The hike to the summit of Half Dome is probably one of the most famous hikes in Yosemite, if not all of California. Nowadays it’s somewhat difficult to get permits for the hike. You have to enter a lottery, and the chances of getting a permit aren’t that great. (From what I’ve heard, the odds are about one in seven.)
Last year I entered the lottery and couldn’t get a permit. This year most of my church small group ended up entering the lottery, so we were able to get a couple of permits. There were a lot of people who expressed interest in doing the hike, but in the end we only had four people from our small group who went, so I ended up inviting some people from outside the church. In the end we only had five people on a six person permit.
The last time I did the hike, we went up the John Muir Trail and came down the Mist Trail. We did the same this time. I think that’s the best way to do it, I’d rather be going up the switchbacks on the JMT than hiking up the steep stairs of the Mist Trail. Besides, it’s better to come down the Mist Trail during the hottest part of the day.
The cable portion is as intimidating as I remember. In fact, I was actually more scared this time than last. Part of the reason was my hiking shoes were kind of old. I was using the same shoes that I had worn last time, it’s just that they weren’t as grippy as they were before, so during the steepest portions of the climb my feet were actually slipping a bit.
This time around I was able to get over my fear of heights and dangle my legs over the edge of the Visor, the famous picture spot at the top of Half Dome. Last time I was here, Sam and Jason were able to dangle their legs over, but I was too scared to. Now that I have gotten over my fears and have this picture, I never need to return to Half Dome again.
The hike down from Half Dome is quite beautiful. It’s also quite amazing when you realize how far you’ve hiked to get here– Curry Village, where we were spending the night is near the far end of the valley in this picture.
On our way down the switchbacks we all ran out of water. It looked like we were in pretty bad shape. Thankfully we made it to the backpacker’s camp in the Little Yosemite Valley and found some backpackers who lent us their water filter.
Even though I’ve been here many times, hiking the Mist Trail never ceases to amaze me. Unfortunately this time we had to hurry down, since it was getting dark, and you really don’t wanna be hiking down a slippery steep trail after dark.
We got back to the road after dark. We saw a pair of headlights, which we assumed were the shuttle bus. Thankfully Kiefer had enough energy to run and flag down the bus for us, so the bus waited while the rest of our group caught up. Riding the bus saved us from having to hike another mile into Curry Village. In the end (including the bus ride) it took us almost 14 hours to finish the hike.
Half Dome is an amazing hike, but I think I’m done doing it. I have the (now almost cliche) picture with my legs dangling over the edge of the Visor, so I don’t need to come back. The cables are scarier than I remember. Partly it’s because my shoes weren’t very grippy, but I think it’s also partly because I’m getting more fearful in my old age– maybe I just have more to live for nowadays…