Photographer:Andrew M. Upchurch
Camera:Nikon N80
Film:Fuji Pro 400H

Hiking to Yosemite's Iconic Diving Board

Retracing the steps of Ansel Adams for a night of cowboy camping on the shoulder of Half Dome

Sometimes I feel as though I have seen all that Yosemite has to offer. Tunnel View, Taft Point, Glacier Point, maybe even Yosemite Falls—all the hotspots the Instagram photographers post. Maybe that’s all of it? Can I pack my bags and go home now?

The reality is that this could not be further from the truth. It does not take very much creativity to find other points of interest in Yosemite, especially if you like to hike.

Browsing through any Ansel Adams photography book will provide ideas faster than the Merced River flows in flood stage. In fact, one of my favorite photographs of his provided the inspiration for this particular trek, as I desperately wished to see the place from where Adams captured his famed “Monolith, the Face of Half Dome” photo. I expected the place to be amazing, but my expectations were blown away.

"I could not contain my excitement and let out a wild whoop of joy"

Our route took us past Vernal and Nevada falls along Yosemite’s Mist Trail. The remaining snow from the mountains, melting in full force in the summer heat, resulted in tremendous water volume over the granite cliffs. Despite being tempted to sit and watch the water for hours on end, we continued toward our destination.

Past the waterfalls, the trail became quite adventurous and our journey required us to leave the established trail and bushwhack for a bit. Following a faint climbers trail that was sometimes not visible at all, we balanced along exposed ledges and scrambled up steeply inclined talus fields, finally arriving at our destination. Upon seeing the Diving Board from a distance, situated on Half Dome's shoulder, I could not contain my excitement and let out a wild whoop of joy. Though we’re not used to rating the work of Mother Nature, this place topped Taft Point by far.

Expectations can be very misleading, often leading to one of two opposite effects—ridiculous excitement or profound letdown. They can make one stay stagnant, unmoved, riveted in their position. But this trip, this place, shattered my expectations in so many ways. From the views that no photograph can wholly capture to my new friends who were down to backpack with little more than sneakers and a non-stuff sleeping bag, I discovered that my engrained way of thinking rarely realizes the entirety of all possibilities. What a strange and beautiful world we live in…

see more beautiful photography from Yosemite and the Eastern Sierra here

Andrew Upchurch lives and works in Yosemite National Park. His enthusiasm for film photography compels him into the backcountry, up rock walls, and generally keeps his wallet thin and his outlook carefree.
Related Reading:
An Experiment in Film Photography Among California's Fabled Alabama Hills
Finding Magic With 24 Hours in Yosemite National Park
Experimental Exposures From the California Wilderness
Mile High Camping In Yosemite National Park