Archive for August, 2010

At the movies

August 21, 2010

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

    The weekend is here. If you are not hiking Half Dome, you might want to scope out a  related movie. There is one just out called “The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest.” It documents Conrad Anker’s 1999 discovery of Edward Mallory’s body near the top of Mt Everest. There is a strong theory that he made it to the top in June 1924, before Sir Edmund Hillary. His body has been lost in the extreme conditions up there and when it was found it did not have the camera that would have been proof. It also did not have the photo of his wife that he promised to put on the apex. Hmmm, is it there under piles of snow or maybe it blew away? In the reenactment, the Anker climb is documented with Liam Neeson being the only actor I heard of. Seems to be showing at Artsy Houses for now.
   Another one coming this fall is the story of Aron Ralston. Remember him? He’s the man who was canyoneering and had a huge rock fall on his arm. Stuck 64 feet below the rim of a gorge, he was unable to move the rock to get out (no help anywhere) he literally cut off his arm with his pocket knife. The title is “127 hours” – the amount of time he spent thinking about all this. It opens Nov 5. By the way, he now wears a prosthetic device and is back out climbing. He takes an emergency locator device now.

    Big sale at your local REI. Of note are the REI Nalgene bottles for 30% off. I recall when those bottles cost $4.50. Aslo Steripen Classic for $64.

    Hey – you Survivor fans…the next season starts Sept 15 on Wednesdays this time. I’m hooked; seen every episode. I applied for #13 – China, along with 30,000 others. They didn’t call me. Sigh.

Keep hiking. Carpe Diem – Seize the Day.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –


Pick it up

August 20, 2010

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

One fun thing about hiking is that it gets you away from the din of humanity for a brief time. So I’m on the hike up the old Big Oak Flat Road that I described a couple days ago and I have plenty of time to contemplate my navel and the affairs of the world. Ah, the peace and quiet of Yosemite. After several hours I glance down on this remote trail and see a candy wrapper. Hmmm Kellogg’s Mixed Berry Fruity Snacks.


Ah, some guy musta had this slip out his pocket. No worries, I’ll get it. Back to the trail. I come upon a cluster of bees just hovering about 6 feet off the ground. Just buzzing and staying in one place. Maybe 8 of them for several minutes. Like tiny helicopters doing a traffic report. This is odd. I took this photo but the camera would not focus on the tiny things, so this is the best I got.


The light dot is a bee. I did a video and it shows up better. They were just hanging in one spot – all facing the same way. Neat. Then I continue the hike. Look, another piece of trash. It’s the same Kellogg’s candy.


Wow that’s weird; so I pick it up. Continuing another hour, I see yet a third piece of trash – the same Kellogg’s wrapper.

What’s going on? Either some kid is eating the goop and tossing the trash or an adult is a complete jerk. Leave no trace? I continued up to Tamarack Flat Campground. I go to the trash cans to toss the debris and look what I see.


Stacks of unopened Pop Tarts and several bags of, you guessed, Kellogg’s Mixed Berry Fruity Snacks. Same-same. Like a private eye, tracking down a suspect, I now deduce that the bozos that left the candy at (not in) the trash were the culprits. The message here is if we all pick up ONE piece of litter dropped by the mongoloids who toss it, the park would be a cleaner place for hikers and bees.  Then if you see them – pummel them senseless. I feel better, Dr. Laura.
Unrelated thought worth quoting:No city should be too large for a man to walk out of in a morning.” – Cyril Connolly


  *Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

Open House!

August 19, 2010

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Get or Give Half Dome permits<HERE>

Everyone is invited to an Open House at the Briceburg Merced River Center at Briceburg. Where? OK, it’s on Highway 140 just northeast of MidPines (which is northeast of Mariposa). It is on the left side going towards the park and looks like an old gas station. It’s where the Merced crosses over to the west and disappears from sight as you drive along Hwy 140. The Open House will be:

                                Friday August 20

            1 pm – 3 pm Book signing hosted by local authors

           3 pm – 4 pm Program and snacks

Did I say “snacks?”   Lobster? Abalone? King Crab legs?   Well, maybe pretzels.  The historic granite building has been recently restored and renovated.  Improvements include fresh paint, new floors and cabinetry, a permanent year-round restroom, and a mural created by Mariposa County High School art students depicting life along the Merced River. They have great detailed maps to refer to and are seasoned hikers – just ask for help. The building is staffed by the Bureau of Land Management and Yosemite National Park. Say hi to Tracy Greenwood who cheerfully attends to visitors seeking info on the park and rafting down the Wild and Scenic Merced. They also sell my book!! Stop by if you are in the area. Tell them Mr. Half Dome sent you!

