Monday, August 3, 2009

Half Dome Summit July 3, 2009

Our vacation began by visiting Stef's sister near Grass Valley, CA (just north of Sacramento) We did a whole bunch of fun stuff including (but not limited to) the train museum, State Capitol, Sutter's Mill, panning for gold and went swimming in the Yuba River. I have uploaded a few pictures on Facebook it you have any interest.

On July 2nd we headed south to Yosemite National Park for our Half Dome Summit attempt. Due to the difficulty and time commitment, only Zack and I were going to make the attempt. There was a great deal of planning before we left to go up North. We needed something to carry 4 liters of water each, enough food for the day, first aid kit, flash lights, and of course new shoes. I wasn't going to get new hiking shoes, but I'm glad I did. It probably saved our lives. The plan was to get up at 4am and be on the trail by 5am. (I wish we would have gotten up an hour earlier.) We were walking on the trail at 5:15 am which wasn't too far off the plan. We could just barely see the start of dawn. We didn't need the head mounted flash lights we had brought, and it was warm enough that we didn't need the sweat shirts that we took off 15 minutes into the hike.
Immediately we started to climb. It was steeper than I thought it would be. More rocky too. Zack (age 9) was a trooper the whole trip. I constantly had to slow him down. (For him so he wouldn't burn out and for me...because he was moving fast.) We passed one water fall, then walked behind another, then crossed over the big Nevada Falls. This was a site to see. We could clearly see one side of Half Dome, but it was still far away. In my mind I'm thinking, what have I gotten us into, how are we going to make it there up the cables, down cables, and back to the car alive? Zack then sees the face of Half Dome and says, "We are going to make it to the summit...I just know it." That was exactly what I needed to hear. There was no way this 44 year old was going to let his son down. We just had to keep going. For the next hour or so we were in a huge meadow, with tallest trees you've ever seen. After the meadow we were climbing switch backs again. Zack was getting tired...then I realized he passed on a food break the last time and now he's dragging...hmmm. "I'm not hungry." he said...I don't care...If you don't eat, we are going back. As soon as he ate some food he was back to cranking up the mountain. About 5 or so hours into our assault we got a pretty good view of our goal. If you looked really closely you could see tiny people climbing the cables. A few minutes later we were at the base of Sub Dome. This is where it gets tricky. It's a very steep a climb on what looks like rock stairs. After about 30 minutes or so of the steep ascent we come to the base of the cables. The dreaded cables that I had read so much about. The cables are put up by the park service only between May and October. Many hundreds or thousands of people climb the cables every year. It can be very dangerous especially in rain or thunder storms. No such bad weather on this day. The only bad thing I can say about this day was that the park service was manging a fire, so smoke filled the valley partially occluding our view below. Once again Zack was eager to get going up the cables. When we first got there, the line up the face was not bad. Zack said, "let's go!" I told him we needed to eat first to get our strength up. Then we were ready to make our final assault. But now more people had arrived. Remember this was the July 4th holiday weekend. There were tons of people now arriving at the base of the cables. The cables are about 3 feet apart width wise and there are poles drilled into the rock about every four feet or so. At each pole there is a 2 x 4 going length wise between the poles. This give you a good place to rest. As we started our climb, somebody way farther going up and somebody coming down got really scared. They couldn't move and neither could anyone else until they did move. I was between the 2 x 4's for about 15 minutes until somebody helped the scared people through the rough spots. Later, Zack told me that was the only time he was scared because his hands were getting tired of holding on. After that we learned to stop on the 2 x 4's until the next one was open. That made it much easier. I was behind Zack the whole time telling him to hold on a focus on every step. I tried to look around every once in a while, but I'm not the best with heights, and I was worried for Zack. After about 45 minutes we made it to the top! I think it would have taken 15 or 20 minutes to make it with out a line. The summit was beautiful. We snapped a few pictures including one of me out on the Visor. The Visor scared me. When you looked down, you could see straight down over 4000 feet. If you fell, you would not hit anything until you reached valley floor. That's me looking scared near the end of the Visor. We ate some more and we were ready to head down. This part wasn't particularly hard, but there was still a line to get down, and I was really worried Zack was getting tired and would slip and roll off the mountain. Of course, I didn't need to worry...he did awesome all the way down the cables. I am glad we got those new hiking shoes...they really gripped the rock well. We rested at the base of the cables, ate some more and then headed down Sub Dome. I knew once we got down Sub Dome, we were home free. Once we passed the base of Sub Dome, I felt much better, but we still had to get down. We had plenty of water and food left...we were looking and feeling good. We just needed to get down. The last two hours down, my downhill legs were getting tired. We were not out of breath as much, and we were moving faster, but my legs were taking a beating. The last half hour I ran out of water. I was fully hydrated and not Zack had about 1.5 liters of water left in his pack. Plus in another half hour of walking there would be a potable drinking fountain. We were down to the last 15 minutes or so. There were way more people down here. We kept walking waiting to get back to the car. Finally at about 5:55 pm we made it back to the car. The hike took us 12 hours and 45 minutes. (approx. 1 hour at the top) Total elevation of Half Dome is 8,842…4,800 feet of elevation gain…17 miles round trip. It was the most unreal thing I ever done. I can now scratch Half Dome off my bucket list. During the whole hike, I would occasional do a video journal entry. The video links below will give you a feeling for what we were seeing and how we were feeling. Please click the links to see the video journal of our summit trip of Half Dome on July 3rd, 2009.

Leaving Hotel 4:39a

5:42a on paved trail 1/2 hr in

6:30a steep trail

7:17a climbing switch backs

7:40a Nevada Falls

Behind mini waterfall

7:54a coming up on Nevada Falls

Nevada Falls

8:21a meadow

8:40 climbing switch backs again

8:52a forest

9:30a rocky steep trail

10:03a beautiful

10:16a sub dome

10:35a climbing sub dome

10:49a climbing sub dome 2

10:52a Almost to Cables

11:42a Through Cables

12:55p Down Cables

1:30p Base of Sub Dome

2p heading down

3:21p meadow

4:09p just passed Nevada Falls

5:04p Within A Mile

5:55p At Car...smoke bothering my eyes


Kevin Martin said...

What an awesome trip! I would be very scared on that ledge.

I probably would not be up there anyhow, I've seen "Cliffhanger" one too many times :D

Thanks for the e-mail, sharing this story and pictures. :)

Brian Head said...

Awesome place, thanks for sharing!

Click Here