Monday, March 14, 2011

Yosemite's Glacier Point - March 2011

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This was my first trip to Glacier Point, one of the grand view points of Yosemite. The Glacier Point Road is closed in the winter at the Badger Pass Ski Area so winter access is on skis to make the 10.5 miles out to Glacier Point. The road is groomed as a wide cross country ski trail, so travel is much easier than our usual backcountry ski adventures.

This adventure started off in our planning as a camper supported trip and I’m sure that when we do this again, it will be. The plan was to spend either the night before or the night after at the Upper Pines Campground in Yosemite Valley. This would give us a leisurely winter day to amble about the Valley, something we’ve yet to do. Work schedules got in the way and the only option was a quick there and back.

Our first stop was the famous Tunnel View overlook. We had never stopped here before having always come in from the north. Don’t make our mistake, stop here often.

We arrived at Badger Pass, got our free backcountry permit, hoisted on the packs with all our overnight gear and set out at 10:30 am. The ski out was leisurely with an incredible spot for lunch about 6 miles in.

The views of the winter high country were well worth the trip, including the view of Mount Star King.

But what we were waiting for was past Sentinel Dome after you start descending the road’s switchbacks down to Glacier Point, our first views of Half Dome.

There were other winter travelers along this route, this is Yosemite after all. But the further we got out the more alone we felt, an incredible feeling in this often crowded place.

We set up camp on a high point and then made our way out to Glacier Point overlook.

Being able to see these iconic views in winter was just an incredible feeling.

Here’s looking down at our friend Ted’s hang out, the Ahwahnee Hotel 3000 feet below us.

Here are some of the classic vistas.

Here’s our camp. The North Face Mountain Tent is our tent for winter use. The kids stayed in the MegaMid, although no one on the trip was under 50.

We had 4 other friends along on this trip that included a veteran mountaineer (with many classic summits, Denali and the Eiger) and a veteran of an arctic expedition. One friend, this was his first snow camping adventure. What a great introduction for him!

We put all of our dinner food and equipment in our packs and carried them up to the geology hut shelter, a perfect place to cook, have dinner, share stories, and watch the world grow dark.

After dinner, with headlamps, we wandered back out to Glacier Point and enjoyed the views of the lights in Yosemite Valley below, the tent cabins at Curry Village, the Ahwahnee, Yosemite Lodge, and the ice rink. I did not have a tripod for long exposures, but this view would have made for some really neat photography.

The winter forecast was for a storm approaching overnight with precip developing during the day on Sunday. We slept well and with the overcast coming in, overnight temperatures were warm. The colored morning light at dawn lasted less than a minute and then was gone.

We cooked breakfast just outside the tents; packed up being sure we left no trace other than our tracks, and took a last look out over the edge.

And as the clouds lowered we put on our skis and packs and started on the ski back out.

Although we did this trip with our own gear, there is a great opportunity at Glacier Point if you’d like to do this trip in a more comfortable fashion.

This is the Glacier Point Visitors Center. In the winter this is operated as the GlacierPoint Ski Hut. To stay here you need a group size of at least six and it costs $125 each a night. This isn’t bad when you see it includes breakfast and dinner and a boxed lunch for the trip out, a bunk for your sleeping bag, sofas to sit on to enjoy the fire, and inside plumbing.

It started snowing about mid day on the way out and we arrived back at Badger Pass at 1:30 pm. It was an incredible experience and a great trip that we will do again

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