Yosemite National Park – John Muir trail to Clouds Rest

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Another adventure from our R.V. Again starting from the upper pines (RV) campground it’s a half mile run to the start of the John Muir trail. John Muir (1838 – 1914) was hired as a saw mill general labourer and was responsible for timber repairs to the only hotel in Yosemite at the time. Within a few years he had become instrumental in the preparation of the national park trails and promoter of the area.
John Muir (1838-1914) is now regarded as one of California’s most important historical personalities. More can be read about John here http://www.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/about/

The John Muir trail takes hikers/ runners west, following the Merced river, leaving it in places via switchbacks up the valley to negotiate areas of a waterfalls and steep cliffs, notable that of Nevada falls which has a drop of 2000ft. The path takes you above this, past a huge campground area and then away from the Merced and up, up, up to the turn off for either Half Dome (a huge rock formation perched over the valley ledge requiring a permit to climb with harness – top at 2693m), or to clouds rest. The Clouds Rest turn off leaves the John Muir trail and becomes three tough miles of hiking up hill with hands on the knees and difficulty breathing. The final navigation to the peak takes some doing as it turns to giant boulders which masks the correct path to the top.

The view form the top is one of these where you don’t know where to look or what to take photos of. So I decided to take a few of me, then move on to the scenery 😉 at 3025 meters I was not expecting to meet anyone up there but a chap named David had been there all night bivvied at the top for sunrise. Great idea. I scared the hell out of him when I got there and said ‘morning!’ in my usual cheery way… Glad he was not standing near the edge!

I left camp with 2.5 litres of water, 1 cliff bar, 2 pro bars and some salt tablets which I didn’t use. Armed with a head torch my run started at 3:15am hoping to get to the top for sunrise, however I grossly misjudged how tough the route would be and was not at the summit until around 7am. I had only drank 1 litre by the top. A learning for night running that you just don’t drink as much.

– first 1/3 of the route is on granite rock which my ridiculously bright ‘Hope’ heard torch turned into a diamond path glittering mike diamonds – amazing to see this whilst hearing the rushing torrent of waterfalls and river rapids.
– the sound of a distant hugh water fall (later researched to be Nevada) which on the return journey in daylight was much closer and grander than I had imagined. Can’t believe I was so close to it running in the dark and didn’t know!
– the hidden path. Some of the switchbacks and so tight and the trail in the forest sections so covered that it was easy to run completely off path
– 1 1/2 hours in my head torch switched to emergency power. It seems I had not charge it properly which gave me a real fright. Luckily there was a lovely full moon and twilight daytime was approaching, however being in a valley, sprayed with occasional water from the various falls and suddenly it goes dark is pretty freaky! I’ll never go out without a back up again.
– reaching to turn off to Half Dome and Clouds Rest – entering 2300m+ and it started to get harder to breath. I’ve done so many runs at altitude but something about getting over the 2500m mark it becomes a real adventure. Interesting that the tree line is so high in the Sierra Nevada, indeed, some of the highest and best trees are all at 2000m +.
– the forest sections – so so cold!
– meeting someone who’d bivvied at the top the night before, he had a fancy pants camera that took great panoramic so we swapped mail address to share photos which I can’t wait to see.
– the temperature at the top was warm, not a breeze, clear sky and simply awesome.

On the return journey the masses had developed around Nevada falls and I was glad I left early in the morning. There are far more rewards to heading out early and I’m glad I did. I really took my time coming down and even stopped a few times to make phone calls to family. It was a long scent and my feet were starting to bruise by the end. It was ‘only’ 22 miles so who knows what i’m going to feel like after 87 miles next month on the Swiss Iron Trail!!! Scary stuff.

“as long as live I’ll hear the waterfalls and birds and winds sing, I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of the flood, storm and the avalanche, i’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens and get as near to the heart of the world as I can” John Muir on Yosemite N.P.”

5 Replies to “Yosemite National Park – John Muir trail to Clouds Rest”

  1. Kris – those are amazing pics (I’ve surreptitiously snaffled them for my desktop backgrounds 🙂
    Best of luck with your impending transalpine (you’re becoming a little bit of an ultra-legend on the quiet!)

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