Ramble On

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Half Dome Reprise – Part 1

(Note:  Mary and I are traveling this week – we’ll be in Las Vegas for a trade show and then we’ll head down to Flagstaff and day trip up to Grand Canyon.  I’ll have some posts on that next week, but in the mean time, I thought I might repost this old series about hiking to the top of Half Dome during a trip to Yosemite in 2005.)

The post starts with a map highlighting our route to the summit.  My friend Chris and I did the hike as an alternative to the traditional bachelor party, and it worked out nicely for that purpose.  We’d trained over the course of the summer by hiking several routes in Shenandoah National Park and on Massanutten Mountain, but none of those hikes quite prepared us for the altitude challenges we’d face – I guess we never quite tested ourselves on anything quite this long either.  Still, we made it, and we share some fond memories of the event.

The first photo shows a view of the mountain from Mirror Lake in the Yosemite Valley. The vantage point for this photo is accessible from most of the lodging and camping sites in the Park; it is a short walk from one of the bus route in the Valley. There is another vantage point that is always crowded with people. Which I find ironic, because it looks like blissful solitude abounds, but most likely the shot is being taken while the photographer is surrounded by 50 or more people! Of course I have a photo or two from there.

The next photo is the view as we approached the summit, about a half mile away and something like 600 to 1,000 feet left to climb. We did this in October 2005, while the trail was under construction and only open Friday through Sunday. The number of people in this photo is probably only 20 to 30 percent of the people who might be on this hike in the summer while school is out. 

The third photo is of the famous cables. This route is open from April to October every year – our hike was the last week in 2005. In 2010, NPS and Yosemite set a policy limiting access to 200 permitted hikers a day – check the Yosemite web site for details.

It is said that this route is unscalable to the average hiker without the cables. There are horror stories about people falling down, but the majority of folks can do this without much trouble. More likely there are traffic jams and the like that make this tough, as opposed to accidents. Not to say, there haven’t been any.

This last photo is Chris and me at the summit. It was a great feeling and a great place to be. While our training hikes were throughout the Shenandoah Valley, we’d not encountered anything quite like this (4,500 feet of elevation change, 17 mile round trip, etc.). As we started to climb the cables, clouds passed over and a wind started up, quickly dropping the temps to the mid-50’s, so we put on the long sleeves for the final ascent. Soon as we were up, the temp got back into the high 60’s and those duds had to come right off.

There are two more posts in this series to come.  Enjoy!

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