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The Waterfalls of Yosemite
(Objective: Maximum Falls in 5 Days)
20-24 August 1998

1998 was an El Nino year of unprecedented proportions.  The West Coast accumulated 200%+ of normal rain fall.  This was very good news for skiers and whitewater enthusiasts.  The years snow pack blocked Yosemite's high country roads to traffic well into July.  Both Tioga and Glacier Point roads were closed due to snow until 20-July.  The normally busy High Sierra Camps opened more than a month late into the season.  Flood waters of the Merced washed out a significant portion of the tourist infrastructure in Yosemite Valley in the Spring of 1998.  But just as every cloud has a silver lining if one looks diligently enough, so too did the El Nino driven disaster bring with it an unusual opportunity... flood fueled waterfalls.

Twins Go Hiking
(Click for Story)

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One of our numbers, Brett Phillips, had made a solo pilgrimage to Yosemite about a month before the full assault team made the trip.  His purpose was to get photos of the falls accessible from Yosemite Valley (the high country roads were still snowed in as of 15-July).  Brett's report of "falls shot out of a cannon" got the rest of us into high gear for a full-on inspection tour.  You can see Brett's original July photos by visiting his Web site.  As spectacular as the photo travelogue of our hike turned out to be, Brett's July pictures, taken just a month prior, are truly extraordinary.  Well worth a look.

It didn't take much to round up the usual suspects and assemble the hiking team.   The hard part was limiting the group size.  The last call for volunteers yielded 14 willing souls (Bears97).  The target group size in both cases was four.  This trip we were able to slim it down to seven sets of twins! ...Ok, so the total is still 14 but it's easier to tell when someone is missing.

Click Map to Enlarge
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The Hike

Our agenda was timed for a three-night, four-day run.  The hike ranges from easy to very strenuous, and in spots, borders on downright scary.  Much of the 'interesting stuff took us completely off-trail, requiring a certain amount of adventuresome spirit, aerobic capacity, and numbness in the cranium to negotiate successfully.

Each day had a different theme and set of challenges.  Day one's focus was spelunking on Horseshoe mesa.  The exploration was split between man made caves (mines) and the real thing... very cool.  Day two concentrated on free-climbing the Redwall to the top of an unnamed mesa.  The adrenaline level and fright factor increased nicely over day one, preparing the crew for day three... heh, heh, heh, "bubble bubble bubble, toil and trouble"... 

During the activities of each of the first two days I worked diligently to keep the spirits of the team up for fear of general mutiny.  The technique was simple, just offer soothing comments such as, "We're almost there."  "It's just around the corner."  "The pain will go away if you don't think about it."  "Don't jump, the rest of us would just have to pack out the body."  "No, there isn't any morphine in the emergency  medical kit."  "Tomorrows plan couldn't be worse than today's, rrriiigghhtt."   Once you get the hang of it, making up these little calming throwaway statements just to keep order becomes second nature.

Day three... and you knew this was coming...was the roughest of all.  The centerpiece to day three was a rock scramble over sharp, unstable formations, descending 1,200 ft.  Then return via an unknown route, strap on the packs when and if we make it out, and push upward another 1,200 ft on a treacherous trail... in the dark!  Needless to say, the tour guide was not real popular with the rest of the team... an occupational hazard.

The reader is invited to follow the detailed travelogue for each day by clicking on the navigation buttons located on the upper left corner of this page.  Enjoy... we did... no really!  This hike is truly a 10.  You won't find many anywhere in the world any better.

