A quick wrap up of camp and I was on the trail by 7:45am for my first big hiking day with the pack. The first portion of the day was going to be a bear – 3400′ elevation gain past 9,000′. The first 1.5 miles was the same Half Dome trail, which I ended up hiking with a Father/Daughter from Reno doing Half Dome which made it go quickly. The daughter had some nasty blisters, so I provided some supplies from my First Aid kit that hopefully made her feel better.
After the Half Dome trail split off, the trail became fairly desolate, occasionally seeing Clouds Rest Hikers and an Northbound JMT-er. I think I started feeling the first altitude affects in the last 1,000′ for I slowed down quite a bit an started losing my breath. This became a common theme for the inclines at altitude, perhaps a combination of altitude, lung capacity and the heaviness of my pack. At first, it caught me by surprise since I thought I was in great shape, however, I did realize I have never backpacked higher than 6,000′ (the Llama Treks were only with day packs).
After a long lunch at the crest of the incline, the rest of the day’s hike was not that bad, although it was getting hot. At the intersection with the Sunrise Lakes Trail, there was a long section of the trail along the Long Meadow, which was pretty neat given the views of the Cathedral Range to the North and East.
After Long Meadow, there is a short climb up to Cathedral Pass, but after yesterday’s hiking and this morning’s climb, it sure seemed a lot more than the 400′ it was! Near the top, there was a fantastic overlook to the East where many hikers stopped. It was here that I first met Mark and Jason from Indy.
While talking to everyone, it seemed that they were all heading to Lower Cathedral Lake, which all the books and posts raved about. Given how tired I was and not wanting to fight crowds for a camp site, I decided to stop at the first lake after the pass, Upper Cathedral Lake, which I arrived around 4pm. Well, this lake certainly wasn’t chopped liver! Lower Cathedral Lake must be spectacular.
I found a great camp site tucked into the rocks at the south end. I found a great swimming spot nearby where the water was warm enough for me to stand in waist deep and rinse off my dusty, dirty clothes. There was a large rock slab above the water opposite of Cathedral Peak that made it great to hang out the rest of the night for drying clothes, eating dinner and writing in my journal. I slept without the rain fly on my tent and enjoyed the stars that night.