Archive for July, 2010

An actual Half Dome hike

July 21, 2010

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 –

Walk like an Egyptian

July 20, 2010

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Get or Give permits<HERE>

    You have a rare opportunity to come on a guided hike with Mr. Half Dome himself – me! As I blogged recently I am working with Lasting Adventures and we have a few slots left for our next guided one-day hike up Half Dome on August 7. I have in my hand 8 permits for that Saturday and am offering you blog readers a shot. Many of you have no companion to go with or you just want the confidence of going along with seasoned hikers. We are not Sherpa’s nor are we psychologists, but we know Half Dome. We will get you to the top if you arrive in shape and have done your education, preparation and are motivated.  $125 is the fare – a real steal if you have been comparing. We will rendezvous in Curry Village for dinner on Aug 6 and meet near the Happy Isles trailhead. The hardest part will be getting accommodations. Sign up now so we can advise you. We also have camping reservations if it comes to that. Go to the Lasting Adventures website <HERE> for details. Send me an email if interested. When we are full we cannot take any more to allow the best guide/participant ratio. Call Scott at Lasting Adventures at (800) 513-8651 to book.

    In other news, weekdays on the cables are degenerating to what the weekends used to be like before permits. Upwards of 600 people on the cables is no fun. I implore you to leave early – on the trial NLT 5:30 am. Really. Here’s a view of the crowd if you arrive late: Ugh.

A busy day last year

    I just sent Neil R. of Newark, CA 4 permit tickets for July 24. He won them at one of my REI talks…. it pays to attend. Next up is Marina (Monterey) on Jul 20 7 pm, no permits now but I will give out a bottle of Carpe Diem wine ($26 at BevMo).


    We are getting into the thunderstorm season. In late July and into August when the Central Valley is near or over 100 degrees, the hot air mass meets the cooler flows off the Pacific Ocean and cumulo-nimbus clouds are formed over the park. All heck can break loose in the afternoon. Do NOT be near Half Dome if any threat of lightning is present. Hike early and hike often.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “There be no need for lasting sorrow for the death of any of nature’s creations, because for every death there is always born a corresponding life.” – John Muir, 1873

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

“I didn’t know I needed a permit”

July 19, 2010

 Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Get or Give permits <HERE>

I’m still hearing this from folks. If I was going to do the most difficult and rewarding day hike in the Western Hemisphere, I surely would do a little research on the latest info. Most other blogs and websites have been preaching this since the January 29 announcement that permits were going to be required. The Yosemite sites are loaded with info and permit notices. The park seems to be doing its due diligence. On my last hike I shot these photos of the new signage the Interpretation troops have erected on the trail.

Along the Merced near the Trailhead

In Little Yosemite Valley at the start of the forest switchbacks

Base of Sub Dome at Checkpoint Charlie


Hint: Permit days are heaven. Way fewer than the allocated 400 people are going up. Do the hike to Sub Dome and politely ask the rangers if they have any extra permits that others have turned in. You will be surprised …. no promises, but go for it. Be very nice, polite and show those sad puppy dog eyes.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “I’ve got your back.” – Modern overused hackneyed expression said by Shaquille O’Neal on Comcast commericals, and now on a AAA radio spot. Destined to become the “At the end of the day” trite phrase of 2010.

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

The backpack alternative

July 18, 2010

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

    If you really like to use a backpack, I discovered this one, bought it and tried on hike #26 in June.

    It’s made by a German company called Vaude. Ran about $70 but the thing I liked was the suspension system that kept the pack off my back. Many brands that claim they are suspension just put ripples in the material that don’t do much. This honestly worked pretty well, and I was happy. It’s basically a nylon bag with a drawstring and one small internal zipper pocket. Nothing elaborate and it was big enough for my day-tripping gear. The shoulder straps are wide enough that they don’t cut in. It has a Camelback bladder pocket and hole for the hose. So I used one but also brought one Nalgene 32 oz bottle. The pack comes with side mesh for bottles, but they are not deep enough so it was a risk that the bottles would fall out. I have a bottle holder with  a Velcro strap that I looped around the pack side strap and it carried fine. This pack not only has a waist strap but a useful sternum strap. This keeps the pack from drooping down. A nice feature. I also carry my filter pump. I load the Nalgene with water then pour that into the bladder since the bladder opening is way bigger thatnthe filter output device.

    Did you see this press release from Yosemite?? You heard about this announcement last week here. Pays to read the MrHalfDome blog!   Click<HERE>.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up somewhere else.” – Yogi Berra
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

Pack it in

July 16, 2010

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


I get requests for info on what kind of pack to use for the Half Dome hike. I do not like backpacks because my back really sweats and as the day goes on my lower back often aches. So I prefer fanny packs. But I know everyone is different, so you decide what works for you. You should be doing training hikes so you can try a few options. Backpacks are generally bigger – a downside is that if there is room, you tend to carry more. I like to go minimalist. Every ounce you take you have to carry up and down. I use 2 Nalgene wide-mouth bottles for my fluid needs. So a fanny pack has tobe able to hold these larger diameter bottles. The openings match up with the output fitting of my Katadyne Pro Hiker filter pump. Most fanny packs on the market today will only accept the smaller bicycle type bottles that are maybe 20 ounces max – my bottles are 32 oz. So you really have to look around. The best I have found is made by High Sierra. 



