View Full Version : Half Dome CONQUERED! (Part 2)

06-12-2009, 11:53 PM
It always takes me at least a night on the trail to get accustomed to sleeping in the tent. The last night was much the same. It got a little cooler than we expected, but it wasn't unbearable. I wake up around 5:30am just as sky is starting to warm up. Camp is still very quiet, some local deer roaming around, so I take the opportunity to take it all in and meditate a little.

About 6am, the sun pulls itself up over the horizon enough to start warming up the big rock.


Finally, an hour later, my trail mates are fumbling around trying to drum up some breakfast.


After a warm mean of freeze dried eggs and bacon, a hot cup of coffee, I wander down to the Merced River to draw water for the big trip.


Sleeping bags stuffed, tents rolled and packs packed, we head out on the trail about 9am. A little later than we had planned, but we think we're still ahead of the day hiker crowd heading in the same direction.


Its about 3.5 miles from camp to the top of the dome. About a mile up the trail we get a good look at our destination as we start to round the cable side.


Half a mile more and we are at the intersection to leave the John Muir trail and head up the trail to Half Dome.


The trail climbs up through the trees and about 7200 feet it starts to really open up to some grand views. In the picture below you see the next hill to climb. Behind this hill, if you look carefully, there is the small shoulder dome you need to climb in order to get to the base of the cables.


A short while later, we are starting to feel the altitude and stop for another break. On the other side of the valley we note a trail that we might like to come down, but no way we'd want to climb it!


Plus, a sneak preview of our destination tomorrow....


At the base of the shoulder dome, you start the STEEP ascent up the tight and narrow switchbacks.


Half way up, I stopped to catch my breath, as the steepness, altitude and pack are taking its toll. Looking back, I'm actually surprised at the angle of the trail!


I finally make it up to the shoulder, a few minutes later followed by Ross and then many more minutes later, by our non-hiker friend Dean.


Whoo hoo! Base of the cables! Now the big test is almost here. Unfortunately, we now realize we spent a little too much time in camp fiddle-farting around and we are going to have to deal with the crowd.


Now, I know we've talked about it here, as well as at the STP dinners in years past, about the highly unprepared hikers we've seen during the day. The ones that leave Pinkham in flip-flops and a bottle of water in hand. Well, these folks are everywhere.

Something to note to future hikers that may use google and find this page... PLEASE BE PREPARED AND BRING GLOVES WITH YOU. When you come back down, PLEASE TAKE YOUR GLOVES WITH YOU!!

If you do ANY research on hiking Half Dome, you'll find text saying that you should bring gloves and begging people to NOT leave them at the cables. High winds come up frequently and blow them off the dome to litter the landscape. So now, Rangers need to make trips up to this stop to routinely scoop up the pile and haul them away.


Ok.. so, one last picture, a deep breath... let do this!



So, the climb up the cables wasn't too bad! The traffic gives you time to stop, take a break and then head up to the next board. The rock is steep and the cables are tight in some places, slack in them in others.

Now, I should take this time to let our readers know that I do have a tiny issue with heights. Its not an all out fear, but long and tall bridges (Bay Bridge in MD, Tapen Zee Bridge in NY) bother me for example. I can't help but find myself thinking that the barriers to keep me and my vehicle on the bridge seem too small. Skyscrapers sometimes bother me. In Chicago I had to talk myself into going to the top of the Sears Tower. At the top, I found it fairly easy to walk up to the glass and look down. Standing on top of the Eiffel Town and looking UP really weirds me out. So.... on my way up the cables, I did force myself once or twice to take a look around and WOW! WHAT A VIEW!


A short bit later and .... I'M ON TOP!!!! Wow, what a feeling! I set this as a goal and I made it! It was challenging, exhilarating and exhausting all at once. (This image is actually over on the far part of the dome looking back at where the cables come up.)


My requisite pose in the most proper attire I could think of for the occasion!


We took a little time to relax, play in the snow.. yes, I said snow, but to this crowd that should be no surprise.



Now, anyone who is a hiking enthusiast and loves photography, you'll know the iconic pictures of the hiker sitting on the edge of Half Dome peering out over the valley. Well, that spot is called The Visor. So, of course, you can't come all this way and not capture the image yourself! First, Ross heads out onto the Visor and I go over here to get the best vantage point.


Now, remember just a little while back in our story here where I briefly mentioned my ever so slight and tiniest bit fear of heights? Well, I found that as I was taking the picture, having already seen the sheer face I'm standing above, I start to feel a little weak in the knees. Soon, I actually had to lay down to snap the photo. But no big deal, I push though it and get the photo.

Looking back, I should have gone first to get my picture taken out there before ever getting a look around. I then decide I can't do it. But, I'm all this way... it would be a shame not to get the photo. It was at this point I took a few seconds, recalled some mediation techniques to calm my mind and I hand the camera to Ross and instruct him to be quick on the trigger... very quick. Determined to head out to the tip, I'm trying to control my mind, my breathing and my wobbling knees all at the same time. I get about two steps from the end and figure this is as far as I can go, shout to Ross.. "Take the picture! NOW!!!"


Its at this very moment that I discover that I really understated my fear of heights, as I was close to crawling off the Visor back to safety. To this moment, I'm still trying to figure it all out, but I spent the next 10 min sitting and trying to collect myself, all kinds of thoughts racing through my head, my fears, everything. Luckily, I felt a few rain drop from a storm cloud moving in. Now, I know what you're saying... "but BlueDog, you're on top of a huge granite dome, one of the highest points in the park, pretty much a lightening rod! Plus, we've heard that you shouldn't be on the cables in the rain as the rock gets real slippery and if you slip off the cables <gulp>, well... you're done for!" Well, you're exactly right. However, in this case, the rain was exactly the motivation I needed to tell myself, "look, you need to deal with this later. Collect yourself and get your ass in gear and start heading down!"

