It would be hard to find someone who hasn’t heard of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park but someone who has been to the top? For those who have been they would agree with me when I say “It’s a memory that I will never forget”. With that being said this strenuous 17 mile hike doesn’t let you win easy.
The Mist Trail
It was a cold and early rise for our group of 8. None of us slept very well in excitement and anticipation for the adventure ahead of us. We all quickly grabbed our gear and left our camp around 3:30AM to make our way to the valley floor. It was about a half mile hike to the trailhead where we parked. This gave us a few minutes to scarf down some breakfast and get our blood moving. The Mist Trail gets right to it, right off the bat your gaining a considerable amount of elevation. Between that, the cold weather and everyone’s lack of sleep the first part of our hike was quite a struggle. But in just a few short miles we were all greeted with a beautiful Vernal Falls!
VERNAL AND NEVADA FALLS
As we approached the top of Vernal Falls it really started to bring the group to life. When your hiking in a large group issues can arrive and right off the bat we were faced with one of us feeling very ill and for a moment it seemed like maybe some of us would need to turn back. The sight of Vernall Falls seem to give her the motivation that she needed though. She then made the decision that she was going to tough it out and push through and I know she was glad she did. A few miles later we reached Nevada Falls and once again just a gorgeous view. By the time we reached the top of Nevada Falls the Sun had risen and we were starting to feel it bring us all to life. Everyone had a mid morning bite to eat, removed a couple layers and we made our way to Little Yosemite Valley.
Little Yosemite Valley
After Nevada falls we had a few hours of hiking through the forest into Little Yosemite Valley. It was around 9:00 AM when we were making our way through this section of the forest and it was a beautiful morning. Little Yosemite Valley is one of the least talked of portions of this hike and I found it to be my favorite. Towards the end of the valley we decided to have lunch and refill our water supply at the creek that runs down the side of the valley. For those that want to make this hike a two-day trip there is Backpack Camping grounds here and restrooms as well. After about an hour of resting we picked up and made our way towards half dome and the countless switchbacks that lead up to half dome.
Ascending Half Dome
At the base of Half Dome there is a Ranger checking permits - Do not get caught without one! They will send you back. Unfortunately you can only get a permit for 6 and since there was 8 of us we had 2 in our group volunteer to stay behind. We left what gear we could spare behind to lighter our loads as we approached the steep climb ahead.
Before you reach the infamous Half Dome Cables you reach the Granite Steps that are switchbacks that lead you up Half Dome. This part is something that needs to be approached carefully as there is no railing and it can be easy to loose the trail since you are walking on just granite rock. Something I can say about this part is ITS ALOT OF FUN.
This is probably the most dangerous yet exhilarating part of the hike. I remember the feeling of getting literally week in the knees as I approached the cables. There were so many people on this narrow path going both and up and down these cables at the same time. Though the courage escaped me to follow there were some people climbing up on the outside of the cables to escape the traffic jam (I do not recommend this whatsoever). After about 15-20 minutes of carefully and slowly climbing the cables I reached the top and OH... THAT... VIEW...
The Summit of Half Dome
Yes it was incredible. Mostly the feeling of accomplishment immediately preceding the cable climb. The view of the valley floor was breath taking as well as the 360 view of the Yosemite Area. We were only up there for about 25-30 minutes since we really needed to get back down but I could have stayed up there for hours.
I would like to give some advice for those who are planning this hike... I would put so much expectation on the summit itself. What make this hike so great is the entire journey. This 17 mile trail is quite an adventure specifically when you look back on everything you experience on this trail in just one day.
An Unexpected Adventure
Right when we were about to pack up and head back down the mountain a Ranger hustled over and started backing people up and informing everyone to stay put and not to descend. He then informed us all that there was a helicopter en route that would be landing on the dome to air lift a injured hiker that needed immediate medical attention.
The chopper landed and the medics gave the hiker his medical attention. Within a few minutes that had him loaded up and in the air. It was an incredible opportunity to see these professionals perform flawlessly in this high altitude environment. A memory that will not soon escape any of us.
The John Muir Trail: Descent Option
Near Nevada falls you can meet up with the John Muir Trail as an alternative option to reach the valley floor. The Mist Trail is very steep since we were coming down late and everyone was very tired we opted to take the John Muir trail to the valley floor as a safer option.
This decision ended up being a great decision with a very rewarding pay off. The John Muir route hugs the side of the valley at a higher altitude than The Mist Trail which gives you a spectacular view of Nevada Falls. We just happened to be there at the perfect time of day in late afternoon when the sun light was hitting the valley perfectly.
This hike is a must do! Put it on the bucket list and don't kick the bucket until you have done it! Yosemite National Park is something that every person that has an appreciation for the outdoors needs to experience. Half Dome is something that every American outdoor enthusiast needs to try and make time for in their lifetime. If you have a hunger for adventure this is one hike that will not disappoint!