« PreviousContinue »
beyond, where we dismounted, tethering our horses by long lariats, relieving them of saddle and bridle so they could graze. Mr. J. and Mr. S., taking off their coats, threw them down on the saddles. Cutting great canes to assist us, we started upon the Mono Trail, traversed occasionally by Indians. [Note 1.) For a while it led up the valley through open plots of grass and between hugh masses of rock in the deep dark forest. We suddenly turned sharply off to the left, up the mountain, where at once we began to climb the steep ascents following the dim trail of the Indians. It was a work of incredible difficulty to creep and clamber up the mountain side. In very many places we had to climb over the smooth rock for a great distance where the slightest slip of hand or foot would have precipitated one into a horrible abyss. After going on about two hours we came to a place where the trail turned off to the left, winding around to a cañon, up which it wended to the mountain summit.
"Here we halted and held counsel with each other. Our cañon lay off to our right. Above us the summit of the mountain, the slope of which reaching downward was impassable from the smooth rock that formed it. Breaking above us it exhibited an overhanging surface barring our progress in an upward direction. Below us and from a line parallel and extending from our position to our right as far as the cañon, the mountain swept smooth and precipitously down to the base, leaving a bushy, briary space between which it might or might not be practicable for us to reach the cañon to our right. We rested ourselves a while and then summoning all our energies we struggled frantically over the debris of granite and through dead limbs of trees on the verge of the precipice, watchful, half exhausted and yet determined to achieve our project if at all feasible. A long, long and most exciting and fearful struggle we had of it, exploring and fighting a passage over almost impassable rocks and through thickets, where we were torn by
[Note 1.-The Mono Trail to which reference is made must have been an old Indian trail ascending the west wall of Tenaya Cañon between the present Tenaya zigzags and Snow Creek. Mr. Fiske, the pioneer photographer of Yosemite, on being questioned on this subject, says that the Mono Indians had often mentioned the fact that such a trail existed, and that it was in fact their usual route to the valley from the east. Mr. A. C. Pillsbury has made the trip up Snow Creek cañon and reports remnants of an old trail there even at the present date. When the present Tenaya Trail was built no indications of an Indian trail were found along that route. )
briars and our boots worn through to our feet by the sharp cutting edges of the coarse granite. Finally, about two o'clock, we came to the side of the cañon, but found it precipitous. [Note 2.) We hunted hither and thither slowly and most cautiously for means of descent, finally finding a narrow ledge where with infinite care we might get down. Down we did succeed in getting, and right before us saw a beautiful basin of rock with huge boulders forming its sides, which basin was filled with most exquisite water, and into which a cascade of about ten feet fell through the great rocks in foaming flakes, forming a most charming picture. To us who were so fearfully exhausted the sight of the water cheered marvelously. We rushed to it without speaking, and falling down on our faces, drank long and deep draughts from the crystal fountain. Never did anything taste so surpassingly excellent. After resting ourselves and looking up and down the cañon, we ate our lunch and, feeling much strengthened thereby, girded up our loins and began the ascent. Far above, at an angle of 60°, we saw the end of the cañon and the summit of the mountain. To the left through a tall pine we saw the lashing of a mighty fall of water, leaping and dashing over a lofty ledge of rocks and falling into the cañon. [Note 3.) Between our position and the cascade lay half the cañon, almost impassable from the titanic rocks chaotically piled one upon another, suggesting doubts of a passage. Above on either side the cañon was a sheer smooth precipice with beautiful ferns feathering every crevice with drooping fronds of emerald green. Through great masses of rock that blocked the cañon the waters hissed and boiled and percolated in foaming torrents, most beautiful to behold. We started our venture up the cañon, clambering, climbing on hands and knees, leaping from huge boulders over cauldronlike basins of foaming waters, exertions calling forth all our strength. Finally, we accomplished the distance which brought us to the base of the magnificent cascades, broad and ethereal, dashing a thunderous sheet of foam below. I climbed up be
[Note 2.-It would appear from the above that the party must have climbed entirely out of the cañon and over the top of Mount Watkins, descending again into Tenaya Cañon just beyond that great barrier. It is not clear just how this portion of the climb was made. It seems strange that the crossing of Snow Creek is not mentioned.]
[Note 3.—This must be the great fall at the head of the main cañon and just below Glacier Valley. There are two falls here, the large one being above. )
side the cascades to see if there was a perpendicular fall above descending from the mountain summit, and found one perhaps a hundred feet in height. I then descended to the rest of the party and we slowly returned down the cañon to the place where we had entered it. It was then about four o'clock. Mr. J. and Mr. S. concluded that there was a practicable passage down the cañon, and therefore we went down some distance until we were met by a smooth face of rock running all across the cañon where the waters flowed over, making a beautiful fall of a hundred feet in height. [Note 4.] Below it was repeated, forming a second fall. Here we were forced to betake ourselves to the left-hand side of the cañon, the right-hand side being precipitous and smooth surfaced rock. We had to work our way through the branches of oak with great care downward until we came to a spot where from a tree the rock was smooth for about fifteen feet, until we reached a crevice below. Down this place Mr. S. slid on his back and reached the crevice in the rock, with Mr. J. and myself after him. On reaching this place below we made the rather startling discovery that below us the mountain showed a smooth, precipitous face of rock for perhaps a hundred feet. An old trunk of a tree lay before us and it was proposed to lower it and work our way down to a ledge below on it, but even then we could not be certain that we would not meet a more extensive and formidable precipice below that point, so that design was abandoned.
"Night came creeping on and it behooved us to adopt some plan. We were standing in a crevice of rock about a foot in width and ten or twelve feet long, a precipice above and one below and the cañon beside us, with the swiftly rushing waters gliding over the glassy surface of the rock, falling in impalpable mist a hundred feet below. Our position was truly perilous, and it was with great delight that we discovered that Mr. J. had had the forethought to bring a rope with him in the morning. He had worn it around him and now he produced it. Mr. S. and I first pushed him up the rock that we had slid down until he was able to reach the ends of the limbs overhanging the rock, when he drew himself up and, tying the rope to the limb, threw it to Mr. S., who, with my aid in pushing his
(Note 4.-This was probably at the upper entrance to the box cañon.)