An actual Half Dome hike

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
Get or Give permits<HERE>

Today I present a real-life account of San Jose Blog reader Larry’s hike up Half Dome last Thursday. It was his first time and I think it shows readers just what it is like – from someone else’s perspective. Enjoy and learn!

Hi Rick,

First of all a big time thank you for all your assistance, coaching and advice.

Let’s start at the beginning.  First question you asked me was “have you been training?”  I replied, “no, but I’m in good shape.”  You should have taken a 2 x4 and smacked me upside the head.  Yes, I’m in good shape – I’m in great shape for white man who is 57 years old, which has nothing to do with hiking up 8 miles and back on Yosemite’s solid granite when it’s 100º.

I drove to REI, where I purchased everything you recommended.  The best things were the Katadyn Hiker Pro water filter, the fanny pack, thin liner socks (with defined toes), and a Tilly hat!
So we were prepared: lots of water, power bars, sunscreen, hiking boots, Atlas gloves, and trekking poles. We got a late start, hitting the trailhead at 6 am (not 5:30), joining lots of people leaving the parking lot heading up.  Judging from conversations with the interns who were tracking people’s progress (at HD), this will be the last year that permits are not required 7 days a week.  The intern at the base of cables told us that his count was nearly 300 by 11:45am and he expected to hit 600 that day.  He said Mondays and Thursdays are the most crowded.  Obviously, the weekends are least crowded on the cables.

The hike up through Vernal and Nevada Falls along the Mist Trail was spectacular.  The Yosemite peaks wearing golden crowns as the sun rose.  The adrenalin was flowing and climbing the stairs was a breeze.  Didn’t even need our $1 ponchos, as the mist was blowing too hard from Vernal. We met lots of hikers from all over – Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Singapore, plus many states.  Not as many Californians as I would have expected. After we past Little Yosemite Valley campgrounds, the trail got much steeper and I could feel cramping in my quads.  I think I was focused too much on my legs and walked past the Little Spring on our way up.

At 2 mile marker from HD, we meet our first intern who handed us a card to follow our progress. I have to say there were a couple of times when I was ready to throw in the towel and wait for my companions to hit the summit and return.  But they encouraged me to solder on. The hike up Sub Dome was intense in the noon day heat.  There were lots of hikers taking shade and feeling the effects of the altitude.  Plus we could see the crowds on the cables, so we knew what was ahead.

Once we conquered the steep granite of Sub Dome, we headed to the base of the cables.  There were plenty of people sitting at the base, grabbing shade under a rock or just watching their companions who made the effort to hit the cables. It took us 45 minutes to make it up the cables.  The line was to the bottom of the cables.  We did not take the outside route.  We were tired, hot and the rest between the stanchions was helpful.  Everything you told me about the stupid things people do going up and down the cables was on display.  I tried to tutor some of those coming down on the best way to descend – backwards.  Some listened and thanked me.  Some, well, people are people, if you know what I mean.

About 75% of the way up, one of the women in front of us had an anxiety attack.  That really slowed things down.  We calmed her down and she made it to the top.  Anyone who makes it to the top is a real gamer. We had a chance to rest and refuel on the top so descending with the gloves and backwards is a piece of cake. Maybe it was this particular day, but I honestly think 98% of the people we saw were younger than us.  And I think on the descent, they had more go power.  It took us 5 hours, 45 minutes to reach the cables and 45 minutes to ascend the cables.  We spent 30 minutes on top and it took us 6.5 hours to descent.  We even took the Mist Trail after the junction.  We did take 15 minutes to jump in the ice-cold Merced (which felt so good on those sore quads).

I do have to say that the top of the Mist Trail with its granite steps is treacherous going, where it breaks from the John Muir Trail. We did find the Little Spring on the way down and it worked out perfectly, as we were almost out of water and the cold spring water was a God send.  And the Katadyn worked flawlessly!  We even filled up the camelbacks of a couple of hikers who were wondering what we doing back there.
All in all, there’s no way we would have been successful if it weren’t for you taking the time to coach me.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “My strategy on the Cold War?  We win;  they lose.” –Ronald Reagan

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –


13 Responses to “An actual Half Dome hike”

  1. john lauer Says:

    If I hike on a 100 degree day, I will start at 3

  2. David Moore Says:

    Very interesting read, thanks.

    I’m slightly surprised that Monday and Thursday are the busiest days. I’m planning to do the hike on Monday at the end of August.

  3. Dean Says:

    My hike last year was Tues 1st Sept and it was not that busy around noon though it was getting slightly busier on my way down…I doubt any lines formed.

    I wonder, if you are going up on Mon 30th Aug if it might be a bit quieter since the next Mon is Labor Day and folk might be waiting for then to take a long weekend?

  4. mrhalfdome Says:

    You pay your money and you takes your chances. 7 Billion on earth – 308 M in the USA. 4 M at Yosemite a year. Get used to crowding.

    • John Lauer Says:

      OK, so how are the bears getting into the bear lockers? Do they reach their paws up to push the latch? If I`d have known bears can open them, I would have used a padlock.

      • Dean Says:

        John I’m not sure but reading through the Ranger’s blog it appears bears will check lockers as they have learned that some are not properly latched…so they are not opening properly latched lockers just those that people haven’t closed properly.

      • john lauer Says:

        Dean… this makes sense! Even if only 1 in 300 is not locked, there is powerful intermittant reinforcement!

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