Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 14

Thread: Yosemite's Half Dome: Journey to the Top

  1. #1
    Gone away parkmeister's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    01 VFR800

    Yosemite's Half Dome: Journey to the Top

    "Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." - John Muir

    View from the top of Half Dome: Tenaya Canyon and the High Sierras on Saturday, October 7, 2006:

    Name:  01PA070123e.JPG
Views: 1213
Size:  84.7 KB

    Name:  02PA070136e.JPG
Views: 1199
Size:  83.5 KB

    I apologize up front for the fact that there is nothing motorcycle related in this post. However, it is apparent that many here at have a deep appreciation for the beauty of nature in general and the grandeur and majesty of Yosemite and California's Sierra Nevada Mountains in particular. I have spent many, many hours on enjoying the numerous posts of rides throughout this wonderful mountain range. I am especially inspired and delighted by the beautiful and sublime images captured by Tim/Pashnit, Donna/Demenshea, Will/Orson and of course, Chandi. In this post I offer you many of the same scenes, but from a slightly different perspective. With that in mind, I hope you enjoy my little sans moto travelogue.

    The hike to the top of Half Dome from the Valley floor is approximately seventeen miles long, gains 4,800 feet to a peak elevation of 8,842', and takes about ten to twelve hours to complete. The booklet given to visitors at the park entrance lists a variety of hikes, this being the only one rated "Extremely Strenuous".

    Name:  03PA070001ae.JPG
Views: 1209
Size:  110.2 KB

    While driving through Yosemite Valley to the trailhead at oh-dark-thirty, I witnessed the full moon descending to the west over a misty meadow.

    Name:  04PA070030e.JPG
Views: 1191
Size:  19.7 KB

    A terribly poor substitute for my morning cup of Peet's.

    Name:  05PA070004e.JPG
Views: 1178
Size:  106.5 KB

    Our group of five headed out at 5:25 am, the path illuminated solely by headlamps as the full moon had set beyond the western rim of the valley. In darkness, we shuffled along the trail, over bridges, and then up the "Mist Trail" which is basically a gigantic granite staircase climbing alongside Vernal Falls. In the dim light, it felt as though I was scaling the Stairs of Cirith Ungol. The gray light of dawn began to emerge in the eastern sky as we approached the top of Nevada Falls. The five of us work at a Cessna Citation maintenance hangar in Sacramento. L to R: My crew chief Bob, Bob's son and my fellow wrench Dave, avionics Jerry, and inspector Ted. (Citations are Cessna's version of a Learjet).

    Name:  06PA070032e.JPG
Views: 1163
Size:  72.1 KB

    Dawn over the Merced River in Little Yosemite Valley.

    Name:  07PA070045e.JPG
Views: 1160
Size:  64.4 KB

    Name:  08PA070044e.JPG
Views: 1141
Size:  58.0 KB

    Our elevation is now somewhere around 6,000', the sunrise is near at hand, and it's a little chilly. But the beauty of the forest fills me with warmth and I am so appreciative and grateful to be here, experiencing this moment.

    Name:  09PA070060e.JPG
Views: 1152
Size:  117.0 KB

    Name:  10PA070057e.JPG
Views: 1162
Size:  128.3 KB

    This webcam shot portrays the iconic image of the northwest face Half Dome, looking east from Yosemite Valley. (

    Name:  11acam101006.jpg
Views: 1161
Size:  75.1 KB

    Here is a less common view; it's the southeast 'backside' of Half Dome, basking in the warm morning sunshine.

    Name:  11bPA070066e.JPG
Views: 1137
Size:  94.3 KB

    The trail wends its way through a forest of among other trees, mighty ponderosa pines and fragrant incense cedars, eventually leading up to a ridge which affords the hiker a peak down into Tenaya Canyon. Exfoliation is a specific type of weathering of the granitic rock found throughout the Sierras. From Wikipedia:

    "Hard rock such as granite forms plutons (a rising blob of lighter rock (similar in form to those seen in a lava lamp, but far larger) several kilometers below the surface as magma slowly cools and crystallizes. The granite is under great pressure due to overlying rock. Then, granite is rapidly uplifted to the surface during a mountain-building event. During the mountain building process, the overlying rock is stripped away by erosion as the granite is uplifted. With the overlying rock removed, the pressure on the granite is reduced. The granite expands and fractures. These fractures, called sheet joints, develop parallel to the exposed surface. The granite subsequently erodes in concentric layers (similar to the way an onion peels) forming rounded masses called exfoliation domes. Many such domes are found in the Sierra Nevada range in California, which includes the most famous exfoliation dome in the United States, Half Dome."

