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Thread: Yosemite Falls Q

  1. #1

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    Yosemite Falls Q

    Hi, all. I'm planning the next Yosemite jaunt, and have a chance to let the wife slumber while I head out for some shooting. Thinking about doing the switchbacks to the upper falls, although not all the way to the top. Anyone ever done this? Is there room to set up a tripod in the first third of the trek, or so? Any other suggestions will be helpful.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2

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    Re: Yosemite Falls Q

    It's been thirty years since I did that trail, but I doubt it's changed all that much. There is very little room for a tripod on the switchbacks on the first stage up to the cascades. Still, you might be able to do it at the ends of the switchbacks on the curves.

    Same goes for the switchbacks on the upper section.

    One warning: if the falls are flowing, there is a ton of water in the air around the cascades. Each time I hiked the trail when the falls had not dried up, I was soaking wet by the time I got past the base of the upper falls. Felt damn good, too, in the summer heat, but would not be very good for a LF camera. The mist was very pervasive - an umbrella would not have helped, since the mist is coming from every direction, up as well as down.

    Fortunately for me, back in those days I was using a Leica M4 and was able to keep it dry in one of those clear plastic bag protectors with the glass insert for the lens (forget the name).

  3. #3

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    Re: Yosemite Falls Q

    You have to be careful. The trail starts behind Camp 4 and when you are climbing past "the first third of the falls" the trail is not close to the falls. I've heard that if you get off trail in this area at night you can crater. Also, the bears that frequent Camp 4 by night hang in this area by day.

    If you're careful and are a skilled hiker you'll be fine.

    You might check out the base of the lower falls! Where the bridge crosses the lower falls effluent, you can boulder hop all the way to the base of the falls where you'll find a beautiful emerald-green pool. There's also a trail in the woods to the left that goes most of the way.
    Last edited by Eric James; 12-Jul-2007 at 16:36. Reason: Removed dangerous suggestion.

  4. #4
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Re: Yosemite Falls Q

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidFisk View Post
    Hi, all. I'm planning the next Yosemite jaunt, and have a chance to let the wife slumber while I head out for some shooting. Thinking about doing the switchbacks to the upper falls, although not all the way to the top. Anyone ever done this? Is there room to set up a tripod in the first third of the trek, or so? Any other suggestions will be helpful.

    Thanks in advance.
    Yes. Plenty of spots. You do a section of steep climbing switchbacks, then you come to a section that's not so steep and not so switchback-y that gives you some good views down the valley. Then you'll come around a bend and you're nearly level with the base of the upper fall. Some excellent views there. Your about two miles in and about 1/3 the height.

    Then more steep switchbacks with some good views on the way up.

    I hope you are in good shape. It's one of the more rugged trails/climbs out of the valley. But if I can carry my 5x4 up the mountain, so can you

    Bruce Watson

  5. #5

    Re: Yosemite Falls Q

    2,700 foot elevation gain in 3.5 miles. The trail faces south and is a hot hike when the sun is up and there is little to no water this time of year in the small creeks that cross the trail. The falls themselves are well past prime, and will be lucky to last until the end of the month.

    Eric's suggestion at the lower fall is a much easier and cooler alternative. There is a dry creek bed to the left of the creek and lower fall that one can follow to the base.

    The first third of the upper fall trail is a long set of switchbacks through a wooded area that climbs to the first "bench" on the north wall of the valley. From there it heads east along the bench and up a second series of switchbacks to the second "bench." With less shade and fewer obstructions, there are more clear views of the valley below. The first designated vista is at Columbia Point, which is about halfway up to the point where one gets the first view of upper Yosemite Fall. A lot of people choose this for a picnic. Most people take about an hour to get to this point.

    More switchbacks and a bit of a sandy slope and a short downhill section take you to "Oh My Gosh Corner" where you get your first view of the fall. If you proceed straight at that corner instead of left like the rest of the world, there is a spur trail (poorly maintained) that descends to a wonderful view of the Inner Gorge between the Upper and Lower Fall.

