Two days after my return from Japan, a late winter storm was about to hit Yosemite. Looking for a repeat of a trip more than two years earlier. I was not going to miss it. It was worth the drive. Even as the conditions in the valley were mixed with snow and rain, it was a winter wonderland higher up.
Gallery of my favorite photos
It is always interesting to see the contrast between the weather in the Bay Area, Central Valley, and the Sierra. Whether driving up to ski or for some other play in the snow, going up the mountains in the spring is like transitioning a few months back. To avoid potential delays, I took Highway 140, usually a snow free route that enters the Yosemite Valley along Merced River.
|Wind turbines on Altamont Pass||First foothills|
I started seeing snow shortly after passing the entrance into the park. A break between the showers was a good time to take in the snowy landscape from Tunnel View.
|Tunnel View||Wide BW view||Traffic||El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall||Bridalveil Fall|
It was an afternoon, the warmest part of the day, and back down in the valley, the snow was melting, and any showers were coming down as rain or sleet. I again ended up taking a few more pictures of a tree I had first photographed in 2004. A heavier shower caught me at the Gates of the Valley overlook. I was there almost by myself, a testimony to the conditions.
|Meadow||Yosemite Fall||Trees under the cliffs||Gates of the Valley|
I had more company at Tunnel View. It was above the snow line and the wet snow was coming down heavily. As the shower wound down and the sunset approached, a familiar line of tripods formed. I ended up watching the clouds and fog roll around the valley below until the light was gone, and no one remained.
|Crosswalk||Curve||Trees in a snowstorm||Sunset color||Edge of the valley|
|Looking for light||Tunnel||Dusk Tunnel View||Valley fog|
|Tripod reality||Taillights at Tunnel View||Darkness cometh|
I got an early start the next day. I was first at the trailhead parking right around the sunrise, and first to hit the trail that morning. I was headed to the top of Nevada Fall, a familiar trail, first crossing the Merced River, then crossing it back on Vernal Fall Footbridge, and continuing up John Muir Trail, bypassing a seasonally closed section of the Mist Trail.
|Dawn parking under Glacier Point||Merced River||First sun||Liberty Cap||Footbridge view||Footbridge view|
As I continued up John Muir Trail, the amount of fresh snow quickly increased, and the scenic factor multiplied. I took in Vernal Fall from above before crossing over to Mist Trail just above the fall to avoid a closed section of John Muir Trail.
|JMT||Half Dome||Winter is here|
|Vernal Fall||Vernal Fall||John Muir Trail||Footbridge||Snowy Merced River||Snowy forest|
As I continued up, the tral was getting a little less distinct but it was still clear enough to follow. The snowfall overnight did not cover it completely. I finally reached the top of the fall and admired the snowy wonderland.
|Nevada Fall||Nevada Fall||Icy trail||Merced River||Nevada Fall rim||Solitary tree|
|Solitary tree in BW||Trees top to bottom||Snow|
It was still freezing, and I figured there was not much chance of a rockfall. So I entered a closed part of the John Muir Trail to the south of Nevada Fall to get a different perspective of the fall and Liberty Cap from the other side of the valley. I have always been fond of fresh snow. Here was plenty of it, ice covering rock faces above, and a view to boot, and as far as I was concerned, this was heaven.
|Nevada Fall and Liberty Cap||Fisheye JMT||Nevada Fall||JMT||John Muir Trail||Liberty Cap|
It was hard to part with the beatiful winter landscape, and after having snack, I hung out above Nevada fall a bit longer.
|Bridge and Liberty Cap||Fisheye pine tree||Sliding toward Nevada Fall||Dancing water||Fisheye Liberty Cap|
|Above Nevada Fall|
Some time after I started to make my way down the switchbacks of Mist Tral next to Nevada Fall, I met a first party of hikers going up. Their leader greeted me with disappointment - they were not the first up there. I responded with glee, and commented that not virgin is still pretty. Later, I met a couple more people who said they had come up Mist Trail the whole way. I decided to take a chance on it too.
The trail was icy as water dripping from the cliffs above was freezing up in the deep shade of the gorge. Every time the snow is melting on steep rockfaces, some rockfall can follow. I was thinking these people were really taking a chance, and I was one of them.
As I am writing this, there was a fatal accident there in winter of 2018/19 where a woman was hit by a falling rock and killed instantly. Then again, what are the chances of that. Life is too short to avoid every one-in-a-million type of danger.
I made it down just fine, except for a fall on a slippery section near the bottom of the stairs below Vernal Fall. The afternoon snow melt made it easier to leave the beauty behind. It was time to drive back to the Bay Area.
|Nevada Fall||Nevada Fall||Nevada Fall top in BW||Flying water|
|Love AP||Footbridge above Vernal Fall||Vernal Fall||Vernal Fall drop|
|Edge and valley below||Fisheye view||Icy section||Vernal Fall||Mist Trail stairs||Vernal Fall|
|View down||Mist Trail hiker||Last look|