For the interactive 360° VR experience, go to: https://www.virtualyosemite.org/virtual-tour/#node263.
Here at 12,400′ elevation on the Mt. Dana trail, you’re only 600 feet below the summit. There is very little plant life, as you are well-above the timber line in the alpine zone.
Weather here can deteriorate rapidly. On this day, the sky was completely cloudless and temperatures were in the mid 70°s (F) at 10 a.m. By 2:30 p.m., the sky had darkened and thunder was coming from what appeared to be a rain squall over Tioga Pass to the northeast (seen in this view). By 3 p.m., a massive lightning, hail, and sleet storm came in from behind Mt. Dana, and inundated the entire Sierra crest of Yosemite for the next two hours. Temperatures dropped to the mid-40s.
At these altitudes, you’re completely exposed to the elements, and there is NO place to seek shelter. A quick descent down the trail becomes your only option to protect yourself from deadly lightning strikes. The sooner you make the decision to head down, the better.
In this view, you can see one of the large cairns (a large stack of rocks), built with funding by the Yosemite Conservancy between 2011 and 2013, to better identify the trail for hikers. Other improvements were additions of rock steps in some sections, and extensive rerouting of the trail to both reduce its slope and to protect critical habitats.
For more information about the hike and getting here, check out the wonderful and in-depth details offered by our friends at Yosemite Hikes.
©2020 Photography by Scott Highton.