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Little Yosemite Valley in January

In lieu of snow camping, Mike P., Ryan H. and I backpacked to Little Yosemite Valley this weekend for some day hiking adventures. We drove up Sat morning, backpacked up to LYV and set up in the dark. (Took about 4 hours from the Valley w 40 pound packs and a slow steady pace.) Sunday we picked up a stray fellow camper and did a cross-country hike to Moraine Dome and then further east to open domes across from Bunnell Point for a day of breath-taking views. In the evening we hung out at one of the communal fire pits with a couple of climbers we met the night before. They had left camp at 5 :00 in the morning, did Half Dome via the cables and then Clouds Rest and returned to camp by 2:00, for a total of 9 hours, including a couple of hours of summit relaxation. They said they didn't rush or worry about trying to do it fast, just wanted to have a good time.

Mon morning Ryan and I hiked to the top of Liberty Cap for more fantastic views. I've wanted to do this for years, but was always on the way to somewhere else. It has a delightful summit, with bonsai trees, sandy bivvy spots, and great views. It takes about an hour to get to the summit from the LYV trail turnoff for Snake Dike. The approach is very brushy, but there is a pretty good informal trail in the center-right side of the face as you approach it. It's mostly second class to the summit with some 3d class spots, so it would be easy and fun to camp on top. Highly recommended.

Yosemite has early spring conditions. There is almost no snow visible anywhere from the Valley, and mid-day sunny spots are warm enough for shorts and t-shirts; even hotter on sunny slabs. Patches of snow can be found above 6,000 feet (the elevation of LYV), along with icy stretches of trail, where trekking poles are welcome. The approaches to Snake Dike and Clouds Rest are open with no snow obstructions. There were about 30 people camped at LYV. Upper Pines is open with no reservations required. Day time temps at 6,000 feet were in the mid to high 50's and nights in the high 20's. We were cozy in Mike's 3-man VE 25.

On the way down, I checked out a cross-country route that begins above Vernal Falls and follows forested ramps up to the west/left of Mt. Broderick to Snake Dike and the Diving Board. On the way it passes a huge dihedral above Vernal Falls that looked interesting and worth checking out. Another day . . .

The camping areas at Hardin Flat were untouched by the fire, although the forest on the opposite side of the road was burned. HF road is closed, presumably due to the hazards of falling trees.

If these conditions continue through President's Day, we might consider an ascent of Pyramid Peak, the highest point in Desolation Wilderness, via Horse Tail Falls.