JMT Gray Day Number 2 – Yosemite, CA

August 4, 2014
John Muir Trail (JMT)
Day 1 – Happy Isles (4,040ft) to Half Dome junction (6,980).
6 miles plus 3 miles for the detour to the sub-dome.
Camped about one half mile past Half Dome junction towards Sunrise Creek.

Yosemite Valley-3

Gray day number 2. Is this really Yosemite? Where is the sparking blue sky above the granite cliffs? The grayness wears on my mood as we climb up the paved Mist Trail to Vernal Fall. Yes the falls and massive bluffs are impressive, but the overcast sky significantly lessens the impact.

Yosemite Valley-2

Past Vernal Fall we opt to take the JMT to Nevada Fall rather than continue on the Mist Trail. Great views along this stretch first looking back over Vernal Fall and then toward Nevada Fall, massive rounded peaks looming overhead.

Yosemite Valley-4 Yosemite Valley-5

At Nevada Fall make sure to take a peek down over the edge to view the falls straight below you, an awesome sight. The area has a groomed park feel with appropriately placed trees growing out of large rock slabs.

Yosemite Valley-6

Past Nevada Fall the trail climbs on a well graded track through mostly forest to Half Dome Junction. Despite the overcast conditions and darker clouds developing over some of the peaks, we decide to try to make Half Dome before the thundershowers. We stash our heavy packs and take just a day pack up the two-mile spur.

Yosemite Valley-8

At the upper end of the trail, but before the sub-dome, we run into the ranger who checks our permit* and then tells us that thunderstorms are expected and that we should not go up the cables if it looks like rain. When we reach the overlook a short ways beyond dark thunderheads are accumulating in three directions and closing in. Not a good sign. A clap of thunder and we head back down to look for a campsite, saving Half Dome for the next morning.  By the time we set up camp the threatening clouds begin to dissipate and the sky returns to the general overcast condition we started the morning with. It never does rain.

Yosemite Valley-7

Our campsite, between Half Dome junction and Sunrise Creek, was away from most of the other sites along the creek. Don builds a fire in the established fire ring and we take care to cook, clean-up and store our bear containers (made of a hard plastic with a screw-on lid) away from the tent site. Pity we can’t eat by the fire.

The ranger we encountered at Half Dome had warned us that is an active area for bears and suggested that we leave the bear container just 50ft from the tent, instead of the recommended 100ft, with some rocks on top of it so we could hear if a bear was trying to get at our food. We could then come out and yell at it to scare it away and save ourselves the trouble of having to look for our bear container the next morning.

Yosemite Valley-9

Don put the cooking pot along with some rocks on the container so it would make lots of noise if messed with. Hopefully this would sufficiently scare the bear so he wouldn’t have to come out of the tent in the middle of the night to yell at it. Thankfully it remained undisturbed until morning.

We did, however, wake just after dark to tree limbs crashing in the forest. Don tells me it is just other campers looking for firewood. It’s not until the next morning at breakfast that he admits that it was more likely a bear foraging for grubs. I’m sure I slept sounder thinking it was the former rather than the latter.

*The cable section of Half Dome is one of the most popular hikes in Yosemite. To control the congestion on the cables, a permit is required restricting the number of climbers to about 300 per day, 75 backpackers and 225 day hikers.

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7 Responses to JMT Gray Day Number 2 – Yosemite, CA

  1. Ken Peebles says:

    Love your site!! We did GR20 2weeks after you. Your photos capture the GR perfectly. For the JMT, what was the volume of your packs? We used 50 & 48 litre packs in Corsica because we were always fed am and pm, tho we had a tent. Keep up your superb posts!

    • baidanbi says:

      Hi Ken, Thanks for the kind comment. Both our packs are 65 liters which was enough room for one bear container each. Plus we resupplied just about everywhere possible. That’s so cool you did the GR20 just two weeks after us. Did you see much snow? Did you start in the south or the north?

      • Ken Peebles says:

        Thanks for your fast response. We did “only” the first 9 stages of the GR20, stopping at Vizzavona. Since we live about 5 months each year in Languedoc, Corsica can be reached easily, and we hope to finish next year. We try to be “fair weather hikers” and saw a window of clear skies last June, so headed out from home on the 28th of June. We saw pure blue skies until we approached Vizzavona, so were lucky. It was N to S. Snow was not an issue, tho present. Your photo from Stage 7, where there is a steep snow slope down to the left and the traverse is along the top edge, with a parallel chain to the right – I remember it well, for it was not comfortable, but the top edge of the snow for us was about 2 meters lower, so the chain was up out of reach. Two Frenchmen tried to traverse the face up at the chain level and had to retreat, come down to the top edge of the snow and then go forward, despite their fear of the snow. They made it. Again, your photos – they captured the beauty, the drama, the crowds at the refuges so well. We also finished our multi-year traverse of the Pyrenees on the GR10 this summer (before Corsica), and loved the experience.
        Once the GR20 is done, our wanderlust is urging us onward, so your recent revelation of the JMT has awoken a strong interest in us. We live just north of the Adirondaks, in Ottawa, Canada, so it is a long haul for us, but it looks and sounds appealing. We have much to learn, hence my pack question. Since load size and weight is crucial, another question is about sleeping bags – how cold are the nights – this will determine the weight of our bags. In Corsica and the Pyrenees light down summer bags were sufficient.
        Can you recommend a good guide book which will answer these types of basic questions? I won’t in any case, continue to pester you with basics, for your posts answer much that we need to know. Just please keep travelling, photographing and writing your wonderful posts!


      • baidanbi says:

        Hi Ken, Response sent to your email address.

  2. Lewis baldwin says:

    Is that a big Agnes tent I see? Fly creek 2 I think?

  3. Driving me crazy! Love your pictures and description. We completed Half Dome 9/23 under ideal conditions. What’s driving me crazy is the name of the peak in your picture “Yosemite-valley-41.jpg”? It makes a great photograph leading up to (and down from) Half Dome and I can’t find out its name! Thank you

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