Me and Perseid’s – A LONG story

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Dateline: Yosemite National Park, August 14, 2009

With all good intentions, I planned to hike to the top of Half Dome last night to be on top to see the annual Perseid’s Meteor shower. I planned this trip 9 months ago. I checked the Almanac and found the “moonless” week and the peak of the Meteor shower. 60 streaks a minute usually. Great – Curry Village Tent Cabin booked for Aug 13/14. My hiking buddy bailed out 2 weeks prior so I scrambled to get a hiking partner – nada. Mrs. Half Dome was paranoid that I’d bonk going alone and insisted that I phone her after the hike. OK. OK. I hit the sack at 4 pm and slept pretty well thanks to earplugs. Up at 7 and ate a beef and rice Heater Meal. All loaded up and on the trial before 8 pm. Dusk, but still light. I brought a rain shell and strapped a North Face wind-blocker to my fanny pack. Hiking up the ever dimming Lower Mist Trail was easy … but it was pitch black at the top of Vernal Fall. The bats came out and buzzed me; then giant moths attacked my headlamp. No sign of Bigfoot. By 9 pm I saw a stream of late hikers returning down. I was pleased to see that all had lights. I got questioned as to why I was going up so late. “The Meteors” My multi-stage LED headlamp was great but a lot of dust in the air reduced a clear image to a foggy one. The light illuminated about 20 feet but it was black outside the circle of light. I admit to a lot of stumbles as jagged rocks popped up out of view. The trail beyond the Vernal Fall outhouse is difficult to follow in daylight and at night I had a challenge in navigating to get to the Silver Apron Bridge. As I continued towards Nevada fall, I found that I was wasting a lot of time going down false trails off the switchback areas. The trail looks a lot different when viewed thru a headlamp. At one point I found myself approaching the banks of the Merced and knew this was wrong. As I turned left, I felt I was back on a trail. Soon I got the funny feeling that I was diverting – but I KNOW there is only one trail there – the Mist Trail. I should be getting to the granite steps. I checked my GPS and I was going south. Wrong way. Hmmm the trail I was on did not look familiar. No one was in sight. Soon I could make out a man-made structure – the Silver Apron Bridge. Huh? I had gone in a big circle. That iced it for me. A decision was made to head home. It was 10 pm and at this slow rate I would not be on top until well after 3. It was getting cold. And the stumbling was increasing. While checking my GPS I hit the deck and cut my knee. Not wanting to be a statistic, I decided to bag it and head back. It was amazing to see the trail bone empty. No one at all but me. No one. I would have wiped out many times without the use of my Leki Hiking poles. I could not image doing this w/o them. No bears or other wildlife . I got to Curry about 11 and decided to drive up to Glacier Point and view the shower from up there. When I arrived (took an hour to get there), I saw a gigantic meteor fall. Then 2 smaller streaks over the next hour. Around 1 am the moon rose over Half Dome and pretty well blotted out the stars. I laid on the rocks at Glacier Pt until 2 and waited for the spectacular “shower” that never came. Oh well, an hour drive back to my tent cabin and sleep. Would I do it again? Hmmm pitch black hiking was tough. And it got pretty darn cold at 2 am on Glacier. To stay on top per my plan would have been no fun. So when I do not have fun – I bail.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Lady Madonna, children at your feet. Wonder how you manage to make ends meet. Who find the money when you pay the rent . Did you think that money was heaven sent .” – The Beatles

*Mr. Half Dome – 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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10 Responses to Me and Perseid’s – A LONG story

  1. mrhalfdome says:

    Moths I could handle. Being alone amplified the little noises in the brush and made me wonder what was lurking out there in the blackness. At one point I thought I should have hooked up my bear bears to my shoes. Monster fromthe Id. Watch Forbidden Planet, the great 1958 sci-fi about what the mind (id) can do.

  2. Randy says:

    I’m a little disapointed that you were not able give a report of bigfoot, but a great read. It gave me a good laugh, but hey; these are the pitfalls that can happen. I have a friend at work who is wanting me to do half dome at night with him, but I havn’t done it yet. This is good info on what kind of things to prepare for, and when it may be time to bail. You probably wouldn’t think of giant moths unless you lived it, or read it.

