While working in the Bay Area, I had the opportunity to go to Yosemite
over Labor Day weekend in 2000... Mike flew down to meet me on Friday
afternoon, where after some nightlife, we'd stay at Joe's. The plan is to hike in the Tuolumne Meadows past
Cathedral over to the Matthes Crest, and climb the Crest. A fun, but kind
of strange trip, we ended up staying at Cathedral, and doing class 4
We stayed at a friend of Mike's, Joe's, and hooked up with Alan the next morning on the
way up. It was a strange weekend from the outset! Joe worked at a
television studio, and wouldn't be home until early morning - "just go in
and make yourself comfortable", he says. When we get there, a power
failure has caused the house alarm box to beep, with no way to turn it
off. This lasts a few hours, when Joe finally gets there, and
eventually the power comes back on, and we settle in for a couple hours
sleep. Up and out by six later that morning, we hook up with Alan, and then head
up to the park. We were taking a chance because we were going to try and
get our permits through the lottery, as we didn't have a chance to make
reservations. Fortunately, the weather down low was cold and wet, so there
were no-shows, and the permits weren't a problem. Finally, ready to go, we
head up to the trailhead...
Mike said he knew a route that avoided the congested John Muir Trail, and
instead would take us directly by Budd Lake, and then across a pass to the
Crest. After a couple hours, with Mike and Joe hiking together, and Alan
and myself, we all hook up at the lake, but it's apparent that Joe isn't used to
the pace or the altitude. Budd Lake is at 9,975 feet, almost the same
elevation as Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier! We realize the Crest is out, so
instead we find a place to camp near the lake. Joe and Alan were both queasy
all night from the altitude, so they didn't get much sleep. The next
morning, Mike and I were going to try to hike over to the Crest, and at least
take in a pitch or two - but after minutes on the trail, we found out that camping at
Budd Lake was against the rules! So, we head back and break camp to try
to get back in compliance with our permits. Now it's about 8 or 9 in the
morning, and the only thing left to do was to go over to Cathedral, which is a
wonderful rock...that had at least three rope teams in the queue at the
base. Frustrated, Mike and I decided instead to just scramble the
buttress, and look around.
- After the trip up from
the Bay, getting our permits, and extra bear can, we are finally
ready to go. Mike took this shot of us at the John Muir
Trail trailhead. About 20 minutes up the trail, we stayed
left on a spur to more or less directly follow Budd Creek.
The trail was marked fairly well, is scenic, and ends at Budd
Lake. We were hoping to rest at Budd Lake, and then press on
around Echo Peaks to Echo Lake, but Joe wasn't quite up to it, and
Alan was also feeling a bit queasy. So we found a spot near
Budd Lake and set up camp there. The plan was for Mike and I
to leave the next morning and hike over to the Crest. But
just a minute or so up the trail, we found out that there isn't
suppose to be camping at Budd Lake, so we turned around, and broke
- With it getting into
mid-morning, Mike and I decide that we didn't have enough time to
properly day hike the Crest, and with no place to camp that night,
we'd climb Cathedral, and then head out later in the day.
Alan and Joe decided to stay near Budd Lake to trek around
there. Gaining some elevation, Mike snapped this shot of
Unicorn Peak above Budd Lake. The weather was clear and
crisp, with the temps in the 40s, and breezy. As the winds
circled around the lake, it looked like torpedoes were running
around in a bathtub - pretty cool!
- As Mike and I approached
the start of the classic route, we saw there were at least three
rope groups in the queue, with three more groups on route, making
slow progress. Impatient, we decide to just screw it, and
scramble. Actually, the scramble was quite enjoyable - this
was my first time on Yosemite granite, and I was impressed.
Even in my boots, there was lots of grip, and moves of up to 5.4
were easy. After about 30 minutes, we made our way onto the
backbone of the buttress, where Mike snapped this shot of me with
the summit of Cathedral directly behind. Although we climbed
to within 50 feet of it, there were too many people on top, so we
- Once on the buttress, we
had sweeping views of the surrounding terrain. Here, Mike
snapped a shot of the upper Cathedral Lake which is on the John
- To the west of the
Cathedral summit, is this pinnacle, which seemingly just hangs out
over the valley. Rated at 5.4 to 5.6, it's still very
exposed. The problem with this day, is that the wind on this
side of the mountain is around a constant 20 mph with higher
gusts. So we decide to pass it by, figuring if it was doable
on that day, locals would already be on it. Instead, Mike
grabs this shot of me as I tuck in out of the wind, and watch the
activity on the true summit...
to see the Crest...
- Looking to the south from
Eichorn's Pinnacle, we catch a glimpse of the Matthes Crest in
between Unicorn Peak on the left, and Echo Peaks on the
right. Maybe some other time...
- With most of the local
activity focused on summitting Cathedral, we found the north
buttress relatively free of people. Here, I catch Mike on a
boulder as we made our way across...
- At the end of the north
buttress, I scrambled this boulder to gain a sweeping view of the
Toulumne Meadows. These very fragile meadows are located
above 8,000 feet. I found this spot very restful, and could
have stayed for hours just to watch over the surrounding
- Always looking to outdo
me, Mike finds this even more relaxing recliner. Here I
catch him kicking back at 10,600 feet, thoughtfully peering over
the Toulumne. Is this the life, or what!?!
of the domes...
- Regulars may take it for
granted, but I was surprised by the number of domes in the
park. Mike took this shot of Fairview Dome, with others in
the background. It'd be great to be able to take a couple
months and explore them all...
- With it getting into
early afternoon, we decide to head down, and meet back up with
Alan and Joe. On the way down, Mike gets this shot of Budd
Lake under Unicorn Peak and Echo Peaks. The distant view of
Matthes is hidden now...
- After Mike and I were
finished playing around on Cathedral, we still had some time to
spend in the area. Mike had found this really cool slot canyon on the east
shore of Budd Lake earlier. Only 10 minutes from where we camped, we
all head over for some fun. Here, two canyon arms meet up
where Mike can catch myself and Alan stemming the walls. We
spent around an hour in there playing Spiderman!
After finishing with the slot canyons, we headed out, did a little
sight-seeing of the park, and then back towards the Bay, stopping along the way for pizza
and beer (but of course). Below 7,000 feet, we moved back into the weather which was
pretty dreary, so at least we were lucky in that sense. I think if had
been nice, there would have been a ton more people, making it even less of a
good trip. I have to say that Yosemite granite is THE rock to climb, I now
know the allure of this place, and I'll definitely be back!
Tom in the mountains...