Another year gone by and it was time for the annual Fall Half Dome trip. After a fun successful climb of Snake Dike last year my partner Gail and I decided to do it again. We had planned on another backpacking/climbing 3 day trip with two nights spent at Little Yosemite Valley. This makes for a fun backcountry (well if you can consider LYV a backcountry experience) trip. Due to scheduling we decided to climb late September instead of early October (usually just before the cable supports come down).
We arrived at Yosemite Valley around noon on Thursday, September 22nd, 2005. Unfortunately we discovered that the permits for the 22nd were already full. This threw a big wrench in our plans. I decided to go ahead and get a permit for Friday and Saturday. This unfortunately meant hiking up on Friday, then climbing and hiking out on Saturday. We headed over to the backpackers camp and set up camp for Thursday night. This did mean however a night out in Curry Village instead.
During the wild evening of Curry Village buffet we talked over the advantages of a 1 day push instead of a 2 day climb. The only difference was a longer day (harder) and we didn't have to carry backpacking gear up to and back from Little Yosemite Valley. Gail wasn't crazy about a 1 day assault (speed isn't her thing) but after thinking it over, we decided to go for it.
We woke up at 4am and broke camp and walked back to our truck at the overflow parking lot. We started up the trail at 5am. There were other headlights along the trail. Most of them were hikers, but there were two climbing parties. A Japanese couple and two younger male climbers. We ended up being behind the male climbers who were behind the Japanese couple on the route.
I decided to go with the exact same rack as last year's (see trip report) but decided to take a single rope this year (Maxim 9.8mm x 60m) instead of the 50m twin ropes.
Although most of the people took the Misty Trail route, we choose the John Muir trail. I usually take this route since it is much easier on the knees, but in hindsight, I think the Misty Trail for going up the trail would be faster.
We arrived at the climbers trail that heads off to Half Dome after light. It was much easier to follow the route this time (see prior trip report for the fun of hiking in the dark). We easily found our way up to the base of the climb. The long approach however was showing it's signs on Gail. That combined with some of the exposure on the 3rd class approach slabs was wearing her down. We still managed to get up to the base of the climb. However this time instead of beng the first party on the rock, we were the last (4th). The first group was already starting the 2nd pitch and the second group was just starting up. It seemed like a good time to sort gear and eat breakfast. Eventually the 3rd party started up the route.
Eventually it was our turn (sometime between 11am and noon). Although I was far from what I consider being in good climbing shape (hadn't been on a rock route since April) the climbing was very familiar and I still managed to move up the rock smoothly. Because of the crowded nature of the climb I tried to time my leads so that I arrived at the next belay point just before the second of the prior group left.
The weather was cooler this year, but the scenery was great. We followed the other groups up the rock. I found the 60 meter rope made the pitches better than the 50 meter rope I used the prior year.
Eventually we reached The Y and this time I chose the left route. I seemed happier on the left side of the route than the right side from last year.
Eventually we reached the top of the last pitch. I pointed out the direction to the two males in front of us. I watched the Japanese couple belay the entire way up the 1000' of slabs up to the summit. The rest of us unroped and climbed up the slabs to the summit (passing the Japanese couple). It was windy and cold on the summit. Since we were short on time we only hung around the summit for a few minutes this time. We still had a long way to go.
We started the descent. As usual the cable route was crowded. It was a long walk back down to Little Yosemite Valley. Gail was feeling the effects of a long day. After a quick 10 minute stop at LYV we continued down. Gail seemed to get a 2nd wind and really powered up. I had a hard time keeping up with her. Once again it got dark and the headlamps came out. Eventually we reached the truck (around 8pm, or about 15 hours after our departure this morning).
We really weren't up to a drive home and decided to see if there were any tent cabins left. Somehow we managed to get the very last tent cabin in Curry Village. We headed out for Pizza and then crashed for the evening.
Now that I've done Snake Dike as both a 1 day climb and a 3 day backpack/climb I can't really say which I prefer. I enjoyed both of them. I missed the experience of hanging out up at LYV but it was nice carrying a much lighter pack.