As the program director for Lasting Adventures, one of my favorite Yosemite backpacking memories is from my first trip guiding for Lasting Adventures during a summer camp in June, 2013. After 5 days of backpacking through the beautiful meadows of Lyle Canyon, swimming in chilly, high altitude lakes and sitting in awe of the dramatic peak of Mt. Vogelsang, we found ourselves at the base of Yosemite’s most iconic granite formation –Half Dome. While some of the participants were a little nervous about the ascent at first, all of them were able to overcome their fears with the guidance and support of the guides and the encouragement of all the new friends they had made over the course of the week.
Getting to the top was cause to celebrate. All in wide smiles, we went around the circle and gave each other trail names -titles of honor reserved for those who have experienced the wilds together and formed a special bond through overcoming challenges. One by one, each backpacker was given a name based on some accomplishment or experience they had over the last five days. My fellow guide received the name “Tenderfoot” for his sensitive soles (a name by which he still carries today) and finally I was given the trail name “Oatmeal” for my utter disgust for the common backpacking food. After the naming, we commenced the bracelet ceremony, wrapping pieces of tent line around each other’s wrists and sealing them together in such a way that they could only be removed by cutting them off. This solidified the bonds we had created during the last week and celebrated our summiting of the proud Half Dome.
After the ceremony, we played hacky sack for a while and enjoyed the view from one of the most prominent and recognizable peaks in the country. As we headed back down the cables of Half Dome and the sun began to set, the mountains to the east suddenly became illuminated with a brilliant pinkish/purple glow –a hue I had never seen before or since. I stopped for a moment hanging from the cables over 8,000 feet above sea level on the side of the majestic Half Dome, and basked in the radiant sunset reflecting off of all the granite mountains around me. In that moment, I truly understood why John Muir called these mountains his “range of light.”
– Otto Ross, Program Director, Lasting Adventures, Inc.