Echoes and the Bunnymen

Cathedral Peak, Cockscomb, and Echo Peaks from Lower Cathedral Lake
Cathedral Peak, Cockscomb, and Echo Peaks from Lower Cathedral Lake; Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

By John P. DeGrazio

Mountaineers aren’t made; they’re born.

Waking up at 5 am is never fun, but sometimes it is more tolerable than others. As my alarm sounded, I sprung out of bed, eager to meet the day’s challenge. I couldn’t shovel the oatmeal in my mouth fast enough, and I sprinted out the door with a full pack of food, water, and plenty of sunscreen.

Morning Light on the Back Side of Pywiack Dome, Yosemite National Park
Morning Light on the Back Side of Pywiack Dome, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Gabe Mange Feeling Strong
Gabe Mange Feeling Strong by John P. DeGrazio

We arrived at Pywiack Lake, some like to call it Tenaya Lake, at about 8 am and immediately began our  journey. After some early morning shots of Pywiack Dome, we followed the climbers trail up the Cascades to Lower Cathedral Lake where we were greeted by stunning views of Cathedral Peak, my first multi pitch climb in Yosemite. I was with Red Bro in charge, Gabe Mange, and he was feeling strong.

Tenaya Peak and Pywiack Lake, Yosemite National Park
Tenaya Peak and Pywiack Lake, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Early Morning, Pywiack Cascades, Yosemite National Park
Early Morning, Pywiack Cascades, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
That's What Beards are For
That’s What Beards are For by John P. DeGrazio

We treated ourselves to some sunflower seeds and other snacks before we continued our journey. We stopped briefly to chat with 3 firemen who declined our invitation to join us on the Echo Peaks and a lone camper who all thought we were a bit out of sorts. When I tried to explain what our goal was, Gabe nudged me to end the conversation and reminded me “We’re like on a big mission, man.” From the Upper Cathedral Lake, we ascended through a decent amount of snow to the bench above beautiful Budd Lake.

Eichorn Pinnacle and Cathedral Peak, Yosemite National Park
Eichorn Pinnacle and Cathedral Peak, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

From there, I declared “Dude, we’re camping here in a few weeks”. Gabe concurred.

Cathedral Peak and Clouds, Yosemite National Park
Cathedral Peak and Clouds, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

The views were sublime. I was overwhelmed by emotion as I felt my spirit lifted from my body in way that I have experienced many times before, but only in the mountains. Cathedral Peak was simply stunning, and I had never seen Mt. Dana look so beautiful, all 13,061 feet of her.

Our approach to the Echo Peaks was pretty straightforward, and we didn’t encounter any problems besides a few postholing incidents. We chugged a couple of shots of Red Ace, and Gabe received a jolt of energy he had never felt before. Not to be confused with the other poisonous energy drinks on the market, Red Ace is an all natural beet shot. Each bottle contains three organic beets, and I have been assured by my new friend Miles, the company’s owner, that scientists have proved this supplement can provide energy as well as help mountaineers adjust to higher altitudes. Gabe and I were convinced as we saluted our new found tonic.

Every Climber Needs a Good Partner, Echo Peaks, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Every Climber Needs a Good Partner, Echo Peaks, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

We climbed three of the Echoes in all, and made one last push to the Cockscomb, an 11,005 foot peak in the center of the Cathedral Range.

Alpinist Glow, Yosemite National Park
Alpinist Glow, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

We grabbed the summit and decided to call it a day. Our plan was to get down for some fish tacos, but as it always seems, we were in no hurry to leave this magical place. We stopped to photograph the majesty of the peaks who welcomed us. We were not the only ones there that day, as we heard a couple of climbing teams on Cathedral. Although we were not alone, we felt so isolated from the rest of the world and were happy to share this most remarkable terrain with fellow adventurists.

We took our time on the descent and soaked in every last ray of sun as we approached the lake during sunset. We stopped to photograph at every turn where each lighting situation improved. We made it back to Pywaick, and the last bit of sunlight escaped as we ended our 12 hour excursion. We returned happy, tired, and hungry. Although we were feeling the pangs of hunger (missed our chance for tacos), our beings were completely satisfied with another bountiful mountainous feast. Next time we return, this area will be filled with many more adventurous souls on similar missions. This particular thought made our experience that much more memorable.

Cathedral Peak from the Bench
Cathedral Peak from the Bench, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Mt. Dana with Unicorn Peak, Yosemite National Park
Mt. Dana with Unicorn Peak, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Lenticulars and Mt. Conness, Yosemite National Park
Lenticulars and Mt. Conness, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
On a Mission, Echo Peak #3, Yosemite National Park
On a Mission, Echo Peak #3, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Echo Peak #3, Yosemite National Park
Echo Peak #3, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Echo Lake from Echo Peak #3, Yosemite National Park
Echo Lake from Echo Peak #3, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Massive Matthes Crest, Yosemite National Park
Massive Matthes Crest, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Echo Peak #3, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Echo Peak #3, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Bunnymen, aka Team RedBro on the Echo Peaks, Yosemite National Park
Bunnymen, aka Team RedBro on the Echo Peaks, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Gabe Mange Descends the Echo Peaks, Yosemite National Park
Gabe Mange Descends the Echo Peaks, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Echo Peaks and Clouds by John P. DeGrazio
Echo Peaks and Clouds by John P. DeGrazio
The Cockscomb, Yosemite National Park
The Cockscomb, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Gabriel Mange and the Echo Peaks
Gabriel Mange and the Echo Peaks, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Whitebark Pine and Cathedral Peak
Whitebark Pine and Cathedral Peak, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Reflection of Cathedral Peak from Lower Cathedral Lake
Reflection of Cathedral Peak from Lower Cathedral Lake, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Cathedral Peak from Icy Lower Cathedral Lake
Cathedral Peak from Icy Lower Cathedral Lake, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Cathedral Peak from the Pywiack Cascades Headwaters
Cathedral Peak from the Pywiack Cascades Headwaters, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Gabe Mange Photographing Pywiack Cascades
Gabe Mange Photographing Pywiack Cascades, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Pywiack Cascades, Yosemite National Park
Pywiack Cascades, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Last Light on Cathedral Peak from Pywiack Dome
Last Light on Cathedral Peak from Pywiack Dome, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

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Change Your Perspective

Lodgepole Pine Reflection in Dog Lake
Lodgepole Pine Reflection in Dog Lake by John P. DeGrazio

Reflections in Dog Lake
By John P. DeGrazio

I was in my daughter’s classroom last night for an open house and observed a bulletin board full of paintings by the students for the first time. I was fascinated by all the wonderful drawings and asked the teacher how long they have been there. Since I volunteer in her class every Monday, I was a little embarrassed that I had never noticed this wall that displayed their artwork. I make sure to say hello to the children with every visit, but then I focus on the station where I am working and often forget about many other areas of the classroom. Then it had me thinking about how we approach our everyday lives and the tasks we set out to achieve. This is also true on long challenging hikes in Yosemite. We often are so focused on the goal, we can easily forget many of the things that attract us to these wonderful places. Sure, the waterfalls and majestic mountaintops are truly spectacular, but let’s not forget about the little things that make the trip so special. Maybe it’s a small flower, a pine cone on the trail, or a reflection in a lake. Sometimes we have to trip over them just to know they are there. Beauty is everywhere, and it’s up to us to take the time and find it.

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