Lesson learned from two recent Half Dome rescues

Page back to see the Story 1 and Story 2 discussion about two close calls on Yosemite’s Half Dome trail. There have been no fatal falls off the 8,842’ rock, but folks can still get in trouble.

The Half Dome hike can be done safely...if...

The Half Dome hike can be done safely…if…

I won’t rehash the incidents, but here’s what I see as a better way to do the hike.

1. Read my book: “One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome.” Really. It is the only guide book on how to safely do this hike. Almost 200 pages of tips and pix to help novices out. It’s at the park, at REI, my website and many other sources. You need to know more that the altitude and that there are cables.

2. Drink water. This may sound like a “duh,” but I see people with one 16-oz bottle. “I don’t drink much.”  HUH?  And why? Your cells need the O2 and H to produce energy. Toss in some electrolytes also – as your body will use up what it has on an endurance hike.

3. Bring a mechanical water filter. Use it at the Merced and the Little Spring. There is plenty for your hike.

4. Use hiking poles. They take 8% off your lower body going up and will save your knees coming down.

5. Have a good 4AA cell flashlight or headlamp – everyone. Going down in the pitch black is like using Braille. A penlight with fingernail clippers won’t cut it.

6. Spend the money and get boots that fit. Allow toe wiggle room. You don’t; want to smash your toes on the 7  miles of downhill. Use them on your training hikes.

7. Know when your body sez “enuff.” Call it a day and train better next time.

I contend that almost anyone can do this hike with A. Education, B. Preparation, and C. Motivation.  If you can’t do it – DON’T. It will be one of the hardest things you will ever do!

Yall got anything to add??

Carpe Diem


Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” – Alexander Graham Bell

MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com

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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6 Responses to Lesson learned from two recent Half Dome rescues

  1. Cindy says:

    Just finished my 5th half dome hike with my daughter (her 2nd time), this past Wednesday. It had been 20 years since my last trek up the rock, and I have to say I had forgotten about the sub dome, worst part for me at 48 (almost 49). I went through almost 4 liters of water round trip, and I too saw so many people going up when we were heading down with one empty water bottle. Wth are they thinking!? Then on the cables we had two incidents, the first on our way up this guy in front of us decided to stop half way up the cables where there is a very small ledge, take his backpack off, water bottle careened down the rock, then proceeded to take off his shoes and socks and attempt the cables barefoot because his shoes were too slippery! We just passed him, I assume he made it down, but these are the people you read about who die from stupid acts on the cables. Then on the way down the cables a sad situation where this young man was I think severely dehydrated. He too was about half way up, luckily he had on a harness, was clipped in and straddling one of the posts on a small ledge. The guy was in bad shape but had a lot of friends helping him to eat food and drink water. He eventually got on his feet and made it down, but not so sure how the next 8 miles to the valley went for him. I think there are so many people who attempt this so unprepared and not expecting the toll this hike takes on your body. But if you prepare well, and take it slow and steady, it pays off and is well worth the long day!

    • Cindy, What a story…but not a solitary one. Sigh. I have suggested to the park that they have a mandatory briefing for all with permits in the theater…4 timesa a day…with a qualified volunteer, etc. Folks have to see/hear this kind of info and tips. Then they get a card that they show to the ranger at sub dome to proceed. Well, they did not do it. Sigh

      • Cindy says:

        I also think that the couple who had problems on the cables that I mentioned, and another dehydrated young lady on the trail down were foreigners. No prejudice at all, but although they all seemed to speak English, I wonder if they unintentionally miss important information written in English. But that said, the park can’t put everything in every language, and even if they did people still wouldn’t read. And although I think your idea of having folks meet in the theater would help, still not sure all would be prepared. Maybe a ranger at the top of the falls making sure they have proper water, etc. to proceed. I don’t know there’s always going to be a handful of the unprepared (even at Everest right?) 😉

  2. Dean says:

    I found a water bladder useful last year – it has a much smaller footprint in you bag compared to bottles and it encourages you to regularly hydrate, no need to stop and pull out a bottle, you can sip as you hike.

    Training hikes in hot weather are also a good idea, particularly if like myself you come from someplace with a much milder climate than California.

    Take the right kind of food, stuff that will give you energy and replace lost minerals. Energy gels are good, they don’t take up much space in your pack, and I like something salty too.

    • Good tips. I like my fanny pack with 2 Nagene1 QT bottles and a Katadyn filter. But I also fill up a 2 qt MSR bladder at the Little Spring and carry it up to near sub dome….then hide it while I go up and when I come back down on empty I get the bladder and gulp. Ahhhh….this gets me back to the Spring.

  3. Tami says:

    I agree with everything you said and I read your book a few times prior to my first hike up Half Dome. I will also suggest some good upper body and core training. I did a lot of one armed cable pulls as well as planking in my training prep. It really helped to save my legs for when I had to stand at the cables as I used my arms and core a lot to pull my body up and lower myself down the cables. I concur it’s one of the hardest, yet rewarding hikes that a serious day hiker will do. Love this hike!!!

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