    Oh yeah, one other fact: exfoliating rock can be strikingly beautiful.

    Name:  12PA070082e.JPG
Views: 1135
Size:  103.9 KB

    The high peak on the right is Clouds Rest; it rises above Half Dome to 9,926'.

    Name:  13PA070101e.JPG
Views: 1140
Size:  94.7 KB

    And then there were three; Jerry had been fighting a nasty cold the previous week, was tapped out, and couldn't continue up the hill. Ted, who had summitted Half Dome and many other more difficult peaks had nothing to prove and stayed behind with Jerry. So Bob, Dave, and I continued onward and upward, slowly but surely moving towards the top.

    Name:  14PA070106e.JPG
Views: 1126
Size:  134.4 KB

    Another shot of Clouds Rest in morning shadow. From the peak to the canyon floor, the north slope is almost all solid granite rock as evidenced by the lack of vegetation.

    Name:  15PA070107e.JPG
Views: 1131
Size:  79.0 KB

    Here's Bob at the bottom of the cables, we're almost there! A pair of steel cables run about 900' over the steepest section of the northeast shoulder. They are suspended by metal poles placed in holes drilled into the rock; the poles are not secured to the rock and can be pulled out, as the astonished hiker in front of me discovered unexpectedly. Across the base of the metal poles are two by four wood studs, spaced about ten feet apart. It's kinda like climbing a giant ladder. Kinda.

    Name:  16PA070112es.JPG
Views: 1126
Size:  132.7 KB

    Here are some weathering pits in the granite near the base of the cables. They are filled with the meltwater from the previous day's hail and afternoon thundershowers.

    Name:  17PA070115e.JPG
Views: 1141
Size:  114.6 KB

    Name:  18PA070117es.JPG
Views: 1099
Size:  130.4 KB

    Name:  19PA070118e.JPG
Views: 1126
Size:  132.9 KB

    Another shot of the cables with the overhanging rock at the top of the sheer northwest face.

    Name:  20PA070119e.JPG
Views: 1094
Size:  111.8 KB

    "We made it to the top! " Bob tells his wife via mobile phone at 11 am, five and a half hours after leaving the parking lot. Others on top have their phones whipped out as well. Technology is so cool.

    Name:  21PA070124e.JPG
Views: 1107
Size:  87.9 KB

    Dave hanging ten.

    Name:  22PA070127es.JPG
Views: 1095
Size:  78.2 KB

    View to the east.

    Name:  23PA070157e.JPG
Views: 1101
Size:  65.4 KB

    Looking south east, Little Yosemite Valley is in the foreground with cabin shaped Mount Clark to the right of center, followed by Gray Peak, and then Red Peak.

    Name:  24PA070158e.JPG
Views: 1072
Size:  66.9 KB

    Looking south over the top of Half Dome.

    Name:  25PA070132es.JPG
Views: 1087
Size:  96.8 KB

    Here is the classic view of Yosemite Valley, from the west end looking east. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful vistas in the entire world. (not my photo)

    Name:  26avalley.jpg
Views: 1100
Size:  91.5 KB

    And here is Yosemite Valley from the top of Half Dome; kinda disappointing to me, actually. The guy in red is pointing towards Glacier Point and the 'prow' of El Capitan can be seen in the center of the photo.

    Name:  26bPA070130e.JPG
Views: 1077
Size:  89.4 KB

    But Tenaya Canyon is awesome.

    Name:  27PA070133es.JPG
Views: 1082
Size:  97.9 KB

    Chow time.

