- Expedition: Nov 10-14, 2007
- Kingsburg and Madera HS
- Yosemite National Park
Six students from Madera and Kingsburg High Schools joined WildLink for its second expedition this year, from November 10-14. Their adventures included a challenging hike up into Little Yosemite Valley, as well as summitting both Liberty Cap and Cloud's Rest.
What quickly turned into an incredible, outrageous adventure started out with many surprises. The expedition instructors Sarah and Sal greeted the students at Yosemite Institute's Crane Flat campus that morning to find out that there were only six students coming on the expedition. Originally the number had been twelve. Though it was disappointing that more students could not have this phenomenal experience, the small number sped up our bonding process and intensified the friendships that developed.
The other major surprise was that the Glacier Point Road closed due to snow the night before we left into the backcountry. We had planned on starting at the Mono Meadow trailhead, so that our first day of backpacking was the easiest. At the time we thought it was unfortunate, because it meant we had to start in Yosemite Valley and climb 2,000 feet of elevation with heavy packs on the first day. However, the challenge that was place in front of these students was too much for them. One of the recurring themes of this trip was overcoming difficulties. That first morning with fully-loaded packs, we started our hike at Happy Isles, making it a mile and a half and over 1,000 feet of gain to the top of Vernal Falls by lunch. Our timing was anything but perfect, because the only rain during our trip fell while we were sitting still and eating lunch. It successfully chilled all of us to the bone, but we warmed up pretty quickly during the next mile and a half to the top of Nevada Falls. We made it to Little Yosemite Valley before sunset and set up camp, got water from the river, collected wood, and enjoyed our hot burrito dinner by a warm fire. The temperate in Little Yosemite Valley easily dipped below a freezing 32 degrees every night.
The next morning's surprise was that we were going to be unable to move camp. We were planning on packing up our tents and hiking two miles up another 1,000 feet to Sunrise Creek, where we would set ourselves up for hiking to the top of Cloud's Rest the next day. But while the students were filling their water in the morning, Sarah ran to bottom of Sunrise Creek to find that the riverbed was dry. The rangers in the Visitor Center had been unable to tell us if the creek would be running or not, but they supposed it would be. So rather than pack up and move camp, we left our tents where they were and set off on a somewhat short, but exciting adventure for the day. By this point the students had taken over much of the leadership and learned how to use topographic maps, so they led the way as we attempted to climb Mt. Broderick and Liberty Cap, which perch at steep domes above Nevada Falls.
We made it within fifty feet of the summit of Mt. Broderick until we stopped for lunch beneath a headwall. It wasn't disappointing at all, because we knew we could make it up Liberty Cap, which is a few hundred feet taller than Mt. Broderick. After lunch, we crossed a nearly-dry creek bed in order to begin climbing Liberty Cap, which turned into a fantastic adventure. While we never felt as though we were in danger, many of us faced a fear of heights, and we were all forced to work as a team and communicate well. We succeeded in reaching the summit of Liberty Cap by scrambling up a small gulley up the back side. There were incredible old-growth Sierra Juniper trees on the summit, as well as an unbelievable view in all directions. Everyone felt a sweet sense of victory, because of the work that was put into the achievement.
We all enjoyed another great, warm dinner in front of the fire and the first person to retire to bed was in their tent by 7:30. The long night of sleep may have been one of the secrets to success the following day. We woke up between 5:30 and 5:45 on Day 3 of our backcountry expedition, with the goal of reaching Cloud's Rest's summit at 9,946 ft. Sal and Sarah had already prepped the group that we might have to turn around early, if we hadn't reached the summit by lunchtime. It was a long and strenuous hike, but it only took 4 ½ hours to gain the 3,800 feet from our campsite to the summit. We enjoyed the 360 degree view of the entire Yosemite National Park during lunch and some time for journal reflection. Despite our hike being ten miles roundtrip, we made it back to camp at 3:30! That made for an early dinner and a few hours to tell stories and laugh, laugh, laugh!
The last day seemed extremely easy, despite carrying our full packs again. The six miles of downhill back to Curry Village took only a few hours, and we had some extra time to unpack and say our goodbyes. The greatest memories from the trip would begin with the hours of laughter, especially because of Jonathan's jokes and Trevor's stories. The sense of accomplishment due to our intense achievements was directly because of Yesenia and Luceli's hard work and inspirational attitudes, and the quick friendships that developed were promoted by the fun, kind, easy-going compassion that Bryan and Kevin gave to everyone. Sal and Sarah are so grateful to have had the greatest WildLink group imaginable!