Snowed In at Glacier Point

March 19, 2015 Posted by: CJ - Web & Social Media Volunteer (Yosemite Valley)

This winter has turned out to be warm and dry, but, a few years ago, Yosemite National Park was hit with a large snowstorm. In honor of that storm's four year anniversary, and to fondly remember winters passed, these are the transcribed pages from the Glacier Point Cabin's visitor log. The Glacier Point Cabin is used by National Park Service employees and volunteers throughout the year. In March 2011, three NPS employees skied to the cabin for what was supposed to be a short overnight trip into the wintry wilderness. Caught in the biggest series of storms of this young century, these individuals wrote down their story as it unfolded.

March 19-20… 21… 22, 2011

SNOW BOUND!!! We skied in to the Glacier Point Cabin after a night of fresh snow fall. Perfect skiing conditions with amazing snow. We arrived in the late afternoon to snow squalls and dramatic cloudy views of the valley and Half Dome. By 8 pm, it started snowing heavily. In the morning the road was buried. George at Badger Pass called to say the roads were closed and the Glacier Point Road would not be groomed. Our one night trip has become two nights! It snowed all day today. Each time we skied to/from the Glacier Point Hut we were breaking trail. At 9 pm the power went out. You have to realize that no power in the backcountry is not a big deal. We are in a structure. We have propane to cook. Our headlamps give us light. Our sleeping bags keep us warm. But that pellet stove… not only is it impossible to use in ideal conditions, it is useless without electricity! There is a motor/blower to sustain the burning pellets. The blower does not work without electricity. So no heat! The process of melting snow for water steams up the cabin; without the dry heat for the pellet stove, the cabin becomes a wet/damp refrigerator. I can see my breath. The lack of reliable heat in our situation could be a hazard to those relying on it.

Once we found out we were snowbound, we started rationing our two days of food. We did not know how long we would be here. Luckily the GP Hut manager, Bernice, allowed us to have dinner with the fourteen stranded guests tonight. We are prepared to head out tomorrow.

This morning we received the phone call. Ranger Chad at Wawona gave us all the updates. The power was out all over the park and areas surrounding the park (excuse my writing mistakes—my hands are cold). All roads were closed and 40-50 people were stranded at Badger Pass! This included backpackers coming out of the wilderness, Ostrander guests (who must have broken trail for 10 miles with 4-6 feet of fresh snow!) and anyone who was at Badger Pass when the road closed. At least those of us at Glacier Point have a large shelter, access to heat at the GP Hut with an awesome wood burning stove, and extra food. And best of all… a working phone to the rest of the world! The Glacier Point travelers are a lower priority than the people at Badger. Their resources seem to be less. Here's the best part—Chad directed us to the secret caches of food and coffee! You should have heard the cheers of delight and relief!

Handwritten text from the Glacier Point Hut visitors log.

The park is closed. Everyone is being evacuated. The GP Road will not be groomed today and the snow is so deep that when we step into it, we sink to our mid-chests… with skis or snowshoes on. That rules out breaking trail for ten miles. So we have been instructed to stay put… and keep our eyes open for five backpackers.

The upside of all this is that today is a spectacular day. The clouds are drifting in and out of the valley which makes Half Dome play peek-a-boo most of the day. The three of us went out to enjoy the sunshine and amazing views at the point. Some of the younger guests at the GP Hut have made a maze of snowshoe trails around the point area between the GP Hut, the Geology Hut, and the point. We broke the trail between the GP Cabin and the hut which some of them snowshoed to get out and about. Christine was in heaven taking photos all afternoon.

One of the purposes of this trip was to witness the super moon, but by late afternoon, it started snowing again. We were invited to dinner at the GP Hut by candle light. Everyone out here is in good spirits. We have the three essentials: food, water, and shelter.

For the second night in a row, we skied back to the GP Cabin in the dark. When we arrived at 9 pm, we saw headlamps! It turned out to be the missing five backpackers! They found the cabin just before we arrived with two inside and three arriving on the trail from the Sentinel Dome parking lot. We were happy to see them and they were really happy to see us and the cabin!

Apparently, they started Saturday and camped at Washburn Point. The next morning they started heading back, as planned. They were breaking trail since the groomed road was covered with about 2 feet of new snow. By the time they reached the Clark Range view point, they realized they would not make it out. So they decided to head back to the GP Cabin that they knew was here. As they headed back, they discovered that it was snowing so hard, their prior tracks were filled in and they had to break trail again. The made is to the Sentinel Dome parking lot and decided to spend the night.

Badger Winter Map

When they arrived at the cabin, they had been breaking trail along the road from the parking lot since dawn! It took them that long to that little distance; 13 hours! Luckily we left the cabin unlocked. When the first person arrived at the cabin, the phone was ringing. The backpacker answered the phone and Charlotte at Badger Pass said something like "I have a pizza delivery for you," thinking it was one of us. The backpacker was baffled and responded, "I'm one of the five lost skiers." We all got a good laugh at that.

We immediately got the rest into the cabin, fed them soup and hot tea from Chad's cache, and sent them to the GP Hut where it was warmer and drier. I'm sure the guests will love chatting with them. Their two day trip turned into four! We were happy they found us and a safe place for the night with warm food.When we talked to Badger Pass after the backpackers arrived, we were informed another party of seven arrived at Badger Pass and they were in bad shape. Two more people are still unaccounted for. We are counting our blessings and hope they make it out. HAPPY SPRING! So ironic.

Awoke to a beautiful sunny morning. The mountain range is incredible with all the fresh snow! Half Dome is totally coated with snow. But we know it won't last. Another storm is on the way today. Three more feet of snow are expected.

Chad called to say they decided they need to get us all out before the next storm hits. And with the different level of skiers, they can't afford to have us ski out. So they are sending a snowmobile brigade to take us all out once they groom the road. The park is working really hard to get us out before the situation gets bad.

We are cleaning the cabin as best we can. It will probably be coated with ice on the floor and walls. Packing our bags. Will head to the GP Hut to await the rescue arrival. They want us all in one place; all 23 of us. Out little adventure to the GP Cabin turned into a big adventure. We are grateful for our high spirits, propane, the phone, Chad and Dick's cache, the GP Hut, and the sunshine when it appeared. And especially the National Park Service's efforts to make people safe in such a huge storm with widespread impacts.

Signed- Margaret S., Christine L., and Charlie R.

Half Dome and Yosemite Valley covered in white, fluffy snow.

Last updated: March 20, 2015

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