It has all kinds of compartments, attachment pints, bands to keep the bottles from falling out and cinch straps to keep it from sagging down your butt. I’ll leave the shopping and google searching up to you. A couple others I’ve seen are a Mountain Smith product, this North Face and this Osprey. Plan on about $40-$60.


Tune in tomorrow and I’ll tell you about a new backpack that I tried and liked.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “When you come to the fork in the road – take it!” – Yogi Berra, NY Yankees great catcher
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

Half Dome report

July 16, 2010

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Get or Give permits<HERE>

Our North Bay bureau is at Yosemite now and phoned in this report from the top of Half Dome. Today is the last non-permit day of the week and sure enough, the cables were crowded before noon. An estimated 20 people in line at the base awaiting their turn. As is becoming routine, home-made harness wearers are slowing things down. We’ve talked about why these are very unsafe, but if it brings you peace of mind, go ahead. Just recognize that the single cable wrapped around your gut connected to a cord with a carabineer might actually garrote you (noose) as you bounce off the granite. If you want to use a harness, go to the Curry Mountaineering Store and buy a real one. It should be around both thighs and your waist with 2 shock cords. (A strip of nylon could snap when you instantly put about 150 pounds on it.). And you need 2 carabineers so you are protected while you move along the 68 poles sets. Since the fatal fall last year I have seen a spike in people with home-made harnesses and only a couple with the real McCoy. In my 20 years of Doming, this is a new phenomenon.

   The waterfalls are hanging in there. The huge snowmelt is still pumping H2O over the edge.     Skies are clear and nice at the park. Today finds Mr. HD down near Monterey. There is an Ansel Adams exhibit going on at the Monterey Museum of Art until October 1. Catch it if you are slumming around Carmel or Big Sur. Talk about micro climates! I left San Jose at 95 degrees – it’s in the mid 60’s here.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “If your friends jumped off a cliff would you? Now eat your dinner.” – My mom

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

New NPS Western Region Director

July 15, 2010

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
Get or Give permits<HERE>  I’m seeing a lot of Aug 20 requests … a big party going on??
    Christine Lehnertz was just named the Western Regional Director for the National Park Service.

    Her office is in Oakland, which just laid off 80 cops (but they have enough to pay the Raiders when the Coliseum is not full – but I digress). Yosemite is included in this region. Why do we care a rat’s toenail about this? We just want to hike up Half Dome. Well, it could be real important depending how she feels about the cable situation. Once the project managers go thru their gyrations of reports and assessments, the final document will ultimately be passed up the chain of command for signature. Yosemite is the biggie of the 58 parks under her. 80,000 people come to the park to hike up it – I hope she has done the hike and supports the cables remaining. Let’s all realize that it’s not a given that the cables will stay up. There is a large camp that wants the park to look like it did in 1850. And even if the procedure says the cables remain – this is an opening for a lawsuit by “the do gooders” to petition that the NPS remove the cables anyway.
    Another interesting connection is that NPS head man, Director Jonathan Jarvis was promoted up from the post that she is filling. He went up the cables last year during his visit to Yosemite.  Lehnertz held positions in cultural resources, ecosystems and human resources at NPS HQ and Yellowstone; she also did as a stint at the EPA. Let’s hope she’s got her boots dirty on the trails. I’ll give her a Half Dome permit. She holds a BS in environmental biology from the University of Colorado.
    To clear things up, the woman who fell to her death in the park last week was NOT on Half Dome. I’ve gotten a few emails from confused readers. There will be a service for her Sunday at 1:30 at the Stanford chapel. She was an avid Yosemite climber and will be missed by the community. I’m sorry she elected to free solo – no ropes.
    If you’ve not been to the huge Bass Pro store in Manteca, come this Saturday. It is a real eye-candy store. Mostly hunting and fishing, but I will be giving my standing ovation generating “Half Dome in a Day –Anyone can do it*”  show at 2 pm.  Let’s pack the place.
    On Thursday July 22, climber Hans Florine will be giving a talk at the Pleasanton Library. It’s free and I will get here early. He holds records for scooting up El Cap among other credentials. The session begins at 7 pm.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Oh Bennie she’s really keen. She’s got electric boots a mohair suit. You know I read it in a magazine. B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets” – Elton John
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

Deaths at Mt. Shasta and Yosemite

July 13, 2010

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
Get or Give permits<HERE>
     Climbing up NorCal’s Mt Shasta is a logical “next adventure” for many Domers. It’s just below Mt. Whitney at 14,100 feet. Nothing to sneeze at. Even John Muir got to the top!  Last week, A 56-year old woman from Santa Clara died on the mountain. Reports say that she was hit by a rolling rock big enough to knock her down, crack some ribs and the trauma caused her to die from cardiac arrest an hour later at 11,000 feet. Judging from a early morning newspaper photo I’d guess her party (with 2 guides) was on Avalanche Gulch.

