I got coffee started and gradually the others started to rise, looking rather tired and shivering in the cold. Everyone soon warmed up though and within an hour of breakfast burritos and camp coffee we were packed up and ready to hit the road.
We drove back into the park and took the road up to the high country, around 10,000 feet. On the way we stopped off at a lookout point, facing towards half-dome and the valley floor and were met with an arrangement of rocks and trees that any minimalist photographer would kill for.
Continuing up we actually went back out of the park to start the hike. Stopping up somewhere around 10,000 feet we hydrated with watermelon, slapped on sun screen and got ready for a good day's walking:
The Hoover Wilderness area is pocketed with beautiful lakes and rolls with meadows that could have come straight out of a Swiss fairytale. As we got higher up through the day we got up to glacier level and when we weren't fending off mosquitos we were pelting each other with snowballs.
Jordan, our guide:
I was expecting to be generally impressed by Yosemite, but the scenery was completely beyond my expectations. I've been lucky enough to see some incredible places over the last few years, and Yosemite is right up there with Jiuzhaigou, which I count as about the most platonically ideal views that can exist anywhere.
After a quick lunch we continued on our way and eventually found a lake with cliffs that were safe to jump off. I'm not entirely sure which aspect of this was more stupid, the idea of jumping from 20+ feet of rock, or the idea of landing in glacier water but somehow half of us were persuaded that this was a good plan. Jordan in mid flight:
I have to admit that I didn't jump from the highest point as the idea of jarring my spine is not one that I much fancy. I did jump from 15 feet or so and although I was ready for the shock of the cold water, I was not ready for quite how freezing it was (this, on my part was pretty stupid, given that the ice from the glacier actually sits in the lake). The shock was electric and I upon surfacing was instantly faced with competing emotions. One of complete surprise that my body could drop in temperature so fast, and a logical thought process that asked how the hell I was going to get out of there. I swam quickly to the base of the rocks and thought for a frightening second that given my freezing hands I might not be able to climb up the face (this is the second time in two years that I've found myself in water wondering for a split second if I might not have just made a fatal decision). Thankfully given a burst of adrenalin and with no possibility for my hands to get sweaty I pulled myself back up the cliff, panting with the combined effort and cold-induced palpitations.
I stood around for a few minutes to dry off before putting my clothes back on, and for a fateful half hour or so was in the belief that my sun-cream, which I'd been applying liberally all day, was waterproof. We continued the walk and after some time people started commenting that I was looking a little red. I quickly reapplied, but somehow it was too late. I'd been putting on factor 50 all day, but finally by the time we got back to camp I was lobster red and feeling truly shattered. This was me as the burn took hold, but in fact it was almost a week of applying burn cream until I could sleep comfortably.
The drive back was stunning with the crescent moon coming up between the trees, and the ten of us feeling elated by the day but completely shattered by the exertions at altitude.
Dinner was another feast, this time Italian and, with Jordan in charge again, we were given the order to slice a few hundred garlic cloves, ready to go into the most potent garlic bread ever. Sadly I have no photos of this mammoth effort, but by the time we were finished we had to worry about neither vampires nor bears. It was this second night that I took some of the lightpainting photos of the milky way up through the canopy, already posted here but I'll put up one again on this post for good measure:
I collapsed long before the others, my pulse building to a painful throb through my quickly tenderising back.