George Anderson Day

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
     As a Half Dome aficionado, I think it’s time we recognize George Anderson, the Scotsman who first made it to the top of Half Dome. At 3pm on October 12, 1875, George completed his days long trek to the top of the backside of the dome. Records were not too reliable back then so we only have 2nd and 3rd hand accounts of what he did. In 1873, master trail-builder John Conway and his “lizard-like” sons aimed to reach the top by climbing barefoot with a rope they fastened to eyebolts driven into fissures in the rock.  They climbed three hundred feet above the saddle in this manner, but abandoned the attempt when they realized the upper part would require drilling the eyebolts into the granite.  Anderson used the rope the boys had left to scale part way up. Anderson fashioned his own iron eyebolts, using approximately forty in his ascent of the dome.


    Anderson free-climbed the incline wherever he was able to maintain a foothold.  When he could climb no farther, he would reach as far as he could and drill a six-inch hole into which he drove one of the iron eyebolts.  This drilling was done using a chisel-like tool that was turned by hand and struck with a hammer to dislodge the rock.  Each eyebolt was a half-inch in diameter and stuck out approximately two inches from the rock.  Anderson then fastened his rope through the “eye” or ring-shaped end of the bolt.  The greatest challenge arose when he had to pull himself up onto that bolt and balance on its protruding ring while drilling the next hole.  He continued this process for approximately 450 feet up the side of the Dome. The route is not known and is the subject of an NPS study to identify it.

     Each night Anderson returned to his camp at the base of the dome where he would prepare the bolts and rope he needed for the next day.  His drills also had to be re-sharpened on a regular basis.  The next day he would climb back up the rope he had left in place and recommence the slow, laborious process.  It is not known exactly how long it took Anderson to make his way to the top of Half Dome; some sources say it took about one week others believe it was longer.
   His rope lasted just a few years due to the severe winter storms. He died in 1883 of pneumonia and is buried under a humble rock in the Yosemite Cemetery. A tip of the hat to George Anderson.


Unrelated thought worth quoting: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” – Sir Rannulph Fiennes

*MrHalfDome – Rick Deutsch –


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