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Red Peak Pass Loop '08

54.52 mi;  +14,610' elevation
October 1-4, 2008
Yosemite National Park
Dave Sholer, Jared Atkins


October 1
We left Woodland around 1pm and got to the Big Oak Flat wilderness permit office at 4:15pm, 15 minutes before it closed. If we would have been later, we would have had to change plans, since we would have had to wait the next  morning for the permit office in the Valley to open. We got dinner at Curry Village, parked our car at the trailhead parking, and hiked back to the backpackers to camp. We stayed in this camp a few months prior, before doing the Double Half Dome Ascent.  We got to sleep by 8pm. Since we had originally planned to do this trek in May (when the snow made the pass unpassable), we put it off until the end of the season. We forgot about how much shorter the days had gotten since our Mt. Whitney Cross-Sierra hike 2 months prior. The sunset was around 6:45pm now.
October 2
17.79 miles; +7,158' elevation
We woke up at 5:00am, broke down our tent and hiked to the trailhead parking, where we stashed the extra gear we used during the night (bigger tent, air mattress, street clothes, etc.). We hiked the first 30-45 minutes before sunrise, encountering few other hikers. We reached the summit of Half Dome by just after 11:00am. We stayed on top for only about 35-40 minutes, since we had been up twice already this season and needed to hike on.  There were <20 people on top when we left, but large groups creating traffic on the cables when we headed down. We encountered an adolescent bear at the Half Dome Trail/JMT Split. He didn't seem to mind us and let us watch from about 50 feet away for 5 minutes. From this point forward we encountered 1 pair of hikers this day, 2 group the next, and then no more until we passed Glacier Point on Day 3.  We had dinner at around 4pm, just short of Echo Valley. We passed Merced Lake and at about 6:15pm found ourselves at Merced Lake High Sierra Camp. No one was around, but there were plenty of NICE established campsites, complete with firepits and log benches.  It had been awhile since we stayed at an established camp in the backcountry, and there was no one around, so we decided to stop about 1.25 miles short and stay there for the night. We built a fire and enjoyed it until around 10pm.
 October 3
20.42 miles; +5,393' elevation
We woke up at 5:45am, broke down camp, and started hiking by 6:15am. It was a cold day in which the sun rarely broke through the clouds. The forecast we saw before leaving predicted rain showers in the afternoon, and all of the next day. We knew we needed to hike quickly to get up and over Red Peak Pass before there was any chance of slippery rocks or worse, lightning. We got to the Red Peak Pass/Isberg Pass trail junction at around 11:15am. The next ~6 mi to the top of the pass was much longer that it seemed on paper. The wind was increasing, the temperature dropping as we gained altitude, and the trail winds away from the pass at a couple points, which doesn't help when trying to beat the rain. When we reached the top of the pass at just before 3:00pm, the actual temperature was around 46 degrees F, not factoring in the wind. It took about an hour to descend to Lower Ottoway Lake, where we ate dinner and pumped water. After an hour's time, we continued on, trying to get as far as possible before the early sunset. We found a decent place to camp that had a recently-made firepit. That was very coincidental since there were no other established sites anywhere nearby, but someone must have made this make-shift pit very recently, and we happened to stop there. After setting up camp, we enjoyed another fire for about an hour when we started rain drops. We headed to sleep as the sprinkling finally started (around 8pm), grateful to have made it over the pass before the forecasted showers started.
October 4
16.31 miles; +2,059' elevation
The sound of the "rain" went on all night. When we woke up at 6am, we found it was actually snow! It was only about 40 degrees, which was a bummer, because the snow was becoming more of a slush. We broke down camp and got hiking as quickly as possible to get warm. We got probably only 4-5 inches of snow, which decreased as we descended in elevation, but it took longer to transverse the slushy trail. The slush turned into a light rain the continued for most of the rest of our hike. We got to Glacier Point by 11:30am, finding that the gift shop (with sandwiches!) was closed. Eerily, there was no one around. No one. I think the brief amount of snow closed the road for the day. We started the descent down the Four-Mile Trail as the rain/wind picked up. When we got to the trailhead at around 1:30pm, we found that the bus shuttle was not operating to that location due to re-paving in the Yosemite Valley. We had to hike over to Yosemite Village to pick up a SLOW shuttle to our car.