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Hiking Stats as of 11/21/2018
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 325
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

Oct 3, 2014 - Half Dome

 

Partners: Kyle Breen

Distance: 18.33 miles

Elevation Gain: 5,323 feet

Trip Time: 8:35

Maps and Stats:
Unbelievably it had been a year since Kyle and I had last hiked up Half Dome. Since our visit last fall we did Clouds Rest in April, which follows much of the same route which is probably why it feels like we were just here. In fact, although this would be my 4th visit to Half Dome and Kyle's 3rd, it would be my 6th trip up the Mist Trail and through Little Yosemite Valley (Kyle's 4th). Despite having done it so much, we put in our application for a permit during the lottery period early in 2014 and we were granted our request for October 3.

We decided it was not necessary for Kyle to come over the night before, since this hike no longer qualifies as anything out of the ordinary in terms of effort or time requirements. So he came over a bit after 6 AM, and we made our way to the parking lot to get started a couple minutes after 9 AM. It was a pleasant morning, nice and cool. Just like our visit in April, there were very few people on the trail, in stark contrast to everything you ever hear about this area. I think maybe it is our timing, as people heading for Half Dome probably start a bit earlier than 9 and the people looking to hike up the Falls can wait to get started if they want to make a day of it. By 9:45 we were heading up the steep staircase adjacent to Vernal Fall whose flow was certainly not enough to throw any mist our way on the Mist Trail. We reached the top at 10 AM, but saw no need to visit the Emerald Pool and instead just kept going.

We had thought about hiking up Liberty Cap after finishing Half Dome and it as it came into view it certainly made an attractive target. As we hiked past the Cap we looked around for a trail that we could use later but didn't see anything. Oh well, we could figure that out later. We kept going over to second steep section, this one adjacent to Nevada Fall. Again, we didn't stop once we got to the top of the falls, instead continuing on the John Muir trail as it headed alongside Half Dome and towards the familiar site of Clouds Rest. We hit the junction where we exited the John Muir Trail and started on the Half Dome Trail at 10:45, still not seeing too many people. Not long into this part of the journey I stashed a Powerade Zero to pick up on the return, marking a giant rock with a few cairns so I could find it later.

In another half hour the views started opening up, back towards Clouds Rest , out to the Clark Range and over to Mt. Starr King. Half Dome itself was soon in full view. When we reached the start of the subdome we were a bit surprised that there were no rangers checking permits. This was a first for me, but maybe they don't bother if they don't expect too many visitors on certain days. So we went up the subdome, reaching the top at 12:50 where the cables route is laid out in full view. We rested for maybe 10 minutes at the subdome, more so that we could try to time our start on the cables for when there was a large gap between the bottom and the hikers making their way up. Although the cables weren't too crowded, there were perhaps 25 people spread out and it didn't take long to catch up to the person ahead of us. This gave me a chance to take in the view looking back down. We were able to pass up the slowest of the hikers, but eventually there were too many people around and we had to wait. There were actually more people heading down than up, but sometimes the ones going down aren't really too fast either. All told it took about 20 minutes to get to the top.

Once on top I took the first turn on the Visor, and made my way down to the edge of the overlook where I had the best seat in Yosemite. From my location I was startled to hear a voice, and it turned out there was a rock climber approaching the summit, having come the hard way. Kyle then took his turn on the Visor, opting to try out the front row seat for himself. With the festivities winding down, we spent some time exploring the large summit of Half Dome starting with the dizzying view down the sheer face. Next up was the actual summit itself, followed by a trip over to the other side of the large summit area. There were perhaps 20 people on the summit, but only a couple were over in this area. I took time to enjoy the view to Clouds Rest on the way to the other side of the Dome. There really isn't much to see on this side, although if you continue down past the highpoint you do wind up with some great views. It was getting close to 2 PM, and so we had to stop our exploring and head back up to the lower summit again and got started down the cables.

For those who haven't done the cables, going down is incredibly easy, yet the majority of hikers believe it necessary to walk backwards, gripping the cable tightly with each painfully slow step. The better way is to just go forward, using your gloved hands to slow you down and using the wood boards every 30 feet or so to further control your pace. I think we could get down in 5 minutes if there weren't people in the way. As it was, we did okay on our descent, getting down in about 11 minutes. We located my Powerade Zero and kept up a good pace as we made our way back down towards Liberty Cap. We were hoping to find a trail, but didn't really find much of anything that lasted. We started up through the brush, winding our way around trying to avoid having to fight through the nasty stuff. It became too much of a nuisance, and we both decided we didn't really care that much about Liberty Cap, at least not today. After our halfhearted effort we went back to the trail, where there were more people and more squirrels looking for food. I suppose the squirrels try to time their waking hours to match the flow of visitors, and there were certainly more visitors in the afternoon.

I was happy to tear off little pieces of my bread for the little guys in exchange for them posing for some fun pictures. Like we've done every previous time, we took the John Muir down rather than the Mist Trail. This portion of the trail is quite scenic, with views back toward Liberty Cap and Half Dome. By 5:40 we were back at the car, having enjoyed a nice 8 1/2 hour day in Yosemite. We were back to my house around 8:30 and Kyle picked up his car for the 1 hour drive up to Vallejo.

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