  3. Al Laurente says:

    Thanks for giving me the midnight hike idea, Rick. I have forgotten about it until my son reminded me a week prior that his classmates were looking forward to it. Too bad our schedule didnt aligned because we hiked up on the dark with no problems the night before yours. I’ve read that most people get lost between Vernal and Nevada Falls bridge at night so we paid extra attention to that during our hike. There was a group of 8 British hikers who were first timers and racing with us on the trail. They got lost where you got lost while we blazed through with no problems. They caught up with us later in LYV. I warned them that on the CR/HD junction to turn left because the default is to turn right. Here are the pictures. Midnight hike is way better than during the day IF you know the way.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/a.....910399625/

  4. mrhalfdome says:

    John,

    You are certified CRAZY. Man, wandering around in the black in a dither? When I did the moonlight/sunrise hike last year, the ambient light was way better than the ink black this time. I do have the shadow of HD photo…proof I was there! But I hear that being on top of Cloud’s Rest is even better. Hmmm may need to try that. Send you pix and I’ll post on the blog.
    Rick D

  5. John says:

    Rick–thanks for your post; this just proved how stupid me and my brother are. About 4 years ago, we came to Yose. I had been there a couple of times, but my brother hadn’t ever been there and hadn’t ever climbed a mountain. We got to Curry village about midnight, and headed up and were on top of the subdome at sunup. We saw nobody. But, I was severely bonking because stupidly I had somehow detached my hose from my bladder and lost all my water; I was hallucinating and everything. And we had gotten lost many times along the way. At one point under the shoulder, I was just wandering around in the woods in pitch black because my flashlight had stopped working and my bro kept going without me; then finally he came back and found me. Anyway, it was a very memorable first experience. It’s hilarious to read you also were getting lost. been there done that. We did almost the same thing the next year except we learned from our lessons, and this time we were standing on top of Cloud’s Rest at sunup. We have some awesome pics of the long shadows of CR and HD at sunup. I’ve never seen anyone with those types of pics before. But, hiking all night is, shall we say, an aquired taste? In a couple of weeks we’re going to do basically the same thing, except this time we’re doing both–start at about 5 from Tenaya Lake and head up over CR and then down to HD, and then back across the route. A lot of miles…

  6. mrhalfdome says:

    I have mixed feelings… I wanted to do this for so long and even went by myself . . . Having to turn around made me feel like a wimp. but there was NO ONE else out and all I could see was a 10 ft diameter of light. Pitch black by my feet and outside the circle. Thus the dumb stumbles and abrasion on my knee. Then I start wondering about the monsters of the id. Then how slow it was taking – baby steps the whole way. I may not have gotten up until 1 at that pace. But better to be writing about this than be a statistic of bad judgment, so I’m cool with it. On top of Glacier did seem like a better idea. Nice drive (watching for nocturnal bears) and laying on out the point was neat. And at the same height as HD. But it sure got cold. It was nice to turn the car heater on – and think about how cold it would have been exposed on the top of yon Dome. Oh well, another experience to BS about. Thanks for the comments.

  7. Barbara says:

    I’m sure you’re disappointed but, at the same time, you should be proud of yourself for making such a wise decision under the circumstances!!!!! The Perseid Meteor Shower will be around again.
    “Related” Thought Worth Quoting: “I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky”.–John Denver

  8. Ted says:

    Rick,

    It’s interesting how a change in the environment, whether it be rain, lightning or darkness can make impossible what is normally routine. Still, you can chalk it up to experience and we all can learn from that. Sorry we just missed you this week.

  9. Justin L says:

    Hey you tried, and if i was available, i would of tried with you. Everything happens for a reason. Chalk up another story for the books.

  10. Kathy says:

    Smart move – bailing. If you read the book about all the deaths in Yosemite, most seem to be individuals who get turned around and don’t know when to bail

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