Panum Crater And Mount Dana
Waking up before dawn on the morning of 9 October 2017, Zosia Zgolak and I witnessed the sunrise over California's Mono Lake before paying a visit to nearby Panum Crater, a relatively young volcanic cone.  To access Panum Crater, we turned off US Highway 395 and headed east on Highway 120 for about 5 kilometres before turning north onto a signed dirt road.  The parking area is located at the end of the dirt road about 1.5 kilometres further.  Zosia and I hiked a counter-clockwise loop along the rim of Panum Crater before crossing the moat to climb up the central dome plug.  There are many beaten paths among the rocks of the dome plug, and a little route-finding is necessary to reach the highest point.

Quack, quack!

Waterfowl are already active on Mono Lake well before the sunrise.

You know it's still cold out when Zosia is hiking in her down jacket! Zosia hikes along the rim of Panum Crater.  She would eventually get back here along the ridge behind her.  The trail to the central dome plug (far right) also begins here.
Don't pull the plug! The high point of Panum Crater's dome plug is at left.
Does this count as a separate summit? Mono Lake becomes apparent as Zosia approaches the north side of the rim.
Everytime I see Mono Lake, I feel like singing "Monorail"! Here is a panoramic view of Mono Lake from the highest point along the north rim (click on photo for enlarged view).
Thankfully, the high point is NOT on top of these pinnacles! Zosia pauses next to some pinnacles on the central dome plug.
I thought about climbing it (it's definitely doable), but the risk of a fall without a rope was not worth it. Sonny strikes a pose next to one of the pinnacles.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Too easy. Zosia reaches the highest point of the dome plug.
A good warm-up for the day! Zosia and Sonny relax on the high point (2146 metres) of Panum Crater's dome plug.
Looking good, Zosia! Visible to the west is Mount Dana, the second highest mountain in Yosemite National Park.
Apparently this is also a geocache site. I left a quarter. This interesting grave marker is located at the junction of US Highway 395 and Highway 120.
After tagging the high point of Panum Crater, we returned to the trailhead and drove to Tioga Pass to climb Mount Dana, the second highest mountain in Yosemite National Park.  Our inspiration for this hike came from the excellent guidebook, Yosemite Adventures: 50 Spectacular Hikes, Climbs, and Winter Treks by Matt Johanson.  From the parking lot at Tioga Pass, we crossed the road and picked up an unsigned trail just east of the park entrance station.  We initially passed a few tarns before settling into a steady climb up the west slopes of Mount Dana.  Although the trail runs all the way to the summit and is pretty easy to follow, the hiking did get a bit monotonous for me despite gorgeous views unfolding all around us.  The last couple hundred metres of elevation gain were especially wearisome as foreshortening makes the summit seem closer than it really is.  The summit panorama on this day more than made up for the uninspiring ascent as we were treated to far-reaching views in all directions.

After a lengthy stay at the top, we descended the same trail all the way back to Tioga Pass without incident.  Zosia and I subsequently stopped at Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center to get some park information and to replenish our water supply.  We then ate dinner at Olmstead Point before trying to find a place to camp for the night.  For various reasons, we had to retreat all the way back over Tioga Pass and out of the park to find a somewhat suitable camping spot (along the road to Saddlebag Lake in Inyo National Forest).

It looks deceptively close...

Here is a view of Mount Dana (right) from Tioga Pass.


Because this trail is unsigned, you're more than likely to find some solitude here. Zosia follows a good trail starting from Tioga Pass.
We will have to hike up Gaylor Peak the next time we're in the area. The brown hump at right across Tioga Pass is Gaylor Peak.
This would probably be a really nice ski ascent in the spring. Because of foreshortening, the summit is farther away than it looks here.  Thankfully, the trail is easy to follow all the way to the top even with all the snow patches (lots of big cairns ahead).
That view of Mono Lake...WOW! Sonny and Zosia stand on the summit of Mount Dana (3982 metres) with Mono Lake in the background.
I wonder if anyone has actually been fined or imprisoned for disturbing a survey marker... The survey marker on top of Mount Dana has seen better days.
Mount Lyell has a very long approach...maybe next time! In this view to the south, Mount Lyell is the peak on the right horizon with the large glacier (Lyell Glacier) below it.  Mount Lyell is the highest peak within Yosemite National Park.
I am very intrigued by Mount Conness... Granite Lakes can be seen to the northwest at left.  The striking peak at right is Mount Conness.
Later that night, we would end up camping somewhere in the valley at right. Also visible to the northwest are Tioga Lake (bottom left) and Saddlebag Lake (right).

Looks like a big blue Texas donut...mmm...doh-nut...

Mono Lake garners all the attention to the northeast.  Barely discernible on the south shore of the lake at far right is Panum Crater.


Best view of the day. Here is a more comprehensive view of Mono Lake with the east ridge of Mount Dana in the foreground.

There is much worth exploring here...

Zosia leaves the summit of Mount Dana to retrace her steps down the mountain.


If only we could camp here... Here is a last look at Mount Dana (right) from one of the many unnamed tarns at Tioga Pass.
An easy but monotonous hike--a ski ascent would be way better, I think! Total Distance:  8.7 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  5 hour 38 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  957 metres

GPX Data

Unfortunately, we were too late to obtain hiking permits for Half Dome this time. A smoky sunset casts some interesting light on the iconic Half Dome in this view from Olmstead Point.