The following trip report and gear review is brought to you by Kevin Snow of Tahoe Mountain Sports:
“I should have bought another banana,” I thought as I turned onto Highway 140, entering the Merced River Valley. I wasn’t sure how long the drive was going to take me, and I’d hastily misjudged my morning hunger level as I flew through the gas station just outside of Lee Vinning hours earlier. “I heard there’s a pizza place down there somewhere,” I remember thinking, when all of a sudden, I realized what was happening, my car slowed, and a tear came to my eye. I had just entered the Yosemite Valley and what had just come into view was one of natures’ most awe inspiring, grand, and massive gifts of beauty, towering three thousand feet above the valley floor. I stood before El Capitan, in all of its majesty, in pure astonishment, as I contemplated not only the massive geologic events it would have taken to make this gargantuan monolith, but the amount of monumental historic events for the climbing world that have taken place on its walls and in its shadow. I felt like an ant. All of a sudden the world had been pulled into perspective for me, I felt small in it, and another tear came to my eye.
It was my first time in the grand Yosemite Valley and Yosemite National Park all together. A few weeks earlier, my boss Dave, had come downstairs to tell me that I’d won a Deuter sales contest, which placed me on a list of lucky folks that would be joining a few of the Deuter staff, along with some guides, on a three day two night backpacking trip in the legendary park. My jaw hit the floor as he said it, and with my mind racing with excitement I stood in wide eyed silence. “So you want to go ooooorrrrrr…?” Dave said, as the silence grew longer. “Absolutely,” I blurted out, as I snapped back to reality, and a few short weeks later I found myself there in my car, driving along side the Merced River on my way to the 2014 End of Summer Deuter Backpacking Trip, with epic, towering walls of granite all around me.
A short time later, I arrived at the outpost on the western end the valley, Curry Village. There I was to meet up with the Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides (SYMG) and the rest of my party. After I luckily found a quick egg biscuit, I was greeted by the extremely jovial Colby of the guiding company who brought me to where the other guide Laura had the rest of the group getting their last minute packing and pack adjustments taken care of. We were a group of ten that quickly got aquatinted before heading off to the also legendary Camp 4 to find our trailhead. We made a quick stop at Midnight Lightning, a classic boulder problem, and hit the Yosemite Falls Trail, going straight up the valley wall. We climbed 2,700 feet in 3.2 miles the first day.
After making camp near the top of Yosemite Falls, I experienced my second big surprise. Our guides had came prepared to cook us gourmet meals in the middle of the backcountry. They made a sauté of mushroom, kale, sun-dried tomato, garlic, red onions, and white beans, served over a bed of wild rice with rosemary. I couldn’t have imagined a better meal to end a sold day of hiking. Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides have their backcountry cooking on lock down!
The following day we hiked the northern rim of the valley to make camp opposite from Half Dome. The night brought with it a fierce thunderstorm, and from the coziness of a down puffy under a rain jacket, I gazed out at the headlamps twinkling in the night, thousands of feet from the valley floor, as climbers secured their gear for the storm on the north face. The wind picked up and ever few moments a crash of lightning would rain down and illuminate the entire valley and the silhouette of Half Dome. I felt as if though I was witnessing some type of cosmic event. I’ll never forget that night.
The last day was a hike back down into the valley were the guide service took the liberty of having someone meet us at our cars with a full make-your-own sandwich spread and coolers of cold cold beer. It was yet another very pleasant surprise from SYMG.
The weapon of choice for the trip was a Deuter Futura Vario Pro 50 + 10. I feel like Deuter has honed their skills in their 116 years of pack making, and introduced us with an extremely lightweight and comfortable pack. I did my best to load it full so I could get a true feel of the nature of the pack, and the key to comfort in this pack is Deuter’s Vari Flex system. The hip belt is not sewn into the back system of the pack like many are today; however, it is held in place at its center point allowing for the pack to remain still and upright as your hips sway and bounce. At each extreme step, jump, or quick maneuver, I could feel the Vari Flex system compensating for me. The pack comes with the Aircomfort System providing the wearer with optimal back breathability without sacrificing weight carriage ability. Also with the Vari Fit adjustment straps it is extremely simple to adjust the pack on the fly. The pack also comes loaded with a ton of other features such as hip belt pockets, bottom and front access, built in rain cover, trekking pole loops, and huge side pockets.
After many talks about packs with fellow gear nerds, many stories shared around cocoa and campfires, and many miles beneath our feet we parted ways where we all met 2 days earlier under the massive apple trees of the Curry Village parking lot. I then drove back out the way I came passing the heavenly walls of the Valley monuments one last time before my short drive back to Tahoe. I had never thought that there could be such a drastic difference between photos and a place. I’ve spent my fair share of time in the world’s mountain ranges, but nothing could have prepared me for the experience of witnessing the grandeur of Yosemite Valley.
Deuter Vario Pro 50 +10 Backpack