    Name:  28PA070139e.JPG
Views: 1080
Size:  85.2 KB

    Macro shot of weathered rock.

    Name:  29PA070145es.JPG
Views: 1084
Size:  86.2 KB

    A cairn keeping a watchful eye on the tourists.

    Name:  30PA070149e.JPG
Views: 1076
Size:  73.9 KB

    A really imaginative cairn.

    Name:  31PA070152es.JPG
Views: 1104
Size:  85.2 KB

    Aviva and her really imaginative cairn. We helped out with her creation as the cantilevered rocks had to be held in place until the 'headstones' were set in place.

    Name:  32PA070154e.JPG
Views: 1101
Size:  80.3 KB

    Bob and Dave on the Devil's Divingboard

    Name:  33PA070162e.JPG
Views: 1064
Size:  109.0 KB

    It's a long, long, lloooooonngg way down.

    Name:  34PA070165e.JPG
Views: 1069
Size:  120.4 KB

    What goes up must come down.

    Name:  35PA070166e.JPG
Views: 1087
Size:  80.3 KB

    We started down at noon, which coincided perfectly with the rush hour traffic ascending the cables. Great.

    Name:  36PA070169e.JPG
Views: 1056
Size:  105.3 KB

    Ants marching.

    Name:  37PA070172e.JPG
Views: 1085
Size:  90.6 KB

    Clouds Rest and Tenaya Canyon in the afternoon sun. The clouds looked ominous to the east but only fair weather cumulus floated by in our vicinity.

    Name:  38PA070174e.JPG
Views: 1068
Size:  96.5 KB

    I originally thought this was a stunted giant sequoia but Bob informed me that it is an incense cedar. The trunk is around seven or eight feet in diameter at the base. Tall, strong, lithe, smells great and loves the outdoors; we're meeting for drinks next Friday...

    Name:  39PA070185ae.JPG
Views: 1074
Size:  85.8 KB

    Another shot of the backside of Half Dome. It's tough to see in this reduced image, but the cables and hikers are visible against the sky on the steepest slope in the center of the photo.

    Name:  40PA070189e.JPG
Views: 1074
Size:  96.2 KB

    Coming down or going up the trail, this is a natural resting point, just above Nevada Falls. In the autumn, the placid waters of the Merced River beckon.

    Name:  41PA070197ae.JPG
Views: 1054
Size:  93.0 KB

    Name:  42PA070199e.JPG
Views: 1083
Size:  131.2 KB

    But chilly water and slippery rock dictate that prudence must be exercised to avoid cascading down the falls.

    Name:  43PA070211e.JPG
Views: 1060
Size:  132.7 KB

    Nevada Falls and Liberty Cap.

    Name:  44PA070215e.JPG
Views: 1059
Size:  104.3 KB

    Mobile road apple factories.

    Name:  45PA070218e.JPG
Views: 1045
Size:  152.8 KB

    The choices down from the top of Nevada Falls back to the trailhead are either seriously steep on the John Muir Trail or ridiculously steep on the Mist Trail. Toes get smashed into the front of your boots and knees, hips, and back get jarred mercilessly with every step down. Not fun at all. But it's part of the package and well worth the exertion. If it were any easier, it just wouldn't be as satisfying. The discomfort of sore legs fades quickly but to have been here is unforgettable:

    Name:  46PA070129e.JPG
Views: 1028
Size:  65.6 KB

    It has been suggested that we "Take only photos, Leave only footprints." And that is precisely what I did.

    See ya,

    51% smartass, 49% dumbass

  2. #2
    stirring the pot Loki's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Changes weekly

    Re: Yosemite's Half Dome: Journey to the Top

    Awesome photos. Fantastic report. I hiked up there once many years ago. by the end of the journey, my shins were in pain. After a good nights rest, I was fine. Next hiking adventure has to be Mt Whitney.
    "If you are not getting as much from life as you want to, then examine the state of your enthusiasm". Norman Vincent Peale

  3. #3
    AKA Gixxerdale G8ESCAP's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Mays Landing New Jersey
    4wd Dual Sport

    Re: Yosemite's Half Dome: Journey to the Top

    What a great report and some really amazing photos. Thank you, as I've yet to go to Yosemite.
    "The key to life is to die young, at a very old age"

    "Ride like you own the road, and one day the road will own you"

  4. #4
    Go ahead and pass me... Backmarker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Gilbert, AZ
    Ducati Monster 821

    Re: Yosemite's Half Dome: Journey to the Top

    Sigh... I love Yosemite. One of the most beautiful places on this planet. Your photos are amazing. Following you from trailhead all the way up to the top. Fascinating. That 'ladder' deal? Umm, no thanks!

