Saturday, June 30, 2012

Half Dome Adventure

Hiking, or I should rather say climbing up Half Dome in Yosemite was on my "to-do-before-I-die" list since a long time. But as with so many other things it got postponed every year to the next year. Since one now has to apply in advance for a permit to go up Half Dome, it is not really something you can do spontaneously...
But this year, together with a good friend and our older son, we entered the lottery for the permit and got lucky!

The end of May found us driving up to Yosemite in well prepared but still a bit anxious anticipation. The afternoon before the big day, we went to Glacier Point to have a birds eye view on our route:

The red line shows approx. our planned 17 mile round trip hike from the Yosemite Valley floor with a 4800 ' elevation...

As the alarm clock woke us at 4:15 am the next morning we were torn between excitement and doubt, if we really want to do that. Excitement won and a few minutes after 5 am we were on the trail. The predawn part of the hike took us up the Mist trail and it's steep stone steps gave us a little foretaste of what was to come later on.
At 6:10 am we were looking down Vernal Falls, the sun started to rise but did not reach the Valley yet.

At 6:45 am we scrambled up Nevada Falls, the roaring of the water so loud that we couldn't talk to each other, even if we would have had the breath for it.

Shortly after 7 am we reached the top of Nevada Falls and took some time to enjoy the already great views and watching the sun inching her way into the valley.

The sun felt good on my back as I took this "self portrait"

The next part of the trail would lead us through Little Yosemite Valley, compared to what was behind us and what would be ahead of us, literally a stroll through the park. With the only excitement being warning signs that reminded us of all the rules and regulations...

...curious and not at all shy deers...

...and mating sooty grouses.

With up to 400 permits granted per day, I had expected a much bigger crowd. One would bump into people here and there, but for most of the trail through Little Yosemite Valley we were by ourselves. Finally we saw this sign which let us believe we almost reached our goal....ha, how wrong we were!

Admittedly we glimpsed Half Dome shortly after,

but before we even could start to ascend Half Dome we first had to climb up the "rock stairs" of it's sub dome. Here now, at the foot of the sub dome more and more people congregated, getting ready for the more serious part.

Still huffing and puffing we reached the top of the sub dome and awed at was lying in front of us....yes, it is as steep as it looks, I would even say steeper!
The guide to "Half Dome: Everything you need to know" describes it as
Difficulty: Extreme. It's long, steep at the beginning and end, and more dangerous than most Yosemite hikes. It's probably the most difficult of all Yosemite day hikes. On the traditional 1 to 10 scale, this one rates an 11. 
Insanity Factor: 9 out of 10. Wait 'til you get to the cables, and you'll see. 
I couldn't agree more...
After a short break we put on our gloves, got our carabiner ready, took a deep breath and went...

Gipfelstuermer! 11:45 am, after what seemed an eternity but was probably not more then 20 minutes we reached the top. Utterly exhausted we just took in the view and rested.

The views were absolutely spectacular!

View into the Yosemite Valley

and towards the Eastern Sierra

Taking a glimpse over the rim

The top of Half Dome is actually quite big and flat

After two hours of enjoying the views on top of Half Dome, the moment of truth came...we had to get back down the cables. The ascent was strenuous, but the descent scared me half to death. If you can't see your path down when you start it, you know it's going to be tough.

Arms and legs shaking, I made it down and could once more admire the beautiful views and vistas around us.

On the way down we once more passed the mighty waterfalls,

this time in gorgeous light.

Even a rainbow!

An adventure I won't forget, on a day that could not have been any better. Thank you Cherie and Tomi for sharing the trail with me. For many more to come!

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