Half Dome (6/18/14)
|The view we woke up to ... not bad.|
Trip ReportStart Time: 6:56am
End Time: 11:20am
Camp Start Elevation: 7142 ft.
Summit Elevation: 8860 ft.
Hike Elevation: 1800 ft.
Hike Mileage: 5.35 mi.
Today's hike was a matter of unfinished business. When we had made our hiking trip plans in 2011 we had set the hike of Half Dome as one of our big goals. In the months leading up to that trip we were following very closely the snowpack reports hoping things would be open by the time we arrived. As it turned out, the cables would not be put up until about a week after we left. While it was a disappointment for us to miss out on an attempt of Half Dome then, we did salvage an epic week of hiking nonetheless.
This year there were no concerns about snow. So it would be just us and Half Dome. In terms of our group Half Dome provided an interesting 180 of experiences. On Mt. Dana and Clouds Rest Matt and I had the experience and knew what to expect. Here on Half Dome, Ken was the only one who had made it up there before and so he provided the experience. It was also Ken who helped us obtain our permits, which is no easy task. We were able to get the required Half Dome permits via our wilderness permit for the hike from Sunrise Lakes trailhead. For those who wish to get the HD permit for a dayhike they need to enter in a lottery now to do so. We met several people along the trails who were asking about permits and a handful of them mentioned how they were unable to get theirs in the lottery.
From our campsite near Sunrise Creek we had one of the shortest approaches of anyone heading up to Half Dome today. Many hikers will approach from Little Yosemite Valley, even more will make the long dayhike from Happy Isles in the Valley. We had a quick half mile approach via the John Muir trail to pickup the Half Dome trail. For the first mile of the HD trail from the junction it was easy hiking through the woods working our way northeast to the lip of Tenaya Canyon. As the trees begin to open up the trail curls around back to the south and switchbacks for a few hundred feet to gain the large ridge that leads to the summit. At the ridge the trees really begin to open up. There is even a flat almost meadow-like area for a while that eventually leads to the beginning of the subdome which was almost exactly 2 miles into our hike from camp.
|Reaching the ridge below the Subdome|
At the Subdome standing in the shade we got some snack and resituated some of our gear to ready up for the steeper hiking ahead. There was also signage here pointing out the dangers of weather from this point on as well the requirement of having a permit.
|Signage at the base of the Subdome|
The slope of the Subdome itself was very steep, but the hiking was not itself very steep. An amazing set of switchbacks and in some cases rock stairsteps were practically carved into the slope to make this hike more manageable. It was impressive to see the engineering involved to get hikers safely through. To get an idea of the steepness of this, consider that most trails that are real elevation-gain trails do about 1000 feet per mile. On the Subdome you gain 500 feet in just under a quarter mile. For the last 1/3 of the Subdome the swichbacking trail ends and you end up hiking granite slabs the rest of the way. They weren't all that steep and careful friction hiking on the rock allows you to move well up the last of them to the top of the Subdome.
A look at the hiking up the Subdome, pretty wild engineering!
The views are unreal around here
A look at the slabs nearing the top of the Subdome
|Base of the cables|
|Top of the Subdome|
With all of the traffic the cable route has seen over the years the granite has become polished and I was genuinely surprised at the weakness of my traction on this rock. My Salomon Speedcross 2 trail runners up to this point had never had any trouble with traction on any type of rock til here. It definitely kept my attention to the say the least. About half way up the cables I met the first of people descending from the summit. While ascending and meeting another hiker I would stop at one of the 2x4's and then hang onto the cable on the ascender's right with both hands waiting for them to make the passing moves. I met a Park Ranger descending as I neared the top. She was a young intern beginning to learn the ropes, no pun intended. She jokingly asked if I had my permit and I said we sure did, but would prefer not to be getting it out in the midst of the cables route. We both smiled and she kindly said she would be checking people at the bottom of the cables on the way out.
The top of the cables gradually level out and then eventually end as they are secured into the rock where they are no longer necessary. I didn't check at the time, but based on my GPX it looks like I took about 12 minutes to ascend the cables. I grabbed a nice rock seat up top and waited for our whole group to be together before exploring the summit.
|I seriously don't know why this picture looks like I was |
outside the cables because I definitely never was
Nearing and then at the top of the cables
|Yosemite Valley view|
A view of the summit area
|This is the quick way down to the Valley|
|Summit panoramic view of the Tenaya Canyon area. Clouds Rest is the tall peak on the right|
Here is a half Photo Sphere of the view from the southwest area of Half Dome's Summit. Glacier Point and Yosemite Valley are prominent in the views.
|Traffic adding up on our descent|
We did indeed meet the nice young park ranger at the base of the cables where she did check our permit. She had a tablet gadget where she must have been recording some basic statistics. After leaving there we made our way safely back down the Subdome and were anxious to be getting out of the sun. After completing the Subdome the remaining hike went pretty uneventful. The last half mile on the John Muir trail back to camp was quite warm and that section feels so desert-like.
Map/TrackI have Tracks and waypoints from our hike all contained in a KML file that you are welcome to download and use (at your own risk):