Today I want to talk about my Half Dome experience. I have been mentioning in my past posts that I want to dedicate a separate post altogether for Half Dome, so let this be it.
Half Dome at Yosemite is a known icon to most of the folks in USA. When I was doing my local hikes as part of hobby, exercise, I never thought of doing any bucket list item and I never had this kind.
A good friend of mine, suggested as you do hiking lets put a goal and see if we can do it. It need not be that we have to do but at least we can make progression towards it. I kind a liked that idea and so this post is dedicated to this friend of mine Keerti.
If Keerti wouldn’t have put this Half Dome as a goal in my mind probably I would have never done it. She is the one who invited other friends too and hence we ended up with two leads in the group of five people. It was very clear to us that there will be some adjustment we would have to do as five individuals need not be of same thoughts and wavelength all the time. So me and my friend all the time relied on each other.
“You can’t climb up a mountain with downhill thoughts.”
As the days were coming close, our practice hike to Mission Peak , back to back Mission Peak (Ohlone side you go to Mission Peak and then get down to Stanford side of it and vice versa), and Murietta Falls was in pace. We were testing our endurance and were also using all our gears that we were planning to take with us for Half Dome hike.
During these practice hikes, one thing I learned was Sun is going to be the biggest challenge for us as our hike day was on July 16th and weather forecast was something very dreadful with above 100 degree Fahrenheit. Since we have committed to climb Half Dome, now we should not bother about the consequences and hence this factor was on mind posted.
It was during Murietta Falls hike when the heat affected me as that it was 100 degree Fahrenheit and as I was getting closer to Murietta falls I was getting tired and Sun was so harsh that I literally lost my hope to climb Half Dome. I told one of the friend that probably I won’t do Half Dome if this is how it’s going to be as I can’t take the heat of the Sun.
“Water is the driving force of all nature.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci
When you have a team of motivators they never let you down. That evening after finishing the Murietta falls hike, in the parking lot my friend said I didn’t hear what you said about Half Dome as I completely ignoring it. I smiled and drove back home.
One thing about these hikes was that each hike there was something or the other learning for me. How to dress in layers? How to keep drinking water and keep yourself hydrated and make sure you are fueling your body so that you’re ready for this big hike.
All this was good but there is something bigger than all this and that’s your mind. As the days were coming closer, as we were getting last minute gears such as socks, gloves, energy bars etc., somewhere I was getting worried for this unseen Half Dome hike and hence I started googling for information related to this hike. I tried to review every damn article that related to Half Dome hike, read different blogs and many blogs I would say read it and some gave me hope and some really scarred me but somehow I said will see!!!
The day when I was getting out of my house with my bag pack ready to go to Yosemite, I was really nervous and I told my kids I am not sure if I will climb Half Dome but I will hike.
We had rented a Honda Passport I think a five seater SUV car and we had booked it through Turo app.
My bag pack that I was carrying was Gregory Nano 22 H2O hydration pack from REI, it costed around $80.00 bucks but it’s worth one. The hydration bladder can carry up to three liters of water, besides all other material that you need during your hike.
I was carrying the following in my bag pack:
- Energy bars – different kinds (Clif bar, Larabar peanut butter chocolate chip, Kind bar, Luna bar etc)
- Water three liters
- Gatorade one liter less sugar
- Hydration powder with a 500ml water bottle
- Fruits, I grabbed Applies
- Eye wear retainer specially when you are on the cables you will need this for your polarized sunglasses.
- Sunscreen with SPF 110
- Power band for your cell phone in case the charge goes off this can be handy
- Carry a towel so that if you’re sweating it will help you.
- Wet wipes
- Tissue paper
- Ziplock bags – your trash is yours to carry with you
- Women’s sun protected hiking hat that will even cover your back shoulder
- Carry your lunch – this is something based on your individual need. Some like to carry some don’t like to eat during hike.
- Potato chips for salty food.
- A good hiking shoe believe me you will thank your shoes later
- Hand gloves -nitrile utility gloves should be available in any hardware store.
- TrailBuddy light weight trekking poles – which is adjustable and stable to walk with a must as it helped me through out. You don’t carry your poles while you climb the cables because you will leave them behind.
- Headlamp in case it gets dark on your return this will be helpful
I was debating what to wear as early morning if we plan to be on the trail, will it be cold? and later in the afternoon it will be 100 plus degree then should I plan to wear skort. Either way based on friend’s suggestion I packed both – track pant and skort.
“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flow into trees.” ~ John Muir
We decided to start on Thursday and hike on Friday and return back on Saturday. We five people applied for five cable permits which was 4-5 days earlier and luckily one of the friend got the permit so we all got covered, otherwise the plan was to go individually based on the cancellations etc. July 15th 2021 – Thursday we drove to Yosemite and everyone was happy that we are together going out but yet with little nervousness as out of five people, three were going for the first time so there is lot of uncertainty.Thursday afternoon we reached Yosemite and we had booked a tent for one night at Curry Village because the trail is closer to this place and we don’t have hassle to get ready and get on the trail from here. That evening we had our early dinner pizza and couple of them brought their own food based on their food preferences. That night we five people, re-packed our bag pack because everyone was carrying extra things and this was because in many blogs people said, food was less so they suffered and hence we were trying our best. One our lead who was experienced said to empty the bag and carry only things that you will need and we don’t have to carry for everyone as everyone has their own needs based on which they can carry.
