Some of the most rewarding parts of my job covering the Central Valley are the stories I discover in Yosemite, Sequoia/Kings Canyon, and other parts of the Sierra. I’ve reported wearing snowshoes, sitting in a canoe, and perched in a Search and Rescue helicopter. So when the Climate Watch team asked me to tackle climbing to a glacier, I was thrilled.
The Dana Glacier is one of the most accessible in the Sierra, but the hike turned out to be a grueling journey. I was recovering from the stomach flu, and had to muster enough strength to scramble up miles of unsteady rock. There was no clear trail. I was never sure whether to plant my weight on the small boulders which sometimes tipped back and forth under my feet. I fell several times, and eventually decided to put away my microphone. Our trek (including stops to photograph and interview) took us about nine hours.
The air grew thinner as we climbed past 11,000 feet. In fact, you can hear my heavy breathing in the radio story about the journey. What you can’t hear is the screaming headache I developed when we reached the glacier.
We were dehydrated because the sun was intense, and we didn’t bring enough water. Producer Gretchen Weber and I were so worried about carrying all of our microphones and cameras up the steep bedrock that we only brought a few bottles. And there were few refilling opportunities in this parched moonscape.
But the journey was spectacular. Glacial “flour,” or fine silt from the moraine, colors the lakes below Dana almost tropical blue. They look like the Hawaiian ocean, but feel icy to the touch. Seeing withering Dana Glacier reflected in that water was magnificent.
On the way down, I badly bruised my toenails from banging them against my hiking boots. Three of my toenails fell off, and I had to wear a prosthetic one on my big toe to my wedding a few weeks later! When the fake fell off at the wedding, friends and family scoured the grass to find the missing toenail. That makes my hike to the Dana Glacier something I’ll remember forever.