Buena Vista Crest

Lower Merced Lake to Buena Vista Crest to Mono Meadows Trailhead
(18 miles, +3,100/-4,600 feet).

I was very excited to get up and get started this morning.  Set aside the fact that it was 25 degrees and our water had frozen and I was happy to be moving.  What I was really looking forward to were the views over southern Yosemite from the Buena Vista Crest.

But first, logistics.  The edge of the lake had frozen solid overnight, so we needed to find a way to fill up our water bottles.

Crystal mud
Gorgeous morning stillness

I found a log that laid out into the lake a ways, and I was able to walk past the edge of the ice to get our water for the morning.

Path to water
Be careful!

It stayed cold for a couple of hours after sunrise.  This caught me off guard — I had successfully kept my BeFree water filter above freezing for the night, but it froze while I was hiking.  It also froze Orion’s water line.

Slushy in the Platy

But we weren’t in dire need of water since we weren’t exactly sweating as we climbed up to Buena Vista Crest.

The Clark Range in the distance
A Buena Vista 
Easy cross country
Hoover Lakes below Buena Vista Crest
A ridge to the south of the Crest

The first hour or two on the Crest were lovely as we crossed granite slabs on a ridge that was about 100 feet wide.  But soon the crest started narrowing and becoming much more rocky.  It quickly became a talus slog.

So much talus 😦
And more to come

We decided to get off the ridge for a bit and try our luck in the woods to the south of the ridge, which worked for a while.

Ancient giant

But when we reached another saddle with the ridge, it was clear that talus, talus, and more talus was in our future.  We decided to bail down a chute just to the east of Mount Bruce.

View back towards the Clark Range from our bail-out saddle
View north
View west

Orion and I had a friendly disagreement about whether the descent was class 2 or class 3.  But then he tested and subsequently dislodged a 200 pound boulder when he put his weight on it.  He slammed into the side of the chute, and the boulder crashed down to where I had just been standing moments ago.

Orion was okay, but I relented and agreed that it was class 3.

Class 2?
View from the chute
Coming down from Buena Vista Crest

After about 300 feet of tough descent, things leveled out and it was nice meadows and slabs to get back down to the forest.

Our way forward
An icy seep
Making our way down the slabs

It was great to get out of the steep terrain, and for a while it was absolutely spectacular.

A beautiful unnamed lake at the edge of the woods
Another view
And another

But soon the cross country became quite challenging as we traversed across steep canyons, dropped down more granite cliffs, and bushwhacked through dense evergreen forests.

Starting another descent
A lovely giant

I had run out of water and was planning to fill up at the next lake, but….

I guess we are not getting water there

Fortunately, we found a trail and our progress became much more rapid.  Soon we made it to Buena Vista Creek where we filled up our bottles and ate dinner.

Night starts to fall

We wanted to camp close enough to the trailhead that we could get an early start to San Diego the next day, since I was hosting a Halloween party that evening.  So we decided to keep hiking a couple of hours past sunset.  It was beautiful.

A pinking sky
Mount Starr King

Our plan worked great, but we had a hard time finding a good place to camp.  We were in a very recent burn area, so worried about camping under trees that might fall.  But our alternative was a meadow that turned out to be both cold and damp (yikes!).  We opted for safety over comfort.

Night Camp!

The next morning I awoke to discover that Orion had had a nearly-total failure of his sleep system in our frigid meadow.  In the middle of the night he had to abandon a totally-soaked bivy and sleep on top under down that was soaked.  He was nearly hypothermic.  But he got through it, his bag dried a bit, and he managed to get back to sleep for a while before we had to hit the trail again.

The lovely predawn light
Half lit Half Dome
Bye bye Yosemite

We made it back to the car by 8am and back to San Diego by 3pm — just in time to carve the pumpkin and get ready to had out candy!

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