Summiting Yosemite’s Half Dome

About to climb the cables at Half Dome.  If you look closely you can see the faint line down the right center going up with a few climbers near the top half.  That is the cable route up.


Day 5!  rise at 5 a.m.!  Today is the today to make the push up Half Dome and all the way back to camp!  We all arise from our cocoons and gather ourselves in the darkness of the woods.   I make some oatmeal and then Scott and I pack our bags before heading to the river to fetch some water.

Scott filtering water in the dark before the days summit.

He is only carrying a hip sack since we will summit and then return to base camp to pack out tents before heading back.  I have a full pack, to accommodate my cameras and lenses along with a small sack of water and some food.  Its about a 3.5 mile hike to the top and then another back to base camp.  We should be able to do it in 4 hours.  We all head off with our headlights on, up the John Muir trail to the peak at about 6 a.m.

The group spread out going up.

With a couple breaks along the way, we made it fairly quickly, getting to see the sunrise and morning appear.  Hiking into a sunrise is pretty awesome!

Nate stopping to reflect for a moment.

The crew minus me, before conquering the last of the trail up to the top.

Luckily there were breaks, as I was able to stop and shoot a few times.  The reason for leaving so early: 1) We have a long day and need to also hike all the way back down, over 8 miles after summiting.  2)  Half Dome is very popular and many people come to summit everyday.  Passing people on the cables is not easy and somewhat dangerous.  So we avoided both of those and got up to the summit about 8 ish.

Nearing the top.



Sierra Nevada range atop Half Dome.

Rested, ate some food and scoped out the top of a peak we have been en route to for over 6 days.  Of course there was the usual take a pic of me at the cliff pictures to be had!

Take my pic!

Sara in our group is afraid of heights, so summiting was a huge accomplishment!  She did awesome.  The last 500 or so feet of Half Dome is only climbed with the assist of cables as it is a 45 degree angled slate of granite.  You slip or lose grip and you fall to your death.  We are not clipped in or have any harness on.  This made the hike a bit more interesting to say the least.  We all made it though!  Leather gloves were recommended, but I would say they were mandatory, as even with gloves my hands slipped slightly here and there.  Once summited and then back down the cables we hiked back to base camp on a very quick pace.  Scott and I took our time and chose not to race down, as there was no reward that I had been aware of?  We all rested a bit and packed up, loading our packs back up to their capacity.  Everyone was carrying anywhere between 26-46 lbs on there back.  Mine was about 31 lbs and that was with a camera, tripod and 3 lenses plus everything else.  I was not exactly sure why we weren’t gonna hang out at the awesome campground a bit longer since we only had about a 3 hour hike down and would have plenty of daylight left to drive to our eventual destination that night at a hotel in Mammouth.  We started hiking down but this time went down the mist trail which went along the water falls.

Nevada Falls.

It was pretty awesome!  I stopped twice in the beginning to take some pics and was quickly left behind.  The “race” down had begun.  Scott and I enjoyed the nice hike down, while it seemed everyone else was in a rush to get down and leave.  Of course I realize later, they had all wanted a beer.  We are in Yosemite!  So I enjoyed everything going down except my calves and broken toe but it wasn’t too bad.  Scott and Nate also hung back eventually and we explored as we went down the mountain.  The tourists got thicker and thicker as we descended since after all it was a Saturday.  Once at the bottom arriving at our cars we pack them and started the drive back to Mammouth for a nights rest.  On the way our driver Michelle shared some pretty cool pull over sites she had been to before.

Tenaya Lake

We all would get out of our car and hobble over to check it out, hobbleing….from being so sore.  There are some many cool places to see in Yosemite and we only saw a fraction!  Reflecting back on the day driving, I was lucky to get to go on this awesome trip and see some pretty amazing pieces of nature.  We had previously booked a room for each carload at the Motel 6 and with 5 people in our car our room was going to be a tight fit!  We arrived at about 6 pm and traded out showering getting the scum off.  They all went out afterwards and got hammered.  I stayed back to download photos and do some work.  Fell asleep and woke up to them all coming back drunk waking me up, not fun.  They eventually took their party elsewhere and I went back to sleep.  Scott and I woke up the next morning to just 3 people sleeping in the room where there was suppose to be 5?  What?  Yeah!  So we found out Michelle and Brian got in a little “discussion” and she went to sleep in the car.  Nate was MIA?  Was this Hangover relived?  Almost.  We waited for a while and then went to check to see if he had gotten another room.  Nope.  Then started to redirect our thoughts.  Did something happen?  We call the police, hospital and then were kinda up on ideas.  His phone was off and have left the group to go to another bar the night before so no one had any clues.  About 8:30 am Scott gets a random text, be there in 20.  WTF?  Yeah, so long story short…. he had passed out on some random couch at some dudes he was hanging with the night before.  Woke up and had no idea how he had gotten there?  Pretty classic Nate, just glad he was ok.  We collected Nate into the car and started south back to San Diego.  Michelle has a bit of a lead foot and was handed the lead foot award early on in the drive today by a young California Patrol officer.  An omen of driving the speed limit and not making all the passengers in the back nervous at high speeds on narrow mountain roads with no guard rails.  We made it back to San Diego about 3 p.m. exhausted and ready for a nap.  Unpacked and went to get some food and then headed to the ocean for a sunset check out.  What a trip!

Sunset Yoga in Southern California

Everyone enjoys a sunset session.

© 2012 Ben Hicks