    If you turn left at "Oh My Gosh Corner" and continue on the trail, it descends a bit and heads north toward the falls, and a bit to the left. For frontal views of the falls, this section of trail is where most people set up. With the sun at your back, there can be a nice rainbow in the mist. This is about the midpoint of the hike.

    The trail continues up the gorge to the left of the fall, initially providing views of the Upper Fall in profile, and then moving deeper into the gorge and out of the view of the falls.

    Once at the top, you can follow a trail to the lip of the fall, though IMO there is very little to lend a sense of scale, and it isn't as impressive as the view you get from below.

    But, if you decide to continue to the top, another popular spot is to follow the rim of the valley east to where you can see Lost Arrow Spire, a finger of rock about the size of the Washington Monument. Climbers often set ropes between the rim of the valley and the spire and traverse on the rope, which makes for some exciting documentary photos.

    Any high vista in the valley is impressive iMO. If you decide to hike the upper trail, I'd start as early in the day as possible, even before sunrise. Take plenty of water and if you have them, hiking poles. Though as wide a road in some places, it is a rocky and sandy trail, which in combination, make for some interesting footing during the slog uphill and back down.

  6. #6

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    Re: Yosemite Falls Q

    I took the trail to the base of the upper falls a couple years ago. There are definitely some spots where you can get some good shots of the falls, but be prepared to manage the ever-present mist (keep the lens cap on until you are ready to pull the shutter) and wind (use a sturdy camera and tripod) near the falls. I'm not sure if fast film is worthwhile since normally an exposure of a half second or so is needed to achieve a good flowing effect from the water. When shooting waterfalls I normally carry a couple ND filters just to be sure I can achieve a slow enough shutter speed in bright light.

    Also, IMO the falls look best when sidelit during the morning or afternoon (according to Michael Frye's book The Photographer's Guide to Yosemite, the falls are sidelit around 9:00-10:00AM and 3:00-4:00PM during Spring, which was consistent with my experience; you may want to check with a ranger as to the best time during Summer).

    It's a steep, hot hike, so be sure you are in shape!

  7. #7
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Yosemite Falls Q

    Another way to get to the top of Yosemite Falls is to have a friend drop you off at just past Porkupine Flat Campground on the road to Tioga Pass, and hike down all the way to Yosemite Falls...but a longer hike. I've done this with side trip to the top of North Dome (with another side trip to Indian Rock), then down the Yosemite Falls Trail with a 4x5 ...and again with an 8x10, but going down Snow Creek Trail (to Mirror Lake) instead of Yosemite Falls. Both trips were started at about noon and arrived in the Valley after dark...and on both trip I was wiped out physically (the trip with the 8x10, I had to called my friend from the Ahwanee Hotel to pick me up -- I could not make it the last mile to Yosemite Village!)

    But without the side trip to North Dome, it would be a lot easier!

    Vaughn

  8. #8

    Re: Yosemite Falls Q

    But Vaughn, wasn't the trip to North Dome worth it?

    That is one of the finest vistas in the park.

    It is almost mandatory if you are going to do Yosemite Creek/Snow Creek (which is even harder on the knees than the upper Yosemite Fall trail.)

  9. #9

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    Re: Yosemite Falls Q

    And then there's the grand traverse: YOS Falls to Snow Creek. If I remember, it spit me out by the Stables, but I was a bit hypoglycemic by then. I remember passing by the North Dome spur and thinking better.

    I've visited the North Dome summit since then and would agree with you Keith - that's a hard view to beat! Where else is Half Dome been the least-impressive sight in a 180-degree panarama?

  10. #10

    Re: Yosemite Falls Q

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    If I remember, it spit me out by the Stables,
    No better description ever than that.

    That hike up and across will kick your butt. The smart people are the ones that spend the night midway.

    There is also a tendency to think it is possible to take a short cut from North Dome down to the valley when you've arrived, dehydrated, hungry and otherwise totally spent. Multiple people lost their lives doing just that when I lived in the park.

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