Yosemite Triple Crown (and other foolish projects for hikers and climbers)

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I was poking around recently and found that somebody has just started a website devoted to what he calls the Yosemite Triple Crown. Basically, the Triple Crown as Aaron and Joe define it involves hiking Half Dome via the Cables, El Cap via the Yosemite Falls Trail and Glacier Point via the Four Mile Trail in a day. It's not that far in terms of mileage, but as I can attest from similar adventures, that much vertical really adds up! On his site, Aaron says that amounts to 24,000 feet of elevation change, but I'm pretty sure that means 12,000 feet of gain and 12,000 feet of loss. Still, that's a lot!

Anyway, I'm glad to see Aaron's site up there. For many people the Falls Trail is a huge challenge. For others, the Half Dome Trail is the accomplishment of a lifetime. That's great. I applaud everyone's accomplishments any time someone pushes himself or herself just a little beyond what he or she has done before. I once saw a little South Asian woman up past Little Yosemite Valley in black dress shoes, carrying a purse in one hand and a half-liter bottle in the other. She looked calm and relaxed and was enjoying her hike. I think that sort of thing is awesome and even many years later, it still inspires me to think of her going for it with no special gear.

I'm not sure why crawling back to the car dead beat has such a great feeling to it, but it does. Anyway, for people who did Half Dome and thought "That wasn't too bad," the Yosemite Triple Crown site gives a bit of publicity to a next step. And from the site it looks like Aaron is on a mission to encourage other people to join him annually. You might see me there next year if I can swing it!

I say it's a next step, because Yosemite has a tradition of crazy sick enduro events. Way back in the day, Roper's first one-day ascent of the Steck-Salathe was a big deal. Until Frost and Robbins went and cut the time in half a couple of days later that is. Here's a rundown of some of the more "popular" or famous endurance challenges in Yosemite. Note that "popular" in this context means that people talk about doing these and on occasion actually do:

  • The Triple Crown. Already described on Aaron's site, but just to mention that Lou Lorber did it back in 1999 as well. Who knows who else. I don't think John Muir would have found it a difficult day, but then he would have seen some unique chipmunk and camped out for three days without food and water to observe it, so I doubt he did it!
  • The Big Linkup: El Cap and Half Dome. This is it. Hands down the most famous and celebrated endurance achievement in Yosemite climbing history. In 1986, John Bachar and Peter Croft blew everyone away when they casually cruised the Nose on El Cap and the Regular Northwest Face on Half Dome in a day. They had planned to climb the Steck-Salathe (or some route on the Sentinel anyway, maybe the Chouinard-Herbert), but after a lightning storm on Half Dome, they decided to just enjoy the day and call it quits. That someone could do it was amazing, but they did it in style, with Croft saying they felt stronger and stronger throughout the day. This has been done many times since. Probably Hans Florine has done it the most times, but Peter Coward has also been a repeat offender. In more recent years, it has become almost common.
  • The Big Linkup Plus Watkins: El Cap, Half Dome and Watkins. This combo (South Face of Watkins, Northwest Face of Half Dome and the Nose on El Cap) was done by Timmy O'Neil and Dean Potter (late 1990s?). I'm not sure if it's ever been repeated.
  • The Big Linkup Solo. This one was done on the same day in 1999, but in reverse order, but Dean Potter and Hans Florine, with Potter finishing just a few hours before Florine to claim the rights as "first" ever. In 2010, Alex Honnold shattered Hans record, cutting it roughly in half (around 10 hours for the whole affair).
  • The Poor Man's Linkup. For those not up to The Big Linkup, some folks have run up the East Buttress of El Cap and Snake Dike on Half Dome in a day. This is still a big long tiring day, but mostly from all the hiking.
  • The Poor Man's Linkup Plus. As above, but with Royal Arches thrown in there. Don't die coming down North Dome Gully severly fatigued!
  • High Sierra Camps Loop in a Day. Now we're getting into the more normal. Even though it can add up to 50 miles, it's fairly popular among employees. Knowing other employees at the HSCs means that you can travel light, beg food and crash for the night if you don't make it. Still, there's not mistaking that fifty miles is a long ways.
  • Clark Range Traverse in a Day. Leave from Merced Lake HSC, go up over Mount Clark (roughly as for Obelisk Lake), over Grey Peak and Red Peak, down to Red Peak Pass, up to the top of Merced Peak, back to Red Peak Pass, and then back to Merced Lake on the trail. I'll have to check into specifics on that one. Rumor is that Gary Finistad is the expert and "record holder" for that one.
  • Valley Rim Tour. I came up with this one myself for my 2004 birthday challenge, but as with most things in Yosemite, I'm certain I wasn't the first. Jason Torlano told me "That's a good one" so I'm pretty sure he's done it. This one checks in at about 53 miles, 17,000 feet of elevation gain and 16,000 feet of loss. Start at the Wawona Tunnel, up the Pohono Trail to Stanford, Crocker, Dewey and Taft Points. Then tag the summit of Sentinel Dome. Drop down to Glacier Point and then down the Panorama Trail. Tag the summit of Half Dome. My goal was to avoid pavement and backtracking, so I dropped down the Death Slabs Approach to the Northwest Face straight to Mirror Lake. From there it's up the Snow Creek Trail, over North Dome, down to Yosemite Point, up to the summit of El Cap and then out to the road at Foresta. The worst part is that the Snow Creek trail can be really hot.
  • Clark Range Loop. This is on the list. I haven't done it. Was hoping to this year, but with Theresa's accident and other obligations, I didn't do any mega dayhikes at all. Basically, leave from the Mono Meadow Trailhead, hike out over Red Peak Pass, down to Merced Lake, and back around to either the Valley down the Mist Trail, or Glacier Point via the Panorama Trail. I learned on my Obelisk Lake hike though, that after 30-40 miles of hiking, that 1700 foot climb back up to Glacier Point is trying!

If you know any other good ones for those looking for a challenge, please describe it in the challenge, as well as an history, record times or whatever you might know.

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5 Comments

Yosemite Triple Crown

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The "Yosemite Triple Crown" sounds like a new chapter in the making for "Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite".

I can see it now "...after a strenuous day of hiking both the Yosemite Falls trail and the Four Mile trail, Aarons body had little strength left to pull his body up the cables. Witnesses report Aaron attempted to arrest his fall but failed and plummeted to his death."

Just a good day out

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Now Loyd, that scenario seems unlikely. Speaking from experience (having done dayhikes that are longer than the Triple Crown), it's far more likely to see someone puking his guts out due to hyponatremia.... Realistically, folks should definitely know the valor of discretion and giving up before doing something foolish. If you find hiking 25 miles difficult, trust me, 50 miles is not twice as hard. It's more like 4-5 times as hard.

and then what?...

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The concept is strictly post adolescent [words deleted: family site - only I get to talk like that here].

Slow down and pick your knuckles off the ground.

I have run out to Hite's

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I have run out to Hite's Cove and back and I have taken three hours to cover the first mile. I've hiked Half Dome and taken a nap and a swim midway. I've spent the entire day covering three miles and looking at hundreds of flowers and I've covered 55 miles in a day. I also probably spend more time on the Half Dome trail than most people in a given year, but for most of that time I just happen to be moving faster.

These are all valid outdoor experiences and it no place of anyone else to tell me how to experience the outdoors.

There's a pleasure to a slow trip that takes it all in and there's a pleasure to pushing your body to it's limits. The one is an external journey through a natural world that refreshes the soul and the other is a journey through the dark recesses of your mind that also refreshes the soul.

If that makes no sense to you, read Dean Karnazes' book Ultramarathon Man.

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