Guest Blog – Canadians to Half Dome in 2012

Today’s guest blog is from Kristin I. of Winnipeg, Canada. Far friends to the north wanting to be Domers.  The problem is that they don’t have a lot of hills to train on that are close by. I stress doing up and down then doing it over and over and over. Here is a fun story that might help get you motivated.

Summer 2012.  The destination of choice for our camping trip was chosen as Yosemite National Park. Our first reaction when watching videos of Half Dome hikers was “no way!”, but over time, our curiosity grew and we entered the lottery for permits.  In earnest, we began “preparing,” though honestly, that just consisted of a few long walks, and the purchase of “One Best Hike:  Yosemite’s Half Dome”.  Preparations were kicked into high gear on April 13th, when we received word that we had won the lottery, and had permits to climb the Half Dome cables in August.   

Both my husband and I practice Ashtanga Yoga.  This ancient style of yoga is physically demanding, and has resulted in an increase of strength, stamina and apparently confidence!  We also have a stationary bicycle and live near a long stretch of the Trans-Canada Trail ( which permits us to walk very long, yet very flat, distances.  We are working up to running, which neither of us have done since taking up our yoga practice three years ago.  All of this is great and helpful, but the reality is we need some practice going up.  

Let me be frank about where we live.  Jokes are abundant that you can watch your dog run away from home for three days, the land is so flat.  Five days, if you stand on a milk crate.  The elevation of Winnipeg, Manitoba is 786 ft, and there are no hills worthy of mention within several hundred kilometres.  Preparing for hiking Half Dome has necessitated a lot of creativity.

 Not far from a major commercial centre is what we affectionately call “Garbage Hill”. So named because it used to be a landfill site, Garbage Hill provides us with about 120 feet climbing practice at approximately a 40 degree angle. 

Up and down, we go.  As many times as our legs and lungs will allow. Within a few hours driving distance, there are some hiking trails that earn the distinction of “intermediate” or “difficult” terrain.  Secretly, I suspect it is due to the annoyance of the rocks and roots underfoot that you have to constantly monitor, impeding enjoyment of the hike, and less so any truly difficult terrain.  A little bit further away, we find the Duck Mountain Provincial Park – home of Manitoba’s highest point – Baldy Mountain (not to be confused with Mount Baldy), at an elevation of 2730 feet.  Unfortunately, one cannot climb Baldy Mountain!  On the May long weekend, we will be in the Duck Mountains, hiking Copernicus Hill, a strenuous, steep incline … repeatedly … in happy delirium to at last have some access to a veritable hill.   

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how Half Dome has come to my classroom.  Ever the mathematics teacher, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share how I used notions of trigonometry to calculate the approximate length of the cables, and how far I had to actually plant my feet – as opposed to the simple elevation gain from top of the cables to bottom.   

The timing of the results of the Half Dome permit lottery coinciding perfectly with the end of a unit on right angle trigonometry in my grade ten mathematics classroom.  I excitedly showed my students this video –  – Mr. Half Dome’s hike all the way up (making sure they were watching intently when the camera is turned to look down – eek!) and explain how the mathematics they had just learned was used in the context.  I was rewarded in my attempts to explain, when a few days later at Parent Teacher interviews, a mother delighted in telling me how her daughter had never before been so interested in math and science, and had shared my story over dinner, explaining how I had truly applied the mathematics I was teaching.  She added for good measure, “good luck, by the way.” 

In preparing for this hike, Rick Deutsch’s book “One Best Hike:  Yosemite’s Half Dome” has been invaluable.  From 4000 kilometres away, despite the abundance of website resources, it is nearly impossible to plan and prepare for something as challenging as climbing Half Dome.  This concise, yet thorough resource, has been our guide as we prepare, learn what to expect and grow more and more excited for our trip to Yosemite this August. 


Unrelated thought worth quoting: Every journey begins with one step” – An old adage 

*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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