How high is Half Dome?

 Half Dome – Yosemite Musing  

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     How high is Half Dome? Simple question, eh? Google it. But you can find 2 published numbers on official Yosemite maps. 8,842 and 8,836 feet. Huh? Why? I dunno.

     When I’ve taken my Garmin 60CSx GPS and stood on the highest point it read 8,832. That’s with the unit on the rock. Now if I stand up and read it, I get 8,842. OK, so I’m 6’2” – that explains that difference, but why on official maps? If you have a theory, let me know. It should be what it is.

    Along those lines, Nepal is in the process of ordering a new measurement of Mount Everest using GPS technology to determine the exact height of the world’s highest peak. I’ve not been there (and don’t plan to) but the height of the tallest surface on earth has historically been said to be 29,035 ft which is 8,850 meters. This is for the dry rock – not a layer of snow/ice to distort things.

     The Nepalese government intends to ‘place a device on the peak’ to measure the exact height. Turns out there is an ongoing high altitude squabble over the correct height of the mountain between Nepal and China. The two countries once had agreed to recognize 8,848 meters as the correct height.10 years ago a US team used GPS technology to record a height of 8,850 meters, which is used by the US National Geographic Society, though not officially accepted by Nepal. To confuse things even further, shifting tectonic plates mean that the mountain is actually rising as India is pushed under China and Nepal. So, maybe the Sierra are also shifting upward and Half Dome is actually higher that even these numbers. By the way – has anyone found the USGS marker on Half Dome? I haven’t; they are all over most peaks at Yosemite. I’ve found them on North Dome, Clouds Rest and Sentinel Dome. Holler if you have a photo of such on Half Dome and tell us where it is.

Clouds Rest USGS marker

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “You get up every morning from your alarm clock’s warning, take the 8:15 into the city. There’s a whistle up above and people pushin’, people shovin’ – And the girls who try to look pretty. And I’ll be taking care of business, every day.” – Bachman-Turner Overdrive

*MrHalfDome(tm) – 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 How high is Half Dome?

  1. Alan Ingham says:

    There are two USGS reference markers on Clouds Rest (numbers 1 and 2). Each has an arrow pointing to the actual marker, a small unmarked disc about 1 inch in diameter located at the intersection of the projection of the arrow lines from each of the two reference markers. The reference markers are brass, the actual marker is a silver metal (not steel as it is not rusty).

  2. Jessica Noss says:

    I was also wondering about the missing USGS marker on Half Dome… but I did find two on top of Cloud’s Rest!

  3. Maureen L says:

    from Hammond (University of Nevada) et al, a current abstract:

    Our results show that GPS stations on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada move upward at rates between 0.6 and 1.7 mm/yr with respect to eastern Nevada, and with respect to the Earth center of mass. . .

    In other work, Hammond and colleagues say 1 – 2 mm/yr

    Then there’s the tricky question of measuring what John Muir calls ‘the level of the sea,” which we all know is or is going to be changing!

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