Monday, March 7, 2011

Hanging Off Half Dome

A few summers ago my friends and I road tripped from Los Angeles to Yosemite National Park. We planned to climb half dome, our biggest adventure of the trip. It's a full day hike that includes an 18 mile trek and 9000 feet of elevation gain. When we got there Friday night, we made a delicious campfire meal, had a few beers and then slept under the infinite stars.

We got up early and drove to the trail head. I packed my green Jansport bag full with tuna fish, nuts and water. The trail was quite steep and I could feel it. At the time I was a heavy smoker, and had lost a lot of my fitness from years of karate and wrestling. But the hike was hard for my friend Ana too. I hung back with her for a while and helped her get through the difficult parts. After a while though the mountain air, energized me and smoking seemed to be a thing of the past.

Our group of six made it to Nevada falls where we ate lunch. We ate our peanut butter and tuna fish near this beautiful river that continuously roared past. I lied down on the sun-warmed granite rocks and ate my food. Several squirrels were smart enough to hang around. One had enough gusto to drag a plastic bag with our rations towards the bushes.

Before we kept going, my friend GB jumped into the river. That's what she does. We all jumped in after her. Although it was July, the fresh water was still chilly.

After a few more hours back on the trail, the dirt path faded away and we arrived at the actual rock of half dome. When you look up at the last several hundred feet of the climb up the rock face, an anchored rope is your only support. While I pumped myself up for the final stretch, a group of people came by and told us that a few days ago “someone had fallen and died, so good luck”.

After picking up a pair of climbing gloves that endlessly cycle up and down the steel cord, I gripped on and started up. Honestly, I was scared shitless. The rock is slanted at 30 to 45 degree angles at certain points, and I knew that if my brain somehow failed to communicate to my hands, “hold on,” I would tumble down the top of the mountain to my death.

By the end my forearms were so tired that I thought they might stop functioning. I was gripping the cord like a lobster. Eventually the rock face evened out, and once atop half dome my friends and I photographed the panoramic views. We all got on our stomachs and peered over the edge of half dome. We looked down and around Yosemite valley. I saw hawks gliding effortlessly in the sky. The height and sheer drop was incredible.

But this was only half of our adventure. We had to get back down.


  1. Holy shit, that sounds terrifying!

  2. Your writing here is very intense--I felt like I was there with you. Looking forward to reading your next blog!