Half Dome! Yosemite’s big kahuna! You know that big chunk of rock that looks like it has been split in half? Well, we wanted to stand on top of it!
Since we were unable to get permits for either the John Muir Trail or Half Dome before leaving on our trip, we spent our first morning here in Yosemite sitting in line for a couple of hours making small talk with other JMT hopefuls in the blazing sun trying to get our paws on one of the coveted next day permits they reserve for first come first serve. Thankfully we were able to get both permits in one go and had the rest of the afternoon to explore the park a little. After exploring the Visitor Center, watching the park movie, and scoping out the Ansel Adams photography gallery, we were sufficiently boiling from the inside out and made the trek to the Merced River for a dip. It was glorious! Then it was up to Glacier Point for dinner where we had a magnificent view of the entire Yosemite Valley, including the next day’s beast of a summit…Half Dome! Fair warning…if you plan on visiting Glacier Point, especially at sunset, be prepared to be totally and completely spellbound! Absolutely gorgeous!
It was early to bed and early to rise as we crawled into the front of the White Rascal and made our way to the Half Dome trailhead. On the way up, we hiked past both Vernal and Nevada Falls, which never fail to impress. There is just something special about watching the power of hundreds and thousands of gallons of water spill over the edge of a cliff like it is nothing. Just past the waterfalls, the trail of rocky steps crafted out of large boulders makes the immediate switch to soft, smooth sand. (A welcome change at that point.) The landscape changed and left us nice and shaded in a forest of old, towering trees as we switchbacked our way up the seemingly forever inclined trail. From there is was up and out of treeline where we hiked up the impressive trail of steps hewn right from the sparkling granite surface to the top of the sub dome. This is where the real fun begins!
The last 1,000 feet or so of the hike to the top of Half Dome require a cable climb up a fairly close to vertical granite rock face. Don’t worry though, there are a smattering of 2×4 wood planks to rest on every 10-20 feet or so. Oh, and did I mention that people are both coming up and going down simultaneously on this skinny cable contraption? We each grabbed a pair of used gloves from the leftover glove pile so as not to tear up our cramped hands on the cable and started up. One carefully planted foot at a time and with a steady, firm grip we scaled all the way to the very tip top!
Honestly, it is unbelievable! Reaching the top of this gigantic rock is unlike anything else! From every angle you are surrounded by commanding mountains, granite cliffs, and deep, lush valleys. The views go on for what seems like forever! We spent a good chunk of time up there downing our hearty lunch, snapping a few jumping-for-joy photos, and taking in the breathtaking scenery. Just before making our decent, we both made cairns (piles of rocks) to add to the summit cairn garden. I’ve been told that you make a cairn if you plan to come back and we most definitely plan to do that. Last time I was lucky enough to stand on the summit of Half Dome with my mom I built a cairn and here I am again…so it must be true!
We made the cable climb down after some significant traffic congestion and were ready to crush out the rest of the day’s miles. A wink from the gnome guarding the base of the cables and we were off! With the added motivation of the biggest ice cream cones either of us have ever eaten (to the point of being sick to our stomachs) and a cool swim in the river awaiting us, we cruised. Following our ice cream binge and refreshing soak we were feeling almost human again. We finished our excellent, yet exhausting day with the Yosemite Theater’s featured movie. Just an FYI, if you ever have the opportunity, do not pay to watch “Return to Balance: A Climber’s Journey”. It is decidedly boring and surprisingly enough, not about climbing. However, if that is the only low point of the day I’d say we are in a pretty good spot.
In the end, words cannot describe this hike or this park or this mountain. Pictures make a good attempt, but you really have to see it to believe it.
Check out the photos below: