Monday, January 19, 2015

Winter Overnight At Glacier Point In Yosemite

Dale Matson

Click To Enlarge Photographs

I have been to Glacier Point on skis more times than in a car. This is mainly because Glacier Point is one of the busiest places in Yosemite during the summer tourist season. In the winter the road is groomed as a ski trail from the Badger Pass downhill ski area to Glacier Point. I have used this as a great 21 mile round trip workout on most occasions but have stayed overnight at Glacier Point on three occasions to take advantage of the setting sun for photographs.

For round trips during the day, I use track skis and can move along quite fast out and back. I like it best after a freshly groomed snowfall. For overnights, I use backcountry skis that offer more support for my overnight gear for snow camping. There can be a few folks on the trail but by the time you get to the Clark Overlook which is about half way, there a few folks who go further.

There are guided tours in the winter out to the point. There are bunks set in the commercial building at the point. The three times I've stayed the night there was no one else there. It is a long way from civilization when the sun sets. While the bears are generally hibernating, the coyotes are around and I use a bear canister to protect my food.

I use a single wall four-season tent by Mountain Hardwear called the EV2. While it is an expedition grade tent, it is only about 5 pounds and sets up fast. Winter camping can be more of a risk than the summer since snowstorms can blow in at any time in the mountains. At over 7,000’ Glacier Point can get near zero degrees at night. I sleep in a zero degree bag on an insulated pad inside the tent. I also have on a down sweater, balaclava light gloves and down pants on inside the bag. Zero degrees at altitude is harder on the body than zero degrees at sea level. Staying warm is imperative. If you become cold you are quickly at risk of hypothermia. I keep my water in a Nalgene bottle inside my bag to keep it from freezing and make sure the cap is on tight!

I have a small gas stove for melting snow for coffee in the morning. It’s interesting to me that I have met as many folks from other countries at Glacier Point as I have from the U.S. They seem to know that it is a world-class ski experience. There is no trail fee either. In early spring the water in the falls is so loud it sounds like an overhead jet airplane. Anyone who says that Yosemite Park is too crowded has never been to Glacier Point in the winter. I recommend it as an overnight as your first trip. Overnight wilderness permits are available from the ranger A frame near the ski lodge. It’s also a good thing for them to know your plans in case of problems. I carry a satellite phone and call my house when I arrive at Glacier Point and when I am back to my vehicle the next day. There is a special place allocated for parking for those staying overnight or longer. You can rent skis or snowshoes at the Nordic Trailer near the Lodge.

The photographs I have included have been taken over the years and are not from a single trip to the point.    

 Summit Meadow

 Bridalveil Creek
 Clark Range Overlook

Half Dome From Washburn Point

 Sentinel Dome
Toilet Near Sentinel Dome
Half Dome

Telephoto Of Nevada (Top) and Vernal Falls

Yosemite Falls

 Half Dome At Dusk
 From The Geological Display
Clouds Rest Far Left
This is what it is like in the Spring on Glacier Point Road:

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