CLOUDS REST (9,926') 5X September 11, 2006

Following up on a meeting with a beginning peak climber, I e-mailed for peaks to do. He wished to climb Clouds Rest as a more difficult hike in Yosemite National Park. To catch a ride with him, I agreed to meet him in Manteca, CA, as he lived in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I slept well for four hours after the hike during the weekend. My alarm went off at 4 a.m., Monday, and I felt good enough not to cancel. Leaving home at about 4:50 a.m., I motored south on Highway 99.

We both arrived at the meeting spot, a fast food restaurant, at the same time, and I left my car nearby. He seems to be a good fellow, friendly enough and interested in peak climbing. Stopping in Oakdale for a quick breakfast, we motored into the rising sun, traveling east on CA 120.

Getting to the Sunrise Trailhead near Tenaya Lake, we began our hike at an early 9:23 a.m. There were no mosquitoes along the trail as last year. The air temperatures were pleasant, and I needed only one light layer over my Cap T shirt. We chatted as we hiked up the trail, and the lake outlet stream crossing was completely dry, too.

After about a half hour, we began ascending up the intermediary ridge. At its top is a trail junction. Other hikers rested there, too. The trail then heads down, and I began to suspect an easy day. The sun was out, and the sky was clear blue. Soon, we began ascending up the trail as it climbs to a sandy ridge, with sparse stands of trees. The rock whale that is the peak was in sight. Passing other hikers, I strained under the weight of my heavy day pack. Someday I will have to lighten my load, leaving out many emergency items that I hope I will never then need.

My partner had some height problems, with the big drop-off to the northwest. It is some 6,000 feet down to the canyon floor, with sheer slopes of granite rock. I looked for the easiest way along the narrow rock ridge that forms the approach to the top. All class 1, but airy.

Arriving at 1:13 p.m., we took off our packs and started to enjoy our summit stay. I snapped photos, but the vistas were a bit hazy. Hardly any clouds. I was disappointed, but made the best of it. I rested and drank water. About a dozen other hikers enjoyed the views with us. My partner had two fresh sandwiches, uncrushed in rigid plastic containers, and gorp, of sorts. I should get smart and boost my energy levels with some great food, too.

Leaving, after a good rest, at 2 p.m., many other hikers had started down, also. Nice to enjoy this peak for a day from town, again, and I'd get back home early. Being my 5X, this normally magnificent view was duly captured, and my photographic interests were done. This peak has a big bang for the buck, with about an eight hour round trip.

We hiked quickly down the trails, stopping for a few rests. I kept track of our progress. It was sad that so many local hikers are not offered any good leadership and ridesharing to obtain one of the best summit panoramas in the world, I'd say. My companion had a light pack, and I envied him. One of these days, I'll relieve myself of my excess load to keep us safe and comfortable, in the event of any minor mishap, on a climb/hike.

I looked forward to getting back, and we returned to the highway by 5:31 p.m. I was ready to go, after doffing my gear. We motored off expediently, with good, fast driving. The Crane Flat and Buck Meadows stores were closed, delaying my getting a cold drink. We watched the dusk light fade over Lake Don Pedro, and sped along, then through Oakdale and Escalon. He dropped me off, back at my car, and we shook hands, then went our ways home.

I refreshed myself with some more rest, drink, and food, and quickly zoomed north on 99 to get home before 10:30 p.m. A fine day!

The stats were 14.2 miles with about 2,500' gain, round trip. I shot only some 100 images. Wearing mainly one layer with jeans, I had drunk some three liters of water.

The late summer and fall are a great time to enjoy hiking. Far less hikers and traffic. Some dogwood leaves had already reddened, along CA 120. I purchased an annual park passport ($65), intending to use it well in Utah, and in the Rockies next summer. I may see if it is good for National Forest trailheads in Southern California. I need to work on earning my HPS 100 Peaks Emblem, the loveliest pin, I think.