11th September 2019
Tuolumne Meadows – near the Half Dome junction
16.3 trail miles + 2 mile round trip to the wilderness centre
Total miles: 234.4


It wasn’t as cold as the night before it seemed, but I did sleep with my puffy on inside my sleeping bag which helped. It seemed to get colder as the morning progressed, we didn’t get up early because we had planned breakfast at The Grill and that didn’t open until 8am. 

I had all my clothes on and my hat and gloves and hoods up and I was freezing, my water had shards of ice in it and the air was hurting my skin. It was really cold. We quickly packed up and made our way down to the store. We were a little early so we stood in a patch of sun across the street amongst the frost. 

I had tried to be a little more lightweight and I decided not to bring long legs with me, I managed without them on the AT. In hindsight it was a mistake, although I did get by without them, so maybe it wasn’t a mistake after all.

Inside the grill was nice and warm and I ordered a hot chocolate and a chocolate muffin and a breakfast I was sure I wouldn’t like. The main breakfasts were breakfast sandwiches served in a biscuit – gross – so I went with scrambled egg and breakfast potatoes. It was ok. We sat in the sun and I ate about 3 quarters of them. I knew I had to try and get as much down as possible because the resupply in the store was limited. 

Then we left our packs by the store and we walked a mile up the road to the wilderness permit centre. We thought it opened at 8am but there was a queue outside, it turns out the people inside were on a little power trip and operating on a one in one out basis, making us wait out in the freezing cold. 

Catwater opened the door and asked if we could wait inside but she got shouted at. Not a good start to our request for a Half Dome permit! Half Dome permits are limited and often given out on a lottery basis so we weren’t confident we were going to get one but thought we should try. I was actually feeling weirdly nervous about it and I was unsure of the mileage and with the late start I was feeling a bit discombobulated, so I did say maybe we shouldn’t worry about it if it’s too complicated.

We went in and spoke to the man who had shouted at us and he was very nice and said we could have permits for the next day. $10 each and we were on our way. We were shocked and pleased and now I was even more nervous, although I wasn’t sure exactly what I was nervous about! 

We walked the mile back to the store and grabbed some resupply. I got a massive bag of Doritos and some Welches Fruit Snacks, along with 2 gatorades and a packet of Skittles and some M&Ms, and a cake for tomorrow’s breakfast. 

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We set off around 10am still very cold and walked down the road a little ways to find the Cathedral Lakes trail head. This was new trail for me and there was a bit more uphill than I was anticipating as I thought it was all downhill to the valley! 

We had a fair bit of uphill, about 7 miles, to start with, we soon got warm and had to take the layers off. As we moved through I could see the landscape changing, more giant granite rock formations raised to the sides, the granite smoother and worn by the glaciers. 

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As the day went on it got hotter and hotter, the wind lost its edge and didn’t cut right through you. We were able to take breaks in the shade because the sun was hot. It felt good. We passed a load of people in both directions and most of the second half of the day was all downhill. It was quite steep in places and was a bit harsh on the knees. We decided to go 2 miles further than planned as we spoke to some girls who had climbed Half Dome this morning and explained they camped about a quarter mile away from the junction. That would put us in a really good position to get up Half Dome early to beat the crowds. 

We came to a huge burn area, we weren’t sure if it was a wild fire or a controlled burn but it seemed like a huge area. We got our first glimpse of Half Dome. I wasn’t feeling quite so nervous about it now, knowing we would be getting close by tonight and there would be no rush tomorrow. 

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As we were looking for somewhere to camp Catwater rolled her ankle. It looked really bad and she was in loads of pain and for a moment I thought it was bad enough to be game over. But she took a minute and rallied and was ok. Phew. 

The afternoon had been so hot I was grateful whenever we were in shade, which wasn’t often in the burn area. We found somewhere to camp, and there were already a few tents there. Bummer, but we couldn’t be bothered to search for somewhere else so we found an ok spot tucked away from everyone else. 

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As we were setting up this guy comes over, starting at us and getting closer and not saying anything. Can we help you? We ask him. He was weird. Creepy. He explained that he had a bag hung in the tree, but it didn’t have food in it had toiletries in. Catwater explained that bear hangs aren’t a legal way of storing items in Yosemite and everything with a scent must be in a bear canister. He didn’t argue as such but he went away saying he had just wanted to say hello. 

A few minutes later he came back and removed his bear hang without saying anything . I’m not sure if he rehung it or not but at least he has no reason to come over here anymore. 

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I didn’t want to complain about the sun after it being so cold recently but it was so hot. It was almost too hot to sit in my tent, the sun was beating down on it. Normally by 6pm I would be tucked up in my sleeping bag doing my best to keep warm. Now I was just sitting in my tent trying to block the sun from hitting me. 

I realised that I had only eaten a handful of my Doritos today and had a huge amount left so set to work on those and also ate my Mountain House meal, that must have been the most calories I have eaten for dinner all trip. 

It’s now 7:30pm and I have my tent fly clipped back. I do have my puffy on and my sleeping bag draped over me but I am also burning up. My face is radiating heat, I have definitely had too much sun today. My poor nose has really taken a battering, it burnt and crusty and split, the sun and the wind and the dryness and the dust and the crying episode and the cold and the constant wiping haven’t helped matters at all. Today it’s mostly burnt. 

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I don’t think we need to worry about bears tonight but there are a lot of rodents around and we seem to have set up camp in their domain. There was a squirrel eating berries from a bush right outside my tent, as long as it just eats the berries and not my trekking pole handles everything will be fine! 

I can’t believe it’s the last day tomorrow, and we are climbing Half Dome!

 

 

 

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