Saving The Best For Last
We decided to save the Half Dome hike for last during our 4 day Yosemite trip. After a good night’s sleep @ Campground 4, we were off to the trailhead by 0630. We started at the parking lot near Happy Isles. We got a little lost before we even got on the trail. We were following 2 other hikers and they were lost as well. The first mile or so was on the paved walking trail. I had to shed my jacket within the first 15 minutes. There were facilities just after the creek crossing.
The Mist Trail
We donned our rain gear prior to hiking the steep, wet, slippery steps on The Mist Trail. We literally got soaked. There were many people who didn’t have rain gear and they must have been freezing once they were wet. There’s a lookout area at the top of the falls. You can see down to the Mist Trail and watch everyone else get wet.
Next up… Nevada Falls. The hike to the top was again strenuous, steep and long. There are restroom facilities at the top where Mist Trail meets up with the John Muir Trail. This is a good spot to take a break and catch your breath after that steep ascent.
A Break In The Climbing
The next mile is a welcome change. It’s a mostly flat, soft dirt trail that follows along the Merced River. From this point, you get a great view of Liberty Cap, Mt. Broderick, and the south side of Half Dome. Very impressive scenery. The trail makes a left hand turn into the John Muir Wilderness and starts climbing pretty steeply again. Lots of switchbacks.
The trail finally reaches the base of the hump. I personally found the “hump” to be more dangerous than the cables.
There are steps carved out of the granite slab. When you get about ¾’s of the way up, the steps disappear and you just walk up the granite anywhere you desire. It was pretty steep and I had to stop several times on the steps to catch my breath. I was very thankful that I had trekking poles. These helped keep balance on those giant steps. (I’m 5’4” and some of the steps were very tall to me)
At noon, we took a lunch break at the saddle between the hump and Half Dome and watched people go up the cables. It looked a bit scary from that viewpoint.
Looking back, I wish we had just gone up the cables immediately, before the line formed. We brought our own gloves. Just some wind gloves with a rubbery grip. These worked far better than the leather gloves we tried at first. By the time we started up the cables, a line had formed. This was due to an elderly woman that was having problems ascending. She was paralyzed with fear. I really couldn’t believe that someone of her age was actually on the cables. There were also lots of kids. The cables aren’t really hard to climb, but if you make a mistake, YOU DIE. That’s why I was totally surprised to see people of all shapes, sizes, ages, and physical fitness levels. We spent about an hour on the cables due to the bottleneck; otherwise it might have taken us 10-15 minutes. Five hours after we left the trailhead, we were on the summit.
The view was pretty awesome. Yosemite is a phenomenal park. So far, this is the most picturesque place I’ve ever been. We spent an hour on the summit, doing the usual … snapping photos, taking a break, watching the marmot try to get into someone’s pack.
There was still a pretty good sized snowfield too.
Going down the cables was much faster. Just a little bit of bottlenecking. Some people were going on the outside of the cables; something I’d never do
The hike back went much faster but at the same time, it seemed to take forever. We were jogging down parts of the trail that were smooth enough. It was just easier on the knees. Instead of taking the Mist Trail, we descended via The John Muir Trail. This added a mile or so but we didn’t have all those steep steps near the falls. It seemed so long. We finally got back to the car by 5:00, which made about a 10 hour day of hiking. We ended up with about 18 miles (this includes the mile that we walked while we were lost in Happy Isles). My feet were pretty sore, but other than that, I felt great. I really enjoyed this hike and it was so worth the effort.