Yosemite National Park

Simply overwhelming. Nothing I can say even comes close to representing the sheer grandeur of the world before my eyes.

For the last three hours, we have been hiking towards half dome. Here and there, we struggled over various rocks and scree slopes that had yet to find their final resting place in the valley below.

Our only guide has been ‘up’ and ‘towards that massive rock, far above us’. As we make our way generally East, we come to a spring — two, in fact, both cascading over the rock, forming a series of smaller water falls.

At some point, we would need to traverse across the streams, so we decided to cross at the base, which was a large pocket of snow and ice maybe 75 yards wide. "Avalanche", I thought, but the snow was quite packed. The other possibility was a cave-in, since it was clear the stream cut under the bed of snow.

Slowly, we made our traverse, and shortly before the end, decided to descend rather than move forward. Upon reaching the ‘land’ again, we saw we had only barely missed crossing an incredibly intricate network of tunnels and passageways carved by the water. The snow had formed a dome 10′ over the water, and chances are good that we would have fallen through.


It’s dark. Very dark. Though we pushed on and on, I was simply unable to go any further with any safety. Like a gauge, I saw my reserves go from ‘warning’ to ‘critically low’ to ‘Danger! — find water and stop immediately.’

I do not recall ever pushing myself so far out on physical limits. Breathing was labored, and balance was beginning to fade.

At our ‘bivy ledge’, I got a terminal case of the giggles — everything was just so absurd. We’d been hiking since 2:45p, dusk was upon us, and I started moving rocks around to make a more comfortable sleeping area — moving rocks! "Lets see… this one would go nicely in the kidney, and this one is ideal for my ribs…"

After diner, we were better. We have a good bit of food — we need to eat it to lighten our load. We had planned to arrive at the base of the climb tonight. We are about an hour away.

I had one real scare on the ascent today. My pack had gotten caught on a branch in a rather precarious spot. I knew I was in trouble. I was not afraid of dying, just of getting badly hurt. It shook me up a bit, and I’m not fond of certain trees now.

From where we now lay, I can see scattered campfires from the valley below, oh so very far away. The sky is amass with stars, and a waterfall tumbles 20′ away from where we have decided to bed for the night.

On the ascent, there were a great many details to observe, and each presented its own unique challenge: rocks, trees, talus, and dirt. But now, with everything shielded in darkness, my world is bounded by the width of my flashlight, and the sounds from all around.

I am several thousand feet high, but can see no more from here in the darkness than those in the valley below. It is as if not only am I about to sleep for the night, but my whole world is sleeping too, and will awaken me in several hours when the sun finally comes around again.

Yosemite National Park
Vernal Falls
Ass Holes on Ice Hills

Copyright (C), 1998, by Ashley Guberman

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