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Today is the anniversary of George Anderson’s first summit of Half Dome – Oct 12, 1875
From my book, One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome –
In 1869, Josiah Whitney, the Chief Geologist for California, looked up and said: “Half Dome is perfectly inaccessible, being probably the only one of all the prominent points of Yosemite which has never been, and never will be, trodden upon.”
Many early settlers attempted to scale the 45-degree backside of Half Dome, including James Hutchings and Charles Weed in 1859. They brought Weed’s photo gear but were unable to ascent the steep backside. In the early 1870’s John Muir’s climbing buddy, expert climber George Bayley, also tried with the same result. This shows the difficulty of the task; Bayley was good enough to later be the first to get to the top of Mt. Starr King. Perhaps John Conway got the closest. In September 1873, Conway, who also later crafted many trails at Yosemite, had his young sons attempt the feat. Led by 9-year old Major Conway, the “lizard like” boys scrambled barefoot up the rock and inserted steel rods into cracks to which they attached …
“Oh, Half Dome was cut in half by Glaciers”— WRONG. Read on, my friend!
The rockfalls we are seeing now is exactly how Half Dome was formed. It’s called “exfoliation.”
HD was a dome that rose during the uplift of the Sierra thousands of years ago. It sat with the top at about 9,000 ft. It lay on a joint that runs out towards Cathedral Peak. This weakness, and the process of exfoliation on the north side caused sheets to flake off.
When water got into the cracks it expanded (only fluid to do so) and put pressure on the slabs. When birds pooped and seeds were lodged in cracks, the growth of flora also stressed the cracks. Heat and cold contributed to the granite “stretching.” Domes have energy from when they were magma and are pushing outward.
The glaciers of 15,000 or so years ago lay only up to about 8,300 feet. It was half a dome before the glaciers. The last 700 feet or so was not touched by glaciers. The striations are below that. Yes, the glaciers ate away at the lower levels …
For Half Dome die–hards, I found another place to Ooooo and Ahhhh. If you are near San Francisco, you may want to take a hour and tour the Haas-Lilienthal House It contains a lot of the history of the Jewish Community in San Francisco.
Of note to us are stained-glass windows depicting Moses carrying the Ten Commandments down from Yosemite’s Half Dome!!! The point was to show California as the new Promised Land.
Jews arrived with the Gold Rush in 1849,and starting major businesses and civic institutions, and serving in government. William Haas founded a grocery business. He was on the board of Wells Fargo, and also was president of Mount Zion, the city’s first Jewish hospital.
After they passed away a family member, Alice Haas Lilienthal, lived there until her death in 1972.
The house is open to the public and is at 2007 Franklin St, It’s a 26-story building that today contains doctor’s offices. Built in 1926, it is on the National Registry of Historic Places. It’s open Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
If you are able to go, give us your feedback.
For more info, see their site.
Unrelated thought …