The sign read, “Tenaya Canyon is extremely dangerous. Many have lost their lives in the attempt.” Thus warned, my 78-year-old dad was set to hike and rappel through it. And I had agreed to join him.
THE DESCENT OF Tenaya Canyon has trap written all over it. Some who’ve through-hiked it refer to the place as the Bermuda Triangle of Yosemite, and apparently rangers rescue and recover folks from it all too often.
When you arrive at Tenaya Lake, which sits at 8,150 feet, nothing looks difficult or desperate about the route’s start, but a short distance in the granite steepens and the plot thickens. The descent covers ten rugged miles and drops 4,200 feet. There’s no trail, and during the scramble down there are plenty of places to break legs, crack skulls, and get swept away in high water. It takes capable teams a full day to complete, with time allotted for the odd picnic and a short nap in the California sunshine.
Not surprisingly, those who survive the journey recall the incredible views of Half Dome, Mount Watkins, and Cloud’s Rest. They tell of strolling through the wondrously vast and polished granite bowls that once hosted Yosemite’s hardworking and long-gone glaciers.