View Full Version : Long was from the Whites - Half Dome in Yosemite

09-21-2010, 11:32 PM
I know this is a long way from home, but I thought I'd post it anyway - hey, even us northerners like to visit warmer parts every now and then!

My wife and I just got back from a vacation to Yosemite park in CA, where we hiked the famous Half Dome - a 15 mile round trip with 4800 feet of elevation gain, culminating in a climb up the infamous "cables". The hike was exhausting, the views were amazing, the cables were frightening, in other words, we had an incredibly great time :D.

We started out on the trail at about 5:30 am so we could get to the cables before the crowds (which never showed up). We hiked for about :30 to :45 in the dark before the sun began to light the sky, giving us our first peek at the surrounding granite walls.


Being September, the water flowing over Vernal and Nevada falls wasn't terribly strong, so I'll skip ahead closer to Half Dome. As we really started gaining in elevation, the views of the surrounding peaks were unreal. This was just starting up the base of the sub-dome, which was probably the most grueling part of the hike - the steps were nice, but the air was thin (8,000 feet above sea level), the climb was relentless and we had already covered some 7 miles. We had to stop frequently to let our heart rate come down before continuing, but the views made it all worth while.


As we crested the sub-dome, the view was dominated with the massive Half Dome. This thing is huge... the photos just don't convey how large this chunk of granite really is. If you look close, you can make out the cables and a line of ants... errr... people climbing up the center.


Here's me standing near the base of the cables, and yes, it's THAT steep. Leading up to the trip, I kept looking at photos and telling myself it's probably just an easy location to take a dramatic photo that makes the cables look steeper than they really are. I mean, it CAN'T really be that steep. Well, I'm here to tell you that it is, indeed, that steep. They're every bit as steep as they look in the photos... and then some! Oh, and that's our 14 month old son on my back!


Here we are on one of the more gentle sections of the cables, we didn't dare get the cameras out and try to take pictures on the steepest part. Don't worry, we both used our rock climbing harnesses and clipped into the cables with some carabiners - something I'd do even if I wasn't carrying our son.



On top, the summit dome was so large and so high, it actually blocked a lot of the view of the surrounding land. Totally exposed, it's not a place you want to be in bad weather, luckily the sky was totally clear on that day.


Here's me standing on the "visor" just feet from a sheer cliff of over 1300 feet. I was actually getting some major vertigo standing there, and wished my wife would hurry up and take the darn photos!


The hike down was uneventful save for almost crossing paths with a 4.5 to 5 foot rattle snake that was just starting to cross the trail as we came upon it. No photos, sorry... risking a rattlesnake bite with 6 hours still to hike wasn't something I thought a good idea! ;)

We returned to our car at 6:30 that night, just as the sun was setting, making for a 13 hour hike. An hour longer than the average 12 hours, but not bad considering I was carrying about 45 lbs worth of our son, water, the pack and other gear. Amazingly, aside from being out of the pack for probably not more than :30 minutes for feeding and diaper changes, our son was as happy as could be all day long. Then again, who wouldn't be being carried along on that hike!

So I'll end with a shot of the family... During the hike, I wondered if some day our son will return to hike Half Dome himself, and how he might feel to know that he had been there many years ago, being carried on my back. Or maybe he'll return with his son or daughter, carrying him or her on his back.


It was an incredible trip, and an incredible experience, on so many different levels - the strenuousness of the hike, in length, elevation and duration, the breathtaking views, the cables, and sharing the experience with my wife and son. If anyone gets the chance to do the same, don't hesitate for a second!

Snow Miser
09-22-2010, 07:58 AM
Wow, great photos and TR Chris. That looks like an awesome place! Those bluebird skies look like they made for a great hike. Thanks for sharing.

09-22-2010, 11:02 AM
Wow! Beautiful pics! I do love the Whites, but Yosemite is hands down my favorite place to hike. 2 years ago I did the Half Dome hike and can say that you aren't exaggerating about how massive and steep it is. I thought the exact same things before I went... its just the angle of the picture, the camera had a wide angle, it can't possibly be that steep! LOL!

Though I think the hardest part was stepping out onto the Visor. Heights have always made me a bit shaky, but I quickly found out just how much I was afraid of heights!


09-22-2010, 12:05 PM
Great trip report and awesome pics Thanks for sharing.
Erich you made my stomach queeze just looking at that pic.

09-22-2010, 01:54 PM
Thanks everyone, it was really an amazing trip, and one we'll repeat once our son is old enough to remember and maybe climb the cables himself, of course clipped in and probably tied off to me as well!

Though I think the hardest part was stepping out onto the Visor. Heights have always made me a bit shaky, but I quickly found out just how much I was afraid of heights!

Wow man, incredible photo. And I can completely understand why you didn't step down onto the overhanging rock. I've done some rock climbing (150 - 200 feet), but have never experienced being THAT far up besides jumping out of an airplane. Plus, the wind was gusting a bit when I was there, which only added to the sense of precariousness. I wanted to get off there ASAP.

Hey, I notice in your sig, you've done Huntington Ravine. How hard is the rock scramble at the top of the headwall? My wife and I tried it a few years ago, but clouds rolled up the ravine and soaked everything about 10 minutes before we got to the top of the boulder field. Not wanting to risk slipping, we turned around and went back down. We plan to do Mt. Washington again next year, but don't know if Huntington Ravine would be too much with our son on my back. If not, we'd probably do Lion's Head up and Tuckerman's down. This would be my 4th time up Washington, and my wife's 3rd, and aside from that one attempt at Huntington, we've always gone up Lion's Head. Not that Lion's Head isn't a great route, but we'd like to vary it a bit.


Jimmy Legs and Little d
09-22-2010, 02:29 PM
Your photos certainly give a perspective as to how steep going up Half Dome on the cables can be. We've been to Yosemite once but didn't have the chance to hike it.
Great job!


09-22-2010, 08:20 PM
Chris, your photos really do give a sense of what it is like. Great! Thanks

09-22-2010, 08:56 PM
The short answer is... if you've done Half Dome, particularly with a child on your back in addition, then the slabs on Huntington are easy in comparison. I was given enough warnings about them that it was easy to think they were much more perilous than they are. They can still be a bit tricky, but from what you've said about the type of climbing you two like, you will be fine. Above the slabs there are some steep scrambles and tight spots that I had a tough time getting thru with a pack, so I wouldn't suggest the baby carrier. All-in-all, Huntington so far is my favorite trail on the mountain.

09-26-2010, 10:01 PM
Wow! That is just awesome...thanks for sharing

Steve M
09-27-2010, 07:32 AM
Awesome pics Chris! I bet that is amazing in person.