06-12-2009, 11:54 PM
We get the team together and start to the cables. Here, I thought I was well collected, but as I peered over the edge of the dome, I started to worry again.


So, I worked on not looking out, just focus on the task at hand and that the rain was coming and to rock was starting to get a bit slippery.


Half way down the woman in front of us is having more trouble dealing with her fears than I am and needed hands-on coaching in order to get down the cables. Hearing this going on certainly wasn't helping me, and it really slowed our decent to a crawl. Just past the half way point the rain lets up. Yay! Two minutes later, we start getting HAIL! Now really, WTF?!

Anyway, soon we all make it down. In the photo below, I'm the 4th one up the cables. The person in the light blue, right in front of me, is the woman that was having trouble also.


Once down off the cables, we had a round of high fives, whoops and shouts! :)


I also had to go introduce myself to Shelly, and let her know that she shouldn't feel bad or embarrassed, as I too am afraid of heights and we both kicked ass!


Looking back at the sky, it was looking more and more unfriendly, so we needed to get moving and head down to find our stop to camp.


Our original plan was to head on over to Cloud's Rest from here, but with the late start we were very much behind schedule. We ended up heading back to Little Yosemite Campground for the night. Once there, Dean kept heading on back down to the valley and we'd see him back in San Jose in a couple days.

One hot meal later, both Ross and I were exhausted and were out cold in the tent by 7:30pm.

Well, certainly a spectacular day. I can't describe the feeling of accomplishment, the amazement at the incredible sights and just the whole experience. But for now.. rest as the next day was going to be even bigger.

If you made it to the end, thanks for sticking with me. I'm not the greatest story teller. :) I've got video to assemble to go along with day two as well. Hopefully, I'll add that soon. If you wanna see the full set of pictures from day two, click here (http://www.flickr.com/photos/thebluedog/sets/72157619447554488/).

Jimmy Legs and Little d
06-13-2009, 09:14 PM
Part 2 - Just one word - Phenomenal! After seeing these pictures, It brings back memories that I also had a few issues with the "heights" and the "thin air" at that time. The backgrounds of the mountains look like a painting. It makes me yearn for the Sierras a bit. Congrats on conquering Half Dome!


06-14-2009, 01:22 AM
Thanks so much Donna! At times you really would have to convice yourself that the backdrop was real and not a painting!

For those that have broadband, iTunes and 20 minutes to kill, Episode 2 of my cheesy podcast is available. Please save the files local to your drive to help conserve the bandwidth on my server. CLICK HERE (http://www.follylane.org/podcast/)

06-14-2009, 07:44 AM
An Epic Adventure! I remember last year when you were visiting for Flags on the 48, you showed us the pictures of all these same places and told us how excited you were that you would be climbing them in the future. Congratulations on making that dream come true!


06-14-2009, 08:06 AM
WOW! What an amazing place!!! I don't believe that I could have done this. I found my stomach flipping just looking at a couple of the pictures. Way to go in conquering your fears and getting up there. I'm certain that it was more than worth it in the end. Just an awesome TR and pictures. Definitely felt like I there the whole way. Can't wait for day 3...

06-15-2009, 07:22 AM
I second that WOW. Fanatastic report and totally awesome pictures. I don't know if I could have done the climb to the top I as I really don't like hight. It looks like Blue must be in fantastic shape because it doesn't even look like he broke a sweat. At least he made a friend at the top. Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us.

06-15-2009, 08:58 AM
Thanks for all the compliments folks!

For those with "issues" like I have, I think using a basic climbing harness and clipping in to the cables would be a huge boost in comfort. I did bring the 'beaners to clip in, but left my harness at home. :( So, it CAN be done. But, next time that's my plan. (I'm already planning on returning again next year.)

06-15-2009, 02:26 PM
Based on the news yesterday (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/outposts/2009/06/yosemite-hiker-dies-after-fall-from-half-dome-others-rescued-in-hail-storm.html) about the hiker falling to his death off the cables on Half Dome the climbing harness might be in order. Don't know if anyone really does this though.

As I noted in my Facebook comment on this yesterday it is another case where it is imperative for people to know what they are getting into and being prepared - National Parks are not amusement parks. I noticed in one of the comments posted by a reader of the accident report in one of the other online sites (can't remember which now) that she couldn't understand why they didn't close the park when the weather was bad.

Not saying that the person who fell wasn't prepared. Accidents happen to even those who take all precautions. This is a very sad situation and my sympathy goes out to his family and friends. Glad that Erich and his group got back safely.

06-15-2009, 02:55 PM
My thoughts exactly Mark!

During our climb I saw at least two people "clipping in" to the cables and they appeared to be pretty experienced hikers/climbers (not tourist hikers).

There are people that go down the outside of the cables, but for the most part when we were there, they were mostly rock climbers, extremely comfortable with heights and the slope.

One thing that really impressed me is that even though we were in traffic, noone ever got impatient having to wait. And even when the guys were going down on the outside, they never passed without acknowledgment that you knew they were coming by. Folks going up the cables also didn't pass me (when I was heading down) until I gave them "you're clear" to pass.

And, READ and HEED (kinda catchy, eh?) the warning signs.


06-15-2009, 05:23 PM
Crazy! I didn't know there were cables and whatnot.

Looks like some amazing views... I'd kill to climb there!