May 19, 2005
Half Dome Trip Report

Ben Powell (San Jose State University) and I left our camp in Curry Village in Yosemite Valley at 6:15 a.m. on Sunday, May 15, 2005 with the intention of hiking to the summit of Half Dome (8842' elev.). The high Sierras have had tons of snow all winter including a good storm the weekend before so we weren't sure that we'd be able to get to the top. The weather this day was perfect though--sunny and 75 for the high in the valley and about 60-65 at 8000'. We had heard conflicting information from people the evening before--some said it was impossible and others said it should be doable. We decided that we'd just have to see for ourselves so we were on our way.

Half Dome of course is the signature mountain in the valley with its sheer north face towering nearly a mile above the valley floor. See picture. The hike is long at around 16 miles with an elevation change of about 4800'.

We took the (aptly named) Mist Trail past Vernal and Nevada Falls. The water volume was amazing as the winter snows have been much higher than normal. After Nevada Falls we took the John Muir Trail through the relatively flat Little Yosemite Valley around the south side of the dome. Many hikers do the Half Dome hike as a two-day hike by camping here. In fact, I don't think anyone on the Half Dome Trail on this day started from the Yosemite Valley floor like we did.

The final apprach to Half Dome is from the east. See picture. We hit snow not long after ascending from the Little Yosemite Valley. Fortunately, other hikers had blazed the trail and the snow pack was firm so we were able to walk with only moderate difficulty.

Finally we reached the base of the massive granite wall of Half Dome itself. Not being technical climbers, Ben and I were going the "Cables Route"--they have two steel cables that allow you to make your way up the last 800' of the trail and 400' of elevation (making for about a 50% average grade!). During the summer season, the cables are "up" with posts and boards that work almost like steps and railings, but they're still "down" this time of year--that is they're just there on the rock. No matter. We proceded to pull ourselves up Batman and Robin style. See picture.

After reaching the summit, we found ourselves alone on the massive (football field sized) top of the dome. See picture. (One hiker, probably the first of the day, was coming down just as we began our climb on the cables, and five others were behind us. So we figure only 8 people summitted this day. About 20 more were in the area but declined to attempt the cables. For comparison, in the height of the summer season some 500 people per day will reach the top. To be up there alone for any amount of time is really special.)

The couple who came up behind us took a picture of the two of us. See picture. And Ben proceded to scare the s$%t out of me--the man has no fear! See picture.

The way back down was uneventful and we got back to our tent cabin by 5:00. We were surprised that we didn't feel that sore. Finally we headed to the bar to drink heavily telling anyone who would listen about our day!

The most eventful thing was the next morning. It rained hard all night and we were one of the last cars to get out of Yosemite Valley before they closed the flooded roads for almost the next 24 hours.

Posted by Robert Lawson at 07:47 PM in Sports  ·  TrackBack (3)

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