... seeking simple answers to complex problems, and in the process, disrupting the status quo in technology, art and neuroscience.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Half Dome the Hard Way - A Review

I do lots of hiking, but once a year I try to really challenge myself (and whomever will come with me), to a hike in the marathon class (20 plus miles on difficult ground).

For this year's hike, we picked Half Dome in Yosemite Park. But I didn't want to just do the standard up and back along with the crowd from the valley below. So we decided to start at Tenaya Lake up on Tioga pass. This would give a chance to see some of the back country as well as make a stop at Clouds Rest which was actually a thousand feet ABOVE Half Dome and a challenging climb all on it's own.

We were 45 minutes behind plan getting started because of the drive, and our schedule slipped all day from there. The delays were caused by trail-bed, grade and lack of enough training. Most of the trail-bed we saw was rocky. Some of it is down right horrible.

Cloud's Rest was a hard climb of just under 2000 feet from Tenaya Lake. It was about six miles with a fairly rocky path. It made for slow going. An and I had not done enough training hikes this summer. Travis apparently did more. He lead all the climbing all day.

01 Clark Mt

As we approached, the top, views started popping up. Clark Mountain in the distance was especially impressive. We also got a good view of Tenaya Lake behind us.

02 Fall Line Off the Edge of Cloud's Rest

03 The World of Granite and Tenaya Lake Behind Us (click to enlarge, then look closely)

We got to Cloud's Rest just before lunch and were rewarded with a spectacular view all around. The scale is well beyond our normal perception. Looking into those granite valleys will almost pull you in. Photos do not do it justice. You just have to go and see it for yourself.

04 Trav on Cloud's Rest

05 An on Cloud's Rest

After lunch we began a steep decline losing far more than we'd gained all morning. But the trail was pretty good and we completed four miles in just over an hour - the fastest section all day.

06 Half Dome from the Back

Then it was time to climb much of it back, which is a bit demoralizing. It was about 1700 feet in the very short distance of only two miles. This is the steepest climb I think I've ever done for that distance, and is topped off with the famous cable assent.

08 Closer

09 Steps

The first third is simply trail, but steep enough to force breaks to catch your breath, even at 8000 feet. The next third seemed like a thousand steps cut into the granite. Maybe it was only 800. I think it was the worst part of the whole day, at least until it began to yield more amazing views. Next was the final phase - even steeper than steps.

Other than visually challenging (read scary as hell), the cable climb was mostly waiting for the line to move, even though we didn't have a line to get started this late in the day (3:00 by then). It took 45 minutes to go that last 400 feet - almost straight up. I got a Charley-horse near the end, but I think it was caused by the earlier never-ending steps. A few minutes relaxing on top and it resolved.

The view off Half Dome is probably not what you'd expect. Other than a small section over by the cliffs, you can't see into the valley below. This is because, if you walk far enough over the "dome" to get a good look, the footing becomes steep and dangerous without a rope. So most people were hanging out by the cliffs which split the dome in half and are truly dramatic.

14 The Cliffs

By this time, it was 4:00 PM, which was exactly when I told Rita (our ride back to the car), we'd be back at the village in the valley. By the time we got off the dome it was even later. Even though I didn't think she would leave without us, I was a bit concerned because we couldn't make phone connection. Or maybe it was just an excuse to go for a run.

You see, I like running down hill. And with rocks, it becomes kind of a dance. Once we got off the steps, I left Trav and An behind and began my run. The first few miles went quickly, with only a few rocks to dodge. But on the flats before the falls, was DG (Decomposed Granite) as deep as beach sand. That took me down to a walk for about a mile.

Next came the mist trail below Nevada Falls, which is some of the nastiest rock path I have ever seen, especially the first mile. This was more of a tap-dance than a run. Finally I hit paved path and sprinted to the finish (except for the small up hill parts).

The day had been a great work-out, especially the last few miles. I found Rita about an hour before the other guys made it out, making a ten hour day for me. We headed back to Rita's house and her hot-tub.

So if you're looking for two of the most visually vivid summits in the United States, either of these will do. But be ready for a challenge.

Even if you only do one.

11-13-09 three more photos from Trav

On Cloud's Rest

Second Objective

The Stair-climber

1 comment:

  1. A good story and your photography is excellent. DO