GAYLOR PEAK (11,004') 3X AND LEMBERT DOME (9,450') 3X May 22, 2007

After weeks of walking locally, with mostly driving-less days, I noted the absence of snow this early in this season. Seeing the live cams of Yosemite National Park, I figured to chance a few, early, spring ascents. I would attempt Mt. Hoffman (10,850'), Tioga Peak (11,513'), and Mt. Dana (13,053'). I have done all of these peaks several times, but it was time to get back to the High Sierra!

Tioga Pass was open early this year, and warmer temperatures were forecast for this midweek. I'd leave early to bag two on the first day, and then Dana, after a camp in Lee Vining Canyon.

Phoning the park information, there appeared to be no way anymore to speak with a live person. The recording said all roads were open. I knew some of the side roads I needed to take may be closed by drifts, but hoped that the snow had been removed or had melted out.

Asleep by midnight, I woke up at 3:30 a.m., Tuesday. I left home by 5 a.m., and made good time headed up CA 120, after a quick breakfast in Oakdale, CA.

Arriving at the Big Oak Flat Entrance Station wilderness office, I found that the May Lake and the Saddlebag Lake roads were gated closed. These are the approach roads to the peaks I wished to climb. I decided to head up anyway, and perhaps just do Mt. Dana.

Yes, the roads were chained or blocked closed at their start, and the extra walking would have resulted in me coming back well after dark. Not really worth it for a 4x and a 5x.

I stared at Mt. Dana from Tioga Pass. There was snow over the use trail route, and it was colder and windier than I had hoped for. About 10 a.m., I opted to do Gaylor Peak. This would be an easier hike, and not be as risky as Dana with icy snow.

The trail to Gaylor Lakes led, over snow and water, to the Sierra Crest. I headed northward cross-country along the ridge, and crossed more snow enroute to the top. The snow hiking was mostly firm enough, although I postholed to my knees at one point. I had to don a parka due to the chill wind, then topped out after an hour and about five minutes.

Snapping many photos, I'd post these as a report on conditions. Perhaps Holiday travelers might find some useful. Many routes looked good as far as being snow free. If I had had time, Tioga Peak would have been good. The west ridge up Mt. Gibbs was also bare, and I recalled hiking down this class 1 route many years ago.

Headed back down, I ran into two other hikers. Then back to the Tioga Pass parking, I went back into the park, and down to Tuolumne Meadows. It was still early in the day, so I chose to do Lembert Dome. I do count this, as easy as it is, since it offers a popular trail hike, nice views, and fine rock climbing on its sides.

Higher up, the trail crosses a creek, and then a flooded area. Logs and rocks make for stepping over the water. There was no snow to hike over. The trail junctions are well marked. The final few hundred feet are done on the sloping granite rock of the dome, and one duck marks out a route. We climbed the direct class 3 route, my first time, and then saw the ranger-led group coming across the easier south, then west, side.

Taking then an hour and fifteen minutes to climb it, I enjoyed the views, and snapped away. Clouds formed overhead, and I began to worry about lightning danger. It was pretty chilly with the strong, cold wind, and I could hardly hold my camera steady. Two more hikers came up, then left. I started down, and back into the trees, relaxed a bit.

Back to the car by about 3:30 p.m., I saw some climbers coming back from the rock routes.

Motoring back west on 120, I stopped at the newly revamped Olmsted Point vista. Sauntering up the slabs to the hill in back of the view, I shot many more photos of Clouds Rest and Half Dome. More of Tenaya Lake is seen from the top of this hill, and I saw two marmots. I wore three layers due to the lower temperatures, and carried only my cameras up this rock hill.

I resolved to get back early, and get this account up faster. I had some food back in Oakdale, and observed a banal sunset while headed north on U.S. 99.

Hiking then about 5.5 miles with 2,200' gain, I shot 470 images but with no movie clips. I used less than a full tank of gas, spending then some $30 for that. A few more dollars for food and drink, and the day had been set. The total drive was under 400 miles, and I made soup once back home. Good.