Mt. Dana later climbed Sat, Jul 19, 2008|
Mt. Lyell had been a bit much a few days earlier, so we decided to tackle something easier but still quite high - Mt. Dana. As the second highest point in Yosemite NP, it commands tremendous views, and with a TH starting at nearly 10,000ft, it wouldn't be too demanding. And best of all a fairly good use trail goes almost all the way to the summit, so even Terry could enjoy this class 1 excursion.
We parked at the lot just inside the park boundary at Tioga Pass and headed out across the meadow. Had we done anything resembling research (this was in the days before the Internet was pervasive, remember), we might have chosen to use the TH starting just outside the park boundary. Oh well, little matter, we had a pleasant stroll across the meadow and picked up the trail on the far side as it begins to climb up Mt. Dana's northwest side. The wildflowers we found in this lower section were simply amazing, one of the best I've seen anywhere. This unexpected treasure entertained us for the quarter mile or so it took to hike through it, a colorful variety of lupines, paintbrushes, and many other flowers I did not know the names of. Above this section the trail turns downright rocky as it passes through the slate talus that makes up the entire upper two-thirds of this mountain. It gets rather tedious at times, but at least the semi-trail makes the going easier with a packed path through the mess.
It was a busy trail as well, quite popular during the summer months, particularly on weekends. This was a weekday still, but we probably passed at least a dozen parties on our way up. At the summit we found a very busy register along with several parties that had reached the top ahead of us. A very fat marmot was scooting about looking for handouts, and surprisingly there were quite a number of flies buzzing about the summit. The view down to Mono Lake and the east side of the Sierra was stunning, exactly as advertised. The east side also had a vertical drop a thousand feet down to the Dana Glacier, icy portions reflecting brightly in the middle. Terry decided he'd had enough for one day while I wanted to keep hiking. Heck it wasn't even noon yet. So Terry headed back down while I headed south to Mt. Gibbs.
After carefully downclimbing a steep snowy section on the southeast side (no crampons/axe) that was fortunately soft enough to kick steps, I glissaded down the shallower section to the end of the snow field near the top of the Dana Couloir. Then it was mostly a talus scramble down to the saddle between Dana and Gibbs, then up the more fractured Northeast Ridge of Mt. Gibbs. The summit of Gibbs felt like a far better accomplishment than Dana. There was no use trail up the mountain on any side and the summit register had far fewer entries than were found on Dana. It felt like I'd climbed a real peak.
I still had plenty of time so I continued travelling south following the Sierra Crest towards Mono Pass. This side of Mt. Gibbs is far more pleasant, not just because I was heading downhill. The talus is more compact and there grows a variety of grasses and flowers amongst the talus, further consolidating it and making it easier to walk on. I reached the trail just west of Mono Pass and took notice of several very old, decaying log cabins that I found later were left from miners many years ago. No roofs on them, just log sides that were partially falling over or with logs missing. Maybe in another hundred years they would completely rot away.
Once on the trail it was an easy five mile walk back to the trailhead. I found Terry there, waiting for me as arranged, and we then drove back to Tuolumne Meadows. A very enjoyable outing indeed.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Dana - Mt. Gibbs
This page last updated: Tue Oct 13 16:41:05 2009
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