On the top

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
Scott Gehrman, my good friend and head of the non-profit Outdoor Adventure guide company, Lasting Adventures, made it to the top of Half Dome today – the first day it was open. He phoned me from the summit to report on the situation. He said the crowd was healthy, although he admitted to arriving later than he intended. 

Took him about an hour with waiting to get up the cables at noon. There is no snow on Sub Dome and the hiking seemed normal. The ground is firm but many of the little streams are full as is the Merced. The Falls are cooking and the Mist Trail is a slog.  Permits start Friday and I’m anxious to hear how that goes. Send pix if you can.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “On top of Old Smokey, All covered with snow, I lost my true lover, for courting too slow.” – Traditional folk song, by The Weavers
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com

26 Responses to “On the top”

  1. George B Says:

    Thanks for your first of the season update on Half Dome!
    So I take it there is no need for crampons for the Half Dome hike? Also, are there any stream crossings that might pose a problem? Finally, can you comment on any particular issues you would see with a night hike of half dome (assuming we avoid the mist trail)?

    • mrhalfdome Says:


      You sound like a first timer…welcome to the party. No, crampons are NEVER needed on Half Dome. It is a nice summer hike. No worries about stream crossings. For your frist time I would not do a night hike. You will get lost on the trail when you can only see where your headlamp shines … plus doing the cables is unnerving in daylight.

      I ssugest you get my book “One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome” to learn all about it.

      • John Lauer Says:

        Crampons would have been very useful last month with all the snow on the shoulder. Even some nasty mounded up snow far below covering the whole trail, even on some steep areas.

  2. frebay Says:

    nice pic! i’m very excited for my hike.
    i picked up some carabiners as long as a quarter fits through it i should be ok right?

    also i read a comment about split times, do you know where i can find that post?

    • Dean Says:

      Hey frebay,

      Don’t know the link but my splits are something like this…from Happy Isles…

      To top of Vernal 45mins to 1hour
      To top of Nevada 1hr 30mins to 2hrs
      To main valley rim 3hrs
      To sub dome 3hr 45mins
      To summit just over 4hrs

      I hike alone, am reasonably fit and might be a bit quick…I tend to have a wee rest at the top of Vernal, Nevada, the main valley rim and sub dome. Conditions were excellent for these times with my hikes taking place first week in September so very dry, no mist. Also, no crowds on the cables.

      Coming back down I take my time and enjoy. Then it’s Curry Village for margaritas!

      • John Lauer Says:

        4 hours to summit, YES, this is going to be WAY on the quick side. Most should probably expect 5-7, especially when it is wet and slippery like now. Down will be about half that. I hiked this Spring under similar conditions… I would recommend hiking to the top of Yosemite Falls too, and I bet the hike to Eagle Peak is now snow free or near so…

    • mrhalfdome Says:


      A homemade harness is NOT recommended. You can literally KILL yourself in a fallwith one. If yo are going to use a harness buy a real mountaineering harness – thigh and wasit loops – with 2 shock cords to caribeeners and learn how to use it. Is NOT normally needed.

      Suggest you get my book, “One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome” to learn more…on Pg 74, I have a complete hike I did with my GPS in 10 hrs 30 mins…has times to 16 point of interest as well as altitude and odometer.

      • frebay Says:

        thanks mr. half dome.

        what i meant was i picked up a carabiners that are large enough so a quarter can fit through. all the gear i bought was at REI. no home made stuff!

  3. kathy Says:

    Hi Frebay,

    From my experience and from conversation with friends, I would say that Dean is way quick and Mr Halfdomes times are about average. I have done this hike twice now and I am on the slow side. The first time was a 13 hour hike, but I spend an hour on top, so 12 hours. My second time was 11 hours. NPS says this is a 10-12 hour hike. I didn’t find John’s experience of half the time down to be true for me – it was about 6 1/2 hours up and 5 1/2 hours down the first round and 6 hours up and 5 hours down the second time, but roughly about the same time each way for me. I am a middle age, short women, of usually average fitness, with a short stride. As far as the split times, Rick’s book gives a good starting point – I used pg. 74 as a guide and after the first POI I could see what my time was compared to Rick’s and it gave me a good sense of when I would be at the next POI, when I should reach the cables and also a guideline of when I needed to be down the cables to get back to Curry before dark. I went in June both times to give the longest daylight possible, although i am planning an August trip this year. Enjoy your hike.

    • John Lauer Says:

      I went down John Muir Trail, and you can make very fast time on that! You have to step around a lot of stock animal #2, though.

  4. Micheleep Says:

    I I did this hike last year in June and it took us 12 hours…Left at 6:30 A.M. and got back at 6:30 P.M. Unfortuately we did not make the top! Panic attack on subdome for me! But I’m going to try again on 6/24. Do you think leaving at 5:30 and making the top and return before dark is correct?
    Need a mantra to get my butt up that mountain! Don’t look down???? Help…

    • mrhalfdome Says:

      12 hours is good. I leave Happy Isles at 5:30 am to arrive at the cables by 10 to beat the crowd up. I will be there June 23…look for Mr Half Dome!! We should be having pizza in Curry about 6 after our hike.

      Mantra – “ONE step at a time”….if going up the cables just focus 10 feet in front..break it into small chunks and don’t look at at oblivion. Come down facing uphill…just glance over your shoulder……it’s real scary and dumb (IMHO) to face forward when it gets steep. Page back in the blog to read my advice on up/down. Go down on your butt if you have to…you still get credit for doing it!!!


      • Micheleep Says:

        Thanks for the “One step at a time” or should it be “one cheek at a time”…Of course I will be wearing horse blinders just in case!
        Cya and thanks again for the tip! Hope to run into you!

      • John Lauer Says:

        I see PIZZA prices have been kept relatively cheap, $19.95 for a large. Unfortunately, each topping is like $1.50 more. No Pizza Hut, unlimited toppings large for $10 ;p

  5. mrhalfdome Says:

    OK I am feeling better if you say you are using a REAL harness.. but it will take you forever to go up and down….68 poles sets to clip/unclip thru….then down….The cables are less than a half inch in diameter if that helps.

    • frebay Says:

      we did half dome before w/out harness, but this time since we are going at night and arriving at the cables around sunrise we just want it for insurance. probably will clip on when taking a break and not use it on lower half.

      • mrhalfdome Says:

        OK…But I suggest you get up the cables by 4:30 am…in order to see sunrise…..then look at the shadow of HD on the Glacier Pt ridge.

    • John Lauer Says:

      Yes, not like someone using a harness needs to use it the whole time… maybe right at the top, and on the steep section not far from the top…

  6. frebay Says:

    we r planning on leaving curry village at 10pm, hopefully will be up there by 4:30. sunrise is 5:42 that day.

    • mrhalfdome Says:

      Just so you know….. the sunrise is not that exciting… the sky lights up like daylight…THEN the sun rises…yawn….but get the shadow picture.

      The hike is a mandatory headlamp one….it is pretty dark outside the cone of light…and it is easy to go to false trails off switchbacks….the trail looks alot diff at night…and it gets chilly up top….go for it!!

    • John Lauer Says:

      Not advocating hiking off trail, but once you get most of the way up, you can see HD above you, and there are many good off-trail routes up. Also, very easy to intersect with the trail later if you get lost- Just keep headed down, all drainage goes to the Merced where the trail is eventually. Take map, compass, and GPS for safety! I found lots of pretty Snow plants off trail.

      • mrhalfdome Says:

        Please stay on the trail…it is there for a reason. Cross cutting only damages growth and when it rains there will be no flora to hold the water and it will run into mud gullies. The established trail is a fine way to get to the top. “Leave no trace” principles.

      • John Lauer Says:

        I would agree that on switchbacks and other crowded areas it is both courteous and the legal thing to do to stay on the trail. However, there is far more to every National park than just the road and trails, and it is my legal right to basically explore where I wish when it is not a hazard to others. You saying you have never walked off trail?

      • Sönke Says:

        I can’t believe you are serious about what you are writing. Trails are there for a reason. And everyone should stay on them. Just imagine 80K+ people would “explore” the HD area off-trail?! The pretty Snow plants would be gone very soon.

        If you wish to carry out your legal rights – and nobody wants to take them away from you – then forget about HD or Yosemite Valley and surroundings and go to the Yosemite backcountry for some true off trail experience.

        And no, I NEVER walked off trail where and when it is inappropriate.

      • John Lauer Says:

        Not saying to walk off trail when not appropriate. Obviously, due care needs to be taken in regard to other people, plants, animals, even erosion to the soil itself. Yes, by hiking off trail in National parks, I mostly mean uncrowded back country. However, there are many trails and routes up to HD, and many things people may wish to see that are not actually on a trail. Not advocating harming lizard hibitat, peregrine falcon habitat, etc. Just being honest. I also wish all the people tossing beer bottles and partially eating fruit along the trails would pack everything out. I saw one young man tossing his apple cores among HD trail whenever he would finish one. Unluckily for him, he threw the last apple about 50 yards off the trail in the direction of two rangers walking the opposite direction. They should have given him a ticket, instead he just got a long verbal warning. Someone else who climbed a technical route up HD cane down with a few glass beer bottles. There is no place for this, why are people going to HD with glass?

  7. John Lauer Says:

    …bottles he found, then courteously carried all the way to Yosemite Valley

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