Yosemite in Winter – it Snows There, Right?

I cannot believe it’s been almost four years since my last trip to Yosemite! Well, it was time to go back, and Southwest Airlines wanted to make it cheap and easy, so I booked a trip. But this time would be different. Four years ago I wasn’t much of a camper/hiker/backpacker/snowshoer/scrambler, so I stayed in hotels and tent cabins (yes, the ones that killed three people with hantavirus last year); but this time I’d be winter camping in my tent. No sweat – now I’m a highly trained Mountaineer. Or something.

The plan to get compelling winter images was simple: go for a week, and it’s bound to snow at some point. As Ansel Adams often pointed out, the best winter images happen immediately after the storm is over, and you have to be in position and ready. You want to catch the clouds and mist moving out, the sun peeking through, and the snow still fresh on the trees. And there’s none of that ugly debris on the ground yet. Seemed like a great plan at the time.

And then I got there. And it was raining. And raining and raining and raining – off and on for three days and nights. And remember that tent? No, not the good backpacking tent at home in my closet – the cheap one I use for car camps like this. The one that got me through pouring rains and howling winds in Death Valley two years ago. (Yes, it rains hard in Death Valley sometimes. I feel another blog coming on.) Anyway, that was then and this is now. Said tent is two years older, coatings have worn off, and someone forgot to reapply weather sealing. It’s not needed for snow anyway, right? So it got a bit wet in the tent. Every night. And every day I had to dry out my gear. Oh, well. To save weight and make the trip a little more pleasant, I had decided to eat all my meals at the Lodge, and at least the food there was, um, never mind. That didn’t work out so great, either.

And then I came down with the flu. I started getting chills halfway through, and by the day I left the park it had hit me hard. And it never did snow – not enough to stick to anything except my tent.

But, the trip did have its moments. My friend Evan Russel is now curator for the Ansel Adams Gallery, and I had a chance to see some of Ansel’s earliest prints going back to the 1920s. This was way before he co-developed the Zone System, and his style was nothing like what it was to become in later years.

And then there was the light on El Capitan. What an amazing wall of granite it is, and at least twice on this trip, the low evening sun peaked through clouds and painted an incredible picture across its face. Images from both evenings are shown here.

So now I’m over the flu and the tent is, well, the tent didn’t actually make the trip back to Seattle with me. Hey, these things happen. Soon I’ll be off on another adventure, and I won’t say where I’m going, but if things go well I’ll have stories of snakes, tarantulas, and giant desert scorpions!

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