Above Yosemite

18-20 Jun 2010 - by Aaron Schuman

Ron Karpel led a spring climb of Mt. Lyell (13114), the high point of Yosemite, and Mt. Maclure (12880), the neighbor of Lyell, on June 18-20, 2010. I assisted Ron as co-leader. We were joined by Terry Cline, Ted Lenzie, Monique Messie, and David Altmar.

We made the long, flat hike up the Lyell Canyon through the springtime mud, until we reached continuous snow cover at 9800 feet. We made our camp in a bare patch near the headwaters. Our rustic meals were enlivened by the Brie cheese and burgundy wine provided by Monique; she embodies savoir-faire. Ted blended cocktails out of rubbing alcohol and Gatorade(TM): non savoir-faire.

By the early solstice sunrise, we were on the move. We relied on our snowshoes as we approached the peaks. As the terrain grew steeper and the footing grew icier, most of the team switched to ice axes and crampons. I hadn't brought crampons, so I hefted my weight onto the snowshoe cleats. With the exception of a rocky band above the bergshrund, we were on snow all the way to the Lyell summit.

I had climbed Mt Lyell once before, in 1986. We wondered if I could recognize the recession of the Lyell Glacier in the intervening years, but I couldn't really find the edges of the glacier under the spring snow.

Half of the party returned to camp, and the rest of us traversed in softening snow to Mt Maclure. The trip photo, taken by Monique, shows Mt Lyell from Mt Maclure, as your faithful reporter approaches the Maclure summit.


Because the Pacific Crest Trail was buried in snow from Donohue Pass, the PCT through-hikers followed our footsteps instead. Even though we were camped far from the trail, they walked right through our camp. I fed one particularly starved hiker. He astonished me by devouring the food like a bear freshly emerged from hibernation, as fast as I could pull it out of my canister.

We didn't see any actual ursine bears on this trip, but we did see a beautiful young buck with velvet still on his antlers. We also met marmots, pikas, a golden eagle at the summit, rosy-breasted finches scavenging on the snow, and chickadees in the canyon.

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