Climbing Half Dome: Yosemite 2015

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

I was prospecting through the archives today when I ran across photos from a trip we took a few years back – I knew there were gems in there! In late summer 2015, my wife Leigh and I decided we wanted to make a quick trip to Yosemite shortly after school started, hoping there would be less of a crowd. The primary goal: Half Dome. (If you don’t know Half Dome, check it out here, I’ll wait). So we entered, and won, the permit lottery (tip: weekdays are a lot easier!).

This was a last-minute trip, so there was no chance of staying in the park. We got a hotel as near the park entrance as we could. Not the best situation if you’re planning an all-day hike, but what can you do? We were about 20 miles from the park gate, which is yet another hour from Yosemite Valley. Half Dome, from the trailhead in Yosemite Valley, is a 10 to 12 hour hike (14-16 miles round-trip, 4800 feet of elevation). So we were on the road at about 4AM to get on the trail around sunrise.

Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park

It’s a beautiful hike. The trail was clear and not too steep, but some of the “steps” are pretty high. It was mostly gravelly and I slipped once or twice on the way down (hey, I was tired!). While late September is not the best time to see waterfalls, or much water of any kind, the views are still spectacular. As you can see from this picture of Vernal Fall, water flow was less than overwhelming – so don’t forget to carry plenty of your own. I hear it’s much wetter in the springtime and we intend to investigate!

After three or four hours on the trail, you reach a sign that says you need to have a permit to keep going, so I checked my pocket to make sure I still had it. I did, so we kept going.

And then you come to this:

Cable Ascent, Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

This was what we had been training for! Running across this picture in the archives is what prompted this whole post. I was trying to capture the sheer verticality of the cable ascent. From farther away it almost looked like people just going up a hill. It’s not quite straight up, but it’s not all that far off. We were encouraged by the National Park Service pointing out that “relatively few” people had fallen off the cables and died! 400 feet of almost sheer rock is quite a climb, and I needed a breather once we finally got to the top.

But the view is spectacular…

Leigh and Eric atop Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

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