osemite Falls


June 2, 2003

USA flag

To give us time to rest our weary bones, we waited two days after conquering Vernal and Nevada Fall before we attempted the hike to the top of Yosemite Falls. The hike consists of about 3,000 feet up and 3,000 feet down, with a 7-mile round-trip walk. The walk up is somewhat exposed so we were treated to and hindered by the direct sun. Slowly but surely we made progress. The first part of the trail consists almost entirely of switchbacks with little or no view of the valley. The farther we got, however, the better the views became. Our first achievement was to arrive at Columbia Rock where we got our first great view of the valley. Soon after that we got a great shock: the trail descends, perhaps as much as 300 feet to the foot of the upper falls. We knew that when we came back the re-ascent of these 300 feet would be a major obstacle for tired bodies! As we followed the trail down we started to get our first inkling of the nearness of the falls. At first Jan thought there was a plane overhead, then decided it must be a circling helicopter. But no, it was the thundering of the upper falls which became louder and louder the closer we came. Once we got to the falls, we could see the lower falls below and at an angle to the upper falls.

Upper Yosemite Falls
Upper Yosemite Falls

When the trail started up again, we lost sight of Lower Yosemite and got better and better views of Upper Yosemite. How easy it is to become jaded. See one moose and get excited. See ten more and be bored. See Yosemite Falls before you have seen Nevada and be thrilled. See Nevada from below its lip and then see Upper Yosemite from across a small distance, and think, "Okay, it's nice." Up and up we climbed, switching back and forth into a kind of cleft in the cliff until eventually we emerged onto the plateau high above the main valley.

At this point Gerry decided he wanted to take a side trail to check out Yosemite Valley campground. He wanted to find out if it would be suitable for future use. Jan acquiesced at first, but when the trail started to go down after only a quarter mile, she demurred and decided to husband her rapidly diminishing reserves for the return trip. So back we went to the trail junction, crossed a small stream and climbed up onto a rock dome and then, voila, we were above the falls. After a brief walk across the rock dome we made a climb down some steep and very exposed rock steps to the falls overlook. That was indeed a bit more impressive as we admired the thundering water beside and beneath us as well as the views of the mountains in almost every direction. Unfortunately for Gerry, the climb down was scary and for Jan the climb back up got her so tired she felt positively nauseous.

As Gerry had hiked to the top of the falls twice before (the first at about age 19) he wanted to do something more; extend his conquests, so to speak. So he left Jan to rest, read, and enjoy the view while he set off for Yosemite Point, about a mile away and 400 feet higher. Jan, passing an hour alone repeatedly looked up and wondered if there could be a better place to pass an hour. The view across the top of the falls to the upper Yosemite Valley was champion, the air was clear and cool, and she was well-supplied with food and drink! Gerry, tired, trudged up, and made it to Yosemite Point in 30 minutes, as expected. There, from a higher ridge, all of the east end of the valley and the ranges beyond were visible. As for the Point itself, he did go down to the iron railing, but with great trepidation.

Back together Gerry ate a quick bite and then we set off down. Going down was easy, except — we were tired, there was loose gravel and danger of falling, and there was that 500-ft segment we had to re-ascend. While on this ascent we met two people who pointed out that by diverting ourselves we could get a terrific view of the lower falls. We politely thanked them — and continued on, undiverted. We arrived back in camp at 4 pm or so, happy to have done the hike but happier to be resting.

Updated July 14, 2003