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see.” – John Burroughs

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

Exciting Announcement

August 18, 2010

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
Get or Give Half Dome permits<HERE>             
    If you are a Bay Area hiker, you may have been to one of my Half Dome presentations at REI, outfitters, libraries or the park. I get a lot of requests to come to Southern California and places well outside normal driving distance from the Galactic HQ of Carpe Diem Experience: San Jose.) There is no way I can pull that off – unless you cover my expenses.  In response, I have been working with Big Escapes, the engine behind the recently announced Yosemite Falls iPhone app. The park did a Press Release on it and it can be downloaded off the Apple App site.

    In the one hour Half Dome presentation, I give tips on equipment, natural history, wildlife, hiking poles and water treatment as well as advice on how to ascend and descend the cables. A highlight is a virtual tour of the hike. You will be prepared for your trip up Half Dome. Even if you’ve heard my talk, this will be a good refresher for you with new content. For less than the gas it would cost to come to an actual talk, you can invite me into your home for some hot chocolate, popcorn and a good chat about Half Dome. The presentation is called Hike Half Dome: Anyone Can* and is available for download<HERE>  from MindBites Marketplace, an internet Publishing Platform and Solutions company. There are 10 lessons that can be streamed or downloaded for viewing on computers, laptops, or smart phones by anyone worldwide. Groups interested in experiencing paid onDemand videos first hand can download Hike Half Dome: Anyone Can* in the Mindbites Store for $7.92 or $.99 per lesson. A portion of the proceeds goes to Yosemite Conservancy to further protect and preserve Yosemite National Park and enhance the visitor experience. Let me know what you think.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1841
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

The Old Big Oak Flat Road hike

August 17, 2010

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

    First off we have a winner of 2 FREE permits for the Half Dome cables on Sep 4. Mathew A. of San Diego was Johnny-on-the-spot and replied with the correct answer. The Firefall off Glacier Point ran from 1872 to 1968. The reasons it ended were that crime soared during the firefall as thugs circulated through the empty tents for goodies; the meadows were being trampled on and even driven on; and the NPS decided that spectacle was not in the mission of the park. Congrats
   Now get some popcorn, settle back and hear the tale of my 10-hour round trip hike up/down the old Big Oak Flat Road. It was constructed by the Chinese Camp & Yosemite Turnpike Company and opened in 1874 as a major access to Yosemite. It replaced old Indian and mining trails and competed with the Coulterville Road that opened just before it to the south a bit. It was the main wagon / stagecoach route to the park from Groveland  through a settlement called Gentry’s to the Valley until the modern Highway 120 road was opened in 1940. That paved road thru 3 tunnels is what we drive on today. It is way less harrowing than the old road. Classic photos of the road show how steep it was in spots. 16%. In 1945 a giant rockfall occurred that covered long stretches of the road. You can see these talus fields from Southside drive.  It is no longer maintained by the park and does not even appear on maps! Some hikers shuttle up to Tamarack Flat and hike down. I wanted to do both ways.
    DISCLAIMER TIMEThis is NOT a beginner hike. I recommended it only for advanced hikers who can scramble on all fours over talus/boulder fields. You can get lost and hurt (I fell twice.)
    Just west of El Cap on Northside drive there is a short pull out to the right. You can park there. Walk on a dirt road past what’s called the Woodpile.

The Woodpile

Excess lumber cut down in the park is brought here for employee use in their homes. Continue on to an obvious dirt road that swings to the right at first then continues westward. This is the original road! It’s pretty easy for the first 45 mins. This part can be done by beginners with little challenge. You get up high enough to see El Cap and Half Dome then to the right you can see Bridalveil Fall. Beautiful sight. Most day hikers turn around here. Why? Because the rockfall soon makes it all but impassable.

