: it was swallowed up by dark clouds. I got to the street and from there I had to walk all the way back to the car on the asphalt.
As I was walking, probably the adrenaline wore off since after about 1.5 miles I felt tired. I decided to lay down on the grass and admire Mts Dana and Gibbs, along with the traverse, from that meadow. I am glad I did. It was a nice scenery, quiet afternoon, cool in the shade. Lots of mosquitoes though.
I finally made it to the car and drove down to the Exxon station where the restaurant had the most amazing ribs and green beans. This being a Monday again, I went to the stargazing show where (as well as in the previous two years) the same park ranger Brian was there to give an excellent tour of the sky. Thanks Brian; I’ll see you again on some Monday in 2015.