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Lembert Dome

Yosemite National Park

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August 14th, 1998

2.8 miles
900 vertical feet
Total Time: 2:20

Rating: 9/10

Directions:   View Driving Map


Jean, Jennie, Reza, and I hiked up Lembert Dome near Tuolumne Meadows Campground.

We started our hike, as usual, under clear blue skies. At first we took the trail closest to the road, but this was a mistake. This is just a use trail for people who want a close-up view of the dome, and for rock climbers preparing to make their assault.

Two rock climbers were ahead of us, walking up the dome before stopping on a ledge to take out their equipment. Fun as that may have looked, we'd be taking the long way around. We cut across the smooth granite until we found the trail off to our left. A large group of about 20 kids were gathered there; a group leader was explaining the vegetation.

After passing the group, we started our hike in earnest. The hike up to the top of Lembert Dome is short, but relatively steep (about 12% average grade). It pretty much climbs, climbs, and climbs some more. There basically aren't any flat sections to the trail.

Whereas the previous day Jennie had felt the effects of altitude the most, today it was Jean's turn to feel lightheaded. We took it slow, stopping often. I tried to measure my pace and keep my heart rate at 140. It would have been hard to keep it lower than that given the steepness of the trail. We passed and got passed by an older couple who empathized with us. They had a daughter who often suffered from altitude sickness. Said she'd gotten to the top of Lembert Dome once, and then fainted when she stood up.

The trail passes through forest, with sparse undergrowth. We saw a few wildflowers when we came down (they were there when we went up, but we must have been too winded to notice). As we neared the top, we saw another dome-like formation off to our left, with huge boulders sitting on top of it. As we would later find out, the boulders had been on top of glaciers; when the glaciers melted, the boulders simply dropped down to where they now rest.

Shortly, we were at the end of the trail. Now the dome-climbing started. We walked back along the spine of the dome. It wasn't too steep at first. The woman we'd met before was sitting there. We asked her why she wasn't at the top, but she said rocks weren't her thing.

We started to go up a very steep section -- almost like rock climbing. Jean wanted to test her rock climbing skills, but given her earlier condition, I didn't think that was a good idea. Then we saw another group go around. The leader said he'd been here before, so we figured he knew what he was doing. We followed him around the bend, and then started carefully scaling up the rock face to the top. It's a short climb, and not nearly as steep as the top of Half Dome. But it requires some caution and patience.

Wow. I had no idea the views from the top would be so amazing. From the top of Lembert Dome, you get a 360-degree view of Tuolumne Meadows. You can see Unicorn Peak, Cathedral Peak. Off in the distance to the east, Mount Dana and Gibbs dominate the view. We all marveled at the fact that such a relatively short hike could reward us with such stunning views -- better, I'd say, than Half Dome.

Tuolumne Meadows from Lembert Dome

Mount Dana (left) and Mount Gibbs from Lembert Dome

The four of us on top of Lembert Dome, Mounts Dana and Gibbs in the background.

Panoramic from the top
(Click image to view full size)

Panoramic from the top
(Click image to view full size)

Being completely exposed, the wind was fairly strong at the top. The sky had been clear before, but small clouds were beginning to move in. Just before we left, we could see a dark cloud starting to form directly overhead. The afternoon thunderstorm show was about to begin.

Descending the dome

The top of Lembert Dome. Notice the dark cloud on the left (picture taken after we've started the descent).

Descending the steep trail

We saw a lot of these trees along the trail. Notice how the bark is actually twisted around the tree in a spiral.

Jennie was nice enough to let me use her camera battery again. I took my pictures and we started down. As we got to the base of the rock section, the group we'd passed at the bottom was there, starting the final ascent. We took the same trail down that we came up on. The somewhat longer alternative is to take the trail to the right, passing by Dog Lake, and making a big loop around the dome.

Climbers headed up Lembert Dome

Lembert Dome, from near Tioga Road

We'd planned to meet the others around 12:40pm, and it was already past 11am, so we started down as quickly as we could. The hike down was uneventful and very quick -- just about 45 minutes. As we started to put our things in the car, a little after 12pm, rain drops started to fall. Just in time. A dome is no place to be in a lightning storm.

Return to Tuolumne Meadows trip report.


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