I wanted to put together a cool, challenging hiking trip for my last vacation of the year. I came up with trying to do Grand Canyon (South Kaibab to Bright Angel), Mt Whitney in a day, and Half Dome, in the same week. Obviously a few hard to get permits needed to be acquired, some campsites reserved, and a bit of training…
The Grand Canyon logistics were easy, it was my friend’s 50th birthday and he rented a group campsite at the Ten-X Campground right outside the park, and you don’t need a permit for day hikes. All I needed to do was show up for a good time!
I was able to get a Mt Whitney day permit in the early season lottery and booked a site at Whitney Portal.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a Half Dome Permit in the pre-season lottery, so I had to hope the daily lottery would get me in. By being ready exactly at the right time, I was able to book a site at the Lower Pines Campground in Yosemite Valley
For training I was trying to get in at least 2 hikes a week around the house. The Pyramid hike has always been my go to training hike and it worked well again. In the afternoons I would hit the gym and do a mile on the treadmill, 20 minutes on the stair stepper, and then a mile on the treadmill, works you pretty good! The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne backpacking trip didn’t hurt either…
I was pretty excited to start the trip, so I was ready to roll by 8am, had an easy convoy drive up to the campground and got the first campsite all set up for comfort.
There were extreme heat warnings all week long and here it was the most dangerous, it was 115 degrees that afternoon at Phantom Ranch. We hopped the 5:00 am Hiker’s Shuttle out to the South Kaibab trailhead to beat the heat, cruised nicely and made it to the bottom before 9am.
Grand Canyon was a great time. My friend had a sweet set-up in the group campsite with lots of fun folks. Probably about 30 people and a band for 2 nights!
South Kaibab is a spectacular trail and it gets you to the bottom quickly!
I had a great hiking partner, we took in the views but kept it moving to not suffer in the heat and finished a little after 1pm. We took the quick stroll to the truck and headed back to camp for some serious chillin’!
Sunday morning I got up and headed out to continue my adventures. To break up the trip I stopped over in Vegas, had a nice dinner and strolled around and checked out the scene.
Got up nice and early, stopped by PublicUs for a tasty breakfast sandwich and was on the road before 8am. Cruising through Death Valley National Park on the way to Whitney Portal was pretty smoky and you could still see the debris from the floods last month.
My campsite at Whitney Portal was a good one, but I was barely able to squeeze the big tent in there! Even up at 8,300 ft it was 91 degrees in the afternoon, so I did what I could stay in the shade and rest as much as possible. I got my pack all set, had a nice dinner and crashed out about 9pm, ready for a day of getting up high in the mountains tomorrow!
I woke up at about 12:15 AM, drove down the Portal road until I got cell service, registered for the daily Half Dome permit lottery, drove back to the trailhead and started hiking about 1:20am.
I hiked for about 5 hours with my headlamp on, felt good and made pretty good time. Except for stops to switch layers I made it to the top with no breaks. Those last 2 miles to the summit still seemed looonnnggg!
I summited about 8:30am, had a snack, took some pics, and chilled for a bit. After that I headed down the hill as quick as possible with a burger and beer on my mind!
Finished up a little after 2pm and headed down to Lone Pine to fulfill the craving. The burger at the Mt Whitney Restaurant tasted awesome, and the beer wasn’t too bad either.
I wanted to have normal night’s sleep so with lots of effort I made it to about 10pm hanging out at camp before crawling into the tent, a 22 hour day! It was some great sleep, though!
After Mt Whitney it was time to finally head to Yosemite Valley. I have wanted to go here forever and it was an awesome experience. I got all set-up in the Lower Pines Campground and hiked up to Vernal Fall that afternoon. While I could never taste it in the air it was very smoky the whole time.
My goal in Yosemite was to do Half Dome, but I also lost out on the daily lottery. The back-up plan was to hike to the Half Dome Junction and see if anyone had an extra spot on their permit, if not continue on to Cloud’s Rest. That night I had a few beers, made some excellent tacos and loaded up the pack for the next day.
I started out about a little before 5am, and saw a decent amount of people at Happy Isles getting ready to head up. Made the climbs to Vernal and Nevada Falls pretty quickly and pretty soon I was at the HD Junction. Sat down for a break, reached into my pack to pull out my snacks and realized I left all my food in the Bear Box at camp, such a bummer! That trail mix would have been fantastic!
I asked a few groups if they had open spots, no one did. I wasn’t super stoked about getting stuck with a group of people I didn’t know, so I ended going with the Cloud’s Rest hike. It is a great hike with amazing views, a 1000ft higher than Half Dome. I saw one person on the trail past the HD Junction, a pretty nice thing in Yosemite Valley.
Heading back down to the Valley had some great views, you definitely start to see lots of people once you get past Nevada Falls. Because of work on the Mist Trail I had to take the John Muir Trail, which added a mile or so, but I did end up hiking a few miles on both ends of the John Muir Trail this week which is kind of cool. Definitely started to get hungry the last few miles, and needed that water at the Vernal Fall Bridge!
Made it back to camp, had a few beers, made some more tacos and crashed out to be ready to head home early the next morning.
I got packed up and hit the road by 7am since I had a 12 hour drive ahead of me. I realized there were a few things I didn’t get pictures of, so I stopped by El Cap Meadow and got a cool morning pic.
I also stopped by Tunnel View and got a picture right at sunrise, walked up right at the perfect time!
It was an excellent 8 days on the road, living out of the tent, and doing some awesome hikes, but also fantastic to get back home to my wife!
Grand Canyon (SK/BA) 17.2 miles, 7:37.
Mt Whitney – 22 miles, 12:54
Yosemite Valley: Vernal Fall – 5.4 miles, 2:04
Cloud’s Rest – 20.4 miles, 9:53
65 Miles/17,378 ft up!