Ascended in 3.5 hours with Mike C. Easy route finding, some Bush whacking, and total solitude. Beautiful views. A few class 3 steps.
Beautiful snow climb in the upper couloir with about 4 feet of quality snow covering the brush. Still lots of fresh rockfall on the lower section as evidenced by pulverized branches on the ground with still-green leaves.
The trail is no longer a true hikers trail (see other posts). It is not worth your life to attempt this. If you want the views of Half Dome and the Valley, go up to the sign and take some pictures, then come back down.
We got a late start, and had our share of problems, but in retrospect, I would do it again in a heartbeat. We had kids that were not in shape for the hike (my fault) and this slowed us down considerably. If I had been by myself, I would have gone up and down in about 5-6 hours, but it took us 11. We left at around 11am and finished at 9:30pm. Our trip was complicated by a driving rain that hit us as we entered the gully and renewed Staircase Falls into a falls. Inspite of this, 10 of the 13 made the point by 4:30 (would have been much sooner, but we tried to hike as a group and this slowed us to a crawl; when we finally split up in the gully, we summited quickly). Thanks to the genorosity of a nice man who gave me a ride to the valley, I brought up the SUV and got the kids into it while a few of us went down and guided the other three to the top. It was cold, wet and miserable, but after a hot shower and a warm meal, all were ready to go the next day. If I was to do this again (and I will!!), I would do 3 things; Start earlier, carry rain ponchos, and consider screening the hikers ahead of time. Please check the additions and comments for other recommendations on this trail. It is unquestionably worth the trip.
Please read the post of 9/6/10. Conditions have changed radically on this trail. It is no longer the trail I described in 06.