The Assault Team

The rigors of the Canyon dictate that the team should be small.  The weather is changeable, the trails are strenuous, and water is scarce.  The last trip into Yosemite would have impressed even Genghis Kahn.  There were 14 souls of wide ranging aerobic capacity and experience.   The consequences of problems in Yosemite are not as serious as in the Canyon, so we decided that a maximum of four would make the Canyon run.  Only one (me) had been into the lower reaches before... and therefore was responsible for planning.  Big mistake, guys... the others would find this out soon enough.

bulletHal & Lah
Lonas
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Marathon man, software manager, and programmer extraodinaire, Hal Lonas was our designated emergency runner in case any of the rest of us got into trouble.  There are no cells covering the Grand Canyon so phoning it in won't work.  Therefore, it is only prudent to conscript a member who actually thinks it's 'fun' to run 26+ miles.  "Ok, Hal... could you run up to the rim and bring back a couple of pizzas?  The rest of us don't feel like cooking tonight."

bulletBrett & Tterb
Phillips
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Seems this was destined to be an all-Ohio hiking team.  Paul is no exception.  Though he is the only team member still living in Ohio.  Paul calls Canton, Ohio home.  A Psychologist by trade, no doubt Paul found fertile ground for new studies regarding the mental state of transplanted West Coast types.  We can hardly wait for the movie version.  I thought I was going to gain sympathy for my slow pace by blaming the age factor.  Unfortunately for me, Paul is my age AND and aerobic gorilla.

bulletMarshall & Llahsram
Stowell
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Originally, we thought it would be helpful to have a mechanical engineer along to help analyze the mechanics of each planned 'challenge', so we invited my older brother Marshall (pretty well preserved, wouldn't you say?).  Actually, it turned out to be a bad idea.  It's better not to know when you're free-climbing a rock face that what you are about to do breaks some law of physics.  Anyway, we were stuck having to listen to drivel like, "Don't let your CG tilt 2deg's left or you'll do a swan dive to the bottom of the GC."  ...Very comforting.

bulletGary & Yrag Stowell
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Hike planner and one who should have known better than to take on this itinerary without a net, I resigned myself to bringing up the rear... well somebody has to do it.   My first act was to check everyone for guns and knives... in case things went bad, I preferred not to become a victim of trail rage -- a socialization deficiency similar to that practiced on the freeways of LA.  The hardest part of leading such an adventure was keeping a straight face when explaining what fun we were going to have next.  And how the last little debacle was all a fantastic mistake... just one in a million probability.

bulletJohn & Nhoj DeAguiar
bulletKurt & Truk Kremer
bulletTom & Mot
Boldt

Using This Site

bulletThis site is best viewed with MSIE 4.0.  If you don't have it... get it.   It's free -- you cheap-skate.  Not using MSIE 4.0 risks really pissing off the Webmaster.  You will missed some of his GIF animations and Java navigation stuff.   Netscape 3.0 & 4.0 will work but I used a Microsoft product to author this site and it discriminates against Netscape where possible.  Imagine that... Billy boy is a dirty trickster. Wonder if the DOJ knows about this bit of anticompetitive slight of hand?   "Hey Janet Reno, try this site with Netscape then ask Bill why it doesn't work right."

bulletMost of the pictures have words with them.  Scroll around to get the play by play. 

bulletClick on the animated maps to enlarge them.  After marveling at the spiffy display and wondering if the Webmaster also has a real job, you will find several hot spots, which lead to pictures taken at particular locations on the map... Sort of an orientation for the cyber traveler in preparation for the linear travelogue which unfolds with each successive click on the thumbnail pictures.

bulletMost pages contain large files and take a while to load.  Wait until that little twirlie thingy on your browser stops spinning or you'll miss some of the cool stuff the Webmaster worked so hard to build.  Those with slow (=dialup) connections... go for coffee... the wait will be worth what you paid...

bulletAll of the pictures on this site are high quality.  They were scanned by Kodak directly from the original film negatives and they accurately reflect the difficult lighting conditions in the canyon.  It is recommend that you darken the room for viewing or you'll be disappointed.  None of the numerous space aliens are visible if the ambient room light is too bright.

bulletAll complaints about this site are meticulously filed next to your name.   Then at Christmas, all you whiners receive a festive lump of coal signifying the Webmaster's deep appreciation for pointing out his mistakes.  If you are still game... send your comments to the Webmaster c/o dial-a-prayer.

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