Half Dome P1K SPS / WSC

Sat, Aug 1, 1998
  Etymology Story Maps: 1 2 3 GPX Profile
previously climbed Wed, Jun 18, 2008

I had originally planned to climb Mt. Florence out of Toulumne Meadows in Yosemite on a three day solo trek. Unfortunately, a bout of altitude sickness made me cancel that after the first night. As I hiked back to the car the next day, disappointed as you might expect, I decided to drive down to the Valley to climb Half Dome.

Without reservations in the height of summer, it's quite unlikely that one will find a legal place to camp. I tried to find a spot at Sunnyside walk-in, but it was full up as expected. So I took my bivy sack and sleeping bag and sacked out not far from Sunnyside, out of sight (I hoped).

I planned to see how fast I could hike Half Dome, and wanted to get up as early as I could drag my butt out of the sack. This turned out to be around 5:15a, which was just shy of total darkness. I was packed up in 15 minutes, and drove to Curry village for a good starting point. I ate a cold breakfast of whatever-it-was-I-don't-remember (but I'm sure it was dried fruit and jerky or some similarly forgettable meal) and tromped off to Happy Isle which I would consider the true starting point for a hike up Half Dome.

By now it was 6a, getting lighter, but still cold. I started off, carrying my running fanny pack with two bottles of water and some more of the same food stuffs. My basic strategy on such outings is to run/jog the flats and downhills, and walk uphills. This seems to provide me the best combination of speed and energy conservation.

On my way up to Nevada Falls, I passed 15 early birds who had my admiration for actually getting out of bed even earlier than I managed. :)

By 7a I had reached Nevada Falls and the first rays of sun hit me on the trek over to Little Yosemite Valley. It was shaping up to be a warm day, so I was now thankful for the cold morning and was glad to be able to avoid the sun for much of the steep part of the hike.

I passed only three more folks on the way up to the cables, in addition to several parties who were camping in the vicinity of the last trees before the final climb. As I got to the cables, it was now 8:10a, there was the huge pile of gloves at the base and not a soul in sight (in the past I've always found a line of people strung out from top to bottom). Without the usual slowdown to pass folks, I was able to finish the cable section in 20 minutes. 2 1/2 hrs from the bottom, I was on top!

On top I found a couple who I assumed had camped with the group below. They departed soon after I arrived, leaving me with the whole dome to myself on a gorgeous day without a cloud in the sky. This was my third trip here, but the most serene and enjoyable because of the solitude. I began to understand why folks would haul their backpacks up to camp in the trees below - they're generally the only ones who will get to have the solitude of the top and the chance to enjoy a sunrise from such a prime location (I would have had to get up WAY too early to get here in time for sunrise!).

I hung around long enough to peer over the edge, eat a snack, take in the view, and soak up the experience, which is to say about 15 minutes (I'm not one for prolonged sentiment as you might have guessed).

Going down the cables was extremely fun, as I had nobody in the way of a speedy decent. Nearly flying hand over hand going down backwards, it took only 5 minutes for the entire cable section.

I made a game of counting the folks on the way down to see how many folks start off on this trail on any given day. On the way down to Little Yosemite, I passed 30 people. Some of these I had passed earlier in the morning, but most were new faces that I assumed had camped overnight in Little Yosemite. Between that point and Vernal Falls, there were 110 hikers, between Vernal and the bridge at the bottom another 205, and then on the final mile and a half back to Happy Isle, I counted a whopping 300 people!

I got down in 1 3/4 hr, for a round trip time of 4 1/4 hrs. After I got back to Curry village and got some nice drinks at the store there, I headed home at 11a. It seemed strange to be leaving so early in the day, but with my legs tired with a full day's workout.

I think my next trip up Half Dome will be from the front side via Mirror Lake. I understand there's a class 3 route up that way, so I'll have to check it out...


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