Merced Beaucoup

28 Aug 1999 - by Debbie Benham

Fire off Hwy 120 with the road closed 10 miles east of Groveland; road closure of Hwy 140 from 10:30 at night to 6:30am; a campsite in Yosemite Valley reminiscent of crowded family picnics in neighborhood parks on Fourth of July; what to do?? Go climb a mountain, far and away!

First day was long and sleepy what with 12 miles in to Lower Merced Pass Lake. We pitched our tents and made camp with vestiges of a bear-bagging rope hanging from a nearby tree. That evening, we ate dinner followed by songs around the campfire. Folksongs, French children's songs, Broadway musicals, and a rousing rendition of 'Yellow Submarine' - you name it, we tried it. WARNING: do not put your MSR fuel bottle in your bear canister-all food will be drenched irregardless of baggie packaging!


The next morning, we arose to a beautiful, cool, summerday's beginning, and, our hike to the summit. Passing Lower Ottoway Lake, then offtrail, around Upper Ottoway Lake, we caught a full view of the northeast ridgeline of Merced Peak. Hideous exposure. Heading toward the saddle between Ottoway Peak and Merced Peak, called Snow Pass by-the-by, we crossed snow bands and meadowgrass, and splashy, tiny waterfalls over granite talus. It is important to note that to attain the Class 2 route, climb directly from the saddle onto the ridgeline; otherwise, you run into Class 3 climbing (thank you Anouchka!). Newcomers learned to yell "Rock!" rather than "OH NO watch out!!". Once on the summit, the sharp fin of Mt Clark engaged me, with Lyell & McClure, Roger's Peak, and, of course, the rest of the Clark range in view.


Retracing our steps back to camp, two runners passed us on the trail. They had come up from the Valley floor and were heading toward Glacier Point that evening and would probably reach it past 9pm. Simply amazing! It had been a long day for us (12 hours) and we were pooped. Not too long of a fire that evening, as we all took to bed as soon as supper was over. Our party almost lost Linda and Anouchka that night! As they were retrieving water from the lake standing on an old crumbly log, the log collapsed, and Linda managed to step off into shallower water, with Anouchka stepping on a firmer portion of tree. whew....

On the hike out, Sunday, we managed a swim, which, actually, Arlene had been doing each day! Refreshing, and much needed for the uphill switchbacks to Glacier Point. Thank you to all who participated.


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