Climbing Yosemite's Amelia Earhart Peak

October 4, 2012 

Finally I have three days to drive through Yosemite National Park toward Tuolumne Meadows for that adventure to climb Amelia Earhart Peak. Who was Amelia Earhart? If you enjoy reading about aviation, especially its history during the early 20th century, you will find Earhart was one of the first women to set aviation records.

She was born on July 24, 1897 and on Oct. 22, 1922 she was the first woman to fly to the altitude of 14,000 feet. On May 15, 1923 she was the 16th woman to be issued a pilot's license. In 1928 she was the first woman to solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Her carrier was shortened on July 02, 1937 on a round-the-world flight. Her final leg was to cross the Pacific Ocean at the equator.

While flying from Lae Papua New Guinea to the Howard Islands (2,556 miles) her Lockheed Electra Aircraft, with copilot and navigator Fred Noonan, perished somewhere along that flight plan. To this day their crash site is still a mystery.

The mountain in Yosemite National Park that bears her name was purposed by the Rocketdyne Mountaineering Club and approved by the Board on Geographic Names in 1967.

The trailhead is located in front of the Ranger Station at Tuolumne Meadow. It also serves the Lyell Canyon, Pacific Coast Trail and John Muir Trail. Follow this slightly elevated trail 5.5 miles until arriving at the junction to hike south toward Ireland Lake at 10,735 feet. As Fred Cochran and myself followed this easily marked trail, above us is Potter Point which is directly in front of Amelia Earhart Peak.

This trail also follows Ireland Creek through the forest until breaking out of the tree line before arriving at the lake. Amelia Earhart Peak at 11,986 feet is located behind Ireland Lake.

We set up our base camp on the treeless shore line west of the lake. From this location we have a panoramic view of the south and north ridge line leading up toward the summit. Ireland Lake is a great location to visually map out our ascending route for tomorrow.

Once again the weather person faltered with the prediction of clear sunny skies. At 3:15 p.m. we had rain and hail for over an hour with a temperature dropping to 36 degrees. Later that day we were informed that snow has accumulated on the peak. Hopefully the warm morning temperatures will melt the accumulated snow before we reach the summit around noon tomorrow.

Overnight temperatures were around 40 degrees but the warm morning sun melted the remaining snow on the peak. After studying the mountain yesterday evening and this morning, we decided to approach the south slope to the summit. We later found that there are no established routes ... one has to pick their own line of travel.

From the lake we followed the mountain drainage to the saddle, skirted the ridge until crossing over to the east face of the mountain. We had some disappointment when we realized that there are three false peaks. As we climbed to what we felt was the summit, looking toward the north was a higher point. The northern most peak was the summit, verified by a metal canister for us to log in our successful climb at 1 p.m. Sept. 12.

From the summit one could see the glacier slopping down the east face of Banner and Ritter Mountains. Mammoth Mountain was in the distance to the east. Facing west we could see White Mountain, Ragged and Tioga Peaks just to mention a few.

We returned by following our same route on the south ridge. Since there are no established paths we took it upon ourselves to look for a shorter descending path down the west face. A few hundred yards from the saddle we descended down the rocks and found a shorter and faster path which saved us almost an hour to our base camp.

That evening and through the night the wind gusted so hard it uprooted a few shakes to my tent that were anchored to the ground. Needless to say sleep was difficult that night.

I survived the night and the following morning we broke camp and hiked the 12.6 miles of trails back to the trailhead. Even with the few computations with this adventure as many before, I would repeat the trip again.

Our hiking season is closing but don't forget next year there are many new trails to hike.

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