Tony Krizan

High-elevation hike in Yosemite didn’t pan out as hoped. But there’s always next year

A wilderness trail in Yosemite National Park.
A wilderness trail in Yosemite National Park. Special to the Sierra Star

It was July 13 when the Ferguson Fire started along Highway 140 close to the historic Savage Trading Post. This highway has been closed to traffic for over 30 days while the Forest Service was mopping up that out-of-control fire. A few days ago they finally released the closure restriction on Highway 140, now is the time to visit those historic trails within Yosemite National Park.

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Tony Krizan

At 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 20 Clem Bingham and I started our drive through Mariposa to Highway 140 which borders the fire area along the Merced River. Our destination is a meeting with the senior hikers at the Tenaya Lake Trailhead. Then we’ll car pool seven miles to our starting point across from Tuolumne Meadows at 8,300 feet. Our hiking guide today is Bob Worcester, a veteran of five consecutive years hiking this route. We’ll skirt around Cathedral Peak and our first rest stop at Budd Lake 10,110 feet. Next we’ll return by hiking cross country back to our first trailhead at Tioga Pass Road next to Tenaya Lake.

On any adventure there are always surprises or changes. Personally I was looking forward to repeating this hike from memories of almost 11 years ago. Only a half hour into this wilderness trail one hiker was experiencing light headaches and aching muscles. This particular hiking trail increases in elevation quickly, and can be difficult for a beginner or seasoned hiker. If one has not adapted to hiking higher elevations and didn’t take time to acclimate to this elevation change, he or she can be plagued by altitude sickness. Most times by just dropping in elevation a few hundred feet can solve this problem. This experience can happen to anyone even a seasoned hiker.

Clem and I volunteered to stay with our group’s lone hiker. As I stated earlier there are two trailheads so we drove back to Tenaya Lake trailhead to wait for the hiking group. During that short drive Clem had a great idea; why don’t we attempt this adventure in reverse! Maybe we can meet up with the group on their descent from Budd Lake.

By then our other companion was feeling great but had no desire attempting another increased elevation hike today. She decided to take a short hike along Tenaya Lake and relax at this trailhead until we returned.

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Approaching forest where Tony Krizan and his hiking partner attempted to go cross-country and meet up with the senior hiking group. Tony Krizan Special to the Sierra Star

By attempting this hike in reverse will be a challenge because after two miles the trail ends and we’ll start to cross country through the forest and attempt to locate the long extended granite slabs that lead up in elevations over 10,000 feet. Hopefully we’ll meet up with the group somewhere along this wilderness route within the hour. Sometimes the best-laid plans don’t materialize. We found the first series of granite slabs but after almost two hours of bushwhacking through the second area of forest, no class 2 route extending up the mountain.

Eleven years ago I completed this adventure with no problems but not in reverse. I felt disappointed thinking maybe I’m losing my wilderness skills. Clem and I decided that time is very important and maybe we’ll accidentally pass the senior group within this thick forest. So we decided to double back to the trailhead and wait for the group to arrive.

Roughly two hours after we returned the original group arrived with all hikers intact. Yes they teased us describing the fantastic views from over 10,000 feet that we missed. There is always the next time and if this repeat adventure doesn’t happen this year, I’ll be ready to rekindle those lost memories next year. Sometimes our research plans change but these Yosemite National Park mountains should look the same next year. I’ll wait until that time to rekindle my lost memories.

If you are seriously thinking about hiking these Sierra Nevada mountains in the future, look into the senior hiking group. One does not have to be retired to participate. All ages are accepted. I’ve hiked with this group for over 20 years sharing their many adventures. These members are committed to their craft and enjoy sharing their many talents. Details: Fran Gross, frankens@sti.net.

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