    Glad you made it safe and sound and now have memories to last a lifetime. Or at least the photos in case the memory goes...

    Thanks for sharing!!
    Some people just don't know how to drive... I call these people "Everybody But Me."

  5. #5
    Gone away z_bassman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Friant, CA
    Relying on others to

    Re: Yosemite's Half Dome: Journey to the Top

    I used to harbor a dream of climbing Half Dome. CHF has pretty much eliminated that. So I live through photos and stories such as yours. Awesome stuff! Thanks!

  6. #6
    Many Miles Away Helmetdance's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Munster, Indiana
    '08 Hayabusa

    Re: Yosemite's Half Dome: Journey to the Top

    Totally incredible report. The photos are just stunning. This is a side of Yosemite I have never seen before, the cables are wild, I've never seen photos of them before. What a beautiful place Yosemite is. Next time I am there, I must take time for one of these hikes. Thanks for an outstanding report!

  7. #7
    Playing the low notes 2 Ally House's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Eugene, OR

    Re: Yosemite's Half Dome: Journey to the Top

    Beautiful pix!
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither'
    Benj. Franklin

  8. #8
    I Miss my Bonneville... Sbyllek's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Chico CA
    Hubby's bike

    Re: Yosemite's Half Dome: Journey to the Top

    Incredible. Thanx for sharing the journey!
    Language is the apparel in which our thoughts parade before the public.
    Never clothe them in vulgar or shoddy attire.

  9. #9
    Gone away BlackST's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    San Jose

    Re: Yosemite's Half Dome: Journey to the Top

    Thanks for sharing, great write up and pictures. Those cables are killer. I have seen grown men and women frozen in place after climbing part way up. Some are even sobbing. People have no idea how steep the cables are and the "fall" exposure on either side. One slip and goodbye. When I climb up those things I can only stare at the ground in front of my face. Hell my hands are sweating thinking about it.
    My avatar is a shot from directly under the "devils divingboard" you can crawl in a space below it and sit down.

  10. #10
    Gone away parkmeister's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    01 VFR800

    Re: Yosemite's Half Dome: Journey to the Top

    Thanks to all for the kind words... but my head has swelled to three times its normal size and now my Shoei won't fit!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by BlackST
    Those cables are killer. I have seen grown men and women frozen in place after climbing part way up. Some are even sobbing.

    Quote Originally Posted by BlackST
    My avatar is a shot from directly under the "devils divingboard" you can crawl in a space below it and sit down.
    Cool avatar, I always thought you were hanging from a parachute. I had thought of a shot like yours, but it didn't hit me until I was back at the trailhead. My next time up, I'll be sure to check out the "cave".

    See ya,

    51% smartass, 49% dumbass

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Similar Threads

  1. Road with Big Gold Dome/Tibetan Studies Center
    By Orson in forum Motorcycle Travel Advice & Ride Routing
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 09-27-2008, 08:37 AM
  2. Hells Half Acre Rd.
    By dynamike in forum General Bike Related Topics
    Replies: 12
    Last Post: 10-15-2006, 03:22 PM
  3. Half Moon Bay
    By Chocoholic in forum California - Meetups and ride reports
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 07-23-2006, 05:21 PM
  4. Bassman Climbs Sentinel Dome in Yosemite
    By z_bassman in forum California - Meetups and ride reports
    Replies: 38
    Last Post: 10-17-2005, 06:49 AM
  5. It's been snowing up in the Sierra - Yosemite's Half Dome
    By DaleC in forum Motorcycle Photography
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 01-20-2005, 07:25 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts