Half Dome’s inner meaning

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

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     This reporter is coming to you from the land of Mickey where twilight admission to the park is $70 per person. Wow – so instead I sit here in my booth at McDonald’s and blog instead. The Southwest salad is actually pretty good and seems to be the only menu item under 1,000 calories. And I love the synthetic plastic white ice cream cones.

Let me talk a minute about passion. What is yours? What would you do if you did not get paid to do it? All else being equal, if you could pick one thing that you loved and focused on that – you would never have to “work” a day again. Mine is Half Dome. Sound funny? Well, when I first made it to the top in 1990, I was hooked. Not for the view but for what that extremely strenuous hike represented. A goal and a journey. I decided I would do it annually. I memorialize those hikes with little Half Dome pins that I put on a hat. Each pin represents a lot of sweat and pain. I can no long wear that hat. It weighs too much with 30 pins on it. It may sound corny, but I realized that challenges like HD could be met and that I needed a plan to see and do all the things I wanted to do. Ahhh, a life list – aka “Bucket List.” That summer I wrote a list – MY list. Yeah, it has the obvious, like the Pyramids Taj Mahal and Stonehenge – but also the Indy 500, Oshkosh Air show and a NASCAR race. Dumb you say? It’s my list. Maybe your experience with Half Dome will spur you on to doing more with your life. We only go around once – there is a limit to the number of days we have to enjoy the gifts of the world. Discover your passion, Recognize what you will face obstacles and work to fix them. Be motivated in you pursuits and enthusiastic. Re-read that and see that it spells D.O.M.E. – pretty cute theme for my speaking biz. (See MrHalfDome.com) Try this –think about what your passion is. WRITE down YOUR life list and carry it with you – I carried mine for 20 years. And start to book your trips NOW because “someday never comes.”



Unrelated thought worth quoting: “How lavish is Nature: building, pulling down, creating destroying chasing every material particle from form to form, ever changing ever beautiful.” – John Muir, 1869


*MrHalfDome – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com


17 Responses to “Half Dome’s inner meaning”

  1. e Says:

    Tragedy on Half Dome this morning. I’m sure it will hit the news tomorrow.

  2. Sönke Says:

    I’m hearing that a woman was struck by lightning approx. 1230pm on Sunday while on the cables. Apparently she fell towards the valley and the body was later recovered and confirmed dead.

    Can someone confirm this story?!

    Weather was very “difficult” in the Sierra Nevada this weekend (e.g. Mount Whitney trail was temporarily closed due to very, very hazardous conditions).

  3. Scott Baines Says:

    Well said, sir.

    I am guilty of the horrific crime of doing “drive-thru” Yosemite on my first visit 8 years ago. Told myself I would do some hikes “next year”. Naturally, “next year” turned out to be several years later.

    Recently, I read an article about the toppling of the iconic Jeffrey Pine that now rests flat on the ground of Sentinel Dome (for a photo, see Mr. Half Dome’s 7/24/11 post).

    “The gnarled tree, photographed by Carleton Watkins in 1867 and later made famous by Ansel Adams, had stood dead since a severe drought in 1977. It finally fell sometime last week, most likely between Aug. 9 and 11 [2003], after a series of severe storms, said Yosemite spokeswoman Deb Schweizer.” (source: http://articles.sfgate.com/2003-08-19/news/17505222_1_yosemite-valley-tree-ansel-adams)

    My drive-thru Yosemite visit was August 9th, 2003. I missed, perhaps by only a few hours, what was ultimately the last opportunity I or anyone else would have to see this noble little tree standing upright.

    Friends, please heed Mr. Half Dome’s wise words. Sometimes there is no “next year”.

    Carpe Diem!

  4. Al Says:

    We just came back from an 11 mile hike to Upper Falls and Yosemite Point with my 3 nieces with thunderstorms on our way up today. Our trail is well protected from the elements. Once the weather cleared we were wondering what was the helicopter rescue was all about. We could not confirm what happened because the bus driver, park rangers were mum about the situation.

    My concern is that where was the freakin park ranger? Afraid of thunderstorms? A ranger is supposed to be at the base of subdome checking for permits. In this case, they should know the weather forecast and stopped people from proceeding. It took about 40 minutes for the dark clouds and thunderstorms to form. Lightning strikes took around 30 minutes before dissipating.

  5. Tom Says:

    Sonke – I am searching more details also. My group summited HD Sunday by 7am. We got rain on the way down from just below the spring to just past LYV. LOTS of thunder and lightning. (From 11:30 am – 2:30?). The Ranger stationed just above the Vernal Fall footbridge told me that someone did indeed get struck by lightning on HD, but couldn’t give me any more details.

