Togetherness in the Face of Adversity – Break due to the Brake

We made the mandatory annual summer trip to Yosemite.

Togetherness in the Face of Adversity - Break due to the Brake - 2 - Ambal Balakrishnan


It was extra special because the boys’ aunt Rema  (Kumar’s cousin) joined us. It was also the very first Yosemite trip for Rainbow and the very first time Ari hiked up to Vernal. The day was gorgeous. We had loads of fun.

Togetherness in the Face of Adversity - Break due to the Brake - 1 - Ambal Balakrishnan

On the way back from Yosemite, we drove back through a two lane highway that brings us down rapidly from 5000 feet to 0 feet. A car had fallen off one of the cliffs and the highway patrol started redirecting traffic to a lesser used and much  steeper detour path. We started taking the detour path and came down to a T-intersection.

Many people started waving at us. I yelled to Kumar to stop the van. We got out of the van and realized that our break pads were burning and letting out smoke (smelled yuck!). Same thing had happened to many other cars. We stopped and waited for the break pads to cool down.

Meanwhile, I went around and chatted with folks from El Salvador, Chicago, New York, Sacramento, Korea, China and of course the Bay Area.

And, guess what?! Everybody even humored me with some fun group pictures. Can you hear us yelling “brakes” in the pictures?

After 45 minutes or so, we tested our brakes and it worked. Unfortunately, some of my new found buddies brakes failed and they had to call a towing company. The family and I waved good bye, said a few of our favorite prayers and started driving again.

Can you spot the guy in the glasses and the orange color t-shirt? I thanked him and his family. He is the reason that I am alive to tell this story.

Please use low gear when driving on steep roads.

Climbing Mt. Clouds Rest in Yosemite National Park

This is what it really takes to climb any mountain (both the real and the metaphorical). Put one foot in front of another. And, repeat.

Flashback to Summer 2010:
I summitted every peak that was on the training list leading up to Mt. Whitney except Mt. Clouds Rest. The snow hadn’t melted in the last 500 ft of Mt. Clouds Rest. Being sane & cautious, I returned back with my hiking buddies Durgi and Manju. As we climbed down, I felt disappointed and kept telling myself “I will be back” (yep, I want you to picture that like Schwarzenegger said it in Terminator).

Fast Forward to Summer 2012:
After a few weeks of training this summer, Kumar and I decided to tackle Mt. Clouds Rest (9,931 ft) this weekend. We drove to Yosemite on Friday….got very, very, very lucky when the Ranger assigned (after going through a long waiting list) us a First-Come-First-Served camping spot in Tuolumne Meadows (just 7 miles away from the Sunrise Trailhead for the Clouds Rest hike – how convenient!!). We couldn’t thank the Ranger enough and the Ranger couldn’t stop telling us how lucky we were. Anyways, we camped at 8,600 ft yesterday night. It was a great acclimatization spot for today’s high-altitude hike.

Yosemite was gorgeous and the hike was just awesome. The blue skies, the white-fast-moving clouds, the gentle breeze that smelled of pine trees, the little multicolored wildflowers, the deers with their fawns, the fluttering butterflies – all of these and more made the hike well worth it.

Kumar and I finished the 14 mile hike under 8 hours. Our beautiful planet is just that – beautiful.

Closing Note:
Thank you to my two dear friends Revathi and Usha who looked out for our safety during today’s high-altitude hike. I know this for sure. If they had not heard back from me by 6.00pm on the hike day, they would have moved heaven and earth and driven every living soul, every helicopter, every Search and Rescue team in the Yosemite Valley and beyond to look for Kumar and me.

I am indeed the luckiest soul on earth to have friends that I can trust my life with.

Photo Essay – Climbing Mt. Clouds Rest in Yosemite National Park