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.
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.
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.
But we weren’t in dire need of water since we weren’t exactly sweating as we climbed up to Buena Vista 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.
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.
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.
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.
After about 300 feet of tough descent, things leveled out and it was nice meadows and slabs to get back down to the forest.
It was great to get out of the steep terrain, and for a while it was absolutely spectacular.
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.
I had run out of water and was planning to fill up at the next lake, but….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!