June 22: Curry Villiage to Lee Vining, 80 miles

This was going to be the toughest day: 80 miles, 60 of which were a 6000 foot climb from Yosemite Valley to Tioga Pass. After the previous two "easy" days had turned out to be so difficult, I was quite demoralized going into this day which made it less enjoyable than it should have been. Although I normally like climbing I found this climb to be rather unsatisfying--perhaps it was just that I wasn't in the best mood, or perhaps it was just too long so it was difficult to figure out how to pace myself. Tioga Road has no shoulder and the traffic was annoying, although not as bad as I'd feared. There were several intermediate descents which were very enjoyable, and the scenery was quite spectacular. As usual the pictures don't come close to doing it justice.

The map and elevation profile below are actually from Yosemite Village rather than Curry Village, but there's not that much difference.

Here's an early morning closeup of Yosemite Falls, a bit blurry due to the low light.

And of course El Capitan. I was disappointed not to see any climbers anywhere when I was in Yosemite Valley.

One of the many spectacular views from Tioga Road.

Tenaya Lake, where we stopped for lunch (submarine sandwiches we'd bought in Yosemite Village). Mike also purified some more water here.

Tuolumne Meadows, the most beautiful sight of the day and one of the highlights of the trip. Here the camera is especially poor at capturing the beauty. Also the panorama stiching software failed me here and the leftmost picture couldn't be included, so you miss part of the scene here.

Another great scene further up. Despite the altitude it was fairly warm up here, and the sun was especially harsh. Although I'd put on SPF 45 sunblock in the morning, I considered putting on an extra coat in the middle of the day, but foolishly didn't. Parts of my arms got sunburned as a result. For the rest of the trip I put on a second coat of sunscreen in the middle of the day.

I was worried how the high altitude would affect me, as I've never been higher than Denver in my life, and was happy that I seemed to be unaffected when I crossed above 8000 feet. However 9000 feet was another story. Although I'd been careful to eat and especially drink enough, above 9000 feet I suddenly felt extremely tired and couldn't drink enough water. It was possibly partly just general fatigue at the end of a long day as well, but I'm sure the altitude had something to do with it. I started going very slowly, stopping more and more often, and it took quite a while to do the final 1000 feet of the climb. Mike, who grew up in Colorado, didn't seem to have any problems. Finally I did make it to the top, though.

More beautiful scenery at the top. This is the view back toward the way we came.

And this is the view the other way. Mike made a snowball here but I missed it since I was taking the panorama above. It was interesting that cumulus clouds formed above the Sierra ridge this afternoon as well as the next (perhaps every afternoon?), but it never rained when we were there.

Although the climb wasn't as much fun as I'd hoped, the descent down the other side was absolutely fantastic, the best descent of the trip and one of my favorites ever, with the descent out of Lucia going south on Highway 1 and Kings Mountain Road in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Just a blast to go down. Here's a view from near the top.

From lower down you can see much of the road up, which would make the climb quite forbidding. I'll bet it would be fun though if done when it's cool enough.

At the bottom we arrived at the eerie Mono Lake and climbed a short way to a vista point to take this picture.

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