Rocks partially cleared

    There are 4 major rockfall areas. Some rocks as big as Volkswagens. The first rockfall was partially cleared off the road so you see rubble above and rubble below, but you can still walk on the road. Then you go back on the road thru a wooded area and are confronted with another rockfall.

Which way, Jose?

    This time it is pretty harrowing. There are a couple rock cairns (3 stones piled up) to point the direction to go. Then more overgrown road. In many places trees have taken root right in the road. There are dozens of fallen trees blocking your path. It won’t be long until the whole thing will be too dense to use. After the talus fields the road kinda becomes visible again. Patches of old asphalt appear now and then. The path later becomes wide and recognizable as a road. Many areas do have fallen trees you have to go over, under or around.

Running the Gauntlet

    Soon you come to a trail marker for a 5 mile path up to El Cap, then one for a trail down to Foresta
    I did not know how much water to bring, so I used my 2 holster fanny pack with 1 quart bottles, and strapped on a backpack with another 3 quarts inside. There are streams (Fireplace and Cascade Creek) indicated on the topo maps but I was unsure if they still were running this late in the summer. The Mountain Store in Curry did not know, so I decided to carry 5 quarts. Turns out there were 3 flowing streams between the talus fields and Tamarack Flat. Sigh. 

Old Bridge over Cascade Creek

     Oh, it’s called Tamarack because that was the vogue name for what we now call Lodgepole pines.
     Once up at Tamarack Flat there is a nice campground and outhouse. But no potable water.

    After a short rest, I headed back down. Mostly a mirror image repeat of the UP trip but I came upon a railing that was probably a rest stop for horses.

    It allowed one of the first valley views for the incoming passengers. This might have been the “Oh My! Point” I read about. It was later called Rainbow Point and  did see a rainbow at Bridalveil. Very nice. From there I could make out the Tunnel View parking lot across the valley.

    After that respite, it got pretty hard. Coming west I did not see any cairns as I traversed the rockslides.

    By now it was 2 pm and the rocks were hot. I wore my Atlas full fingered rubberized gloves and they really were a good idea. A long sleeve shirt and long pants reduced the scratches in the woods. But even with them the rocks were hot. I scrambled with 3 points of contact like a spider.

    But where to come out of the rocks? There was no indication of just where the old road might lie. This was unnerving and I slipped twice and got some nice cuts. When I reached the easternmost field I saw that I was way too high but I could see the cleared road down below. Whew. Again in Spiderman mode, I was able to pick my way down. Continuing back from there was easy and I enjoyed the lowering sunlight on the view of El Cap and Half Dome.

   The modern road we use today was opened in 1940 and the old road was setup as a downhill only scenic route to the valley. The massive rockfall in1945 closed it permanently and it is now designated wilderness. No trail maintenance and I was the only one on it all day. More work was done on the new road in the 1960’s including digging the 3 tunnels.
    So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed the photos and now you don’t have to do it!

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Thoughts come clearly while one walks.” – Thomas Mann

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

FREE Half Dome permits Sep 4

August 16, 2010

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

    I have 2 Permits to hike Half Dome on September 4. Since there are many on the blog who want that date, I decided to make it fair and give them to the first person who sends me an email with the correct answer to the following: Email to
    On page 41 of the award-worthy book, “One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome” I describe the Firefall that occurred every night in the park (when feasible) at 9 pm.

    It was delayed until 9:30 when John Kennedy was staying at the Ahwahnee Hotel. It was started by David Curry (who created Camp Curry) as an attraction for people staying at his place. Men pushed burning embers over Glacier Point 3,000 feet downward. The edge sits far back from Curry Village and the glowing wood fell harmlessly onto the rock. It began in 1872. The question for 2 FREE tickets is: What year did the NPS end the firefall?  Operators are standing by NOW.
    The book is available on Amazon, my website, the park, REI and cobblers nationwide. It is currently #45,312 in all Amazon books, and #5 for all Yosemite Books. Gosh. We are reviewing movie treatments but already have the actor to play me – Pee Wee Herman.

   Tune in tomorrow to hear the exciting tale of my hike up the old Big Oak Flat Road.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “I am the god of hell-fire and bring you FIRE!” – The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

Field reports

August 15, 2010

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

Here are a few reports from blog readers who have recently done the Half  Dome hike. Fun to learn from them.

