George Anderson’s First Tourist Party up Half Dome

Oct 12, 1875 – Anderson made up to the top of Half Dome. At the time many called it “South Dome.” (To balance North Dome just across the Tenaya Canyon.) He wasted no time in taking others up. Four days later he is reported to have escorted up several Brits.

George Anderson by tree with tourists

We can only presume he charged them as that was his goal – a revenue generating enterprise. My friend and  Stanford prof, Harv Galic, has done yeoman’s work in compiling information about visitors who went up the rock in the early days. His efforts are stellar and I credit him in my book. Harv sent me the following new data.

At the time of Anderson’s first ascent of Half Dome, a hotel called La Casa Nevada stood at the foot of Nevada Fall. The hotel, operated by Albert and Emily Snow for almost twenty years, was a popular stop on the way to the Upper Yosemite Valley and towards Half Dome. The hotel register, now preserved in the Yosemite Museum, lists hotel guests and visitors. Many Half Dome early climbers signed up the register and left their comments. In October of 1875, Mr. and Mrs. Snow were so excited about the “first tourist climb” of Half Dome, that they added a special entry to the register.

Snow’s Hotel Register, October 16, 1875. Courtesy of Linda Eade
and the Yosemite Research Library

The flowery cursive is hard to make out, but it reads:

“South Dome

Ascent of the South Dome — The ascent of the South Dome was accomplished this morning by a party of Englishmen and Americans under the guidance of the brave and adventurous George Anderson who was the first man who ever accomplished this perilous feat — a feat indeed – which has always been considered impossible. The names of the adventurers were Messrs Robinson (Brothers), Gammon and West, the latter an American. A partial ascent was made by Messrs Groom and Leidig. October 16th 1875″

The English contingent of the climbers mentioned in the entry had first paid a visit to (or had stayed at?) La Casa Nevada several days earlier: On October 13, the following people signed up the register:

W. R. Robinson, New York
J. S. Robinson, New York
Ed. Gammon, London
S[amuel?] Robert Groom, Somerset, England

Interestingly, the San Francisco Chronicle article about this climb lists another man, “Mr. Moreland, an American” among participants, but Snow’s description of the climb doesn’t mention Moreland in the party of climbers. Also, in contrast to the Chronicle, the entry in the register credits Groom with only a “partial ascent,” which would mean that he didn’t make it to the summit of Half Dome. Read the complete San Francisco Chronicle article.


Unrelated thought worth quoting: “In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch –

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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3 Responses to George Anderson’s First Tourist Party up Half Dome

  1. Maureen L says:

    Is the Leidig mentioned in the list a relative of the famous Yosemite character Charles/Charlie Leidig? Charlie Leidig is the first person of European descent to be born in the valley, but he was born in 1869, so probably a bit young for the 1857 hike.

    Leidig meadow is named after his family.

    More fun facts about him at

    • Records of the era are miniscule and subject to grains of salt. The Leidig of HD fame was not listed with a first name. So it’s not the Chuck we know… but it’s such an odd name, the man could have been that old Uncle Festus Q. Leidig, the local soothsayer – or not. :>)

      • Maureen L says:

        My hunch is that it’s the father of Charlie Leidig, who ran a hotel in the valley with the family name.

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