Sunday, August 18, 2013

Relaxing in Lyell Canyon (Part 2)

(GPS: N37 47.855 W119 15.705)
Continuing from the last blog I stated the real purpose of this hike was just to get a good view of Mt. Lyell. I'd seen it many times from other mountains, but wanted to get a closer view to it. I can't remember how long it took us to get to the following point. Somewhere in the two to three hour range where the area opened up again for a big meadow and a pretty good view of Mt. Lyell.
Mt. Lyell is the high point of Yosemite. It is around 13,120 feet in elevation which beats out the towering Mt. Dana by about 60 feet.
A little closer and zooming in. Both Dana and Lyell were named after well known geologists that when I was younger I read some about.
A final zoom to show the glacier. Some notes about this one:
It was in August, 1872 that John Muir climbed to the ice and the one on nearby Mount Maclure which he believed were glaciers. This helped support his ideas about Yosemite being formed by glaciers rather than uplift.
In 1933 some hikers came across a mummified body of a bighorn sheep. It was a bit eerie since bighorn sheep had been extinct in Yosemite for fifty years. There is a picture of a ranger with it if you do some searches. The thought was that if the sheep was at the top of the mountain and fell into a crevasse, then the rate of the glacier taking it to where the hikers saw it would have taken about 250 years to get to the point.
Now the sad news. When I did this hike it was still considered a glacier. As of a study taken last summer it was determined that "Lyell Glacier" is considered a dead glacier. So, now it is just considered an ice patch. I'll list the articles below that discuss this.
At this point the hike was basically over as far as what we intended to do. It was just a little further on the trail it starts to swtichback and climb. I went ahead and did about twenty more minutes to see what it was like. It did start to get a little a lot more interesting at this point, but it was time to turn around.
While we were heading on back the clouds started to show up and then things started to get dark. By the time we got within a few miles of where we parked it started pouring rain.
This is looking back into the canyon we had just hiked. The rain made things interesting, but by about that time I just wanted to get back to the car. I think our total was around 18 miles on this one.

Overall it was worth doing once, but probably nothing I will do again. The forest trees, then big meadows back and forth were nice the first few miles, but then the repetition started to take the fun out of it. I remember wondering how I would present this as video and pictures because it was really the same thing back and forth most of the hike. With practically no elevation there was really no sense of change.

If you are wondering what it takes to climb Mt. Lyell then it's around 26 miles with about a 4,500 ft elevation change. While I encountered a some of the mileage I did very little elevation since that would have started right about where I left off. The trick is what time of the year one does this hike because the final approach with the ice is key.

Have I ever desired to climb this mountain? Not really. It's nice to look at, and I saw it again recently from the top of another mountain which reminded me that I had not said anything about it on the blog since I did this hike last year. I'd consider climbing it if I could spend the night with the right people, but I'm at the point where I'm not as ambitious about mountain climbs as I used to be.

I think I have read and heard a lot more stories of people who have attempted this mountain, but were denied compared to those who were successful. I have a High Sierra neighbor that did this mountain hike at the end of the season. He did it later in the fall as a day hike. Since he did it at this time of the year he and his partner did not realize how much day light time they needed to do it. They did not have flashlights with them, it got really dark as they returned, and then the snow started coming down. They could barely see the trail in front of them. Nature does not play by rules. They were lucky they got back safely. He admitted that could have been a really bad situation.

Relaxing in Lyell Canyon (Youtube Version)

Relaxing in Lyell Canyon (Vimeo Version)

Two articles on the death of Lyell's Glacier:

California's Vanishing Glaciers

Dying Glaciers of California

The music from that I used in the video is called Clean Soul.