1.    My son and I had a great climb.  The best advice in your book was to leave early.  We left Curry Village by headlamp at about 3 am.  It was nice and cool hiking before sunrise.  Nevada Fall by moon light was spectacular.  We were at the cables at about 8:30 am and there were only a few people there.  We stayed on top about an hour and it was already starting to get crowded on the way down the cables at about 10:15 am.  We climbed on a Wednesday so we didn’t need a permit.  I was surprised by the large number of people going up late as we were coming down; many of them with little water; jeans; sneakers etc.

2.    The permit system must be doing what they want…There was no line at the bottom of the cables at noon as we were coming down. Maybe ten people at most coming up.  I figured we’d pass at least a hundred coming up the trail to the sub-dome; but it was more like fifty.  We were just done setting up our tent 20 minutes or so at the Little Yosemite Valley campground when we heard a great commotion two sites over with three guys yelling very loudly and chasing a bear that weighed maybe 300 LBS. What was crazy was that we expected many more over the next two days and only saw the next  bear that weighed maybe 500 LBS. moving through the campground about 30 minutes before we heading back down on Sunday morning around 8:30.  A ranger with a shotgun ran past me and jumped over a log and chased the bear out of the campground.  We heard a gunshot about three minutes later and figure he gave it the “beanbag” treatment.

3. And this report relayed frm our Hamburg office.
    Today I like to report that my good neighbor Frank G. and his son Hendrik (12 years) successfully made it to the top of Half Dome the end of July,  As a “warm up” the whole family of four hiked the Panorama Trail from Glacier Point to Curry Village the day before. Frank and his wife Andrea made their first summit 17 years ago – then with considerable less crowds at the cables. Frank is also reporting that the Fish Tacos at the Whoa Nellie Deli are still very tasty – so make sure to try one of chef Matt Toomey’s dishes when your way leads you across the Tioga Pass to Lee Vining. I’ve never had better food at a gas station. On a personal note: I like to give a big “thank you” to Frank and his family for the constant flow of “field reports” and pictures as they know how much we miss the US. – SK Hamburg

Did anyone watch the Perseid’s Meteor shower? Peak will be going for a tad longer. Wear a helmet; they gotta land somewhere!

    Accident Report – On August 5, at Bridalveil Fall, a 16-year-old boy fell 40 feet and was unconscious in one of th pools below the fall . A helicopter had to hover in the spray and medic Keith Lober, dangling from a 150-foot short-haul line, down to the site. The boy was flown out to the trauma center at Memorial Hospital in Modesto, where he was treated for his life-threatening injuries.  

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Solvitur ambulando:  To solve a problem, walk around.” – St. Jerome
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

Ron Kauk

August 13, 2010

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Get or Give permits<HERE>

To repeat – Put your contact info into your comment!! Readers cannot see your email address due to privacy! If you need permits make it easy for someone to find you.


    While at the park last weekend, I attended the film “Return to Balance: A Climber’s Journey” in the Visitor Center Theater. $6.00. Ron Kauk is a major Big Wall climber who is on hand at each showing to introduce it and answer questions.

He began climbing at a very young age and made the first free ascent of the east face of Washington Column. His group renamed the route Astroman This route was known as the hardest long free route in Yosemite Valley for over 10 years. Kauk doubled for Sylvester Stallone in the movie Cliffhanger. Later he trained Tom Cruise for Mission: Impossible II’s climbing scenes. The movie is in 1080i High Definition and is eye candy. Great music too. It chronicles his life on the big walls and he communicates an environmental message that we are all connected. The only complaint is that he is seen drinking from the streams and filling a bottle directly. Hmmm, maybe he’s immune to Giardia, but impressionable youth might take his lead and drink untreated  water. I bought his book and a copy of the DVD. 

    Sad times – seeing Half  Dome in my rear view mirror.


Unrelated thought worth quoting: “If I could not walk far and fast, I think I whould just explode and perish.” – Charles Dickens

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

Outdoor Retailer Part 6 and news

August 11, 2010

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

    This is my final story about the Outdoor Retailer Industry show. The Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar attended and visited many booths. He heads the Department that owns the National Park Service, which owns Yosemite National Park, which owns Half Dome … so there is a connection. 

