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    Mount Dana
    (Wednesday, July 02, 2003 in Yosemite, CA)

    See also my photo album from this hike.

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    Sarah and I woke up at 6, checked out of our hotel, got some coffee in Lee Vining and drove up Hwy 120 to the parking lot at the Tioga Pass ranger station. We parked in the same place we did the previous day on our hike to Gaylor Lakes and Peak, again hoping no bears came a-sniffing, as no bear boxes were provided. We had most of our food with us anyways so we weren't too worried. We started hiking just before 8:00.

    Flowers on the mountainside It was cool, in the high 40s, as we hiked across Dana Meadows in search of the unofficial trail to Mount Dana. Before too long we found the trail and followed it past numerous small lakelets as it ascended, first gently, then non-gently. After leaving the meadow, the trail zig-zagged rather steeply up towards the large bowl midway up the mountain. Being a Wednesday, there weren't many people about at all, though two hikers, also from the Bay Area did pass us on their way up, and kindly offered to take our picture. As we climbed, our views opened up considerably. Gaylor Peak's red ridge stood prominently to the northwest, and Mammoth Peak rose to the southwest. We continued climbing steeply across rocky terrain, switchbacking our way along the trail and enjoying fine views down into Dana meadows. We saw a terribly cute pair of marmots and stopped to watch them for a bit before continuing. Although unofficial, a guidebook of mine suggested that the path was actually laid down by a naturalist long ago to minimize the impact to the alpine environment, and is not simply one of use.

    We eventually came to a stone cairn that marked the end of the well-defined trail. A couple descended past us - they started hiking at 6:30 (and must have been hiking much faster than us if they were already coming down!). There were a number of informal trails crossing Dana's gigantic bowl, and we took one that headed towards a ridge that looked like it might have a nice view. I was starting to feel slightly woozy at this point, whether from the altitude or from not eating quite enough I wasn't sure. We found another cairn, well-sheltered from the strong wind, and settled in it for a few minutes to have a snack and take some aspirin. After our rest, we The summit was much farther away than it looked hiked over to the edge of the ridge, and sure enough, we were treated to a fantastic view down into the Dana couloir, across the Dana plateau, and out to Mono Lake - cool! We spent a little while here enjoying the excellent scenery, snapped a bunch of photos, then continued on our way.

    We initially set out more or less straight up the ridge, but soon found it a litle too steep for our liking, and definitely too rocky for Sarah's liking. We traversed to the right and came to a well-worn use trail leading up - much better! It was obvious now that the easiest path was towards the right, but then we wouldn't have had the nice ridge view, so I was glad we went the way we did. Sarah complained that her throat was tight - not a good sign! We continued on at a slow pace, stopping frequently, until Sarah decided she'd gone far enough and bade me to go onwards to the summit. Sky Pilot flowers

    She'd climbed nearly all the way anyways, and deciding to stop was definitely the right decision since she wasn't getting enough air. A friendly middle-aged woman passed us as we rested. I liked this, as she could then find the best route to the summit and I could simply follow her :) Several lovely patches of sky pilot were in glorious bloom - I'd never seen this flower before, and stopped to gaze at it several times. I caught the friendly woman right as I summitted, 5 hours after starting out, and we struck up a lively conversation. She was an avid hiker, this being her 5th time on Mt. Dana. She'd done many very long day hikes in the Yosemite area and was quite familiar with the terrain, pointing out the names of various mountains and lakes in our expansive view. To the east were Mono Craters and Boundary Peak, Saddlebag Lake and Mt. Conness to the northwest, Mono Lake to the northeast, and most of the Yosemite high country to the southwest - nice! The nice woman (whose name I never did catch, as it was not thrown) took my picture and I returned the favor. We spent a little while looking for the summit register, but failed to find it. It wasn't where it had been the last time she was here, and I of course had no idea. Oh well. I noticed that I'd been at the summit for 30min or so, and thought it'd be wise to head back down to rejoin Sarah before she got upset that I'd been gone for an hour plus. Mammoth Peak

    Sarah had wisely started heading back down the mountain a bit before I caught her, and didn't mind my tardiness. The descent was rocky, much like the ascent. We skirted a large'ish snow field and I was tempted to do a standing glissade down it, but its bottom wasn't in view and I didn't want to be surprised by a rocky termination to my slide. Too bad, as it would have saved a good deal of hiking. There were a few groups of people making their way up as we descended, but they were taking different routes than us and our paths did not cross. We arrived at the large cairn we'd passed in the morning, and continued down the thankfully less-rocky, but plenty steep, trail back towards Dana Meadows. My feet were starting to ache a bit by now from all of the rocky hiking, but before too long we emerged at the Tioga Pass ranger station, 2 hours 40 minutes after I left the summit.

    This was a fantastic hike - the views were stupendous and encompassing. They certainly didn't come free, though - this was not an easy hike. Our average speed was well under 1mph (although we did spend quite a lot of time stopped to rest, take pictures, enjoy the view, gasp for air, etc.). This defintely ranks as one of the loveliest hikes I've done so far.

    Hike Stats:
    Distance: 5.8mi
    Total Time: 8h 21m (including 30min at the summit and at least 90min stopped along the way)
    Elevation gain: ~3100 feet
    Difficulty: 8.5
    Scenery: 9.5
    Trail condition/markings/etc: N/A - no official trail
    Overall rating: 9.5

    Last modified 08 February, 2011 MST
    Copyright © 2009 Adam R. Paul
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