Looking up Avalanche Gulch

It’s called that just for this reason. When the temps warm up the snow can’t hold rocks and they tumble down. It’s the most common “do-able” route for us mortals.  She was well outfitted and had a helmet, but I have heard of Volkswagen sized boulders that have careened down. Make’s you feel like a bowling pin at the end of the alley. It so high that even on a hot summer day, it can create it’s own weather. My first time was an abort due to blowing snow and viz of about 40 feet – in June!!  The second time I hired a guide service and it was stellar. If you plan to do this I suggest you hire a pro – not that that will prevent accidents, but you have a better chance  of summiting. It’s hard and COLD…and you sweat under your down parka. Not like the shorts and shirt days at Half Dome. You need winter training – ice axes, crampons, self-arrest skills, etc. They also use the human waste disposal system. And yes, you need a permit. One of the best sources of info and leads to guides is The Fifth Season store in Shasta City click <HERE>.
     Local guide companies are: Shasta Mountain Guides: 530.926.3117,;  Sierra Wilderness Seminars: 888.797.6867,; Alpine Skills International: 530.582.9170,
     Closer to home, last week also, a woman climber from Stanford was free soling on Cathedral Peak when she fell 300 feet to her death.  Hike Safe!

     I got an Apple MAC Book to use for photo and video editing. I looked at this blog. Then a Google Ad popped in. Hmmm I DO NOT use Google ads. Anyone else see this renegade? 

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution, take a bow for the new revolution. Smile and grin at the change all around me – Pick up my guitar and play, just like yesterday. And I’ll get on my knees and pray . . . We don’t get fooled again.” – The Who 

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –


July 13, 2010

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Get or Give permits <HERE>

     I purged this thread of old dates. Folks are still looking for kind souls to give them extra tickets. A tip of the hat to Mike B. of Folsom who was able to get a ticket for July 17 to Rich L. of LA. If you still need tickets try the Wilderness Desk in the Valley, then the PSAR table near the trailhead then the Rangers at Checkpoint Charlie. They may have extras. Turnin  your extras at any of these 3 if you still have any.

     For all you Yosemite groupies, I have an event for you. It’s the 7th Annual Facelift. This is a giant “pick up the garbage the tourists left” week. The task is to get a bag and bend over and snag bottles, cans, wrappers, mattresses, and anything that was discarded by our fellow citizens and visitors from afar. It’s organized by the Yosemite Big Wall Climbers and they pull in literally TONS of stuff. This year’s event will kick-off with an evening program on September 21st with clean-up activities happening throughout the park from the 22nd through the 26th.

     What do you get in return? 20 indulgences good for an early release from Purgatory – oh, yeah the Church did away with Purgatory. So how about a tip of the hat and round of applause. Free camping for volunteers is available from the 21st through the 26th. Camping is available in Yosemite Valley at Yellow Pines and Camp 4, and will most likely be available in Crane Flat, Tamarack Flat, and Tuolumne Meadows after the Valley camping fills up. Sites are limited and will be filled as requests are sent in. If you would like to volunteer and take advantage of the available campsites, send an email with the dates you would like to participate, your campground preference, and all of the names of the people in your party to

     If you have chain gang experience, they are seeking Project Leaders interested in staying for the whole event. But you’ll need to participate in a 4-hour archeological training on September 21st. (Never know if you will stumble upon a Pharoah’s tomb.) If you don’t a campsite and would like to participate in the event, you can sign in as a volunteer In front of the Visitor Center in Yosemite Valley.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Say man, don’t walk ahead of that woman like she don’t belong to you! Just ’cause hers got them little skinny legs.” –Skinny legs and all, Joe Tex

 *Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

News and stuff

July 12, 2010

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
Get or Give permits<HERE>
The new California 25 cent piece rolls out July 29 with a special ceremony at the Park. Swing by the Visitor Center at 11 am and bring your ugly “other state” quarters. You can exchange them for up to 10 rolls of the highly collectible Yosemite 2010 quarter.


My award worthy book, “One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome” has soared to the Amazon Bestsellers Rank of #46,262 in Books. It’s #81 in excursion guides and #7 in Yosemite books. Hoorah! We can feed the dog tonight!

Trivia: Did you know that the John Muir Trail was started in 1916 (soon after his 1914 death) and completed in 1938.  He had hiked the general route with his buds many times. The part we are on even has asphalt – anyone know how they paved it? To stick it has to be hot.

I am giving Half Dome talks this week at REI in Fremont (Tues) and San Carlos (Wed) – both at 7 pm.then Bass Pro in Manteca on Sat at 2. Come by and say hi!
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “I am Iron Man! Has he lost his mind? Can he see or is he blind? Can he walk at all? Or if he moves will he fall?” – Black Sabbath
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –