It’s no hidden fact that hiking the Half Dome in Yosemite National Park is considered to be the ***MOST FAMOUS*** hike in Yosemite. I recently made it to the top of the Half Dome summit along with a bunch of friends and this blog is dedicated to all of them. I could not have done it without them. Here’s the story of one of my fondest of memories… 17 miles round trip, approx. 5000 ft. elevation gain and 14 hours of hiking!
Story of the permits: It all began in April of this year. A dozen of us prospective Half Dome aspirants (me and my friends) started trying our luck in obtaining permits for the climb. Permits are required to climb the Half Dome. On April 1st, we managed only 4 and with more than 12 probable candidates, hiking the dome in July was out of question. In case you are wondering, permits are available 3 months in advance. So come May 1st, we again tried our luck and managed to get 8 permits for a Saturday in August :)! We were still 4 permits short, but we found a helpful soul in the coming months who traded his August permits for our July permits. And then, we had 12 permits!!!
Preparing for the hike: I’d like to say that 40% of the group in my opinion did not require too much preparing, and some of them are so fit that they probably did not. However; there were a few of us who did a couple of hikes around the bay area in anticipation of the actual hike. Mainly we stuck to Mission Peak, but the maximum we hiked at a stretch was 9.5-10 miles at Eagle Peak in Mt. Diablo State Park. Did we diligently prepare? May be the last 2 weeks, but overall my answer would be “Not really”.
Story of the actual hike: So from our initial count of 12 folks, only 7 of us ended going to Yosemite for the actual hike. Some of us slower hikers wanted to start the hike at 4 in the morning but after much hoopla we were at the trail head around 6:00 AM. The group of 7 split up at the base of Vernal Falls. One group went up the Mist trail and the other went up through the John Muir trail. I took John Muir because it is less steeper but a little longer. We all met at the top of Nevada Falls. After Nevada, it is just walking and walking where you might feel de-motivated. But, just before the base of the sub-dome, there is a vista from where you can view the sub-dome and the half dome. From this vista, you can see ant-like people on the cables on the half dome. The view from here really gets the adrenaline rushing and gets you going. Once you are at the vista, “You are almost there!” Ya, you’ll probably hear that phrase a gazillion times from fellow hikers on the hike.
Story of going up the cables: The sub dome is nothing compared to the actual dome. All those people who say that the sub dome is a lot harder than the half dome are not telling you the full truth!!!! Hiking the sub-dome was not as tough as I had imagined it to be. While we were waiting at the top of sub dome and the base of half dome, we heard that a girl had fainted on the cables and the traffic was at a stand still. I am petrified of heights and hearing the story was indeed demoralizing. But the girl regained consciousness and somehow got back and it was our turn to ascend to the top!! Going up the cables is by far the hardest physically strenuous exercise I have done so far. The whole hike did not tire me as much as the going up and coming down the cables part did! But anyhow, this could be because I am scared of heights..
Jubilation at the top of the Half Dome: All seven of us made it to the top! The feeling is something I cannot and will not be able to describe properly. May be a sense of achievement or sheer joy of making it to the top, I don’t know, but it felt freaking awesome 🙂 Oh, and btw, the views from the top are stunning and stupendous.
My only tip: Don’t get lost on your way back from John Muir. We got lost on our way back from John Muir just before the base of Vernal Falls. We went along the horse trail instead of the foot trail and it got quite dark. Of course, all of us managed to get back to camp safely, but please be extremely careful if you come down John Muir. You don’t want to add an extra mile to your hike retracing your steps after 16+ miles of hike, so don’t get LOST!!
Ending thoughts: “I had the time of my life and I’ve never felt this way before!” Making it to the top of the Half Dome is probably my most cherished memory of the year 2011 so far. I know this post does not have too much helpful information, but I am not a Half Dome pro and nor do I plan to be one. I had a few awesome friends who had done the hike before so few of us first timers got a lot of help from experienced Half Dome hikers. I wanted to do the hike for myself and this post is just to re-live the amazing times that I had on the hike with some of the best people I know (my friends :))
Will I go back again? Probably not! But if you enjoy hiking, this hike is something that should be on your list. It definitely keeps you on a HIGH in the weeks that follow. And it is also something that you will remember for the rest of your life!