At Yosemite’s Clouds Rest, determination and soaring hope

Cloud's Rest, Yosemite, by Ron Reason.

This Yosemite summit is not called Clouds Rest for nothing. [Photo: Ron Reason]

[The following essay is among tales of life away from work I share periodically on this blog. It was among those selected for publication in the book “Inspiring Generations: 150 Years, 150 Stories in Yosemite,” curated by The Yosemite Conservancy to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act.]

By Ron Reason

Yosemite National Park always inspires, and the deeper you delve into it, the more you often learn about yourself, the landscape, perhaps even humanity, as I discovered during my fourth major visit.

Despite the aches and pains of a week on the trails off Tioga Road, in the northern half of the park, I decided to hike up Clouds Rest. Though just a day trek, accounts from fellow hikers suggested it would make for an unforgettable experience.

“Inspiring Generations” is a collection of 150 distinctive memories from Yosemite visitors. It is available from Amazon.

At 9,930 feet, Clouds Rest towers 500 feet over Yosemite’s more famous landmark, Half Dome, across the Valley. It’s a strenuous, seven-and-a-half-mile uphill climb – round trip is more than a half marathon, but at what seems to be a 20- to 40-degree grade with switchbacks much of the way.

The peak itself is not really so perilous, although about one quarter of climbers seem to halt about 500 feet short – from vertigo, or fear of heights or wind or lightning. The summit is a bit of a catwalk that surrounds hikers by deep valleys on all sides, and endless mountains in the distance.

At the top, I observed a man, about 24 years old, walking shakily with two canes and braces, attempting that final 500-foot stretch. Eight men had taken turns carrying him up the entire trail in some sort of chair device, just short of trail’s end. Not wanting to disrupt their focus, I asked a member of the party lagging behind what was up; she told me he was living with advanced multiple sclerosis, and their civic group (Rotarians maybe?) was helping him achieve his dream of reaching that spectacular view.

Helped out of the chair, with the eight guys circling him for safety and clearing a path, he would walk two to three steps with the help of his supports, halt, sometimes fall, but then get back up, rest and catch his breath and balance, and then push on.

Normally a shutterbug, and a journalist by training, I did not take a picture of the endeavor. It seemed too precarious a moment, private, special, for all involved. But I cannot get this inspiring guy, and those who helped him, out of my mind. Just observing them renewed my faith in humanity.

My descent a short while after, while physically challenging, would be the source of no complaints.

Cloud's Rest, Yosemite, by Ron Reason.

The reward: View from the top of Clouds Rest, with the park’s famous Half Dome in the left half of the frame. [Photo: Ron Reason]

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