  6. Sönke Says:

    @all: Thanks for the infos, guys!

    So it sounds like this story is true. Well, we probably hear more details soon.

    @Al: That is a fair question that I asked myself as soon as I’ve heard about the incident. I would have expected that a ranger would tell people to go back. So it would be nice to have more infos what has happened up there. I also heard that people continued to go up the cables after lightning struck. I do understand that people want to finish that hike but apparently forget about all dangers and risk their life. This is what I DO NOT understand.

    I’m a great fan of rock art and I have travelled/hiked/canyoneered to some very remote places in the Southwest. There is one rock art panel near the north rim of the Grand Canyon that I really would like to see so badly. More badly than I ever wanted to summit Half Dome.

    I tried three times so far but never made it. Two times the “road” conditions were so bad that I couldn’t continue. Last October I was better prepared (I used an ATV to make the last 2 hours of the drive) and I finally made it to the “trailhead”. However during the hike (that was way longer than I expected because there’s only very sketchy info available where the panel actually is located) did I realize that I would run out of water if I continue all the way to the panel (I already could see the location approx. 2 more hours of hiking in rough terrain). Obviously I was very disappointed with the ultimate prize almost in sight but I did turn around. It never was an option to risk my life. One day I’ll come back and will try it again.

    Yes, it is difficult to make such a decision but it’s the smarter decision at the end of the day.

    • Al Laurente Says:

      going up the cables after the lightning strike is not an issue … the weather cleared up very quickly, actually warmed up after 30-45 minutes. I was in Upper Yosemite Falls.yesterday with my son and 3 nieces. If I was in subdome, the weather clearing and the granite steps drying up, I would likely go up the cables. There were no dark clouds to seen besides the ones that just passed by.

      The big issue is where were the rangers and what were they doing. I was in HD 2 weeks and the ranger said they are usually in subdome by 10 am especially during weekends. Well, yesterday was a Sunday. Dark clouds started looming from a distance around 11am. It took 40 minutes before we heard the first sounds of thunder. By noon, my estimate for the thunder was around 11 miles away. The closest it got to our location in the Upper Falls trail was 3 miles as we waited it out. After that, it became 5 miles, 10 miles, and no more. If there was a ranger, he/she could have give a warning to hikers at 11am then start turning them back at 11:40am.

      • mrhalfdome Says:

        Half Dome is in the wilderness. Assess the risk and deal with it. The rangers are not lifeguards.They are only there to check permits, not to give permssion to proceed. If they ever said it’s OK to go and something happened they are big time liable. Certainly they could give opinions and make suggestions but they do not control what you do. It’s the Wilderness. There are warning signs at Sub Dome and a ton of internet info about lightning. To get a permti yo have to read and check off that yo read about the precautions. A HUGE steel sign is at the base of the cables – in English and Spanish – warns of lightning. Our condolences to the family and friends.


      • Sönke Says:

        hmm, even AFTER lightning struck one has to be extremely careful. at least in my book.

        but it’s all speculation at this point. at the end of the day you are responsible for your own decisions.

        I’m sure we’ll hear more infos soon to make a better assessment what has happened.

  7. Sönke Says:

    I found this on another website:

    “Contrary to popular belief and straight up bullshit, this morning was BEAUTIFUL for going up half dome. In fact, I and another guide led a group of 10 up and down the cables before 930am. The thunder clouds rolled in at about 1030am. We were camped about 300 yards below the spring on the HD trail. We didn’t see lightning before 1130 (granted it doesn’t mean it didn’t strike before then). I advised any and all still trying to go up the trail that they should at the very least wait for the clouds to pass before even attempting to go near the dome much less the cables. We saw three very serious and rushed rangers going up towards the dome from just beyond the bathroom in little yosemite valley at about 1215ish and we heard the helicopter at around 1230. Not sure if my time frame was right, I’m going off memory and its been a long couple of weeks. We actually got mixed stories from a number of rangers we saw later on the John Muir trail, just beyond the top of vernal falls. They were carrying out a climber who had successfully ascended the face of the dome, then broke her leg on the muir trail (what a bust). One ranger said it was two separate incidents, a lightning strike and another who fell, one said that it was in fact a woman who had been struck while on the cables and fell, and two more who said it was a male who fell and a woman who was struck… From exp. the only ranger who seemed like they were confident in their version was the woman getting struck on the cables. hope that helps.”

    • Al Laurente Says:

      I was nice and sunny until 11am when gray clouds start rolling in but no lightning or even a thunder heard. So anybody who is at the summit before 11am, lucked out.

  8. Tom Says:

    Sonke – PLEASE tell me WHERE you found this info? I was part of that group.

  9. Tom Says:

    No Sonke

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