The view of Yosemite Valley from the top of Half Dome.

Day 02 of JMT Revisited (June 24, 2004)

What an eventful day. Not much progress, and now I am wondering about the future of our trip... Here is what happened.

I had a pretty good night, only a few cramps. Also, hip pains. But basically, I slept through, except up once to pee. We all were up by 7:30 am, but everyone was slow to do anything. Some of the boys fished. Elliot and Ken pumped the water. Tim dared me to go swimming in the river – and I did, in the nude to surprise him. He wasn’t surprised at all.

We finally left camp at 9:03 am. From camp, we hiked 2.2 miles to the Half Dome trail junction. That took an hour, which is pretty good cause it was also an 800’ gain.

We dumped our packs at the trail junction and climbed Half Dome. Unbelievable hard! First mile and a half was easy. Then we got to the base of the rock. It was rock stairs straight up for at least a 1000’ climb – with no distance gain at all. All the boys said that was the hardest part, but not for me. After the rock stairs came the ropes. Unbelievable. According to my altitude watch, the ropes went exactly straight up for 400’. That’s were I died. I know the numbers don’t add up – but the Half Dome trip from the trail junction was a 2 mile, 1300’ hike. Not even as hard as Baldy. But it was one of the most difficult climbs I have ever done.

The view was incredible. I saw the entire Valley and much more. I was on top at 11:40 – my goal was 11:30. Then things started not to go so well. Ken went down the ropes because he wasn’t feeling well. He started throwing up. We ran out of water. We got back to the trail junction at about 1:15. I was shot and didn’t want to hike much more, especially up hill. Since we were out of water, we decided to hike 0.5 miles to find some.

We found some water quickly… Ken didn’t want to stop because hiking is better than laying around when you don’t feel good. I went with him while everybody else pumped water. We agreed that we would stop at 3:30 – which would have put us at least 2 miles ahead – at about the same place that we stopped three years ago, but on the first day, not the second.

Ken got ahead of me on the trail – I was feeling pretty bad. I finally caught up with him as he took a vomit break. We decided to stop and camp. Elliot found a great place – high and flat and used before.

This was at 3:30 pm. Everybody was not feeling good. We had done the whole day on breakfast, which was two granola bars per person. We set up a great camp. Elliot made an early dinner: macaroni and cheese, and hot dogs. Afterwards, I took a nap, and the dishes got cleaned. Then everyone laid around, sort of bored. We played some cards. Then Elliot spotted a BEAR! He was trying to open our bear canisters. I tried to scare him away. I ran at him while banging pots together, and the bear grabbed some trash and ran away – about 50’ from the camp.

But the bear wouldn’t go away. It kept creeping back and it stopped being scared of us. It just kept waiting – and we kept looking at it. A few rocks were thrown. The bear laid down and slept (?) for about 30 minutes. Later, when it stood up again, Tim waved a walking stick and it charged! Everyone who saw this ran like crazy. We all were very scared. Elliot and I were working – so we didn’t see the whole thing, but we saw the bear stop running and stand in the middle of our camp.

At this point we decided that we had to move the camp. I had everyone who was afraid to return to camp to start to pump water and pack on the trail below the camp. Elliot and I grabbed stuff to carry down to the others like crazy. The bear came back again and charged both Elliot and me. I could not believe how fast he moved – for such a huge animal his strength and quickness was amazing. Like complete idiots, we stood our ground. The bear stopped about 6 feet short of us. I remember staring at a huge scare on his nose. He was standing right in front of us, and I felt totally helpless and exposed. I hadn’t really been scared until that point

Thankfully, it backed off a few feet, and then went behind a large rock. Many of our packs where leaning against this rock. The bear played peek-a-boo with me, going from on side of the rock to the other. After luring me to one side away from the packs, he rushed to the other side and grabbed Curtis’s pack with one hand and ran off with it.

Elliot and I, and now Ken (who was also trying to take pictures) continued to carry the rest of our stuff down to the trail where the others were packing it up. The bear returned to the kitchen area before we could recover all of our food canisters… We were too afraid to try to retrieve the canisters, but while the bear was working on the canisters, we recovered Curtis’s backpack. It took many trips to get all the stuff down to the trail. We tried to stay bunched so the bear wouldn’t attack us. Finally, we got all the gear down to the trail, except four food canisters and two water bottles. The bear had taken to trying to open the canisters by throwing them over his shoulder.

Our plan was to hike another mile down the trial and set up a new camp – then go back and get the canisters. We did, and found a fairly okay place to camp at about 7:30pm. We decided to try to retrieve the canisters first thing in the morning.

So, now, one-half of our food is gone. Many of us are very scared. Also Ken is very sick – he has thrown up everything that he has eaten today, since breakfast.

We are about 0.5 miles short of the 7860’ trail junction near Sunrise Creek.