Half Dome

We hiked it.

When a few months ago Zach asked if we’d be interested in going to Yosemite to climb the Half Dome cables, I casually said yes. I knew the park was awesome, and that Half Dome was one of it’s notorious hikes, but I wasn’t really sure I was getting into. It was way more strenuous than I had initially expected, but a ton of fun and an unforgettable experience.

Photography nerd note: this was my first time playing with bracketing and stacking HDR shots. Because of that, some of the pictures below might look funky. If you have any advice or suggested reading on that, please send it my way!

Our day started early. We drove from San Francisco on Friday morning, and after setting up our camp we headed over to Lower Yosemite Falls. Zach parked the car in a spot that required a permit, so we sat down to wait for him.

Amol, Hannah, and I kept reminiscing about our first trip to Yosemite two years ago.

Hannah had suggested that we watch Free Solo the night before our trip. For me, it was a rewatch, and I don’t know if it was a good idea or not, but it inspired me to go all the way to the pond and around the falls. That’s my level of free-soloing.

After a quick hike, we drove over to Tunnel View. I took a few photos and went back to our campsite. We tried to go to bed early, but we all had a rough time sleeping thinking of the hike ahead.

This was our crew. Ben and Maizie had been backpacking through the Sierra for a week, and they joined us at the campsite, but somehow I ended up without a single shot of them.

On Saturday, the day of the hike, we woke up at 4, ate breakfast, and started walking towards the John Muir trail. We decided to avoid the Mist Trail in the morning, assuming that being sprayed with cold water at 5am wouldn’t be the most pleasant way to start the day. Photos don’t do justice to the beautiful pink and light blue skies.

I didn’t know Rashad at all (even though he’d been at a party at my place!) when Amol invited him to the hike. He tolerated our endless inside jokes and strange group dynamics the whole weekend. Props to him for putting up with us.

Stretching is essential.

Probably should have tried this one again.

Many hours in, as we approached Half Dome, we were already getting exhausted. The whole journey is just shy of 5000 feet of elevation gain and around 17 miles of distance. We stopped a bunch, and took our time, so all in all it took us 14.5 hours, including an hour just hanging out at the top.

The closer you get, the scarier it looks.

When we finally arrived at the base of the cables, we were worried that part of the group would bail and wouldn’t make it up. The last 400 vertical feet are an extremely steep grade on a face of slippery granite. There are poles connected by steel cables and 2x4’s that act as resting spots, but the cables are really intimidating. The fact that someone fell to her death two days before our hike didn’t help our morale. Thankfully, adrenaline kicked in and we all went up.

We made it.

The 360 view at the top is pretty ridiculous. I am sad I didn’t have my DSLR around my neck as I went up.

The summit itself is bigger than you’d expect.

Not freaking out at all as we began the descent.

Hannah, finally breathing again, and enjoying the flatness.

A different kind of enjoyment.

Then it was time to go back down to reality, and our new found soreness.

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