Sunday, July 10, 2011

yosemite - half dome hike

woke at 4:15am on tuesday to take a quick shower, finalize packing our hiking gear (for ease of convenience, i took my digital camera instead) and clean out the cabin for departure. even at 5am it's light out in yosemite, so we made the drive to the valley floor and parked just outside curry village at 6:15am. from there, it's about a 3/4 mile walk (past happy isles) to the trailhead:

we opted to take the shorter but slightly steeper mist trail - the other option is the john muir trail - and began our 8.2 mile ascent to the top of half dome. it's called the mist trail, but in reality it's "full-blown downpour assault trail," as you snake your way thru and ultimately over vernal falls. luckily i had packed a waterproof jacket, which more than a few peeps offered me good money for. the last pic (bottom right) is humorous in that the water was roaring at speeds close to 60mph...

we pass nevada falls about halfway up, which thus far isn't too bad. in contrast to mt. baldy and mt. whitney, there are some level sections on the way up, so one doesn't need to be in incredible shape to do this hike. that being said, we take a few more breaks than usual so tara can get a breather for her aching knees and feet.

we finally make it to the base of sub dome, where one displays their cable permits to the ranger in order to advance. tara opts to sit out the rest of the way, so vim, heidi and i surge forward... we ascend a terrifyingly steep set of 529 steps that lead to the base of the cables.

we arrive at the cables for one last breather, where we take out our gloves (rubberized palms are the bee's knees here) and i refuel with a clif gel shot. and away we go!

grip and traction are the two most important factors making your way up, since you're not attached to anything. i'd put the angle of the rock face at close to 60 degrees, so there's a certain leap of faith that you have to take in order to advance. there's a thin wooden slab maybe every 10 feet, so it's best to rest at each plank. i prefer using both cables to hoist yourself upwards, but that's not always possible as there are peeps using the other side to come down. one thing i don't anticipate is your arms getting tired, because you're putting so much stress on them just to hang on.

about halfway up, the mouthpiece on my camelbak gets caught on the cable and decides to detach, so it helplessly falls nearly 8,800 feet to its death. i make a half-hearted attempt to catch it in mid-air, but quickly realize that my life was more important that a few sips of water at this stage. about a half hour later, the steep grade finally flattens out and we make it to the top!

we bust out our ham & cheese sandwiches, pop open some gatorade for a quick cheers, then pose for some last minute photos on the half dome "diving board."

at about 1pm, we make our way down, almost rappelling down the cables - BTW much more fun than going up...

after another pass thru the mist trail, we drudgingly arrive back at our car at 6pm, putting our hike at 11:45 in length - not great, but not bad considering we took our time to take in every sight and sound for our successful inaugural trip. here's one last look at the other side of half dome from the POV of glacier point:

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