142nd Anniversary of the first summit of Half Dome by George Anderson

Today is the anniversary of George Anderson’s first summit of Half Dome – Oct 12, 1875

From my book, One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome –

In 1869, Josiah Whitney, the Chief Geologist for California, looked up and said: “Half Dome is perfectly inaccessible, being probably the only one of all the prominent points of Yosemite which has never been, and never will be, trodden upon.”

man standing

One of the few pictures of George Anderson

Many early settlers attempted to scale the 45-degree backside of Half Dome, including James Hutchings and Charles Weed in 1859. They brought Weed’s photo gear but were unable to ascent the steep backside. In the early 1870’s John Muir’s climbing buddy, expert climber George Bayley, also tried with the same result. This shows the difficulty of the task; Bayley was good enough to later be the first to get to the top of Mt. Starr King.  Perhaps John Conway got the closest. In September 1873, Conway, who also later crafted many trails at Yosemite, had his young sons attempt the feat. Led by 9-year old Major Conway, the “lizard like” boys scrambled barefoot up the rock and inserted steel rods into cracks to which they attached a rope.  Major reached an elevation of about 300 feet above the saddle, but father John mercifully called him back when he reached a point where he could find no projection to attach the rope.

It was just five years after Whitney’s proclamation that George Anderson set out to top out on the mountain. Anderson, like John Muir, was a Scottish immigrant and he was a former sailor. Third party accounts and writings years after the event make the facts blurry, but we believe he quietly set up his work area in a small cabin he built nearby (the location has not been discovered, but is believed to have been near a stream on the east side of the current Half Dome trail). Another cabin that Anderson later lived in at Foresta is now on display at the Yosemite Pioneer History Center in Wawona.

A tip of the hat to George.

Carpe Diem!
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “I want to take you higher. Baby baby baby light my fire. Boom shaka-laka-laka Boom shaka-laka-laka.” – Sly & the Family Stone
Read “One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome

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Half Dome cable system is DOWN – Next lottery is in March 2018

The summer hiking season for Yosemite’s Half Dome is officially over. The permit registration site “recreation.gov” is inactive until the 2018 season.   The 2018 lottery will be held in March for all summer (225 permits per day). The winners are notified in early April.

Yea, another year with NO fatalities. The permit system really makes this a better hike than before.  About 40,000 people do this massively hard hike each summer.  16 miles round trip – a mile vertical gain – 12 hours. Whew.

two women at yosemite

Half Dome cables done for 2017

Although the support pipes and the 2 x 4 boards are removed and hidden, the 600+ foot steel cables remain. Some mentally challenged (IMHO) people go up anyway, just rappelling, holding the heavy steel cable. 2 women died doing this in the winter shoulder months in 2016 and 17.  Unless you have climbing experience or just have a death wish, keep off it.

That said, Half Dome is in the wilderness….so you can do what you want. But remember YOU assess the risk of what you are doing and deal with it. A 3,000 foot fall is the express way to get to the bottom.

Info on the accident situation on Half Dome

Although the season is over – I’m obsessed and will continue to be here, typing away with fun info about the big rock. I know many will move on to skiing, mahjong and curling….but there is so much to learn about Half Dome that I love to share.  Feel free to send me a guest post and I’ll make you a star….not really.

Still time to get one of my classy TShirts. Hint hint.   What a great xmas gift!

Carpe Diem!
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light. Shine on you crazy diamond.” Pink Floyd
Read “One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome


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How was Yosemite’s Half Dome formed?

“Oh, Half Dome was cut in half by Glaciers”— WRONG. Read on, my friend!

The rockfalls we are seeing now is exactly how Half Dome was formed. It’s called “exfoliation.”

HD was a dome that rose during the uplift of the Sierra thousands of years ago. It sat with the top at about 9,000 ft. It lay on a joint that runs out towards Cathedral Peak. This weakness, and the process of exfoliation on the north side caused sheets to flake off.

Half Dome

Alpenglow on Half Dome at sunset

When water got into the cracks it expanded (only fluid to do so) and put pressure on the slabs. When birds pooped and seeds were lodged in cracks, the growth of flora also stressed the cracks. Heat and cold contributed to the granite “stretching.” Domes have energy from when they were magma and are pushing outward.

—> Half Dome TShirts Go On Sale  

The glaciers of 15,000 or so years ago lay only up to about 8,300 feet. It was half a dome before the glaciers. The last 700 feet or so was not touched by glaciers. The striations are below that. Yes, the glaciers ate away at the lower levels and carried away the debris.


Carpe Diem!
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Breathe, breathe in the air. Don’t be afraid to care. Leave but don’t leave me. Look around, choose your own ground.” Pink Floyd
Read “One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome
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