I’m quickly becoming the opposite of an acrophobic, I love heights! Last year I hiked up Half Dome. This year I admired it from across the valley. Over a weekend one of my pals decided to celebrate his birthday by backpacking up from Tenaya Lake to the summit of Clouds Rest. This celebration entailed hauling up a 35lb pack 7 miles up a mountain, setting up camp at a delicious 9,931ft elevation, and for me grabbing some shots of the Milky Way from the knife-edge of the summit.
Length: 14.5 miles (23.3 km) RT
Duration: 10-12 hours
Elevation: 9,926 feet (3,025 meters)
Total Elevation Gain: 1,775 feet (540 m) over 7 miles
You know all those motivational quotes that highlights the journey over the destination? Clouds Rest is all about the big destination payoff. You’ll spend the majority of the trail huffing and puffing up granite switchbacks surrounded by a cascade of lovely trees. Going up I carried 3L of water in. Our group stopped by a creek next to a really pretty pond 5 miles up the trail to filter and resupply on water before summiting.
Yoga poses! Your calves and quads will thank you for it.
We made our camp roughly 10 minutes south of the summit in the backcountry. For this trip because I prioritized bringing my camera gear with me I ditched my tent I used in Havasupai Falls and opted to sleep between two trees in an ENO Doublenest Hammock. In addition to weighing less and an easy set up the hammock was probably one of the best sleeps I’ve gotten on a camping trip. Literally you’re sleeping under the stars and waking up to the sunrise.
I took a nap here until it was around 7:00pm when it would be time to return to the knife-edge to photograph the sunset and Milky Way. Gear wise I left all of my DSLR things at home and took up a Fujifilm mirrorless instead. The mirrorless kit I put together weighed significantly less. The Fujifilm XT-1 plus lens in a case weighs a much as my Nikon D800 body alone.
My friend and I hiked back up to the summit just in time for sundown. I ended up taking a nap again at the knife-edge while waiting for the stars to come out. After a full day of loaded hiking the altitude will fatigue you by the evening.
It was finally dark enough to photograph the stars around 10:30pm. I switched between the 18mm and 10-24mm on the XT-1 to frame the sky. This was my first trip out with the XT-1, solid camera! …Except it reinforces my dislike for electronic view finders (EVF.) With EVF what you see is what you get and it’s extraordinary helpful –assuming you can see what you’re shooting. Since I was shooting in pitch black conditions the XT-1’s viewfinder was useless and I was essentially shooting from the hip via tripod to frame up my shots.
Vlog (for a more personal look):
Yosemite Clouds Rest – yosemitehikes.com/tioga-road/clouds-rest/clouds-rest.htm