DEVILS DANCE FLOOR (6,836') SKI CAMP February 3-5, 1999

Meeting the Ski Mountaineers/Orange County Sierra Singles group at the leader's home in Groveland, CA, this was a second try for a snow camp in Yosemite National Park. Having good weather this time, we met at a parking lot along CA 120 slightly up from Crane Flat.

Carrying heavy packs up a ski track along the highway, we then came to a side road to our campground. It is about six more miles to Tamarack Campground, mostly downhill. The snow was slightly rotten, so we didn't get a great run down. This was to be my last snow camp of late. I had my heavy parka and more warm clothes to make up for my lighter sleeping bag. My 8 pound tent wasn't too much to carry for such a shorter trip, too.

The leader's plan was to ski to the top of El Capitan, about 8 miles away. They skied the nearby bump, named the Devils Dance Floor, this afternoon. I could see some participants weren't up to a long ski tour, so I'd do the easy bump the next day.

Our second day, three left for the distant ski goal, and the rest of us skied the leisurely gained viewpoint, hardly a mile away. The sky was white, but we had views. I snapped a lot of photos. We lingered about the top, and then had a short ski back. I liked the powder snow, but some of the others could hardly handle it. The group of three returned with a failure. The trees and snow were just too thick.

The nights weren't so cold, but about 25 degrees for lows by the weather reports, seen later. I was glad to have a restroom open right by my camp, as I needed to use it frequently.

On our third and last day, two skiers had to get back early, so left at 6 a.m. The rest of us started at a later hour, and I had a memory of the grunt to climb, up the slight grade of the side road. Reaching the major highway, we had a fast run down the icy track and shortly were back to the cars in mid afternoon.

With a sight of the burned area near Foresta, CA, I left to motor into the Valley, and took in some winter views. This was the time that the three Yosemite tourists were reported missing. It was surmised that they went skiing or snowshoeing and became lost. The area we had skied was under search. I phoned the FBI to say those ski tracks there were ours, and the situation went unresolved for a good while.

Turning out that a man had killed them at their motel, he was eventually caught, but though had murdered another park worker in the meantime. This news made national attention, and the effects led to newsworthy notes for a long time. We never did this tour again, though I did later pass the roadside memorial on CA 108, where the victims' burned out car and two bodies were found.