Mary West: Adventures on Half Dome | TheUnion.com

Mary West: Adventures on Half Dome

We climbed Half Dome on Father’s Day weekend. We hiked up the cables to the top. It was amazing.

I had tried to get permits to hike the cables on Half Dome but failed. The next year on March 1 they opened applications for the lottery. Again, I tried and failed. But as luck would have it, an acquaintance of mine and several of his friends got in and got more than enough permits and offered enough for me and my family to go.

We began training. I wanted to make sure my sons could hike 16-miles on level ground, so we found some long hikes and they handled them well. We took some hills and worked with heights. They excelled. Soon it was time to pack and make the three hour drive to Yosemite National Park in Tuolumne County. Take Interstate 80W to 99S to Ca-4E/CA120E to the park entrance.

I would suggest staying overnight in Curry Village. Driving three hours and hiking followed by the drive home is too much. In fact, I would stay two nights. Go to the park, settle in at a campsite, cabin or hotel then get an early start in the morning.

We met our group at Happy Isles on the valley floor. We started out on the Mist Trail on our way to Vernal Falls. Crossing the footbridge, looking up at the falls is a sight to see. The uneven granite steps are all fun and games when you start but after a while they wear on you. You will hike past Emerald Pool and eventually make your way to the top of Nevada Falls. From here you are on level ground through Yosemite Valley before you reach the sub dome and Half Dome’s cables. Get out your gloves, you will need them. I have friends who take harnesses and carabiners for added support up and down the cables.

We posed for pictures on top, saw the marmot and took more pictures. Having spent half the day climbing we knew we didn’t have much time before we needed to head down if we wanted to get to the floor before dark. I wish I had my trekking poles. If you think the steps up are tough, they are worse going down. Rather than blow out a knee I took it slow, too slow.

I had a quick recovery, but that was because I took my time coming down. Other than the trekking poles I would not change a thing. Half Dome is my once in a lifetime hike. The 4800-foot climb, 16-mile trail is my Everest.

Mary West is the author of the book series Day Hiker – Gold Country Trail Guide. The books are a collection of Day Hiker columns where West shares her longtime love of the outdoors, and favorite hikes in Northern California’s Gold Country and beyond (Available on Amazon). West was the recipient of the 2017 and 2019 CRAFT Award for Best Outdoor Newspaper Column by the Outdoor Writers Association of California. You can follow West on Facebook and Instagram.


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