Just three days after leaving Yosemite Valley, I was back again to enjoy the scenery. This time, I was on the tourist end of things, although I managed to climb the last pitch of the Rostrum with Sabine. That night we camped in the backpackers' camp while thunderstorms drenched the mountains. Early the next morning, we drove to Tuolumne Meadows to start our backpacking trip with our parents.
Small squalls and windstorms made our hike interesting. We crossed off trail through two valleys without seeing any people. Every meadow and slot canyon was filled with flora and fauna, and the mountains still had a little snow left. By late afternoon we set up camp right before a big storm. It was a little fun rushing against time to get everything ready for the rain. We had the perfect campsite on a hill overlooking Echo Lake and below Matthes Crest—flat, dry, and guarded by two marmots. The lightning and thunder came just as we fell asleep in leaky tents.
Day two could not have been more perfect. Waking at sunrise, with nine hours of sleep, we quickly prepared our mountain of gear needed to get up our goal of Matthes Crest. We climbed steeply in elevation to gain the ridge, where we spend a good portion of the day trad climbing and simul climbing across knife-edged rock. The clouds looked like something out of a Pixar movie, and luckily shed no rain as we slowly moved over the mountain. I had never climbed horizontally before and was unaccustomed to the style we used to traverse over a mile of granite—2000 feet more than El Capitan. At times, I felt worn out by the endless climbing, but each new view was incredible and exciting. From the ridge I could see Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne Valley, every dome and volcano and snowy peak in the area. Far below, our seemingly minuscule campsite marked by an orange tent marked our starting point of the day.
Interestingly, dinner was somewhat luxurious—freeze dried delicacies from around the world. We even had a private stream for water and a tree as a lightning rod. The mosquitos were not that bad, and seemed reduced in number due to the wind and rain. We decided to stay at this camp at Echo for another night, and start on our hike out in the morning.
Once again at five, we followed a map around Cathedral Peak and onto the John Muir Trail—a freeway in comparison to our empty, trail-less valleys before. Of course, the trek ended with a sprint to the car and some real food.