Tony Krizan

El Capitan’s Cap

For many years I’ve driven into Yosemite Valley and I’ve always been amazed at the majestic sculptors that the receding glaciers millions of years ago left for us to enjoy. Those towering cliffs made me feel welcome ... maybe they were protecting me from all outside influences.

Along with those feelings came joy and satisfaction of being fortunate enough to look upon these majestic works of nature.

The first views of this picturesque world opened up after driving through the Wawona Tunnel. While descending through the shade of her ancient oak and pine trees, periodically their branches would separate and revile the towering cliffs of Yosemite Valley.

Many of us have seen Half Dome, Cathedral Spires, Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite Falls, and El Capitan, just to mention a few historic land marks. Have you ever asked yourself, what lies beyond or behind these natural works of art?

Fred Cochran, Clem Bingham, and I will personally bring to your attention what is involved in hiking to the summit of El Capitan.

After treating myself to those views within Yosemite’s Valley, it was time to locate Highway 120 and continue up to Tamarack Flat Campground.

Our departure will be from the trailhead located on the Old Oak Flat Road. This was one of two historic roads on the north side that traveled down into the valley in 1874. The other was called the Coulterville Road at a lower elevation.

The one lane Oak Flat Road follows down to Tamarack Creek (dry) to Cascade Creek (running) the next 2.2 miles. Roughly another mile before the road intersects the trail leading to El Capitan’s summit (identified by a sign). We’ll follow this trail another 4.7 miles passing through Ribbon Meadows and Ribbon Creek. This will be our final chance to fill up on water.

Our plan was to set up a dry camp and stay on El Capitan at 7,569 feet over night to photograph and video the sunset and sunrise.

This hike turned out to be longer than expected. And the 98 degree heat added to the extended hiking time. After 7.6 hours we arrived at our destination.

From this lofty point we could see the entire valley floor 3,500 feet below. Half Dome to the east and the Wawona Tunnel to the west. The summit of El Capitan had a solid rock surface with a slight contour extending from east to west. The south tapered down a short distance before dropping over 3,500 feet to the valley floor.

Still surviving on the summit are ancient Jeffery Pine Trees. Surprising many of them have survived the lighting strikes of Mother Nature for centuries that spared their unspoiled branches.

I was limited with my photography because of the smoke from the numerous wildfires in California. The wind currents filtered the smoke into the valley and my distant photos were almost impossible.

Our return hike was mostly down-hill by using the Foresta Trail to the Foresta Trailhead with a total hiking time of five hours.

Was I disappointed with my adventure? No - Any trip into Yosemite National Park is always a great experience, and I keep returning as often as I can. Maybe hidden out there somewhere is something I missed?

NOTE: The planned return for the third attempt to climb Mt. Williamson, noted in my Aug. 20 Star column, unfortunately was not accomplished. The first two attempts were foiled due to a heavy Sierra thunder storm, the second by a washed-out access road, and this time (just last week) from dense smoke from the Rough Fire. thanks to Mother Nature, apparently this one hike for me and my hiking partners Fred and Clem, is just not meant to be.