Monday, July 8, 2013

North Dome, Yosemite Nat'l Park: 06/25/2013

Incomparable view of Half Dome's sheer north face from North Dome.

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North Dome's straight-on, close-up view of Half Dome

With its unsurpassed view of Half Dome from directly across Tenaya Canyon, North Dome is the perfect complement to hiking Half Dome. This moderately strenuous hike (between 8.8 and 10 miles round trip, depending on whether you believe the map, the guidebook or the trail signs) had long been on my Yosemite must-do list, yet our hike on Tuesday was something of a gamble as a departing storm had yet to fully clear.

Storm clouds made for some dramatic views of Yosemite Valley on our drive to the trailhead

Although rain was about the last thing we wanted during our trip, I have to admit that the rare late June storm produced some dramatic views of Yosemite Valley. Since the North Dome hike starts at 8,000 feet elevation along the Tioga Pass road - more than 4,000 feet above the valley floor - the question of the day was whether the clearing would progress enough at the higher elevations for us to get any views.

North Dome is one of those odd "inverted" hikes like the Grand Canyon or Blue Ledges in the Adirondacks - you hike down to your destination, then back up to the trailhead on the way out. That kind of reverse vertical always feels odd to me on a hike, but today it worked in our favor as we dropped below the cloud deck. The first few miles of the trail are forested, but views begin to open up as it traverses Indian Ridge.

The first half of our hike was mostly in the clouds

Views opening up along Indian Ridge

Looking down on North Dome from Indian Ridge

Half a mile to go

At the south end of Indian Ridge the trail drops six or seven hundred feet before climbing up to North Dome's open, rounded summit. The views along that final mile and a half are spectacular in all directions, but it's the head-on view of Half Dome's north face that really grabs your attention. Clouds Rest rises above Tenaya Canyon to the east, and Yosemite Valley is spread out below. As we hiked, Half Dome was in and out of the clouds. Clouds Rest's summit, being a thousand feet higher, never fully cleared.

Clouds lifting off Half Dome

Clouds Rest on the left (in the clouds) and Half Dome

I'm always thinking about potential future hikes - next time it would be cool to continue from North Dome down to the valley via Yosemite Falls. If you like hiking downhill, this one's for you: the route drops more than four thousand vertical feet over 8+ miles from the trailhead on Tioga Pass road to Yosemite Valley. Next time.

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