Yosemite was granted a very heavy duty rain storm over the weekend and when the skies began to clear on Monday the Upper Falls, previously dry just days before, was gushing with water. Since the rock will still wet, we decided to make Monday our hiking day and headed onto the Trail to Upper Falls (starts at Camp 4). The trail is pretty steep at times and ascends 2800feet in about 3.4 miles to the brink of the Upper Falls. The path begins in the forest on typical switchbacks. As the tree open the trail gets steeper and our first views of well, mostly mist, were revealed. After ascended for about 1400 feet the trail drops 200 feet to avoid and slab and curved around the shoulder of the rock wall to a wonderful viewpoint of the Falls. After a short section of flat hiking the trail goes into what seems like endless switchbacks until it reaches the top of the North Rim. Here signed point to the right toward the overlook. A quick 1/2 mile jaunt over rock and down some stairs with a rail led us to the top of the deafening falls and views of Yosemite Valley still partially covered in mist.

After a quick break and snack we backtracked to the Junction. We followed left hand turn from the valley bottom and toward Eagle Peak. There are a few junctions on this gently ascending trail, but they are all well signed with arrows to Eagle Peak. The elevation gain here barely noticeable as you trek through the pine forest. Finally a junction is reached with a sign indicating the summit of Eagle. We took this trail which was also not very steep to the rocky summit. It features maybe 2 or three 3rd class moves. It was still misty, but the clouds were break every few minutes revealing a great view of Half Dome! It was hard to leave the summit. The mist gave everything a real high sierra feel and laying on the rocks was just addicting. But we reversed route. We ran into throngs of people on the Upper Falls trail and were very happy we had started early in the morning before light (typical us).

The mist did manage to fully clear on the way down so we were granted perfect views of Half Dome in vivid afternoon light. But nothing could compare to the solitude of the morning where we had the North Rim to ourselves in the mist.

No trip to Yosemite would be complete without spending some time on the trails! We opted to climb to the shoulder of Half Dome, one of the most famous hikes in America. Actually the hike to the top of Half Dome using the cables to ascend the 5.4 finally few hundred feet is the famous trip, but this late in the season most of the caple setup is removed and only a length of chain remains on the icy rock. So we decided to just get as high as we could.

We had a bit of a rocky starting finding the right trail to take from the Happy Isles Nature Center. We found finally that we had to go to the road and cross a Bridge to get to the Mist/John Muir TH. The trail is not terribly steep here and is on broken up concrete which kind of took away from the wilderness experience. There are also restrooms and concessions (closed for the season) at the Vernal Falls Bridge. But we had the trail to ourselves this crisp November morning as we walked deeper into the Valley.

Eventually we met an intersection where the mist trail stems off left. This is a shorter way to Half Dome, but its much steeper and Damien expected it to be icy with all the “mist” from the falls along that direction. We continued on the John Muir Trail which now began to gain elevation stradily. We cam across massive patches of ice and really wanted our micro-spikes, but alas we did not have them so we did our best to skip along the very edge of the trail or protruding rocks. It wasn;t too bad until the forest opened up and we could see marvelous views of Nevada Falls, Half Dome and Liverty Cap. However, the trail was now between a low stone wall barrier to the left and a massive rock wall to the right. The trail was basically an ice skating rink with large shards of ice on top of it that had fallen off the rock wall. To cross we had to hang onto the barrier and move quickly as some smaller pieces of ice fell on us!

We made it to the top of Nevada falls and paused for a snack. A few other people who had come up the Mist trail passed by and headed back down the Muir Trail. We continued on the now snowy trail toward Little Yosemite Valley and Half Dome, well signed. High up now the world was white and once again if felt like winter compared to the sunny dry valley below.

The trail makes a massive circle around Half Dome before climbing up once again. The snow and grade slowed us down some, but it wasn’t enough to require snowshoes and the snow was well packed down by other hikers. Finally we reached the large slab shoulder of Half Dome. Here there are spare trees and expansive Views of the Sierra Nevada Wilderness. We had the option of scrambling to the top of the sub-dome from here to the base of the cables. However, it was steep, snowing and icy. It is sketch in dry summer conditions too so we opted not to take the chance in these even more treacherous conditions. Instead we enjoyed the view from the shoulder.

The way down went very quickly. we opted to take the John Muir Trail back as we feared from other hikers reviews thatt he Mist Trail would be too dangerous to go down (normal route down). The ice was a little melted on the John Muir Trail, but not as much as we expected. We made safe passage though back to the Valley.