    I need to tell you about an October release from Magellan. They have battled head-to-head with Garmin’s outdoor group. I have the Garmin 60CSx and it is very nice. Magellan stubbed their toes with the Triton line last summer. I have a Triton 2000 – wow – talk about bells and whistles. It featured a touch screen color display with stylus, flashlight, digital recorder, 3 MP camera and MP3 player. But it ate batteries. I got about 5 hours out of 2 AA. And the sun washed out the color display. Then the firmware had bugs. It got so bad that REI pulled all Magellans from their stores. Opps. The Magellan team got a black eye on that one, but they are coming back strong. A new product with an old name – the Explorist – was shown at the show. The new ones to get are the Explorist 510, 610 or 710. The 710 is top of the line with compass and altitude. Here’s a couple photos:


Has a color touch screen, preloaded maps, LONG  battery life and they have a digital camera with Geo tags for pix. Also, it has settings for optimized road use also. Maps included. Their Product Manager for the line is taking the arrows for Triton although he was hired just as it rolled out. It is pricey at $579 but if you want the best – you deserve it. He promised me that they have tested the Explorist and it is a Garmin killer. They also have a neat case for the iPhone and Touch that doubles the battery life and kinda ruggedizes it.

    OK, what’s your opinion? Would you wear these Vibram Five Fingers “shoes?”

They claim it’s the natural way to walk. They sure felt funny. I say fad. You? Comments on this? Vibram(Pronounced Vib rum, not VIBE brum) is famous for their insoles. This is their first consumer product. I smell earth shoes or Crocs here. There are reports of Asian clone knockoffs flooding in.

    If you are at the park this week, look up at midnight. The Perseid’s Meteor shower is happening. It is near its peak. I was up last year and sat on Glacier Point to watch the show at 1 am. It was so-so as the moon crept into the sky to wreck things. This year the moon will not be an issue.  If you are home, look to the northeast well after dark and preferably outside the city lights on a tall hill. In the Bay area, Mt Tam, Mt Diablo or Mt. Hamilton  are the best places to be.  It’s also FREE entry weekend at Yosemite the 14th and 15th. Enjoy or stay away – the crowds will be heavy.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Now shall I walk or shall I ride?  “Ride,” Pleasure said;   “Walk,” Joy replied.” – W.H. Davies
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

Outdoor Retailer Part 5

August 11, 2010

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
Get or Give permits<HERE>
I have 4 permits for Sep 4  – will trade for Sep 11 email me at

Today we press on with another installment of my trip to the Outdoor Retailer Industry show. Shoot me a question if you want to know more. I like to wear a long-sleeve button-up synthetic shirt on my Half Dome hikes. When it’s chilly at 5 am I can button up everything and when it gets real hot later in the day, I can open the front for cooling. Pullovers don’t have that flexibility –  they are binary: either on or off.
    The Columbia folks have carved out a nice niche in the shirt market. My current one is about15 yrs old and is getting tired. They are coming out with a new version but it is being marketed to fishing stores. Appropriately called the Air Gill. Check  the photos closely.


It has a great extended fold up collar and back vents but also innovative “gill” slices on the sides. This looks like one good ventilated shirt.

   Patagonia has a VERY lightweight shell jacket called the Houdini. This thing feels like silk and can be rolled up and jammed into your pack for the perfect cover if a cloud burst comes up. While only “water resistant” it breathes and will keep the chill breeze from reaching your skin.
    Here’s a shot I should have included in my Camelback piece. This is a real neat back harness contraption that straps on to your torso and will not jiggle as you run.

Regular camelbacks are not  too secure when trail running.  Their booth featured a ton of Military grade products. Complete huge backpacks with bladders. I never thought about the troops in the desert using them – but they do.
   My last photo today is from a company that makes slack lines. These are the insane “ropes” climbers tie between peaks then tightrope across. Not me. Anyway it was fun to try the practice slack  lines.


    Tomorrow I’ll finish up by sharing information about a slick new GPS unit coming out in October from Magellan. This unit will take off like the iPhone. See you then.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “A pedestrian is someone who thought there were a couple of gallons left in the tank.” – Author Unknown

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –