| Josh and I met at the Yosemite Village Store parking lot at 6am on Saturday morning for our climb of Snake Dike on Half Dome. Josh had done this climb several times already but this was my first time. I had only been up Half Dome once before, via the "Cables" Route on my first visit to Yosemite way back in 1998, so I was overdue for another visit and Snake Dike seemed to be the way to go. After we sorted our gear we drove to the Happy Isles trailhead parking and headed up the trail. Along the road we passed 3 other climbers also on their way to Snake Dike. We passed a lot of people on the way up to the junction with the Mists Trail and Josh remarked that he was still amazed by how many people made it up Half Dome. We headed up the Mists Trail which was still in the shade this morning and made it to the cutoff where we started along a use trail through the woods up between Mount Broderick and Liberty Cap. I started taking my first photos of Vernal Falls at around 5400'. |
The area between Broderick and Liberty Cap was full of wild flowers in bloom and one of the more beautiful views I've had in Yosemite. Along the way Josh found an unopened can of Red Bull which he promptly consumed. At about 5700' we came into a clearing which looked like an awesome and large campsite. Then we hiked through the woods to skirt Lost Lake. We headed around the dome to reach the base of the climb. There was one section with a class 4 mantle move. Josh told me that Ryle had said that he thought this move was harder than any move on the actual climb itself, promptly adding that the climb was more scenic. On my way up, the bite valve on my MSR Dromedary bag fell off and I lost quite a bit of water. Noting that he had to spend an extra $6 to replace his, Josh helped me find mine so I wouldn't have to tie off the end. This loss of water would come back to haunt me on the descent. The trail up to the base of the climb was easy to follow and we found a number of parties already there when we made it up.
There were 22 people on the climb today including Josh and myself, I'll call them:
Then Team D, us, headed up. Josh headed around Team C to the first 60m belay station with Team E. I followed and Thresa, leading Team F, followed me up past Team C. This 60m belay station was a mess. Team E left and before I headed up to meet Josh, the leader of Team C (the 3 slow guys) headed up to join Josh at the first 60m station. I had to wait behind Leader C while he got his belay setup. Then I made it up there. Then Theresa (Leader F) came so there were 4 of us at this station. At this point, Thresa had 2 followers and was insisting to climb through. Josh would have none of it and promptly took off. I got to watch Team C and F belay both of their followers up. While Josh negotiated some traffic with Team E above, Theresa belayed her partners up past Team C's followers. Theresa was basically pulling the 2 ropes as fast as she could while I was feeding rope out to Josh as fast as I could. Then Theresa took off with me following about 20 feet behind. Tom, Theresa's husband, was belaying her. This was the 2nd tricky pitch. For some reason Josh had passed Team E who were both at their own belay station below Josh at this point. Theresa and I climbed past team E up to the 2nd 60m belay station. I think was at the 3rd belay station that saw Josh, myself, Theresa, and Tom at the station. As Josh was getting ready to head up and Tom was clipping in, my hanging-belay/tie-in slipped about 6"-12" and I had quite a scare. At this point, Theresa and Tom decided to trade leading. Tom was a little more patient and didn't try to climb off ahead of me like Theresa did every time. I climbed the easy dike with Tom about 2 feet behind me. He joked that he could just use my chalk. At the 3rd belay station we started to spread out a bit. Tom and I were talking when I felt Josh's rope go tight. I thought I heard Josh say "hold on" while Tom said he thought Josh said "climb on". After a little more tugging from Josh, I undid the belay and started climbing up behind him convinced that Josh at set up belay. Every time the rope went tight I thought Josh was doing a good job of taking up the slack when it was that he was climbing. About 10m above Tom and the 3rd 60m station, I finally heard Josh yell "off belay." The "belay off, climb when ready, climbing" sequence went really fast on that one ;-) The pitch was an easy one so there were no problems. Then I ran into a team of 2 and passed their 2nd who was belaying their leader. At first I thought Team E had somehow gotten ahead of us and Team F, but this was Team B that we were passing. When I passed Team B's leader on our last pitch, he was nice enough to take some photos of me on the climb after he belayed his partner up. When I got to the top of pitch 5, the end of the technical portion of the climb, the leader of Team B set up their last station above us. Tom set up beside us. Then it was off with the rope and easy class 2 friction to the summit. I think Josh was frustrated by all the people on the climb. I was pretty intrigued by watching the other groups belaying their followers, having multiple ropes at the stations, etc. One funny thing is that we didn't use any protection on the climb beyond about 7 quick draws.
Above the technical part of the climb was a wide expanse of rock which Josh ran up while I was finally able to slow down a bit and enjoy the scenery. I took out my camera and took lots of photos of the Basket Dome, North Dome, Royal Arches, Glacier Point, Little Yosemite Valley, Mount Starr King, and others. The wide expanse of granite with almost no people was kind of strange, almost like the beginning of Star Wars (Episode IV) where R2D2 and C3PO are going through the Tatooine desert. When I got near the top of the sub-peak I could look over at the true summit where about 100 people were milling about. We went to the top, tagged the summit, and then headed down. After the technical portion of the climb, the summit was kind of anti-climatic with all the people up there.
When we got to the top of the cables and looked down, it was non-stop people all the way down. It was like a line of ants, only the lines weren't moving. Josh and I headed down the side. Josh guessed that it could be class 3 going down if he didn't need to use his hands. When he got down he guessed it was about 5.4 without the cables. He counted about 200 people on the cables. I took lots of photos of people on the Cables on my way down think that Mount Hood never looked this crazy in any photos I saw of the South Side.
The hike down was uneventful except that I ran out of water and was severly dehydrated. Josh and I hiked down together until just before the Mists Trail junction with the JMT. Josh said we'd meet at the waterfall and I forgot that it was the top of Vernal Falls that we passed earlier this morning. So instead of going down the Mists Trail I went to the top of Nevada Falls where Josh wasn't. I hung around for a bit before heading back up to and down the Mists Trail. The sun was high in the sky now and it was ~85-90°F. I had no water left and I was not doing well. I found some shade and relaxed for a bit. I cursed myself for not bringing enough water. I could have made it down later in the evening no problem, but I didn't want to fall too far behind. I considered drinking some untreated water but was lucky enough to find some people who let me have some extra water to make it down. It was only after I reached the trailhead that Josh reminded me that I had lost quite a bit of water earlier in the day on the approach. Still, training my body to need less fluids is probably a good thing - something I'll need to look into. Overall, an excellent day and a fun climb. For the first time in my life, I thought that Yosemite might be as cool as Zion but I think I'll need a bit more convincing. Looking back, I'd have to agree that the hardest part of the climb was probably the class 4 mantle move on the approach!