Clouds Rest

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

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.

Quick Facts

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

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

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.

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Yoga poses! Your calves and quads will thank you for it.

Clouds Rest Yoga by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

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.

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

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.

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Dear fellow camera nerds from here on out the rest of my images were taken with a Fujifilm XT-1. All prior photos were from a Canon G7X.

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.

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

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.

This was my second attempt at shooting stars at night (my first was the Northern Lights.) For each shot I locked the camera down on a tripod for 30-second exposures between ISO 1600-2000.

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

 

Equipment Used:

Clouds Rest by Melly Lee (mellylee.com)

Camera:

Fujifilm XT-1
Canon G7X

Lens: 
Fujifilm 18mm/2
Fujifilm 10-24mm/4
Fujifilm 35mm/1.4

Accessories:

MeFoto Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod

Vlog (for a more personal look):

 

Links:

Yosemite Clouds Rest – yosemitehikes.com/tioga-road/clouds-rest/clouds-rest.htm

4 Comments

  • Hi Melly! Love the post and images. I do have two questions. First: how do you focus on the stars when you can’t see them that well? Second, every time I try to take an image of the night sky my 30-second exposure is not enough, but that’s the maximum shutter speed my camera will go to. Is it just my camera? What settings would you recommend I mess around with? Perhaps I just need to move to a less polluted area?
    Thanks for sharing all your adventures with us–always insightful and appreciated. ^_^

    • Hi Diana,

      First you need to go to a really dark area free from light pollution. If you watch my vlog you’ll see that my friend and I climbed up Clouds Rest to find a spot to shoot from then waited around for another 2 hours after sunset so that there would be zero ambient light. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bs2bO0B3W5c

      Second you simply manual focus at infinity. Then bump up your ISO and shoot at a fast aperture. I couldn’t use my viewfinder, but I’ve been shooting long enough to have make a good estimate of how my shot was composed.

      Good luck!

  • Looks amazing! makes me really wish I lived in areas with such great mountain scape. Do you guys not have to worry about bugs? I live in the prairies and bugs are a constant annoyance…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *