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Little Yosemite Valley in March

Chris O., Mike P. and I made another backpacking trip to Little Yosemite Valley this weekend (last one was in January) to enjoy the spring conditions. We made it to LYV Friday afternoon and set up in the facing afternoon sun. Saturday we followed the trail up the Merced River to Echo Valley, which is within a couple of miles of Merced Lake, a beautiful hike I would recommend to anybody. Many impressive domes line the river, and your eye can't help looking for possible lines as you pass by. Behind them, peaks with snow clinging to impossibly steep faces showed just how wet the snows were this year.

Sunday we picked up Ralph, a stray climber from Oakdale who was camping nearby, and we bushwhacked up to the Diving Board, a breath-taking fin of rock that juts out over the Valley from the side of Half Dome, right where the Valley wall meets the base of the dome. The view up the face of the dome, and the overhanging view down into the valley, make the trip well worth the work it takes to get there. On the way out, three of us took the shortcut down through the draw between Liberty Cap and Mt. Broderick. This was pretty tough going with full packs, and Mike, who went the regular way, arrived at our meeting point about the same time we did, so no time saved there. The views of the domes on either side were pretty dramatic though.

Folks wanting to get out could do worse than consider this destination. At 6200', LYV is clear of snow, which starts at 7,000 on north-facing slopes and about 8,500 on south-facing slopes. Daytime temperatures are pleasant--high 50's and low 60's, and warmer in the sun. No reservations are required for camping or the cables (which aren't in their stanchions yet), less than a dozen people were camped there, and there are bear boxes so you don't have to carry canisters. (A gigantic bear poop in the middle of the trail made it quite clear not all bears are hibernating.) And there are plenty of on- and off-trail destinations. Nights are chilly but not really frigid. (Our water was a bit crunchy in the morning but not frozen solid.) And because of the light snow this year, the ground is dry in places where it would usually be wet in early spring. Go soon, before the hordes come!