Summiting Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

Ever since I learned of the permit system for climbing up the cables on Half Dome, I’ve wanted to do it. Admittedly, it was only about a year ago, but still.


I knew Yosemite would be on my road trip’s must-see list this year. I applied for a range of dates to let that dictate about when the trip would begin. I got my first choice date: June 18th.


I read the AllTrails reports of this hike religiously, but I never really gathered how strenuous of a hike it would be. 16-20 miles of steep elevation gain.


When I don’t hike for a while, or when I only do simple hikes, I gain this sense of enjoyment from the though of hiking. Then, a big and difficult hike makes me question it.


Our first day in Yosemite, we got to go to Washburn Point, Glacier Point, and Tunnel View before the crowds were too bad. We fairly easily found a parking spot in Yosemite Valley where we watched the park movies and took a walk to Yosemite Falls.


Later on, I finally got to see Mariposa Grove! It was closed when I visited last year, and we weren’t planning on going to Sequoia, so this was a great addition to our visit. It was a lovely and dusty end to our hike’s eve.


I decided we’d set off at 6 in the morning. 6 turned into 6:30, and we were off. Then we had to turn back two minutes later because we forgot the power bank. Then we had to turn back another two minutes later because we forgot the camera.


Eventually we actually were hiking (and being passed frequently). I consider myself very fit, but an inexperienced hiker. Still, we continued on steadily. We took few breaks to grab a snack and sit in the shade to maintain a pace that was much slower than those quoted on AllTrails.


I swear most of the hike was going up and down stairs. It was exhausting. The day started out cold and ended very hot.


We got to the ranger before starting up the dome. It was starting to get pretty hot, and we sun-screened up before facing the hot full exposure of sub dome.


Getting past sub dome was possibly more difficult that the cables themselves. There was no clear path, a decent uphill grade, and few foot holds. Once we saw the cables, I got excited and Greg got nervous. This is where our paths diverged, and we each made the decision that was best for us.


The angle was way steeper in some parts than the 45-55 degrees quoted online. I went up without a harness and used so much more upper body strength than I expected, all with the fear of falling to my death. Deaths happen, but it’s almost always when the conditions are unfavorable and dangerous.


It was difficult to pass and be passed by those going in the opposite direction, plus I felt my feet slipping between the manmade footholds. I didn’t feel secure, and I was somewhat jealous of those who were strapped in.


The top, the peak, the summit was… beautiful, BUT so we’re the views from sub dome. I felt accomplished, and I had a cool experience, but I didn’t feel like it was that worth it: the risk, the fear, the danger. It seems as if it’s getting increasingly difficult to thrill me.


The journey down the cables was faster, but just as scary. At that point, I felt like a pro compared to those just starting up.


The journey down was long, but was broken up by waterfalls and landmarks.

Our feet were hurt, we were tired and hungry, and we still had a couple hours to drive after. This was an all-day thing for us, and I don’t know how prepared we were.


We were thrilled to be down, and immediately started making dinner by the car. I felt a sense of accomplishment over finishing a new and unfamiliar goal.


Too late, we hit the road for Tioga Pass, a highway that is closed for a good part of the year. Though I was disappointed I didn’t see it during the daylight, it was still fascinating and scary to see an unusually-visited part of Yosemite, especially with the giant slabs of snow still present on the mountain. It’s incredible sometimes to see how manmade machinery can make areas more accessible to humans.

I was sore the next day, but I had to rest up for Whitney, only a day later.

It’s quite an experience to see Half Dome so close when it’s so often from afar (and on my laptop background). The cables are unique and worth the attempt themselves. If you’re looking for a challenge both mentally and physically, this should be on your list.

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