MT. HOFFMAN (10,850') 4X, TIOGA PEAK (11,513') 5X June 20-21, 2009

With another fee-free weekend offered by the National Park Service, I could hardly stay home! I recalled my similarly induced climbs of Mt. Hoffman and Mt. Dana back in 2002, so figured on repeating this agenda.

Leaving home by about 7 a.m., I had gotten up early, special for this savings, some $20 for Yosemite National Park. Filling up in Oakdale, CA, at 2.839, I had a breakfast sandwich.

But upon my arrival to May Lake Trailhead (about 8,500 feet elevation), I seemed to be staggering and dizzy due to what I wasn't sure. Was it the altitude? I feared for losing my balance and getting badly hurt. I took my full heavy day climbing pack in case I had to stay out overnight due to being immobilized, and started up the trail at 11:38 a.m. The hike to the top had a bit more snow than I remembered the other time. I brought my ice ax but no gaitors. I remembered the route correctly, and gasped at how fast the time was slipping by.

Seeing another climber ahead of me, that helped. He was the only one to summit besides me and one other, this afternoon. In 2002, on a bright sunny day, dozens of hikers were achieving the top. Today, dark clouds began to come in. I took a short break to see what would happen, then a break in the clouds promised to float overhead. I had a time doing the class 2 slabs near the top, and appalled myself with a climb time of 3:10. It took me about two hours, last time!

I began snapping photos with dramatic light, and captured over 600 images this weekend. I used my telephoto zoom and panorama settings. The other hiker was also enjoying the rare stormy view, and I paid no mind to the solar-powered facility situated on the summit, perhaps weather or communications equipment.

He began to hike back down, having taken a different way. I figured to not be the last one on the mountain, though I was. Headed down at about 3:35 p.m., I navigated well enough and followed my footsteps in the snow. May Lake made for a grand view.

Some hikers were coming up the trail to the lake, and I came back to my car at 6 p.m., in a fair time. I was surprised to see no mosquitoes at all this weekend. Perhaps the colder and windier weather allowed for that!

Taking CA 120 east, I took two photos of Clouds Rest and Half Dome. I stopped for photos of Tuolumne Meadows in low light, then a few mountain peaks in the dusk. Heading for the Mono Lake vista point, I was reminded why I like the Eastern Sierra!

Hungry with a headache, I declined to wait to shoot the sunset, and instead got a big juicy cheeseburger at an old haunt, now being some 39 years that I have patronized this classic Lee Vining establishment.

Motoring back west up the Tioga Pass Highway, I quickly found a campspot, now $14, and tried to settle in, sleeping in my car. Plenty of other campers and a camp host made for some safety, me worried about camping mostly alone.

The 21st, I motored back into town for the restaurant's 6 a.m. opening time, and had my standard sausage and eggs plate, which with coffee, now comes to over $10. The satisfaction of a good breakfast made this worthwhile. My headache went away, and I was ready to climb something.

Mt. Dana looked cold with the wind, and perhaps too much for me, now. I got a soda at the resort and took the road toward Saddleback Lake, driving slowly on the gravel and pavement. At the trailhead, I sat in my car sipping my cold diet cola drink and waited for the sun to hit.

Starting then at about 8 a.m., I took the steep trail up to Gardisky Lake. Doing a bit better this day, I shortly left the trail and hopped the creek to ascend the westnorthwest ridge of Tioga Peak. Finding the scree trail fast, I soon gained altitude and hoped for an easy summit. This being less than 2,000 feet gain, I began to regret that I had not made reservations this night for an economy chain motel in Mammoth Lakes. Their Net rate was the lowest that I have seen it, there, and I hopefully would then feel much better and be acclimated, to do even another peak.

I reached the top at about 10 a.m., with an almost cloudless sky, and started my photography. There is still plenty of snow in the backcountry, and I presumed that ice axes would be required for many a peak climb into July.

Another two hikers appeared, with a dog, and we chatted a bit. I looked through the register, with my old book back to 2005, and another small notebook with my double sign-in. I had a book ready to go, but my old nesting cans were too small for all of them. I'll have to come back in two or three years, as so many pages had been skipped, to be left blank, by the entrants.

I mused over bagging Lembert Dome again, this day, but I dislike counting such easy peaks too many times. It wouldn't then appear that the light would be any sort of being magical, as last time. I left the top of Tioga Peak at 11:35 a.m.

With a few more photos, I came back to my car a bit after 1 p.m., and got two more ice cold cans of diet lemon-lime soda. With my car, I motored slowly westward down the CA 120 highway. I had no urgent need to see U.S. 395 again, and would be quickly back to the Central Valley by heading this way home. I had my share of photos, and wanted to load them onto my website, including now a few panoramas.

I stopped again at Olmsted Point, and snapped a few more photos. Driving along the highway, I was enthralled by the light through the forest, and wished I had a HD camcorder mounted on my car to capture what I was seeing. It was absolutely gorgeous! I took a quick rest break at the Tuolumne Grove parking lot, left the park, and had a fast chicken sandwich in Oakdale.

Home well before dark, I had driven about 430 miles, and hiked roughly 12 miles with 4,000' gain. I captured so many photos, taking some time to review them. I spent about $70 in cash, charging up nothing. Perhaps using 10 gallons of gas, I will include my carbon emissions for these past two years in my next carbon offset donation.

Wearing four layers on Tioga Peak, I had needed only a medium pullover on Mt. Hoffman. I used my summer bag for my sleeping, with a heavy jacket also doing me fine. Delighted at the complete absence of mosquitoes, that should end with warmer weather. I used gobs of old sunblock, and some herbal repellant expecting some blood-sucking swarms, but that was unnecessary. A good, short, classic weekend, and a double peak climb!