We didn’t sleep that well as the anxiety was there. Next morning on 16th, we woke up early as 3:00 am and got ready. We made sure all the items (food, creams etc.), in the iron locker to keep the bear away. Our plan was to start at 5:30 am but we got delayed with moving our things from the tent to a separate one near the lobby since we were checking out of the Curry Village as we were getting off on the trail. Anyhow, after securing our things in the main locker we started to hike from the Mist trail.Seventeen plus miles hiking where total ascent 5700 feet and highest elevation 8846 feet, along the trail that passes through beautiful Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall before reaching the cables on Half Dome’s steep granite domes.
One thing I was aware of from my past visit that you don’t have cellular service here at Yosemite hence I was only able to text once before reaching the Curry Village – something you want to do as well otherwise your family will worry why there is no update from your end.On this hike, there are only two locations where you get the restrooms. One is full service with flush and other one is non-flushable restroom. Another thing to remember is if you happen to not use the restroom and later you need to then you have to make sure you carry those with you in the ziplock bag as you cannot leave anything on the trail, for environment and wild animals sake.
“The only zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the zen you bring up there.” ~ Robert M. Pirsig
Luckily, we used the full service restroom and hence it was a big relief for everyone. On this hike, I was consciously drinking water and based on our certain goal setting we maintained our pace. The decision was not to take pictures on the way but we should take on our return. On every blog you will see this but we still took pictures as we crossed Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall and wherever we could without stopping for long. We had very short breaks for nature’s call and for eating our snacks. Since I was hydrated through out my energy level was good and I was all looking forward for the cables. In between, we saw bobcat that stopped a while to see the hikers and later it went on its way. We were not lucky enough to see a bear this time 🙂 .After crossing the six hundred steps, which is a short walk but the height gain makes it a bit more strenuous than the distance suggests. There are 600 plus steps to get up in order to get to the top of the falls. Most of these are wet from the falls so need to be careful, especially on the descent. We moved along the Little Yosemite Valley making sure we all five are together and waiting for each other.
Before starting the Sub-Dome, make sure you go to the bathroom as after that there’s no place to hide.As we reached the Sub-Dome, its all granite and no shades or trees. Luckily it was not that hot that day, we experienced some nice breeze on the way. The ranger gave us the directions and informations for the Half Dome climb via cables. We went ahead carefully as it’s all granite and slippery too, thank goodness for a good hiking shoes it will save you a lot.We left our trekking poles and got in line to climb the Half Dome. It is steel cables and wooden planks that are placed along the dome to assist hikers to the summit.
We got ready with our gloves and it’s all about upper body workout. I was focussed and cautious at the same time because as you climb up there’s reverse traffic that is coming down and you have to coordinate with them and move accordingly. One good thing is everyone is encouraging and motivating each other. At times, the distance between the wooden plank is huge and you have to work on your legs and upper body to make sure you balance and not hit your knee on the rock while you climb up.
“Climb the mountain so that you can see the world, not so the world can see you.” ~ David McCullough
While I was hiking from the Mist trail to Vernal Fall to Nevada Fall and Little Yosemite Valley, I kept telling myself in mind that this is only one way and once we return from the Half Dome we have to go through all of these to reach back, that was not an easy one. Through out my hike, I was drinking water, Gatorade, one bar and one apple that’s about it. You may not eat that much but you need to be hydrated through out your journey one key element to remember and practice upon it.
Our idea was to reach the top of the dome by noon but we reached at 2 pm and took a break to eat something little. Many suggested to pack a heavy lunch as you will need it when you reach on top of the Half Dome, this I believe differ from individual to individual,We ate very little and this could be due to the excitement, astonishment as we five who started early morning at 5:45 am, were now on top of the Half Dome.
We were excited on the Half Dome as we accomplished this goal or bucket list item. One good thing was that you have cellular service available on top and hence we all called our families and did a FaceTime – it was sheer joy from both sides.We took some pictures and within an hour came down.
“On life and peaks it is the same. With strength we win the grail but courage is the thing we need to face the downward trail.” ~ Jacob Clifford Moomaw
Coming down the cable was easy peasy but then the walk was difficult as I was tired and the water and Gatorade was over and I had saved the 500ml bottle with the hydration powder which came in handy but then 500ml water from Half Dome to back to Curry Village was not enough. I was so tired that I was not ready to take break anywhere. Even when friends stopped for a breather, I kept on walking as I felt if I sit down, probably I will have difficulty in getting up. Took few pictures as we crossed Nevada Fall on our way back and trust me it was evening and we were feeling glad that while climbing up we did take some pictures even though we thought not to stop for pictures. Sometimes it’s best to go with the flow.
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine it’s lethal.” ~ Paulo Coelho
We reached the Curry Village but by that time it got dark and then we moved to Cedar lodge where we planned to spend the night and after relaxing from there we got back to driving home next day which was Saturday!
It was a one day hike that tested our endurance, our patience, our unity, and our tolerance for each other. At the end of the day it was a team effort and as a team we accomplished our goal.I will be always thankful to my friends whenever I will think of Half Dome.
“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” ~ Sir Edmund Hillary