Mile High Camping in Yosemite National Park
A night of rare solitude atop iconic granite in the heart of the park and height of a no-show winter season
Andrew M. Upchurch
Andrew M. Upchurch
Winter failed to arrive in Yosemite in any regular manner this year. Through December hardly a brief blip on the forecast registered. January passed with barely a dusting of snow, and even that nearly vanished the next day. By the end of February I had given up any hope for the snowy experiences that I treasure most in Yosemite.
Even the ski area in Yosemite National Park remained shuttered for the season, meaning my dream job of winter hiking guide would have to wait yet another year—maybe more if this drought persists. All of the adventures I looked forward to most over the previous year were thrust violently back to the corners of my mind. My heart and soul were heavy. So naturally, I took to the trail.
With almost no snow in the middle of February, this was the best option I could think of to help me settle down. With the Glacier Point road closed, the South Rim of the Yosemite Valley was open to backcountry wilderness travel, so my buddy Ken and I secured an overnight permit and headed for Taft Point.
"Waking up and seeing the sun rise on El Capitan was pretty incredible. I should probably mention that too."
Long story short and to my pleasant surprise, a better backpacking trip could not have been imagined—just what my fretful mind needed. Sure, temps stayed low and the piercing wind never relented as we trekked along the exposed ridge, but we arrived at Taft Point, of all places, with not a single other soul to greet us.
Ken and I briefly split during golden hour, allowing us each to soak in the magnificent sunset on our own terms. We reconvened as blue hour ended and stayed awake well into the night, conversing about life, adventures, frustrations, and thrills as we watched the stars slowly turn above us.
Waking up and seeing the sun rise on El Capitan without having to do more than sit up was pretty incredible. I should probably mention that too.