the dome

Gosh. I had been looking forward to this trip for a long time. I had first tried to get my Half Dome permit in April, but I had overslept by 30 minutes, and by the time I had woken up and logged onto my computer all the permits were sold out. I tried again in May, but for some reason I thought Monday was the first of the month, when in fact it was Sunday, so I missed getting a permit that month too. (The permits for half dome are only available on the first of the month for three months in the future.) I finally got my permit on June 1st for Saturday, September 17th. I booked two nights in Curry Village. The plan was to get into Curry Village on Friday evening, wake up early and knock out Half Dome on Saturday, then relax in the Yosemite Valley on Sunday a bit before driving back.

The trip started off on the wrong foot. On our drive into Yosemite I got pulled over for speeding. 46 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone. Luckily the cop was nice and didn’t give me a ticket. That would’ve really put a damper on the whole trip. We got into Curry Village around 9 or 10 o’clock. We checked in, had a few glasses of wine to help us sleep and then set our alarms for 4:30am. Before the trip I had asked several friends who had hiked Half Dome before how long the trip would take. The consensus seemed to be around 13-14 hours. I was thinking that we would be slower than that, so we left early to try to make it back for dinner at the Curry Village dining hall, which closes at 8:30.

It was seriously dark when we left our little tent cabin at 5am. It was pretty awesome though, hiking out of the Yosemite valley by moonlight and starlight.

It was still really dark when we got to the area below Vernal and Nevada falls. The trail started to get a bit more rugged, and all we had were a couple of dim flashlights. I had stupidly left my headlamp in the car.

By the time we made it to the Nevada Falls area the sun had come up. It’s funny, I took almost the exact same picture here four months earlier, except with Gideon instead of Chi. Back then the trail up to Half Dome was closed because of snow, and even getting to this point back in April was pretty treacherous because of the snow.

Back in April we didn’t make it to the top of Nevada Falls, instead we circled back down to Vernal falls, the lower of the two falls. This time we made it to the top of Nevada falls, and since we were so early, we were the only ones there. It felt like we had the entire valley to ourselves.

The hike up to Half Dome is a cool trip in and of itself. You break out of the trees and all of a sudden you see the dome in full view. From here I was thinking the route doesn’t look too bad. I was thinking that we were going to hike up that top section of the picture, which looks like maybe 30 degrees. What I didn’t know is that the cable route actually goes perpendicular to that, at a much steeper angle.

Before the actual cables is the climb up the shoulder of the dome. Here there are steps carved into the granite. For me this was actually one of the more scary parts of the hike. It’s almost like a stairway to heaven, partly because it feels like you’re walking up into the sky, and partly because a slip and fall here leads to an early trip to heaven.

When I got to the top of the shoulder area and looked at the cable route for the first time head on, it was pretty intimidating. So I had pictured us climbing up along the top where it looks like maybe 30 degrees at most. Now looking at the cables, I realized we were climbing up a much steeper face. When I actually was on the cables, I was actually too scared to even look down. (I’m not very good with heights in general, though I’ve been slowly getting better.) About midway through I looked sideways– at that point it looked like we were climbing at like a 60 degree angle (thought it was probably my mind just playing tricks on me, it was probably less than that.) What was also scary was that it wasn’t a smooth face. There were parts where the rock kind of jutted out, so we had to climb up and over those while hanging onto the cable.

At the top there’s a famous rock formation called the Visor. Here I am at the Visor. This was the closest I got to the edge. My knees were shaking as I climbed out to that point. Did I mention that I’m not that great with heights?

Sam and Jason apparently have less fear of heights. They were able to climb out all the way to the edge. Sam even hung his legs over. I don’t think I could ever do that, hang my legs over a thousand plus foot drop.

The top of half dome is surprisingly flat. You can walk around and enjoy the views for miles in each direction. We took a picture at the top (I’m not sure why Sam wanted to pose like this) before heading down, since Chi was waiting at the base of the cables.

On our way back down from Half Dome we got caught up in a huge crowd of people coming down the Mist Trail.

That’s cool though, because the Mist Trail is one of those areas where it’s nice to take it slow. This view of Vernal falls never ceases to amaze me. It’s amazing that there’s still this much water so late in the season. From the picture the waterfall doesn’t look all that big, but it’s over 300 feet tall.

We made it back to Curry Village at about 5pm. It took us just about 12 hours total. Not bad. Not bad at all, and it would’ve been faster if we didn’t get caught behind the huge hoard coming down the mist trail.

The next morning we looked for a relaxing activity. We found that the river raft rental at Curry Village was still running. It usually ends in July, but this year because of the huge snow pack there was still enough water for rafting. Well there was actually barely enough water in the river, we had to get out of the raft and walk a couple of times. Eating at the buffet at Curry Village for both dinner and breakfast probably didn’t help matters. It was pretty awesome out there, almost like a live nature show. We saw a mother deer eating with her two baby deer (fawns?) by the river bank. We also saw a coyote drink from the river. It was an incredible end to a fun trip. I had been looking forward to this trip for a long time, and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

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