In 1904, the degraded rope system on Half Dome’s backside had pretty well stopped any ascents but Mack Kelsey, Milton Main and Lester Whittier arrived with a 4th of July plan. They carried about 125 pounds in all, including food, blankets, 190 feet of rope, Roman candles, sky rockets and twenty-one sticks of dynamite. They arrived at the rock carrying their load and scrambled up the slope as best they could. They went barefoot and found that they made better progress going up backwards. Kelsey was quoted later:
“We slipped back at every trial. A slope defied our methods and we had to resort to an acrobatic performance. Main got a firm foothold and lay face to the rock; Jordan worked his way up and stood on Main’s shoulders. Getting on Jordan, after half an hour, I lassoed an iron peg at least twenty-five feet above, and, pulling the noose tight, this last obstacle vanished into a proposition of sliding up hand over hand. When up to the peg we gasped in amazement to find that it was only loosely set in the hole. Down below bits of rock which we had loosened bounded and rebounded for minutes, it seemed, before they rested. But we were safe and we faced ahead.”
Once on top, the trio kicked back and used a signal mirror to flash those on the ground. He continues:
“At dusk campfires began to glow in the valley. The Happy Isles road with its row of lights looked like a glowworm wriggling through the night. The hotel took on appearance of an Oakland ferry miles away. We tried our dynamite and were amply rewarded for our risk in bringing it by the echoes resounding back and forth from dome to dome. We followed with Roman candles, skyrockets and red fire, and went to sleep contended with our celebration of the Fourth near the top of the world”.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “You know the day destroys the night. Night divides the day
Tried to run, tried to hide. Break on through to the other side.” – The Doors
*MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com
One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome