Half Dome – an adventure

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

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A new feature

     I am getting some wonderful stories from Half Domers that I need to share. It’s fun to read about the hike of a lifetime especially from newbies who finally got to the top and back safely. This story is by David B. who is also a FAN on my facebook page. It’s long but fun. Enjoy! 

     This is ashort story of my trips to half dome.  I first completed my first trip when I was about 10 years old in 1985.  Made it with my dad and no issues (except for on the way down the cables near the top where you go from a steep incline to dead straight down.)  Still a little bitter that my father didn’t prep me for this ahead of time, but I think he did this intentionally as he knew I could do it. 

Last year we made an unsuccessful attempt. We had a great hike all the way up.  We got to the base of the sub dome and was spent.  I felt I could have “gutted” it out, but I was not confident my girlfriend could have made it. I did not want to put her life in my hands and have to live with that regret.  We turned around at the sub dome around 1:30 pm feeling dejected – BUT STILL ALIVE! 

As we turned around, we could see the clouds starting to pile up.  Within an hour you could hear the thunder and feel the drops coming.  And people kept going up, not 1 or 2 groups, but 20 – 30 groups.  I don’t think people get “it”.  And IT being, what happens when things go really really wrong.  But we all think: “not me.” 

This year, will summit with my girlfriend at the end of September (weather and health permitting).  Will have your book in hand and well prepared. 

Question:  Not sure if your book covers this, but what is better to do if you start your ascent in great weather, but quickly find yourself in a storm you can’t get out of and at the top of the rock.  Is it better to sit on your pack in the low spots (and pray) or better to haul ass as safely as possible and get down a slick rock? Thank you again for your support of the rock, the adventure, the life.  

Great story, David and good decision; the rock ain’t going anywhere and best of luck on your next trip. Here’s my feeling about your question. Weather doesn’t instantly change from sunny to stormy. The park is good about posting the forecast in many locations so there is no reason not to know what’s coming.  Half Dome is 8842 feet up there and you are in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. All but one of the falls off the cables were when the rock was wet. Hmmm good clue there. Monitor the skies. As you ascend you will be losing 3 degrees F for every 1,000 ft gain. That’s about 12 degrees cooler up top than in the valley so if the temps are marginally above 32, it might be near freezing in the clouds high above the rock – moisture can turn to hail then rain. Not good.  Your question is kinda like asking “would you rather be stuck with 1,000 pins while sitting in a vat of lemon oil or slide down a razor?” I am not going to be in the same room! The top of HD is a giant target for lighting. Electrons will skip across the wet granite and find you. Read “Shattered Air” to witness the 1985 lightning strike. Conversely, the rock is slick enough already from 90 years of use – add moisture to it and it’s slicker than Pennzoil 10W40. Nope, I’ll plead the 5th on this one – you will find me back in the Curry Village Lodge. Don’t risk it if it is that close to a decision.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Everybody needs beauty…places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.”
– John Muir 

*MrHalfDome – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com

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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0 Responses to Half Dome – an adventure

  1. Roberto Hernandez says:

    I agree witj Mr Halfdome. Do not get in tje damned if I do and damned if I don’t situation in the first place. However, here is what I would do. If the storm is primarily a lightning event, go down. If there is so much rain, hail, sleet, etc that the threat of falling is greater than the lightning stay up. Lightning is more a threat to you on the cables, and can cause you to fall. Find a low spot on tje mountain and hunker down. Stay out of the visor cave, it is high and attracts lightning. I bet if you hunker down in a low spot and sit atop your pack, you will not die from a direct ligjtning strike. Something or someone else is likely to attract the bolt.

  2. Mark F. says:

    The famous Italian climber, Walter Bonatti backed off the Croz Spur route on Mount Blanc seven times before finally succeeding in reaching the summit. He said: “Great climbers die in their rocking chairs.”

    • Roberto Hernandez says:

      Yes, this is much like the I need all my fingers to play the piano thing!

    • Al Laurente says:

      Not always true … Rob Hall and Scott Fischer were two of the greatest climbers in history. Both died in Everest.

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