Friday, November 3, 2017

Perhaps a Last Look at Some Yosemite High Country (for the Winter, Anyway)

"Half" Dome from Washburn Point
I made the trek up the hill to see Yosemite last weekend, with a field trip on the valley floor on Saturday with my students, and a quieter tour in the high country with Mrs. Geotripper on Sunday. We headed up Glacier Point Road to gain a unique perspective on Yosemite Valley and the higher country above. With a fairly powerful storm arriving tonight, it is at least conceivable that the road could close for the winter due to snow. There was certainly a mood of closing down. The road was uncrowded, and so were the parking lots. The curio shop at Glacier Point was closed for the season.
Yosemite high country, with Mt. Broderick, Liberty Cap, and Nevada Fall in the foreground.
Many people who travel to Glacier Point tend to be single-minded in their quest, and often miss one of the truly spectacular viewpoints the road has to offer: Washburn Point. It is perched at the 7,400 foot level above the Merced River directly across from "Half" Dome. It is from this point that the misnomer is most obvious. If anything, Half Dome should have been named "Four-fifths Dome".
Nevada Fall on the upper Merced River
There is a stupendous view towards the high country of Little Yosemite Valley and the headwaters of the Merced River. The effect of glaciation is apparent everywhere. Glacial stairsteps, caused by pervasive vertical fractures in the granite ("joints"), were the origin of the two major waterfalls on the Merced River, Nevada Fall (594 feet, above), and Vernal Fall (317 feet, below). Along the skyline above, the glacially-carved horns, aretes, and cirques can be seen. It's wild and beautiful country.
Vernal Fall from Washburn Point
I imagine Washburn Point gets less traffic than Glacier Point because it doesn't look down on the main part of Yosemite Valley. That's okay with me. It's notable that not a single road is visible from Washburn. One is looking at wilderness, something that is sorely lacking in the more populated parts of Yosemite National Park.
North Dome and Basket Dome on the north side of Yosemite Valley. Mt. Hoffman rises in the distance.