Half Dome Trip Report

8,842 ft

For mom and dad's 45th wedding anniversary we spent 2 nights at the famous Ahwahnee Lodge in Yosemite Valley. The rooms were elegant and provided a comfortable haven from the 100 F valley temperatures by afternoon.

I was treated to all manner of nice food, particularly for dinner, including such delicacies as trout corncakes appetizer; smoked sturgeon and salmon roe appetizer with potatoes and sour cream; ahi tuna with black sesame crust and wasabi mashed potatoes (entree); and lemon goat cheesecake with balsamic vinegar glaze.

On the third day they left for Elizabeth's wedding (Dale's stepdaughter) while I climbed Half Dome from the back side.

I left the day use carpark at 4:55 AM in complete darkness and hooked up with a trio of teenage girls who also were early risers. (I had misplaced my headlamp and were thus at their mercy until daybreak. Turns out that it was sitting the whole time inside my cooking pot to save space.)

At the trailhead one-half mile later I waited for them to relieve themselves and we headed up the trail together until it was plainly obvious how to walk sans headlamp. I forged ahead and did not see them again.

At Nevada Falls some 4 miles and 2,000 vertical feet past the start, I encountered an Adventure Scout troop of 4 teenage boys with 2 adults. They had come up a shorter route via Vernal Falls (one mile shorter) and had begun their trek at 5:30 AM.

I set a blazing pace for them - which was challenging given that I toted a 20 pound daypack and they each carried perhaps 5-10 pounds. The scoutmasters lagged behind and we had to wait for them every hour to catch up.

We made excellent progress and finally came to the base of the cable system that leads over smooth granite to the summit. Undaunted, I swallowed more water, had gloves at the ready for traction, and headed up the cable system as example. The boys followed immediately once they saw my resolve and seemingly unphased attitude.

What an armburn!! Anyhow, in less than one-half hour we all got to the dome-like summit area and, at my suggestion, headed sharp right (north) to the obviously higher area rather than straight (southwest) to the more heavily cairned but lower area.

I scampered to the highest boulder, saw to it that the first scout up touch it with me simultaneously, and shook his hand. Turns out he runs cross country so its not surprising he'd make it up first. He is also extremely skinny. Whatever.

Eighty minutes on top eating "lunch" (although it was only 9:15 AM when we topped out), sharing salmon jerky, and taking photos for people. A rodent continually harassed my food supply while some bees got INTO my bag of salmon jerky.

On descent the swarm of hikers was pitifully evident. Indeed, in the roughly twelve minutes that it took for me to descend the cables, perhaps 15-20 people were going up - so necessitating passing on one another's right side as if we were automobiles.

I descended to Nevada Falls and likely passed more than two hundred hikers that morning. Then I took the "shortcut" via Vernal Falls to the trailhead, returning essentially the same time as the scouts (I actually ran the last 1/10 mile to make it to the trailhead first). There I spotted many, many people who had gone just to Vernal Falls, with some bathing themselves in the pool of water near or above it.

I was back at the car at 1:55 PM - precisely nine hours elapsed from my start. The breakdown is 4 h 20 m up; 80 minutes summit siesta; 3 h 20 m down.

Round trip distance was 17 miles as I hiked it (17 miles plus 2 * 1/2 mile to trailhead less 1 mile on account of the shortcut via Vernal Falls).

Net elevation gain was 4,800 ft while the total gain adds on 2 x 200 ft for 5,200 ft.

As far as the mountain itself, Half Dome needs no introduction.