A 20 mile loop hike up El Capitan, with bears, solitude, and an off-trail wilderness adventure

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A. Hugh Jass
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A 20 mile loop hike up El Capitan, with bears, solitude, and an off-trail wilderness adventure

Post by A. Hugh Jass » October 21st, 2019, 7:11 pm

I put together a 20 mile loop that ascends the Yosemite Falls trail, then continues up to the summit of El Capitan. From there the trail continues West and joins the Old Big Oak Road, long ago decommissioned.

The Old Big Oak Road is a fun adventure to descend. It has a fair amount of dead-fall trees, washed out sections, and sections overgrown with bramble and trees. The "road" disappears entirely into a massive landslide region of boulders.

I have YouTube video of the experience on my blog: https://www.mountroot.com/2019/10/adven ... le-el.html

This is a great hike for those wanting to have a solitude experience. I only encountered three people. All three showed up at the summit after I arrived. Once I started to descend from the El Cap summit I did not encounter anybody. And since I hit the valley after dusk, I also did not see anybody on the trails in the valley.

This was a 20 mile hike with over 5200 feet of elevation gain. I started at about 6:30 in the morning, arrived at the summit at 11:30am. After exploring the summit area for 90 minutes I began to descend around 1pm. I finished the hike at about 8:30pm.

The difficulty of the Old Big Oak abandoned road added about three hours to my expected completion. It took a lot of extra time to navigate around the obstacles. However, this was the adventure and the solitude experience I was hoping for, and I also encountered a bear on the descent.

I highly recommend this route if you like the views from El Capitan and an adventurous off-trail experience.

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Chip Down
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Re: A 20 mile loop hike up El Capitan, with bears, solitude, and an off-trail wilderness adventure

Post by Chip Down » October 23rd, 2019, 5:48 pm

Bravo on your commitment. Starting and finishing in the dark is more than most hikers are willing to do.

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drm
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Re: A 20 mile loop hike up El Capitan, with bears, solitude, and an off-trail wilderness adventure

Post by drm » October 24th, 2019, 6:09 am

Willing to do - or maybe want to do. I did a backpack in that area a few years ago. Many good camps, creeks, and amazing views from said camps. Hardly a better place to enjoy your cup of joe in the morning, rather than getting up pre-dawn in the dark and cold - and the infernal sound of some clock telling you to wake up. I did plenty of alpine starts for climbs in my younger years and do not miss them. Clearly many people don't mind, but my alarm clock is when the sun hits the tent.

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A. Hugh Jass
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Re: A 20 mile loop hike up El Capitan, with bears, solitude, and an off-trail wilderness adventure

Post by A. Hugh Jass » October 24th, 2019, 7:17 am

Chip Down wrote:
October 23rd, 2019, 5:48 pm
Bravo on your commitment. Starting and finishing in the dark is more than most hikers are willing to do.
There are national parks where attempting to get a walk-in overnight permit has almost zero chance; therefore, I don't even try. You can do any hike, even if it lasts all night long, as a "day hike" without a permit. This is true in most NPs I've been to.

Since I'm an old retired guy I have the time to do a lot of hiking, mountain scrambles, and trail runs. I absolutely love moving all day. I love 12+ hour hikes, and moving 20 to 30+ miles a day - great conditioning for when I need to do more than planned - which seems to happen to me a few times a year. My circumnavigation of South Sister this year challenged me physically. A was whining to myself about a beer and steak the last three or so hours of that day.

I really enjoyed this day, perhaps as much as my technical climb up Half Dome as a one day-effort. Climbing up Half Dome, when the cables are down, yielded me a tremendous joy. I had the route and the summit all to myself that day - how often does that happen in Yosemite? I wouldn't even consider Half Dome with the mass of humanity going up when the cable-route is active (Memorial weekend through Columbus day).

Another fun day was my run/hike up Clouds Rest in Yosemite last year. I made a video of that one, for those interested:

There are a lot of hikes that I'd prefer to do as an overnight, but the park rules wont allow it. So, I'm happy to have the conditioning to do them as long day hikes.

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Bosterson
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Re: A 20 mile loop hike up El Capitan, with bears, solitude, and an off-trail wilderness adventure

Post by Bosterson » October 24th, 2019, 10:16 am

Nice videos, Ken. The Old Big Oak road looks fun - I didn't realize Yosemite had stuff like that, but of course it makes sense it would. It seems like you get around, and I see you've started recently posting here and on NWH - out of curiosity, are you based in this area or in Utah like your blog says? I also didn't realize we had a famous member of ABBA in our midst! And congrats on your win at the Banff Bovine Festival for your collaboration with Tommy Caldwell. ;)
Will hike off trail for fun.

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Chip Down
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Re: A 20 mile loop hike up El Capitan, with bears, solitude, and an off-trail wilderness adventure

Post by Chip Down » October 24th, 2019, 6:22 pm

drm wrote:
October 24th, 2019, 6:09 am
...the infernal sound of some clock telling you to wake up. I did plenty of alpine starts for climbs in my younger years and do not miss them.
I really don't do the alarm clock thing. Mostly, I just set my brain to wake on time, and it does. Occasionally it lets me down. Main difference for me as I get older: more and more, I hate getting back to the car in the dark. No big deal though, sometimes it's the price you pay for a great adventure.
A. Hugh Jass wrote:
October 24th, 2019, 7:17 am
There are national parks where attempting to get a walk-in overnight permit has almost zero chance; therefore, I don't even try. You can do any hike, even if it lasts all night long, as a "day hike" without a permit.
I've had some very long "days" on Rainier. Anyway, it's impossible to get caught "camping" without a permit if you throw your sleeping bag down far off trail at dusk and you're on your way again at dawn. But on that matter, I'm aligned with drm: too damn old for that nonsense.

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