This trip is one of the longest I have ever done. Started the hike at Mirror Lake, ascended the trail at the mouth of Tenaya Canyon to the Valley rim, then hiked north toward Hwy 120. Next, looped back around to the south to the summit of North Dome. Finished by hiking west along the Valley rim, from North Dome to the top of Yosemite Falls, then descended to the Valley floor via the Yosemite Falls Trail! This was about a 19 mile trip, in one day. Needless to say, my legs were fairly sore by the time I got back to the Valley! It was an awesome experience though, and I would definitely do it again!
I thought Indian Rock and North Dome would be an easy hike... little did I realize this would turn into a bushwacking and route-finding mini-adventure. The hike in from Porcupine Creek Trailhead on Tioga Road was easy enough and I had fun summiting Indian Rock (8522'), however when I got within 0.5 miles of North Dome I just lost my route-finding ability. With the trail a mere 30 feet away I veered west along a rock cliff for several hundred yards before I took some long class 2 friction slabs down to the trees where I started bushwacking my way back to North Dome. I found an intermittent and overgrown bushwacking trail but when I was about to turn around I saw a cairn just behind me underneath the trees to spur me on. I finally made it to the base of the NW Slope by hiking over a final 30' of manzinita, however, I found out my trail shoes could not handle the class 3 friction rock (higher angle here). I considered turning around but didn't want to bushwack again and ascend that class 2 slope without summiting. By traversing north (left) I found some lower angle class 2 friction that I was able to take up to the summit. I left via the standard trail which is obvious from the dome itself. I had actually considered giving up the summit just to get out of my situation, but laziness won as I thought it would be easier to make the summit and return via the normal route than bushwacking out. Basket Dome also looked very doable - though I'd want to bring rock shoes or Five Ten Guide Almighties to avoid disappointment ;-)
NOTE 1: If someone else wants to do some climbing on the NW Slope / W Face, I recommend bringing a twig cutter to clear the branches along the bushwacking route. The standard hiking trail is along the North Slope.
NOTE 2: I highly recommend this hike (without bushwacking). The view of Basket Dome, Clouds Rest, and Half Dome is tremendous and larger than life (well, this is life, larger than one normally expects anyway ;-). Better than an IMAX movie! I'll put together a panoramic photo when I have time.
This was a great way to spend Thanksgiving. Beats crappy turkey in my book, but evidently not anyone else's, since we didn't see a soul after leaving the bridge across Yosemite Creek above Upper Yosemite Falls. After the falls, the trail was a little hard to keep in the snow, but not bad. The trail north, which passes Indian Rock and descends to the Snow Creek Trail, was extremely difficult to keep. We did not have snowshoes, and the going got tough over here for our 14-mile return trip. This turned into a real slog with a heavy pack, but the views of Half Dome/Clouds Rest from the Basket Dome area are mind-blowing.
Here's my trip report