Vernal Falls Hike
The Vernal Falls hike started in the South East corner of
the valley map which was some three miles from the
information centre - I made use of the free shuttle bus and
started on my way. Along I walked, following the trail signs
and map; the only tricky part was recognising the path as it
was under a blanket of snow, but so far there were plenty of
footprints to follow.
The path wound around the lower edges of the mountains, up
and down crevices and under the trees. When the path became
exposed to the sky it was clear that I had gained altitude
by the level of snow on the ground, it gave me a giddy
feeling to think that I was venturing further and further
into the snow line. Eventually I came to a bridge and a fork
in the path - the shorter path, the Mist Trail, was closed,
but the longer John Muir Trail was still open. Looking at
the map I decided that I didn't have enough time or energy
to do the John Muir trail, which had many
switchbacks, I hopped over the gate and took to the Mist
Trail. I wondering whether this was such a good idea, what
could cause it to be closed, and why there were other
footprints already here in the snow.
At Lower Vernal Falls I could see my objective,
and the distance I had come already.
So this was the last part of the journey to Vernal Falls
Top, a slug up many granite steps and steep sloping paths.
Shortly after joining the Mist Trail I noticed a lot of
disturbed earth and chunks of ice on the ground, where were
these from? Icicles! Overhead there hung huge icicles which
had probably cracked in the morning sun and fallen onto the
Hmm, I hastened past this part, picking my way through
the ice chunks as best I could. Up and up, exposed to the
elements and spray now, I could feel the weather coming in.
It was a case of walking up many steps here rather than the
switchbacks of the previous day; for obvious reasons I saw
very few people coming down, only a family who were standing
in an arch under a big rocky outcrop - I stopped to rest a
while, and it seems someone had gone on to check out the
route ahead, and subsequently returned with bad news. They
didn't say anything to me, they just turned around and
started back down. On my way up I discovered why they had
The falls were quite a sight! The water cascaded down and
was caught on many of the jagged rocks, creating multiple
fast flowing riverlets and strange ice formations which were
coloured by minerals in the surrounding rock;
the mist must have been
settling on the steps to the right which lead to the top of
the falls, I had to traverse these steps unaided until I
could grab the railing (in the picture). Just another
exciting day in Yosemite!
The ice here was amazing, I noticed formations not only
over the steps but over everything nearby - even the leaves
on bushes had thick ice on them. Singing: "Hey, can ya hear
me, Hey, something or other, a something something,
something something, Walking in a Winter Wonderland!"
All this ice was beginning to make me feel a bit cold, and
standing about wasn't something I wanted to do so I kept on
going. The final few steps were almost behind the falls,
along the same cliff face, and thankfully were covered in snow rather
When I made it to the top I was greeted by a
group who had come around the long John Muir Trail, they
told me it was a long and torturous route and they elected
to take the risky Mist Trail rather than go back that way -
I decided I would do the same once I had had a look around
at the top there. It was very snowy; the Emerald Pool was
covered in snow (right), even under the trees was
covered in snow.
I found a self-contained toilet which was
so cold inside there was no smell - hurrah! In reality it
was little more than a deep hole in the ground covered by a
tube and a lid inside a little hut. I wandered around the
top a while longer before returning to the falls themselves,
I could see the people I had just met were already way down below,
carefully picking their way down the snowy granite steps.
The weather took a turn for the worse. Now was a good time
to get off this mountain before I froze to death in the
blizzard, to be found years later as a frozen and perfectly
preserved mummy in the ice...
The reason you can't see much in this picture is because of
the blizzard, not mist or fog. I was really beginning to
feel the cold now so hastened back down, and this time I
managed to return to the valley floor before it got dark. I
met the gang I saw at the top of the falls way down on the
bridge at Lower Vernal Falls... Snowball fight!!!
On the bus back to the hostel I met a few of the people I
had seen that morning - one particular guy told me of his
day snowboarding, and since I already had that in mind I was
more determined than ever to try it, I would have to get the
early bus into Yosemite Valley if I was to catch the 8.30am
bus to Badger Pass. Later that evening I was chatting with
some people who had been skiing that day at Badger Pass,
they told me that the weather was becoming ideal for
learners - fresh deep snow which was forecast to continue
for the next few days. I couldn't wait!