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75. Glacier Point (07/10/98)

Hikers (10): Beth, Cap'n Dave, Eugene, Giri, Jamie, Peter, Russ, Steve, Taylor, Wendell
Distance: 9 miles
Rating: 4 difficulty, 10 beauty
Park info: Yosemite National Park

Write-up by Peter

This hike kicked off the second INCH Weekend at Yosemite. In addition to the four founders from the first trip in 1996, we had six other INCHers along for the festivities.

Taylor made us all meet at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. to make sure we beat the traffic to Yosemite. Well, "the traffic" turned out to be a couple of pickup trucks and an old school bus. Even with a long stop for breakfast at the Denny's in Oakdale and a pilgrimage to look through the window at the House of Beef, we arrived at Yosemite before 10 o'clock.

Side note: About a month before I finally got around to doing this write-up (about 5 months after the actual hike!), I was treated to dinner at the House of Beef by Rusty. Yes, The Man finally paid off his debt. I have to say it was definitely worth the wait! The only thing missing was beer, but they promised to have some there for our next visit.

Back to Yosemite ... we checked in to our cabins at Curry Village (a.k.a. Bearville), and started to gear up for the hike. The good thing about arriving early was that we had plenty of time to do a decent hike the same day. I had read that Glacier Point offers the best view of the Yosemite Valley, so it seemed like a good place to start.

1, 2, 3, ... INCH!

The trail was straightforward ... four miles of switchbacks from the valley floor straight up to the top of Glacier Point. As much as I love Yosemite, hiking here is just plain torture for me. There are no gentle slopes to climb, no rolling hills to traverse. Every decent trail pretty much goes up some sheer wall of granite and looks down a huge vertical drop. If I could stop shaking for a few minutes, I might actually be able to appreciate the beauty!

Esteban and Rusty took the early lead. I was going at a fairly good pace, but I knew I wouldn't be seeing those guys again for a while. It didn't help that I kept freezing up every time I looked down. I was not looking forward to the trip back down.

As we worked our way up the switchbacks, we could hear Yosemite Falls thundering from across the valley. Because of all the El Nino rainfall, the falls had much more water than usual for this time of year. I found a nice big rock to sit on and rested for a while and enjoyed the view of the falls. After a few minutes, Eugene caught up and we took turns taking pictures of each other before resuming the climb.

A couple of minutes later, Cap'n Dave zipped right past us. His mission: to catch Esteban and Rusty on the way up. My money's on Cap'n Dave!

Another mile went by ... Eugene had begun to slow down. I walked solo for about a half-mile, then suddenly, I found myself out on an open ledge. Holy shit! I did not like this one bit. I crouched down and kept walking slowly, slowly .... this damn ledge seemed like a mile long. My palms were sweating and I could feel my heart in my throat. Did I mention that I don't like hiking at Yosemite? I couldn't take it any more. I stopped, turned around, and headed back.

Back in the safety of the trees, I stopped and wiped the sweat from my forehead. I thought about waiting for Eugene to catch up, but then thought that he would make it even worse, so I figured I had to just go for it. I set out once more. Across the ledge again ... slowly, slowly ... it took forever, but I finally made it across. Whew! After this, I quickly settled down and picked up the pace.

A little further up, I ran into a couple of guys who'd passed me earlier. They were stopping to take a breather and we exchanged grunts as I went by. This pattern was to continue for the rest of the way to the top. They'd pass me by, then stop and rest, and I'd just keep chugging along and pass them up again. We'd exchange grunts and then repeat the cycle all over again. It helped to take my mind off the heights, and before I knew it, the trail flattened out and I could see the top.

The last part of the trail led away from the cliff and up through the trees and out into a big open space at the top. There were hundreds of people milling about up there. The vast majority had taken the bus to the top. Unfair!

I found Rusty and Cap'n Dave sitting on some rocks, sunning themselves. Cap'n Dave had caught Rusty and Esteban on the way up and they had walked up to the top together. Good job, El Capitan (nice little Yosemite reference, huh?)!

The women nearby were admiring the boys' physiques (well, maybe just Cap'n Dave's). I went over and joined the boys. The spot they had chosen had a great view of the valley, including Half Dome, which seemed to rise like a great spear out of the depths of the earth. You mean we have to climb that thing tomorrow? Can I take a raincheck on that?

I walked over to the railing at the edge to look down, but I couldn't quite bring myself to look over. I took a deep breath and was just about to try again, but just then I heard the ranger telling a group of people that it was a 14-second drop from there to the valley floor. Just hearing that made my knees buckle!

I started to feel nauseous. OK, that's it .... I made a bee-line away from the railing and looked for a nice big tree to sit under. I found Esteban napping under a tree and decided to join him. This was more like it!

Eventually, the rest of the gang drifted in (even Giri). By then, I was feeling better and had settled down to enjoy my lunch. Having renewed my energy, I forced myself to go back to the railing. This time, I was able to actually stand next to it and look down (well, not exactly straight down, but it was good enough for me!).

We spent almost an hour at the top. I think the girls even went over to the concession stand and got some ice cream. There's a rugged hike for ya!

Time to head back .... Cap'n Dave kept me company most of the way down. There were more than a few moments of trepidation, and it seemed like I came down most of the trail crouched on all fours, but I finally made it to the bottom. Oh, man! My back was aching. My knees were not doing that great either. Large parts of the trail were paved with concrete and it certainly took its toll on me, but at least it was over.

Now, time to rest up before more torture tomorrow at Half Dome!

Giri's 10th leaf

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