4th of July on top of Half Dome – A Dynamite trip, literally

The San Francisco Chronicle, of July 17, 1904 relates a great story about 3 young men and their desire to have a bang-up 4th of July on top of Half  Dome. Jack Kelsey, Lester Whittier and Milton Main were the 3. By then, the ropes used to get to the top were pretty frayed, but the 3 carried about 125 pounds in all, including food, blankets, 190 feet of rope, Roman candles, sky rockets and twenty-one sticks of dynamite. They arrived at the rock carrying their load and scrambled up the slope as best they could. They went barefoot and found that they made better progress going up backwards. Kelsey was quoted later:

“We slipped back at every trial. A slope defied our methods and we had to resort to an acrobatic performance. Main got a firm foothold and lay face to the rock; Jordan worked his way up and stood on Main’s shoulders. Getting on Jordan, after half an hour, I lassoed an iron peg at least twenty-five feet above, and, pulling the noose tight, this last obstacle vanished into a proposition of sliding up hand over hand. When up to the peg we gasped in amazement to find that it was only loosely set in the hole. Down below bits of rock which we had loosened bounded and rebounded for minutes, it seemed, before they rested. But we were safe and we faced ahead.”

 Once on top, the trio kicked back and used a signal mirror to flash those on the ground. He continues:

 “At dusk, campfires began to glow in the valley. The Happy Isles road with its row of lights looked like a glowworm wriggling through the night. The hotel took on appearance of an Oakland ferry miles away. We tried our dynamite and were amply rewarded for our risk in bringing it by the echoes resounding back and forth from dome to dome. We followed with Roman candles, skyrockets and red fire, and went to sleep contended with our celebration of the Fourth near the top of the world”. 


Unrelated thought worth quoting: You know the day destroys the night. Night divides the day. Tried to run, tried to hide. Break on through to the other side.” – The Doors 

*MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com

One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome

About Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch

Mr Half Dome. Has written the only half dome hiking guide, One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome. Has hiked it 31 times to day. Lives in San Jose, CA Available for presentations. Carpe Diem Experience, LLC
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