This is the third part of a four-part post, to make sure you’re up to speed, best to start with Part 1.
Getting up in the morning ranks among my three least favorite things to do – the other two of course are hiking and squeezing lemon into my wounds (the sting means it’s working).
But waking up atop Clouds Rest proved to me that opening your eyes and standing up in the morning can in fact be the highlight of your day (which means that the rest will be a disappointment).
I highly recommend it.
Moist and I plan to conquer Half Dome today, and knowing that the Half Dome will get crowded as the day goes on (yes, our intuition is incredible), we bid farewell to our family of camping friends and head down the southern side of the mountain (and yes, we make sure to complete our daily (naked) surya namaskara).
With renewed spirits (and plenty of downhill in front of us), we merrily float down the switchbacks losing nearly 3,000 feet of elevation before meeting the Tenaya Lake Trail.
We take a right.
Having made surprisingly good time, we fill up on water (there are no water sources on the Half Dome trail) and skip down the trail just a half mile or so to where we meet the trail leading up Half Dome (and the first of many annoying signs).
Knowing that we are about to rebound from our massive loss in elevation, we stash our bear canisters and extra gear amongst the trees and begin an easy slackpack to the top.
Except it isn’t an easy slackpack.
Once you venture beyond the signs yelling at you to have a permit, the trail begins to climb and it doesn’t stop until you find yourself atop the Dome of Half (in other words, it’s awful).
When we reach the base of the subdome, we find a ranger guarding the trail, asking hikers for their permits and group information (Moist Fox, party of two).
We are already winded and things only get steeper as we climb through rocky switchbacks to the subdome’s invisible summit and the base of the final climb.
The subdome trail is not obvious at times, and since the rocks are crowded with winded daywalkers, we take to simply walking up the granite slabs towards the top (because ultimately, the direction you want to go is up).
Reaching the top of the subdome we finally get a firsthand glimpse at the infamous cables leading up Half Dome. Only about five or six people are on the cables, and they are moving incredibly slow. What a bunch of wieners.
However, as we approach the base, it becomes clear just how steep the Half Dome trail is (really fucking steep).
My initial reaction?
People for sure fall and die trying to make it up this thing (apparently around 20 people so far).
Wooden planks lay across the trail, marking each pair of cable-securing posts. These planks offer a precarious yet reasonably comfortable place to rest whilst climbing.
At the start of the cables is a pile of gloves (where they come from, I do not know) that hikers are encouraged to take and use whilst climbing and descending. Psssh, I don’t need no stinkin’ gloves.
I try my luck powering up the cables and quickly decide that this is the wrong way to go about things (this realization coincides with my legs’ decision to stop working). Fortunately, I am the only person on the cables and I can rest without impeding the progress of others.
It also quickly becomes apparent why gloves would have been a good idea (I’ve come too far).
The rock between the cables has been rubbed smooth by the feet of hundreds of thousands of visitors, and my shoes threaten to slide backward with each step.
I slowly make upwards progress, each step covering more vertical than horizontal distance as I strenuously inch from one plank to the next.
The grade of the trail is such that if you slipped, you would not be able to arrest your fall, and if not for the cables, you would need to keep all of your weight forward at all times to keep yourself upright.
Basically, imagine the steepest slope you think you’re capable of walking up, and then imagine something steeper than that.
Did I mention that the trail is steep?
Finally reaching the summit I look around and realize that the view I left behind on Clouds Rest was superior to this, but I am happy to finally be standing atop Yosemite’s most iconic feature.
Lounging around, watching chipmunks rummage through unguarded packs, I hear a yelp and turn to see a girl explaining to her dad how she managed to drop her gloves over the edge.
Curious as to how far the gloves have fallen, I peek over the edge and see them resting on a ledge about thirty feet below. A ledge that appears to be easily accessible via hopping down giant rock steps just above it.
Not wanting the girl’s hands to suffer a fate similar to my own, I offer my assistance which the father adamantly refuses. What a wiener.
I tell him that I am going down to get the gloves regardless, and when I return (unscathed, I might add) his daughter is overjoyed to have her gloves back (likely because she has narrowly escaped a beating).
Despite his daughter’s relief, said dad tells me that I am an idiot and I tell him that nobody will believe his death wasn’t an accident. Seriously, what a wiener.
Continued in Hiking Yosemite Part IV: The Mist Trail.