Tony Krizan

Yosemite’s Diving Board

The 1,400 foot drop off along the ridge edge of the Diving Board.
The 1,400 foot drop off along the ridge edge of the Diving Board. Tony Krizan

First of all, research will be the topic before choosing which Diving Board in Yosemite for my next hike. There are two - one is located at the top of Half Dome and the second is located just below Half Dome on the lower west side. Today, I’ll introduce you to the Diving Board on the lower west side.

Once again, I’ll be sharing this adventure with Fred Cochran and Clem Bingham. Parking will be at the Happy Isle parking area at the valley’s east end. Trailhead has the same name which increases in elevation to the bridge crossing the Merced River and beyond. Continue following this trail along the river to the stairway of the Mist Tail and to the top of Vernal Fall.

Next along this trail will be Nevada Fall. Once we arrived at the trail junction at the fall we’ll hike east to Little Yosemite Valley. Now, I must remind you that this adventure will be strenuous and maybe for the readers, one can consider staying overnight at Little Yosemite Valley. This smaller valley would be ideal to set up a base camp if needed before completing your adventure. You’ll need a permit to stay overnight at this location.

Halfway through this valley, on the left, we located the slightly used trail that will lead to a plateau and elevation drop into the valley between the mountains Liberty Cap and Mount Broderick. Lost Lake is located along the trail at the end of this heavily tree covered area.

At this point, the trail ends and now we’ll test our cross country skills.

Looking north, I could see the huge granite surface of Half Dome and our destination will be the ridge on its west side. There are a few markers (ducks) to negotiate through the thick Manzanita Bushes and huge boulders. If you lack skills of off trail hiking, bring your GPS or compass and someone who is familiar with this area. One rocky 12-foot elevation gain area will be class 3 and will test your skills but difficulty was minimal.

We continued climbing in elevation following this abandoned trail that leads us to the Manzanita covered saddle before our final climb to the Diving Board. Now we are faced with a choice - do we follow the granite ridge line to the base of Half Dome or climb up through the granite slot that also leads to our destination? We decided against the granite ridge because of its steep slope. The slot proved to be the wise choice and without too much difficulty we arrived at our destination.

For those of you who enjoy history, Ansel Adams photographed his famous photo “The Monolith” from this location in April 1927. His group hiked and climbed through the snow to capture this spectacular view.

Upon reaching our objective, we peered over this steep rock ledge. The north face cantilevered back 30 feet under us then dropped 1,400 feet to the valley floor. To our right, directly under Half Dome, I could see the area where part of Half Dome slid into the valley a few years ago. Looking up at Half Dome, I could see why Ansel Adams chose this view for his historic photograph.

On our return, we discovered the east side of this plateau has an easier route to descend to the saddle below. This route will also make any future climb much easier approaching the Diving Board. Now to follow the old markers to locate the almost invisible forgotten trail that will lead us to the saddle between Liberty Cap and Mount Broderick. Finally, we arrived at the saddle and now to locate the trail to follow back to Little Yosemite Valley.

We did have a little excitement following this Lost Lake Trail. An ancient dead pine tree and least 80-feet tall shed one of its huge branches less than 30 seconds after we passed beneath its canape. Sure glad we have a faster hiking pace this afternoon. Nickname for this type of fallen branch activity is called a “widow maker.” Hiking time was 11 hours and 20 minutes or dark to dark. Elevation at Happy Isle is 4,000 feet and the Diving Board is 7,475 feet.

This adventure is primarily for the seasoned hiker. Do not attempt a solo hike within this area because it can be confusing. A seasoned hiking buddy will make this adventure an enjoyable experience.