Columbia Rock 3x
Yosemite Point 2x YVF

Wed, Jan 3, 2018

With: Jackie Burd
Ryan Burd

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile
Columbia Rock previously climbed Wed, Oct 18, 2017
Yosemite Point previously climbed Wed, Jun 8, 2016

The family headed to Yosemite for a few days while the kids were home for Christmas break. We didn't have a clear plan on what we were going to do since it was forecast to rain a bit while we were there. I didn't bring the rock climbing gear because it didn't seem like a good thing to do if it was wet outside. The rain held off the first day and we regretted not bringing it, but we still had much fun. Staying at Yosemite Lodge, we slept in until after 8a. Ryan headed out for an 8mi run so Jackie and I decided to take off for Sunnyside Bench, a bit of an adventure outing we could do from the lodge. I had been up that way once before and figured she'd be fine with the class 3 rating. The route is often used for descent after any of the various climbs up the south face of Sunnyside Bench. After heading east past Yosemite Falls, we followed the Valley Loop trail for a while before heading upslope in search of the access gully. It had been more than ten years and my memory struggled some with finding the right location, but after some wandering we settled upon the right gully. If one were traveling east on the Valley Loop Trail, it is found just east of the corral, a wide, boulder-filled gully. A use trail of sort winds up the left (west) side of the gully to Sunnyside Bench, hundreds of feet above the trail. We found all this on the way down, of course.

Once on the bench it was evident that much of the initial part of the trail was wiped out by the heavy winter the previous year. There are already new branches of the trail appearing to get around those sections no longer viable at class 3 or less. We found that there is more than one trail in places, the lower one seems to be more used and has better views looking out at the Valley below. We followed one branch or another all the way west to Yosemite Falls. The bench brings one to the top of the lower fall where you can get a rare view of the middle fall and cascades between the two main falls seen by visitors from below and from the Yosemite Falls Trail on the west side. We scrambled down to the creek and contemplated jumping across to the other side, but there was too much water to do so safely. Instead, we found an old handline on the east side near the top of the lower fall that goes out a short distance to a shiny rappel chain. This looked like it could be great fun rapping down the east side of the fall (only reasonable in low water conditions), something we'd keep in mind for a future adventure. We gave a wave down to the folks gathered at the viewing area at the bottom of the lower fall before heading back east along the bench and back to the Valley.

We met up with Ryan and Mom at Yosemite Village where we had lunch before heading out on our afternoon adventure. Ryan was disappointed that he wasn't included in the morning fun, but I had promised we had more in store. We headed up the Yosemite Falls Trail starting at Camp 4, hiking up to Columbia Rock and then further east, traversing across the northern wall of the Valley into the drainage of Yosemite Creek where the upper fall is seen to great effect. We continued following the trail into the trees where it goes slightly downhill, leaving it after climbing a few switchbacks and scrambling down to the middle section of the falls. We were above the middle fall but still some distance below the bottom of the upper fall. We explored along a wide granite bench, looking for possible ways across to the east side of the creek with the idea of descending back down Sunnyside Bench if we could manage it. We could find no safe way across, however. The best option I could see was to traverse just below what was left of the snow cone at the base of the upper fall. We donned rain jackets to ward off the spray and made it almost halfway across before I turned us around when we got to a sloping section with water running too wide and too fast to cross safely (ok, it was well beyond safely, but it was also beyond what I considered an acceptable risk). Thwarted, we returned back to the Yosemite Falls Trail.

We continued up the trail to the top of the upper fall, Dad still having some off-trail adventure to share with them. We crossed over Yosemite Creek at a point not far from the top of the upper fall. Dad chose to cross and get partially wet boots, Ryan made a giant leap across the creek, getting less wet. Jackie seemed to do the best, simply removing her boots and walking across barefoot. Slab scrambling on the east side of the creek got us up out of the drainage, after which we scrambled higher along the edge of the Valley rim to a point just across from the spectacular Lost Arrow Spire. One could easily see an orange sling attached to the summit bolts and we all were astonished that climbers could actually make their way what looked like vertical faces and edges on all sides. From this view spot, we continued cross-country up to the old, rusting railing at Yosemite Point. We took a few photos but didn't stay long as it was already 3:30p by this time and would grow dark before we returned. As we made our way back over the next several hours we were surprised by how many people were still making their way up the trail. I'm not sure if they had headlamps with them or knew what they were in for, but it was certain to grow dark before they returned. As it was, Ryan and I found ourselves stumbling some near the end in failing light before we finally emerged at the TH where we met up with Jackie (she had jogged down much of the trail and was probably 20min ahead of us). We walked back to Yosemite Lodge in the dark where we showered before taking Mom out to a well-earned dinner...

Kirk D formerly of Sparks comments on 01/07/18:
Great mid-Winter Yosemite fix ! Looks like the Yose Falls giant snow cone has gone the way of the Glacier Point Firefall.
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