Saturday, September 22, 2012

Lembert Dome at Tuolumne Meadow - by Lily

Note: Tuolumne Meadow is a major attraction at North Yosemite. 

By the time we reached Tuolumne meadow, it was already well into the afternoon and the clouds were gathering above our heads. The 7-mile trip to Cathedral lake was out of the question. So we decided to give the shortest trail a try, 2.8 mile loop to Lembert dome with an elevation gain of 850 feet. The first section of the trail was 0.7 mile of steep uphill. After a few minutes on the trail, Allan decided to back down. He was really tired with a headache after several hours of driving on the forever winding road in the mountain. To make sure he’d be able to drive us back to Yosemite Valley, it’s better for him to rest a while. Nicholas decided to stay and “protect” his dad. So Justin and I charged on.

The steep uphill was no match to what we did at Nevada Fall two days ago. We kept a fairly steady speed. Fifteen minutes later we heard loud thunder and felt a few splutters of rain. We decided to go forward for another ten minutes while watching the weather. The rain drops were on and off and I saw people ahead of us. So we continued. Soon we reached a rather flat path into the woods. It’s hard to see where the road was leading and where the Lembert dome was. “I hope it’s not just a trail circling the dome” I said to Justin half jokingly. Then we reached at a fork with an arrow pointing the uphill route to Lembert dome. Following the path we arrived at the foot of a giant rock. 

Thunder continued to threaten us, but we were emboldened by several groups of people on the rock. We easily climbed up the lower portion of the dome and reached a plateau. The peak of the dome soared in front of us. Like many other domes in Yosemite, it’s a granite formation with one steep side and dome shaped on other sides. The easiest path going up was at least in a 50 angle above the ground, by my estimate. “Are we going up there?” I asked Justin in an incredulous voice. “Of course! I’m going.” With that he was on the rock. I took out my camera and captured a few shots of him in action taking the steepest path up to the peak. Soon he disappeared behind the crack and out of my sight. I hesitated, and then decided to give it a try. Taking the easiest route, I inched my way up. It was not as hard as I had thought. Using both hands and feet I had a good grip on the rock. However after climbing a quarter of the way up, I was blocked by a steep step. I considered my options, and decided to throw my backpack up the step then pulled myself up. After several maneuvers I joined Justin at the top of Lembert Dome. The wind was blowing; the sky was covered with dark clouds. The Tuolumne meadow spread under my view, I could only imagine what it would look like if it were on a sunny day. We saw the cathedral peak, its unique symmetrical form was easy to spot and hence its name. Darkened by the heavy clouds it looked grave. Justin was holding up his camera trying to capture a grand shot of the lightening. Fortunately he agreed this was not a place to linger in this weather. We needed to get down.
We packed everything other than the cameras in my backpack and planned to drop it step by step. But at the first drop, Justin let go of the backpack before it sat steadily, and the backpack started to roll down the slope all the way to the bottom of the dome, towards a group of people taking pictures down there. We loudly yelled to get their attention. Thankfully they heard us and stopped the backpack for us. Without that burden, getting down was much easier. We took caution so we wouldn’t roll down ourselves down, like the backpack. By the time we got down the dome it was only a little over one hour and 15 minutes since we had separated from the rest of the family. 

We took the path leading to the closest parking lot hoping to catch a shuttle that would transport us to where our car was parked. There were no cell phone signals in the area, and therefore no chance to ask Allan to drive over. A drizzle had started. We quickened our footsteps passing a group of young men. When we reached the parking lot we saw a shuttle that had just turned and left. The next one would come in half an hour; we’d get back faster if we walked the way. The drizzle had become a steady light rain. We took out our rain jackets and headed to our car. As we made the last turn to the parking lot the rain drops were getting bigger and bigger. We ran! Allan and Nicholas were surprised to see us back so fast, after only one hour and forty minutes.

Allan had his nap, Justin and I felt refreshed, and Nicholas took more pictures of deer and studied all the trail maps. Together we headed back to our camp site at Yosemite Valley.

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